By Elizabeth Welch, Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast
Posted February 26, 2015

The 57th Convention of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic

“Two Communities—One Faith” These words were written on a bracelet that a mission team from the Diocese of Rhode Island placed on our wrists upon our arrival at Campamento Episcopal Monte de la Transfiguración in Jarabacoa. That message pretty much sums up the latest journey to our Companion Diocese of The Dominican Republic.

Upon our arrival in Santo Domingo, we were met by members of the Diocesan staff who transported us to a beautiful hotel on the beach in Boca Chica. This was our home for 3 days while we attended the 57th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of The Dominican Republic in San Pedro de Macorís. There we were welcomed with open arms, and made to feel right at home. While we couldn’t understand every word that was spoken, their love for The Lord and their commitment to mission and ministry in their Diocese was evident. Highlights of the convention included the Opening Eucharist, fellowship, the Closing Eucharist, a procession through the community, and a serenade by Bishop Holguín on Valentine’s Day.

The procession of Dominican Episcopal clergy and laity through the streets of San Pedro de Macorís on the way to the closing service

Our journey then took us back to Santo Domingo, where we spent the next three days at the Episcopal Seminary on the grounds of the Episcopal Cathedral of The Epiphany. During this time, it was my honor to represent the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast at the semi-annual Dominican Development Group board meeting. It was a joy to work and plan alongside bishops and representatives from other companion dioceses. In conjunction with this meeting, we made an exploration trip to several Episcopal parishes in and around Santo Domingo that are in great need. The culmination of our time in Santo Domingo was dinner at Bishop Holguin’s beautiful home — wow!

Members and guests at the semi-annual meeting of the DDG Board of Directors on February 16, 2015. Elizabeth Welch is on the back row, fourth from the right.

On Ash Wednesday, we found ourselves at the bus station, “Caribe Tours!” Two hours later (record time), we arrived in El Pedregal—our second home. That evening we celebrated Ash Wednesday at La Iglesia Episcopal Monte de la Transfiguración—the church that the Episcopal Church of the Nativity (Dothan, AL) and many other churches in other dioceses helped to build. Unlike previous work-related mission trips, we spent the next four days relaxing, visiting old friends in the community, helping Carlos’ fiancée, Heather, with some last-minute wedding plans, and getting to know the team from Rhode Island (Heather’s home state) who were working in El Pedregal.

A member of the Rhode Island mission team carrying roofing material for a bathroom to the construction site in the village of El Pedregal.

Elizabeth with Oti Nichan Martinez, a close friend of the groom, at the wedding reception for Heather and Carlos.

Of course, the highlight of the week was attending the wedding of Carlos and Heather. I cried like a mother as I watched our “adopted” son marry the love of his life. We have known Carlos for 11 years; he has always helped us with our work in El Pedregal, and took my own son, Andrew, under his wing like a brother during his mission trips. He was also the first acolyte at the very first service in that church. Carlos and Heather’s wedding and reception truly were symbols of two communities becoming one.

The newly-married couple at the conclusion of the marriage service

I give thanks to God for this amazing trip, and, as I unpack my suitcase and my heart, I hope to share some of the many things that God has revealed to me during this time in my second home of the Dominican Republic.

In His Love,
Elizabeth Welch