Saturday, August 6, 2011 (evening)
We finished the wall yesterday, pillars and all. After getting all our tools cleaned and put away, we even had time to visit the "salon," run by little Dominican girls, while watching some final music lessons at the worship clinic.
A girl grabbed me from outside and sat me down for a new hairdo. She introduced herself as Michelle. A little later they swapped clients, and Maria started working on my hair. Those girls are so sweet! When they got tired of ponytails, they decided to squeeze in a jam session.
The kids left once the medical team returned (final patient count for the two-day clinic set a new record: 800+). We took showers, then headed to a nearby colmado for some liquid refreshments. (Glass bottles must return to their colmado of purchase.)
I want their kitty.
After dinner last night, we all walked to an empanada stand while a few ladies stayed behind to help Jenn with a sex ed class for her girls bible study. It's not surprising for a girl here to get pregnant as young as 13, and spend the rest of her life having kids and trying to find a man to support her family. Education on this subject can literally change a girl's life.
The empanada stand, by the way, is powered with some pirated wires rigged to the power lines. Sometimes it would fritz out and they'd jiggle the wires until it came on again. My cheese empanada was excellent, but I don't think I could handle more than one in a week (that's saying something: I love cheese and fried food). We also had some entertainment. A little boy (possibly related to the woman and daughter running the nearby stand) started showing off for us so we would take his picture.
This morning, we put on some nicer clothes, then headed to La Mosca to visit homes. In the States, door-to-door is not well received, but everyone who had been before assured us it's much different here. It was. We started at Luis's church, where we split up into several smaller groups, each with a translator. Ian and I joined Isaiah, Mel and Gerald (who translated for us). We went to a few houses, asking if they'd been to the medical clinic, and telling them that church services are tomorrow at 9 a.m. At the first house, Daniel invited us in. He is a handy man and has a cold (or the flu?). We prayed for him, then headed out.
A couple houses later, we were invited in again, this time by Maria. She has a brain tumor as well as several other medical conditions requiring surgery. In the DR, you have to purchase all the equipment for your surgery, from the scalpel to the gauze pads. She showed us her list. It's heartbreaking to see someone in that situation without access to the care she needs. She reminded us a lot of our moms — she has already been through breast cancer, and in spite of everything, she has such a strong spirit and solid faith that God was in control no matter the outcome. She showed us around her house, and I was struck at how even though her family doesn't have much, they do what they can to make their house welcoming and inviting.
We also talked to a man who had been in an accident. Gangrene was setting in his leg, but he didn't trust the doctors. Instead, he prayed and was healed. He showed us his scars, and asked us to pray for his son, who is in prison for something he didn't do.
When we headed out, I didn't expect to be so inspired. Other groups had different experiences than we did, sharing their own stories and planting seeds in the midst of hopelessness. But I know I don't have as much trust, faith, and contentment as the people we met today.
We met back at the Vargas's church for lunch, then drove to the Vargas's home. We didn't all fit in their living room, but it didn't matter. Luis and Reina shared their stories: how they came to follow Christ, how they met, and how they started their ministry in La Mosca. Luis used to be a street fighter, and ended up in church following a girl he thought was cute. But soon he was going because he was interested in what the pastor had to say. A week after he answered an alter call, he was in church leadership. He also told us about the partnership with [REUNION], which started four years ago. At the time, he was working in another church. Two years ago, G.O. asked him to move to La Mosca, but said another church was supporting the ministry there. Luis refused to go without "his people." So now [REUNION] supports him in La Mosca. I'm amazed at the relationship we have with the Vargas family — how can you be so close and committed with so little time and such great distance? Only God.
After spending some time with the Vargas family, we headed back into Santiago to tour the G.O. school and medical facilities, and allow time for the G.O. Kids sponsors on our team to meet their kids. The school might not be that great compared to our expectations, but in the Dominican, it's an incredible school: manageable class sizes, good resources like a library and computer lab, and low cost compared to private schools (with a sponsorship program to minimize family costs as needed).
Delores showed us around the medical facilities, then the old headquarters, which they are demolishing to make room for a bigger, better medical clinic (the space occupied by the current clinic will then become part of the school).
We got back to Hato del Yaque a little later than planned. After a quick dinner, we set up for the culmination of the worship clinic: a bilingual service for the community. The band was a combination of our team and Dominicans who attended the clinic. The songs alternated languages, but at times, everyone was singing together, Spanish and English intertwined. I think maybe that's what heaven will be like. All praising God together with our own cultures. The beauty of diversity without any cultural barriers.