Monday, July 16th, 2012 - Our first "official" day of ministry in Catalina, Dominican Republic.
Our schedule of events for today got a real test of being "flexible-flexible-flexible." With great sadness we received word that Pastor Vernon's beloved "Mama" had lost one of her twin brothers who had just passed away. Their culture is for friends and family to gather for a day of mourning followed by a 4pm funeral service. Fortunately, Mama's youngest son, Beker and his wife Melissa were with us, and planning to spend the day serving in Catalina with our ministry team so they instructed us on what to do. After a few phone calls it was confirmed that they still wanted our group to come out to Catalina.
So we all boarded the buses and with a truck full of ministry supplies we headed for our beloved Catalina. Due to the circumstances, we were not greeted with the usual "fan-fare" and hundreds of eager children who would have walked miles to attend Vacation Bible School in Catalina that day. Instead, with VBS canceled out of respect for Mama and the family's loss the VBS team played with local children and did some painting at the Pastor's house. The construction team just hit the ground running and within minutes ministry bags were unloaded and stored, tools were out and buzzing and the church roof project was underway. The Light Construction Team could not begin the landscaping project as originally planned so, instead, began scraping and applying a fresh coat of paint to the front of the church.
It was truly amazing to see 75 people just "shift gears" and adapt so beautifully. Soon our Catalina family began arriving to shower us with warm hugs and love-filled reunions. The church and community volunteers began arriving and soon it was a DR/USA combined effort! What a beautiful sight all to the Glory of God!!
This sign welcomed us "home to Catalina A creek that runs alongside the church was quickly relieved of mounds of garbage and broken tree limbs and leaves. Bright colors now adorned the face of the church and the church expansion was underway. Our Catalina family had already begun the enormous task of expanding the church building and it was so exciting to see our team come in and pick right up as if they had been there all along.
Before we knew it, the lunch bus came and we all reunited at Pastor Vernon's for the most delicious home made meal of fried yucca, chicken, potatoes, carrots, a delicious salad, cake and coffee. A five star meal prepared with love and kindness! After paying our respects we all gathered onto buses and left Catalina to honor the 4pm funeral service preparing to start.
About fifteen minutes away from the hotel in deep traffic one of our buses broke down. Eager to get back to the hotel several of our team offered to walk the rest of the way so that others could stay on the one bus. As they headed off we could see them all handing out tracts to people commuting home from work or walking along the busy roadway.
As our bus inched along it was in awe that we watched from our window seats all the people who had received tracts, stopped and reading them intently! A broken down bus quickly became an incredible blessing to countless others. We will never know this side of Heaven how many came to faith in Christ from those tracts. Not a single tract was seen tossed on the ground! Incredibly, the bus arrived at the hotel only two minutes ahead of our faithful walkers! Showers and a quick swim in the pool revived us all for dinner and a meeting to plan for our Tuesday in Catalina, and getting back on schedule.
Bob E. gave a brief sermon on some thoughts and perspectives he wanted to share from past mission trips he had attended. What has stuck with him over the years were the profound words of a young boy he spoke with who shared with Bob, "The only thing that matters is Jesus in your heart!" Such wisdom for a young boy, who had no real material blessings but all the wealth of Glory because of his faith in what is to come! Bob read Psalm 96 and encouraged us all to have a "fresh new song in our hearts" tomorrow as we get to minister in Catalina. He reminded us that we can do missions because of what Christ did on the cross for us. His final challenge: How is God transforming me into a better worshipper of God? Begin now to start to live your life as an act of worship to the Lord!
Blessings of restful sleep and that God would touch those who are struggling with sore throats. May His Spirit empower us for the work ahead and that we would be granted divine opportunities to share the good news of the gospel message with those whose hearts are prepared to receive. Hallelujah! What a Savior!