Dominican Republic: The honeymoon I never had! Stage 5; day 4

Stage 5:  Here I am Lord! Let me rest!

Day 4: Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nothing like a full 40 seconds of hot water to help you get your day started with a jolt. Especially after a day like yesterday. The week seemed to be going so slowly. I caught myself more than once being thankful that time wasn’t flying by too quickly. I am awake this day with peace on my agenda. I really don’t have a thing in the world to worry about except just having a good time and soaking up every ounce of Republica Dominica that I can. Johno tries to do the follow up video to my visit but I really have no brain capacity. I had this really cool thought after the visit, this line I was going to say, “People ask, “what does it cost to sponsor a child?” Then I say, “The real question is-  What does it cost the child to NOT be sponsored?” “ Good huh? Totally didn’t say it in the interview when I was finally on tape. Oh well, I’m saying it now. Feel free to use it.

The morning devotional was brought by Johno. Or Johno as I like to call him. He had just sat down to his breakfast after filming the video when our clocks all struck time for devotion. One of the things he would be talking about is having hearts of compassion. The scripture Col 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Right away the timing became obvious to me. The fact that he’d be asked to speak on patience and then interrupted before he could take a bite to eat was so God! I thought about how we never know when our opportunity to minister is going to come or what circumstances will bring it to bear fruit. But if we follow what he was telling us about, and we are clothed in these things, we’ll be ready when the time comes, just as he was, when put on the spot. There were other people in the restaurant that morning and a TV rather loudly distracting everyone. It has become almost comical to me to see what distraction will try and steal the Word of God from our ears. But Johno didn’t give in to it. He brought us a beautiful message that was also about the 20 different people Jesus encountered in Matthew 9. It opened my eyes to the people that I might encounter in the day ahead and how I might not be able to help them all personally, but I can pray to the One who is able to help them all. I will do my best to be dressed with the garments He’s given me.

We are headed out to visit a child and we have some time on the bus. Thank you God. It gave me time to sit and visit, listen to music, journal lots of feelings about yesterday. Sometime ago, before Christmas, I discovered the music of JJ Heller. I couldn’t find her music anywhere locally so I got on her website and ordered all of her cd’s. For months, I have listened to nothing else. I love all of her music, but there are 4 songs that go round and round in my head. I have been thinking about what music I will use as the soundtrack for all of the pictures I’ll take on this trip. I recently viewed a beautiful video made by Theresa, a fellow child ambassador about her trip to Senegal, West Africa, and she had perfect music. I know I’ll use a JJ Heller song, just don’t know which one. To my great surprise, I found out she is a World Vision Artist Associate! When we were in San Antonio and we had joined the artists for devotional one morning, I got to meet her. I say all that to say this, as I’m driving and journaling, I’m listening to JJ Heller and the words of her songs are playing like a movie in my head with the faces and places of the things I’ve just seen. It is so beautiful. I wonder what she was looking at when she wrote those songs that are now the beautiful melody for my beautiful experience? Maybe someday I’ll ask her.  “It’s not my fault that she is hungry, it’s my joy to make sure she’s fed” (Little Things, JJ Heller). That’s it in a nutshell.

We arrive at the home of a child to be visited today and when I step off of the bus I realize that I am on a quiet country road. Yes quiet. With huge trees overhanging the road. Fields of crops on the left; clean, well-kept grounds and a house on the right, plastic lawn chairs in a circle in preparation for the visit, and animals grazing freely under some trees. I soak it in. I just want to stay here for a while. The blue sky and fluffy white clouds look exactly like a New Mexico sky. The farm girl in me is then transported back to my childhood where we didn’t wear shoes all summer. There is no one in the bus. Everyone is out walking and looking and soaking up peace and the slice of heavenly silence we have been served. The huge trees are mint trees so there is a moist, inviting aroma. I watch everybody. What I saw was my team clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I saw the living Word.

Back on the bus and on our way to a farm where we will meet a farmer who is being supported by WV with training, seeds and supplies. As we are driving, Claudia is telling us about the lake in the area. We are headed to a place called Tierra Nueva. The elevation is 30 meters below sea level! The lake, Lake Enriquillo, is the biggest lake in the Caribbean. On the Haiti side of the border it is called Lake Saumatre. (It’s a really interesting lake. It’s salt water on the Haiti end, fresh water on the Dominican end. On the west side its saline. Google it!) The problem with the area we are driving in is that it used to all be productive farmland. But due to earthquakes and other natural causes, seawater is infiltrating the fresh water lake from underground. It is causing the lake to rise, and as it does it floods out farmland, then people can no longer farm so they cut down the trees, then the issues associated with deforestation take over. It’s a really bad scenario, one that I personally have put at the top of the agenda! It’s also one that the best thing I can do is PRAY. The water is not very far at all from the road. Soon, it will cover the road we are driving on. You can’t water crops with salt water. Fresh water fish, cant live in salt water. Can’t grow good crops and eat healthy foods with no land to grow them. Dilemma.

We are asked to stop along the way because there is a World Vision Library in the town of Postrerro that want us to see what they are doing. This is a joyful stop. This library was built by World Vision and they have many 14 & 15 year old volunteers that come in and tutor in math and reading. I think they said there are 54 children involved in the extra tutoring programs. There are classes happening here in early childhood development, theatre & computers to name but a few. We met a lady named Sonya who had only worked for WV for 4 months but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone who loved her job as much as she did! Turns out the kids of the farmer we were going to visit were at that library so we let them hitch a ride with us to their farm. Being a working parent with kids in school, I know what a help it is to have someone pick up your kids for you! I was really glad we did that.

We are now out at the farm of Rafael. It’s a bumpy dirt road that our driver, Dionicio, mastered with our big bus and trailer like the pro he is! The landscape looks lush with big tropical looking trees and green ground cover. We have to jump over his irrigation stream in order to meet him where he’s standing. We find that he is growing beans, and has plantain trees and límon trees. It takes us a minute, but we finally get it, that they are limes, and, we are standing on his beans. Rafael is so much like many of the farmers I know. He is smart and has a progressive attitude. He is in tune with the land and the science and faith involved with making things grow. He is knowledgeable about farming practices in other parts of the world and uses that knowledge for a competitive edge. He is not a micro finance loan recipient, but instead, he is what is called a lead farmer. Someone who is really good at farming that WV partners with to help teach others to farm as well. WV has supported him with training and tools, also providing the seeds and trees that he now farms.

His innovative spirit is evident. He has taken a risk and it has paid off. He planted limon trees to supplement his plantain trees (like banana) and other crops. It may take as long as 4 years to establish the tree before it begins producing fruit. But once it does, it produces a crop every 3 months and is very hearty and hurricane resistant. He farms about 5 acres of land. It requires almost constant irrigation and the river is 7 miles away. Luckily, water runs downhill to him so distance is not a factor.

Onto the bus and headed to the Enriquillo ADP office for some more visits with sponsored kids and lunch. It was a sweet reunion for Erin as she was able to see her sponsored child for a second time. She had visited him a few years ago and it was great to see how he had matured.  Johno met a friends child and we met Jere’s mini-me. Talk about a divine match!

We are back on the bus and begin the almost 5 hour drive back to Santo Domingo. We mix it up and sit by different people and talk in clusters, and some people sleep. We see trucks loaded with Haitian immigrants, a beautiful tomato truck, some goats up close and personal and lots of changing landscape. As we transition from rural to more urban, we see kids in their khakis and blue shirt school uniforms walking home from school at about 6 pm. I see people cleaning house, kids watering potted plants and people gathered in circles and talking. I saw kids playing full court basketball, dirt roads, irrigation ditches, the most beautiful bouganvilla plants everywhere, growing along the roadside like weeds.

Virginia, Joy, Vicki and others begin to sing and Claudia teaches us “Jesus loves me” in Spanish. “Si, Cristo me ama. Si Cristo me ama. Si Cristo me ama- la Biblia dice asi”. I have come to love these people on the bus. Each in their own way, bringing their own brand of fun. Each shining their own light into the dark places. I am humbled to be among them.

Numbers 33 Journal Entry: We camped in Santo Domingo at Hotel Maison Gautreaux and I texted my kids for the first time all week.

To be continued…

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