June 13, the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua, is an important holy day in the city of Bonao. Some businesses are closed in the evening in observance of the day. There is a large (Roman) Catholic Church, located very close to our hotel, which is dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. A jazz festival took place at the church in the evening.
The day began as usual with breakfast in the Conference Room of the hotel and the Eucharist at the church. The readings of the day were 1 Kings 18:20-39, Psalm 16: 1, 6-11, and Matthew 5: 17-19. The First Reading and the Psalm were read by Alicia Campbell and Erna Rappaport respectively, while Karen Eddy led the Prayers of the People. Our singing was enhanced by the accompaniment of the two talented and wonderful young men on our team, Jordan King on guitar, and Hashan Bhim on saxophone.
On this day, the Medical Team headed to a village that adjoins Bonao, named Homer. We conducted our medical clinic in the same home in which we did last year. The setup for the clinic in this house is adequate and there is a bridge that crosses over a stream from the gravelled street to the house. But what I always find interesting is the fact that one of the items used to build the bridge is an old ironing board. It was there last year and it is still there this year and holding firm. The team examined 83 children, who they found to be more of ill-health than the children of earlier days. On this occasion, Malcolm joined the VBS team and Meredith Tittler, the Peace Corps worker, joined the team as a note taker with Karen and translator for Dr. Pat Rowe King. She has worked very well and enjoys working with the team and the team with her. As usual, Dr. Pat, and her staff are working exceptionally well and we have to commend Dr. Pat for seeing and examining so many children each day under strenuous conditions including having no electricity, which means no fans, no light. Personally, I find that this year the heat seems to be more intense than last year. Nevertheless, I spent some time with the medical team in the afternoon, ensuring they were fine and being a male presence among the women.
The VBS team has had a wonderful week working with the children and the teenagers who are assisting. Ms. Leonida Scott, an adult member of the church, leads the teaching part of the bible school in Spanish. Having four members of our mission team working on the VBS team was great and the team is working remarkably, particularly Jordan and Hashan. They have been very engaging with the children. In the morning session, there were 53 children attending while in the evening session, there were 46. The theme of the day was on the lesson: “Abraham gave everything to God” (Genesis 22: 1-19). Again, the children engaged in work book activities and crafts that were applicable to the topic. The children are becoming more and more energetic every passing day.
I spent part of the morning session with the VBS after returning from a meeting which I attended with Father Vicente. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the negative treatment of women by men in society and how to reverse such a situation. The meeting was held in the local Governor’s office in Bonao. Father Vicente was invited the lead the invocation at the event. The meeting was to start at 10:00 a.m. but began 40 minutes later. I couldn’t believe it. The time for the meeting had long past and the organizers were standing around chatting with each other as if the meeting was beginning at 11:00 a.m. Furthermore, the building was not air-conditioned, and it was sweltering hot. I could feel the perspiration running down my body. What was absolutely amazing was that Father Vicente was wearing a suit along with his clericals, and perspiring profusely. When I invited him to take his jacket off, he said that he will be fine; he was use to it.
The Construction team, led by Ron MacDonald, did some outstanding work including building the platform for the sanctuary on which the chairs that seat the clergy, seminarian and lay Eucharistic Ministers will be placed. It gives the altar party a better view of the congregation and not just seeing a few heads above the altar. The team also made a portable lectern and a serving counter on which food will be served to patrons. Scraping off old paint was done on the exterior of the building in preparation for painting the next day.
Our nightly meeting began as usual with a recap of the day’s work. From all reports, the day was very successful in all areas. An unfortunate aspect is, like the medical clinic where parents are required to pay DR$50.00 (US$1.30) for the examination of each child, in order for children to attend VBS their parents need to pay a minimum fee as well. There were children who were standing outside wanting to be a part of the VBS but could not be because no payment was made on their behalf. These payment measures are mandated by the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic. The purpose is that the children and parents would appreciate and be committed to the programs which are being offered.
In expressing when he saw God at work during the day, Jordan King commented on the change he saw in his friend and fellow missionary, Hashan Bhim, with regards to his ministering in the barrio. Jordan remarked that base on Hashan’s comments the previous night of feeling uncomfortable when working in the slum areas he decided to check on him to see how he was doing. But for the entire time, Jordan said that Hashan did not show any signs of stress or being uncomfortable as he did the day before. He was playing with the children, sitting on the floor with them, and getting his hands all filled with glue. In a nutshell, Jordan saw his friend exhibiting a 180 degree turn-around and feeling good about it. Hashan added that his change of attribute was as a result of the discussion the team had the previous night and the advice given to him. Carol Bhim, Hashan’s mother, commented that in light of what her son had said, she also observed that the parents who brought children to the clinic that day were steering at her as she went about doing her duties. She had not noticed this before until then. Erna Rappaport also mentioned that she has always seen the people watching her and wondered what they were thinking.
After a delicious dinner with wine (trust me we are not winos), Malcolm Briggs led us in Compline. The younger and young-at-heart members of our team (of which I was none of the above) attended the St. Anthony’s Day celebrations in the park. But they returned relatively early. So probably they are not as young as they think they are.