As many of you know, I have been home in the states since the beginning of November. Though I had to return a few weeks early due to a medical condition, I had planned to go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas along with the birth of a niece in January. It was great to be home with family and friends and even do some work at a church in Estero (Naples area). I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to come back or not, I guess I just felt like I was riding the tide, floating from home to home like a nomad.
Yesterday as I kissed loved ones goodbye and headed to the airport I felt as if the wave I was riding was just flowing a different direction. I have been through these motions so many times over the past few years that it just seemed routine. At the airport, I decided (mostly to the lack of internet) that I would catch up on some missed devotions and begin my bible study on the book of Ruth. The devotions talked about mountaintop experiences, specifically the stories when Moses and Jesus ascended the mountain to meet with God. It talked about how they were different when they descended and how they didn’t quite fit in after their mountaintop experience. It also talked about how in the valleys we change as well but often it is in increments and isn’t as noticeable. When I first began working in the Dominican Republic, my experience was most definitely a mountaintop experience. In fact, I would even say I was running to the top of the mountain gasping desperately to the joy and peace found. One of the questions in my devotion asked “How does your attempt to grasp hold of the mountaintop experience and memorialize it indicate your fear that you won’t meet God again?” My study in Ruth began by talking about living in a foreign land, something I could most definitely relate to. Both readings helped me prepare mentally and spiritually to return for the rest of this amazing year!
Last night I arrived at the airport to all the boys from the youth group along with Sairy and Mommi standing outside waiting for me. It was an unexpected, overwhelming greeting that reminded me that my routine takes me straight to the top of the mountain. I realized that I am the tour guide that gets the opportunity to lead people to the mountain top and experience God in new an exciting ways. Every ascension is different but each as exciting as the last. The boys gave me flowers and chocolate and a very warm greeting! It was great to see them all. I came back to the house to be greeted by the rest of the family along with queso frito and yucca. Though it was hard to leave my family, it felt good to be “home.”
This morning we went to church and I was greeted with more warm wishes. It is always great to see everyone from the congregation but if felt extra special to see all the people that took such care of me while I was here in the fall. I joined the youth and young adults or “jovenes” during Sunday School, which totaled approximately 20 people! This was the group I was leading before I left, and I have to admit was a little frustrated. Hermana Illuminada has been leading it since I left in November and has done a great job encouraging the jovenes to converse about bible passages. Most of the conversations were lead by the jovenes. It was rewarding to their excitement for learning.
This afternoon Sairy, Mommi, and I went to the house of one of the church members that wanted to start a kids bible school in their community. The new location is off the road toward Moca and will be the 6th community the church is located working with families. Upon arrival, we planned the lesson and then walked along the very busy street with puppets inviting children to follow us. We tucked back behind some houses to a small area that was just an open dirt space. They told us this was the spot. After a couple of minutes, a few chairs arrived and then a few more. By the time we started the lesson, we had more than 20 children. We sang songs and taught on Day 1 of creation. It is always amazing to see how much kids know. The kids were great and loved the puppets! They all promised to come back next week and bring friends. I have to say that a joy I have learned from Sairy is teaching others to teach. Slowly members of the church are learning that they are God’s tools in their community. As a missionary with a passion for children, I will equip them and help them start and then check in on them every once in a while. It is rewarding to see the passion develop in the church members as well as their communities.
This evening after dinner Aneury, Mommi, and I headed to Dilcia and Johnathan’s new apartment. Dilcia is Sairy’s cousin, whom I shared a room with. Her and Johnathan were wed this December and are now living in their own apartment. Dilcia’s sister made habechuelas con dulce so we went over and had a great time visiting with the family.
The first group of missionaries come on Tuesday night. They will be coming from Ohio and Pennsylvania with a few coming Friday from New Jersey. They will be mostly working at the church in Santiago but I am excited for them to see the school in Cuesta Arena. It was their sign that was painted more than 10 years ago to plant a seed in the community. A seed that is now growing and blooming. I am also excited to see the kids myself, especially in their new uniforms. Tomorrow Sairy and I will work on the water project some to try to get it up and running so we can begin officially dispensing water to the community.