Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Hard Goodbye: Village 106 in the Dominican Republic

(Thanks, Hope)
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Village 106 sits snuggled under verdant mountains covered in sugar cane and mango trees about an hour and a half away from the MGM Compound in Hato Mayor, our base of operations.  
On the first day, when the bus turned onto the dirt road in sight of the village proper, children spilled out into the open and quickly claimed their American friend for the week.   The guys of our group didn’t have the same length of opportunity as our girls for relationship building with little kids, as their main contribution was laying brick and pouring cement to build a burn area for garbage which is endemic to the surrounding area.
The plan for our students was to present a VBS program, perform a wordless skit illustrating the life of Christ, and then use their budding relationships to build their village kid’s English vocabulary.  I laughed out loud when Abigail’s kid said to me on cue and in perfect valley girl intonation, “Hey, girlfriend.” For the most part however, the students relied on gesture, pantomime, an interpreter if one was handy, or limited Spanish skills to communicate with their village kid.  What did that look like? For the girls that meant hair braiding, painting nails, playing games and singing songs. For the guys it seemed that their little friends were their shadow, wanting to help in any way they could in the construction process.  
It doesn’t take much to show someone that you genuinely care, because kindness and love transcend words.  That’s what made leave taking so wrenching, because our students had given their whole hearts to building relationships with their village kids.  Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  I saw the cost of “being all there” written on our students’ faces, some with tears sliding down their cheeks the last day.  They shared the love of Jesus without reservation and planted seeds of hope in the children they left behind.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Art of Painting Jeremiah 29:11 : Village 106 in the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Mission Trip 2013

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." NIV

LCCS students trace the template to the wall

Luis (in blue) and Alejandro


Jeremiah 29:11 in Village 106 with the face of Christ

          A Haitian villager in his 40’s, Luis Francis, showed up on our first day in the village wanting to help my students work on the wall.  He ended up working with us for the duration.  Since I couldn’t speak Spanish, fortunately he also spoke French.  I dusted off my high school French, and at the start of each day, we would exchange a French greeting ritual which included inquiring as to the health of our respective families. I remembered enough to handle the pleasantries easily and laid in my best French accent.  For the rest, however, I was able to decipher just the main gist of his conversations.  It was only on the last day, after I had turned my brain inside-out looking for the words to describe a particular set of instructions, that he helped me out in English.  The look of surprise on my face elicited a smile, but he wouldn’t use English again.

What I really appreciated about Luis was his faithfulness in executing the given daily job. Each day he’d take a pencil or brush and proceeded to apply himself to the task of drawing or painting with serious concentration for hours at a stretch.  When I felt like wilting, I just looked at him, and his example kept me going.  On several occasions he was my interpreter as I relayed instructions in French which he then passed on in Spanish to other Haitian villagers who wanted to join in.  On the final day of painting, all my students were otherwise engaged making the most of their last times with their village friends.  Resident artist and MGM employee, Barb Charles joined Luis and me to complete the work.  Not long into it, two other Haitian men in their 20s asked to participate - Alejandro and Wilhelm.  I had been content and happy to enlist the older village kids to work with my students in the making of the mural.  To have three Haitian men work together with other young village men looking on was more than I could have dared hoped for.  At that point, I stepped back and completely gave over the finishing of the painting to them as they took ownership.   When it was done, and everything was put away, Barb prayed powerfully for it to be used to God’s purposes.   

 Throughout the conception of what to put on the wall - to the logistics of transportation and execution, I had been sweating over all the details. In my typical fashion I had plans A, B, and C if things went south.  I’m not normally an anxious person, but I was plagued by worry about the painting aspects of this trip.   I worried about getting a large template and stencil onto the airplane, I worried about finding the right colors of paints locally, I worried about what I was forgetting to bring, and I worried whether the people of Village 106 would accept the painting as something that added a measure of beauty to their environment and served as an encouragement to them.  God came through and answered immeasurably more than I could have asked for or imagined.  He is faithful, and I’m grateful – to him be the glory. Amen.