Report of the Mission Team in Santiago and Jarabacoa
October 12-19, 2013
By the Mission Team
Sponsored by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Omaha NE
Posted October 30, 2013
It is with prayerful consideration, and with much gratitude for the many blessings of God, Bishop Barker, Bishop Holguín, the parish of St. Andrew’s, and the Episcopal Church of the Dominican Republic, that the St. Andrew’s mission team (the Team) provides this report.
The Team is grateful to Karen Skinner for making all the arrangements for this successful mission with Karen Carroll of the Episcopal Church of the Dominican Republic. The Team also is grateful to Joe Engle and the St. Andrew’s Outreach Committee for the financial support given to assure the success of this mission. The purpose of this mission was to continue our work with Padre Tony at San Lucas Church and La Anunciación School, provide supplies to assist Padre Rafael with his work in Tamboril, and to work at the Diocesan Camp, Mount of the Transfiguration School, and in the community of El Pedregal.
The Reverend John Schaefer, and the St. Andrew’s parish, were very helpful in assisting in the preparation of this ministry. Clothing, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, washcloths, sheets, pillow cases, candy, school supplies, English-Spanish books, football, soccer and baseball equipment, and medical supplies and instruments were collected from the parish. Ten suitcases, weighing approximately 500 pounds total, were packed with supplies for delivery and distribution. Ten suitcases were also donated for this purpose and left behind to be used as closets in the community. St. Luke’s Church in Kearney, NE, also provided two pottery chalices and 5 pottery carafes for our presentation to San Lucas Church in Santiago. The Team also thanks Karen Skinner for working with American Airlines to waive the baggage fees for this mission.
The Team arrived in Santiago on the evening of October 12, 2013. We were met at the airport by Padre Tony and our driver, William. We were welcomed at Hotel Colonial, and met on the roof of the hotel to enjoy the evening, and discuss our coming week in the DR.
Padre Tony, Padre Rafael’s son, Israel, and Padre Álvaro were pleased with the supplies that were brought, and a very aggressive schedule was planned for us. We were to present the gift of St. Luke’s, conduct a religion and art project with the students at Mount of the Transfiguration, School, present the school supplies to the Directress and teachers of the school, deliver supplies to 3 communities, deliver health and medical supplies and instruments to Dr. Israel de la Cruz, and do painting and other maintenance work at the camp.
The church service at San Lucas on October 13, 2013 was beyond beautiful. Padre Tony, Deacon Herman, and many friends warmly welcomed us. The women of our Team presented the gift from St. Luke’s to Padre Tony and the Altar Guild of San Lucas. Our mission was blessed, and each Team member was presented a DR 2013 missioner’s pin. Refreshments followed the service, and the Team then went to the service at la Anunciación Church. Many friendships were made with folks in Santiago.
On the afternoon of December 13, 2013, we visited in the home of an artist who is a friend of Padre Rafael. Many unique Dominican items were purchased, and beautiful gifts were received from the artist. We also visited a super Mercado where supplies were purchased for our week at the camp. We then returned to the hotel and separated the supplies to be given to Israel, Padre Tony, and Padre Álvaro. The supply presentation was made to Israel Sunday afternoon.
Sunday evening, a celebration in our honor was held at the home of Padre Tony. Friends from San Lucas and La Anunciación made this evening very special with food, music and dancing.
On Monday morning, October 14, 2013, we were welcomed at La Anunciación School and treated to a performance recognizing Columbus Day. This performance opened our eyes as it depicted the trial of Christopher Columbus for enslaving the indigenous people of the DR, and bringing disease to the island. Mr. Columbus was found guilty, and taken to jail. This was an unexpected Columbus Day celebration that got us all to thinking, and seeing the discovery of the New World in a new light. After the student’s presentation, a presentation of supplies for the school was made to Padre Tony, and his wife, Iris. We were also shown the tennis and basketball sporting equipment that was purchased with a previous gift made to the school.
Padre Tony advised us that Padre Álvaro had been called away from the camp and could not welcome us there until later in the afternoon. Our Team went to a local shopping mall, and had lunch with Padre Tony and Iris. Following lunch, our group travelled through a torrential rainstorm up the mountain to Jarabacoa where we were met by Padre Álvaro, his wife, Ángela, and Missionary Charlie. We settled into our rooms for the week, and gathered for fellowship and a wonderful dinner prepared by Tomasina. We discussed our work for the week, and made plans regarding work at the school and visits to the surrounding community. We were to paint the dining hall, and conduct religion and art classes each day at the school.
On Tuesday morning, October 15, 2013, we started early painting, and much progress was made. The parable of the mustard seed was read and discussed with the students, and then they were asked to illustrate their interpretation with colored pencils on construction paper. The students enjoyed this very much. Our team re-united at noon, and we painted until it was time for dinner. After dinner, we received a tour of the greenhouse operation at the camp, and the hygiene kits were distributed to the women of El Pedregal. While visiting in the community, we were asked to pray for an ailing woman named Milagros who suffered from cancer. Fr. John prayed and Padre Álvaro and Ángela sang a beautiful song of intercession. The experience of visiting the community and interceding for our sister, Milagros, was a powerful witness to the greater work we were called to do. A Team debriefing followed on the balcony of the new addition to the dormitory where many wonderful feelings and ideas were shared for a continuing mission calling.
On Wednesday morning, October 16, 2013, we again started early painting. The story of the Good Shepherd was read and discussed with the students, and, again, they were asked to illustrate their interpretation with colored pencils on construction paper. Our team re-united at noon, and the painting of the dining room was complete. The kitchen, laundry, restrooms and storage room were cleaned out and painted. A storage garage was also cleaned out and reorganized. A very special dinner, including members of the church and teachers at the school, was held in our honor. Again, music and dancing was central to this celebration. Clothing was distributed to the folks attending. We learned that a long-time teacher at the school had been advised by the government that she must have a college degree in order to continue teaching at the school. Ms. Everly has paid all she has for college and will require approximately $1600 more to complete her education. Our Team feels supporting Everly’s education is an investment that will have lasting and long term benefits to this community. It was decided to present this outreach opportunity to St. Andrew’s parish for support upon our return. Our evening was again concluded with a heartfelt discussion of future opportunities to make lasting changes to the community.
On Thursday morning, October 17, 2013, we again started early painting. The third Bible story of Jesus being the Light of the World was read and discussed with the students, and, again, they were asked to illustrate their interpretation with colored pencils on construction paper. A large amount of artwork was completed over this 3 day program, and will be brought back to St. Andrew’s parish. Our team re-united at noon, and the painting of the additional areas was completed. We began to paint the structure covering the walkway from the dormitory to the dining hall, and the crosses and benches found at the camp. Padre Álvaro and Charlie were very pleased with the progress of our painting projects. Our evening was again concluded with a heartfelt discussion of future opportunities to make lasting changes to the community, including the protection of the greenhouse project where 2000 tomatoes, 2000 peppers, bananas, plantains, and passion fruit have been planted. We also talked about the immediate need to replace several hundred feet of chain link fencing which is missing and instrumental to the security of the camp.
Friday, October 18, 2013, was a very busy day. The Team went to the school in the morning to say ‘thank you’ and good-bye’ to the teachers and students. We met Arsenio, a teacher at the school, who has written two books of poetry. Arsenio agreed to have his work translated into English, and gave permission to sell his book in the US with proceeds to be routed back to Padre Alvaro through the DDG for him and the community. We also toured the classrooms and noted water damage to most rooms on the upper floor. We went to the roof and observed cracking and degradation of the concrete skimming. We also toured the church which could also use a fresh coat of paint.
We then again toured the greenhouse project, and noted the progress that had been made the previous day with the planting of 200 passion fruit plants. Charlie told us of his concern for the tomato and pepper plants which will bear product in about 6 weeks. The area is secured by 8 strands of barbed wire which has already been cut so that unauthorized people can enter the grounds without permission. Charlie told us of a need for a 4 foot concrete wall with chain link fence on top of it for security. This project is also considered a priority by Padre Álvaro and Bishop Holguín.
Upon our return to camp, we completed our painting of the covered walkway, and the benches throughout the camp. By the end of the day, our work had been completed, and we enjoyed a very special BBQ dinner at the camp with a church family. Hand crafted items were displayed for sale. In February, 2013, a lady from Georgia brought yarn and taught ladies in the community to knit. They are now producing items for sale, and making money to help their families. Our last night concluded with a long discussion of our Team. Three priority projects were identified which we believe make immediate and lasting changes for the community.
First, it is a priority to support Teacher Everly. Second, the replacement of several hundred feet of chain link fence that has been removed from the perimeter of the camp, so that the camp may once again be secure. No problems were noted with outside individuals wandering into the camp, but Padre Álvaro is concerned about this happening when visitors are in residence. However, several dogs roamed into camp during meals which also concerned Padre Álvaro as they could bite. Third, time is of the essence to build a wall and fence around the green house project to secure the work being done to feed and bring economical opportunities to the community. Charlie estimates the wall and fence will cost $5000 which is mostly for materials. Volunteer or inexpensive labor will build the structure.
Oh, what a morning it was on October 19, 2013!! The baseball, football and soccer equipment, clothing, bedding, and other gifts were presented. Breakfast was provided at 4:30 AM. Our bus arrived at 5 AM to take us back to Santiago. Padre Álvaro and Ángela were perfect hosts, generous with their spirit, and sincere with their love and caring for us and the people of El Pedregal. It is difficult to find the words which explain the impact this experience has had on each of our hearts. We have built a giving and receiving relationship with the folks from the mountains and in Santiago. Only the photos we brought home can adequately share the story of our Team. The fun, fellowship and generosity of St. Andrew’s will never be forgotten.
Our precious week in the DR culminated with an understanding of how much it means to the folks in the DR that others care about them. We heard that it is not what we bring with us, but the fact we came that is most important to them. It is the relationships that will grow and continue to form that is the greatest gift to be given or received.
We return home able to give the assurance that the Diocese of Nebraska and St. Andrew’s is well known in Santiago and Jarabacoa. We can also give an assurance that we have a second ‘home’ in the DR with family anxiously awaiting our return. We have learned that small mission groups can accomplish many, many important things.
Before we left for the DR, Bishop Barker asked that our Team love deeply while in the DR. This was accomplished. Every day, we felt and observed a deeper loving relationship…and our Team is ready to grow this excitement and love further. May God bless this growing ministry! We look forward to the places He shall lead us.
Father John Schaefer
Josh, Mandy and Nate Urban
Don and Melissa Peeler
October 23, 2013