We sat down to eat at the pastor’s home and each one of us had a huge bowl at our place – a bowl big enough to hold the potatoes for a turkey dinner for a family of 12 -15 people. Today we were dining on sanchocho. Sancocho is a special Dominican soup which is almost a stew. It contains large chunky vegetables like, yucca, plantation or potato and carrots and some kind of meat. Most of the meat is chicken; sometimes there might be more than one kind of meat. Quite often sancocho is served with a local cracker like flat bread called casaba. It can also be called manioc or yucca because it is made from grated yucca. Many Dominicans dip the casaba in the sancocho or put a spoonful of juice on the casaba. Sancocho is often served at a party or special event. Along with the soup one adds rice to their bowl and then enjoys. Sancocho is one of Lloyd’s favourite Dominican meals.
After sancocho, you could say but I didn’t eat much; I only had one bowl but the size of the bowl is huge. We had travelled to share a meal with a pastor and his family. About twenty people were sharing this meal. We planned to eat outside in the backyard but the rain forced us inside. When I finished my bowl, I was quite full even though it was only one bowl.
A word I heard often while in the Dominican Republic is mio or es mio its mine. A child with a toy he doesn’t want to share says its mine. A mother says to her child it’s mine when the child tries to pick up her cell phone, “It’s mine”. When it is time to eat, the child says “It’s my plate,” to indicate he wants to eat the fruit himself rather than be helped. When someone tried to pick up my tablet, I had to say “It’s mine.”
But I quickly realized that mine is a word used often here in Canada as well. We live in a society where people like to do things my way. I date myself when I refer to Frank Sinatra and the song “I Did It My Way.” But I also found there is a Spanish version of the same song, “A Mi Manera”. As kids grow up it is my phone, my time and my friends instead of my toy. As adults this can become, my money, my job, my life, and my time.
The thinking can become very dangerous: my time, my money is counter to the thinking of marriage and commitment. The two never become one; unity doesn’t develop and what is mine never becomes ours. Divorce can be a consequence of my way thinking. Families are hurting because instead of our way someone insists on doing things my way. Churches can split because someone wants to do things my way rather than for a common good.
Let us think and be careful of my way thinking as Isaiah 55:9 states, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
What to you see each day as you go about your routine? Are your eyes open to what is happening? Being part of a mission experience can open your eyes.
I saw a Haitian child who cannot stand on his own because of problems with his feet and leg. He gets around by pushing a broken stroller or crawling on his knees. I saw pastors living in homes with nothing to eat in the fridge and no sheets on the bed. I saw a pastor give away a pair of shoes and some socks to a person from his church and a suit jacket to another pastor in a nearby church. I saw a woman cooking for her family over a wood fire because her stove no longer functioned and the gas tank for the stove was no longer serviceable or safe. A new stove and gas tank were delivered and installed.
A woman who borrowed money for an emergency appendix operation came each day to where we were to help clean and cook and earn some money to pay the loan for her surgery. I saw benevolent food packages purchased and delivered to four homes. The rice, beans, oil, sugar and tomato sauce and spice along with eggs, onions and cod would feed the families for almost a week. I drank coffee served by a woman who went next door to make the coffee as she had no money for the gas tank in her kitchen. Needs like these also exist here in Canada. Do you see them? Do you respond?
In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Friday evening came and Lloyd was ready to go to the VIlla Vasquez church for his teaching time with the men’s group. We got out of the car and saw several men standing outside the church. There were no lights and people seemed a bit uncertain. The pastor came over and said there is no hydro. There has been a mistake; the company came earlier in the day to cut the wires to a neighbor who had not paid the bill but they cut the power lines to the church instead.
After a quick huddle, the men decided to meet in the patio of the pastor’s home. Motorcycles started up and people moved. Back at the pastor’s home, his wife was setting out chairs and a table was set up for Lloyd to put his material for teaching. In just a few minutes, some lively discussion took place. One issue was whether the bible on the computer is a valid as a Bible in book form.
Cutting the electric power could not stop the men from meeting and studying God’s word. 2 Chronicles 20:6 states, “Power and might are in your hand and no one can withstand you.”
Recently Marleny, a young mother of three in the Dominican Republic, went through very major surgery. This involved the placement of two posts to straighten her spinal column and 24 screws. The surgery was costly but without it Marleny would eventually be confined to a wheelchair. Her thoughts before during and after are an inspiration for us all.
Marleny experienced pain and weakness and has spent days both before and after the surgery resting in her bed Many friends and family members have been cleaning, cooking and caring for her and her children. But Marleny was able to write, “I only depend on God” and “I believe in a very big God; I have seen his glory in all that is happening.” She also wrote that God had provided all the money needed for the surgery and that all the glory and honor is His.
On one occasion she wrote she was preparing her testimony and I hope to hear the power and grace of God coming through the testimony. Our God is an awesome God. Our God is a God of hope in the midst of darkness and storms.
Marleny also says that God has been teaching her many, many things through the process. God has promised that He would never test us or place us in situations we could not handle without giving us His help. Praise Him for the strong declarations of faith Marleny is able to make.
Our recent vacation to Bávaro, Dominican Republic was made much nicer by a group of men who were shuttle drivers. Some were very nice guys and picked us up at the entrance to our villa rather than at the shuttle stops. Some were excellent and very helpful with the wheelchair our son in law used. One talked to us about his church and the missionaries that arrived there regularly. Another asked where are you from? and we answered Canada. His reply was you speak Spanish very well.
One evening a couple stood by the shuttle asking for a ride to villa 32, and the driver said no English. The couple was part of a group of eleven who came in that day from Newfoundland. When they repeated 32 and the driver looked at them, I said “treinta y dos” and the driver relaxed; the couple got on the shuttle. When we reached the stop and the driver called out “treinta y dos” I repeated thirty two.
Language is key to communication. The couple from Newfoundland told us about the t-shirts their group was wearing when they arrived – the slogan was Newfie. The Dominicans asked if they were recently married interpreting “newfie” as “new wife.” Language can be tricky as well.
Everyone at the resort is so pleased when you speak to them in Spanish. Most of them who interact with the guests are required to know at least three languages. The talented chef at the Japanese restaurant said hello in four languages to the twelve people watching him prepare their supper. Many Canadians and Americans travel and holiday often in the Caribbean, and learning a few words and expressions in Spanish would enrich the holiday experience and earn smiles from those who care for them.
During the months of July and August a challenge was issued for people willing to set aside loonies or toonies or coins to go towards the construction of the a new church in Navas in the Dominican Republic. Banks were prayed over and distributed. Most people gave more than a loonie a day and a loonie is less than a cup of coffee a day. Three churches and a few individuals accepted the challenge and gave willingly what they felt God was asking them to give. At the end of the giving period almost $2,700.00 dollars had been given. God must be pleased with the givers and the congregation in Navas will be delighted by the generosity.
Can you guess what $500.00 of nickles, dimes, quarters, loonies and toonies weighs? Any idea how long it would take two people to roll that many coins and get them to the bank? I never weighed the coins but it did take about 5 – 6 hours to roll the coins. The more important question is: How many bags of cement and how many blocks that will buy? How many rows of blocks will be added to the walls of the sanctuary in Navas?
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7