June 11, the Feast Day of St. Barnabas, Apostle and Martyr, is always one of those days I remember with fondness because I was a member, altar server (acolyte) and youth member of the Church of St. Barnabas, Barbados, for over 20 years. I recall celebrating our patron feast with services being held and sermons being preached by different priests each night for one week. It was joyous to see, on arrival, the church decorated in red, the color for Christian martyrs. It was also equally joyous to celebrate the Mass on this major saint day. The readings of the day were: Isaiah 42:5-12; Psalm 112; Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3; Matthew 10:7-16. Jordan King, Ron MacDonald, and Hashan Bhim read the first lesson, the psalm and the second lesson respectively while Erna Rappaport led the Prayers of the People.
We began the day without one of our missionaries, Malcolm Briggs, who took ill during the night. By forgetting one of the cardinal “do not” rules when visiting the Dominican Republic, which is not to drink or even allow water to go into our mouths caused him to be ill for the entire day. It was truly sad and disconcerting, both for Malcolm and the team, since he was very much looking forward to engaging in missionary work, and we were looking forward to having him. Nevertheless, he spent the day in his hotel room, and later in the evening, Father Vicente and I went to his room where we prayed for him and I anointed him. We also brought him a couple bottles of Gatorade so as to keep him hydrated.
Meanwhile, after the Eucharist, we prepared for Vacation Bible School in the sanctuary of the church, while the Medical team set up for a long day in the Academy, which is on the second floor of the church building. It was a long and tiring day for the medical team, with one or two glitches. By the end of the day, the exceptional and hardworking Dr. Pat, with the assistance of her phenomenal team – Bibi Achaibar, Carol Bhim, Alicia Campbell, Karen Eddy, Erna Rappaport, and Linda Schlepp Gray – had seen 91 children.
The Construction team, which includes Ron MacDonald and Charlie Nakash, a missionary in the Dominican Republic, but formerly from the Diocese of New Jersey, joined us to help with the construction of an internet cafe for the church. The team, with Father Vicente, spent the day purchasing the materials needed to build the cafe. Father Vicente’s vision is to have an indoor and outdoor area where people can have access to the internet, make telephone calls, a place to enjoy a meal, and at the same time a place to study. The St. John the Baptist cleric is very enthusiatic about the cafe becoming a reality.
Forty-nine children attended the morning part (9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon) of the Vacation Bible School (VBS) which was held at the church but we know that this number will increase as the week progresses. Our missionaries Jordan King, Hashan Bhim, and Sheila DePass did a fantastic job, with the assistance of a wonderful group of young people from St. John the Baptist. Biblical lessons and activities were done and children also shared in practical activities as well. After lunch, the VBS team went to the barrio (the slum/ghetto area) to prepare for and to hold another Vacation Bible School from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. This school was held in a temporary thatched building, the worship place for one of the congregations of the Episcopal Church. This building is too small to hold the large quantity of children we had last year when we met under trees.
Toward the end of the Vacation Bible School, Father Vicente took me to visit the home of the Frank Jr., the boy who was struck by the drunk driver last year and is now in a vegetated state. Jordan and Hashan also accompanied us in the home and in the boy’s room. It was an emotional experience for all who visited. I prayed with him and anointed him. Our visit was one of the items for discussion at our meeting.
As a result of Malcolm’s illness, Dr. Pat again firmly reminded the team of the rules of the game when it comes to oral intake – only bottled water to be used for drinking and cleaning of one’s teeth, no eating of fruits or raw vegetables, only vegetables that have been cooked, no drinking of juices or sodas except those in sealed bottles which are opened by the user. Following these rules will keep you from getting ill.
We closed the evening with Compline, led by Linda Schlepp-Gray, after having a wonderful dinner prepared by the Pena family.