Sunday began with a knock on my door at 7:30 a.m. by our new human alarm clock, Alicia Campbell. Actually, she is Barbadian-born, just like yours truly. I guess last year’s alarm clock, Bibi Achaibar, decided not to get a new battery. It was a glorious morning because the previous night, the Miami Heat won the Eastern Conference Finals beating the Boston Celtics 101-88 and winning the series 4 games to 3. It also meant that they will play the Oklahoma City Thunders in the NBA Finals beginning on Tuesday, June 12. Oklahoma City wiped out the San Antonio Spurs a few of nights earlier, winning the Western Conference Finals 4 games to 2. So it was a good start to the day. Congrats Heat!
After breakfast, we decided to walk from our hotel to the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista for their 10:00 a.m. Eucharist. Although the walk was good exercise, the humidity of the morning was not good for our clothes. Nevertheless, as we entered the door of the small church building, we saw a beautifully decorated sanctuary and warm, friendly, familiar faces that were beaming with joy to see us and we were elated to see them. You can well imagine the hugging and kissing that was going on.
One person who I thought would not have been happy to see me was a 7-year old boy named Jerry. Last year, Jerry was a challenge to many of the Vacation Bible School counselors, so much so that they asked me to speak with him. So imagine, an English-speaking priest who knows no Spanish trying to speak to a Spanish-speaking child who knows no English. However, someone interpreted for me. In exercising discipline in a loving way, Jerry spent moments in time-out, because of his behavior. So you can well imagine how surprised I was that Jerry was truly excited to see me this year. I was delighted to see him and even more elated to see how much his behavior had improved. He could not help sitting next to me and playing with me. His mother even remarked how much he loves me and was looking forward to seeing me again. I guess a little discipline exercised with love does not hurt.
Nevertheless, in true Caribbean fashion, the service was to start at 10:00 a.m. but did not begin until 20 minutes later. Congregants were arriving at various times but the service was well attended. Like most, if not all Caribbean islands, the atmosphere is quite laid-back. The service was beautiful and spiritually uplifting. Father Vicente and I celebrated the Eucharist in Spanish and English, as wellas preached in both languages but different sermons. The Chorus Group sang enthusiastically and the worship service is charismatic in its style. The hospitality and fellowship were electrifying.
One of the many constants from last year is the number of members in the congregation that are very young. I believe the average age is about 30 years old. I asked Father Vicente about this and his explanation is that the elderly people attend the Roman Catholic Church which is more traditional and to their liking. The younger folks attend the Episcopal Church because of its charismatic and contemporary style of worship.
We returned to the hotel, where we had lunch, and immediately following, we unpacked and assorted 15 large boxes and 11 huge duffel bags of medical and Vacation Bible School supplies as we prepared for the task for which we came. Being exhausted from the day’s events and being still a bit under the weather, I decided to take a nap midway during the sorting. The sleep served me well.
In fact, I awoke in time for dinner, and our group meeting. Apart from being briefed for the next day’s work, we spent time sharing the day’s happenings and answering the question, “Where did you see God at work today?” Many discussions ensued. One story that truly epitomizes God’s presence involved an 11-year-old boy who was struck last year by a car driven by someone under the influence of alcohol. The boy is now in a vegetated state. The church is trying to raise US$1,000.00 (nearly RD$40,000.00) so that he can have another surgery to improve his condition, including being able to eat normally. While on our trip back to the hotel, Father Vicente spoke to me about this situation and the difficulty they are having in trying to raise the money. Then during lunch, Dr. Pat presented our Team Leader, Karen Eddy, with a check for US$1,000.00, which was a gift from one of her medical colleagues in the United States. The money was given to the mission team for a worthy missionary cause. And we had our cause. Dr. Pat was unaware of the chain of events that had transpired and the fact that Father Vicente and I had spoken about this just 90 minutes before the monetary gift was presented. What a God moment! What an awesome God!
With great joy in our hearts, and at the end of another day, Erna Rappaport led us in Compline.