It is 10:30pm on Saturday as I post this update on yesterday's activities.
Friday was our final day in Catalina and it was a wonderful (and very long) day. As we dragged our tired bodies back to the hotel, there simply was no energy left to write and post the day's blog update.
What a truly remarkable week this has been. Pictures can not capture the magnitude of what has occurred in this small village, 50 minutes outside the capital city of Santo Domingo. The church that sits alongside what is now a major highway connecting the capital to Catalina, Boni and beyond, is now a major focal point along this heavily trafficked roadway.
The 40ft. long steel container that sits roadside now serves as a billboard for the church. Kim R. & Zack J., two of the most amazing high school seniors you would ever want to meet, took on this massive project. Blessed with Kim's incredible artistic ability, the container is now a vibrant blue with two hands clasped together and the church name, service times and a scripture verse. The container is in full sun most of the day so they coined the phrase, "Painting on the surface of the sun!" What a privilege it was to watch them painstakingly hand write it all out, paint and edge every letter. It is a work of art! Thank you to all the helpers who assisted Kim in this project. You are all shining examples of a genuine work ethic as unto the Lord!
Mama's garden is a Catalina show piece. Mama is still mourning at her sister in-law's house adjacent to hers but she was willing to come outside yesterday and see her new garden, and memorial tree for her brother. To see the look on her face as she rounded the corner of the house with Diana C. at her arm was a sight I will not forget. I felt so humbled at this moment to be a part of this gift to her. Pam I. and Dawn L. along with an incredible team of Donna L., Sue and Sara C., Mary J., Melissa F., Alejandro and many others her over-run garden was transformed to a "Better Homes and Garden" picture. New planters and plants full of color. Mama was overjoyed with one plant in particular with bright pink flowers. She said, "I see these throughout the village and always say, 'I would love to have one of these they are so colorful and pretty and now I have one!" How amazing that a shrub that cost 10 US dollars brought her such delight at a time of such intense sadness for her. The mock water feature and memorial mango tree brought her to tears as she shared, "I have always wanted to do something with this side of my garden but never had the chance." The mission team all initialed 2 stone tiles and Kim inscribed a Scripture verse about living water from John and placed the three tiles in the memorial garden. This beautiful woman of God who has blessed and ministered to us for years was now blessed with a special gift just for her. She repeated over and over again how much she loved us and felt our love.
With our VBS team done with their amazing work in the villages with the children, teens and mothers, they focused their attention on helping the projects finish up and their extra hands blessed our weary bodies. 70+ "Americanos" bustling around the church buildings, Mama's house, the HOH house and the container made a roadside exhibition. Horns would blow and people wave at us. Pastor Vernon's church is now known as the place God and the Americanos love! What an amazing testimony to unity amongst believers and what the family of God can do when they come together as one in Christ.
In the afternoon many of the VBS group went to Pastor Vernon & Nancy's to "feed a village." This is a practice we have done for the past few years now where we purchase bulk rice, beans, baby items and repackage them into family portions. Then typically we go to that village and sing songs, visit with them and hand out the packages. This year they were invited to Pastor's and we entertained them with songs and cold drinks and their food packages. To see their smiling, grateful faces just brings tears to our eyes and overflowing hearts.
The construction team labored intensely all day, including a team of 10 that came out at 6am to get an early start. The roof is complete, walls painted, ceiling fans and lights in place, the donated sound system up and running, banos (bathrooms) cleaned and ready, benches and chairs brought in and placed on cleanly swept and mopped floors. Our team rushed back to Pastor's for showers or "baby wipe showers" (which amazingly removes oil based paint from the skin and smells much better than turpentine!) and we all put on our church clothes. The worship service of our two cultures coming together is a favorite part of the mission week. Singing in both Spanish and English, Pastor preaching, a beautiful testimony shared by Haley H. and interpreted into Spanish by Janet W. was so heart wrenching and beautiful. As you looked over the group it was a mixture of white, DR brown, Haitian black and it was so very beautiful. There was a drama skit and a concert with Kim, Bethany, Becky L., Lydia C. and by Beker at the end singing our favorite two songs. As always we end in tears and long hugs.
We then bussed over to Pastor's and were blessed with a 11:30pm quick supper then back to the hotel by 1am for a much needed sleep. There is SO much more to tell and I will be collecting stories Saturday at our beach day! Get ready for some amazing blessings as I recount individuals experiences and life changing moments that will touch your heart! Dios te Bendiga! God bless you!