With Seminarian, Joaquin Legares

Day 3 began at 5:25 a.m. when Ron McDonald, designated as our human alarm clock, knocked on my door. He later said that I was the second person he awoke, the Team Leader being the first. I guess he prefers to start with the person in the senior position first and work his way through the pecking/ranking order, forgetting that those at the top of the ranking file are the last to awake (smile). Nevertheless, we were to be at the church for the Eucharist at 7:00 a.m. However, in true Caribbean fashion, our transportation did not arrive until 7:25 a.m. and on arrival at the church, the Altar Guild was just beginning to prepare the altar for the Eucharist. Nevertheless, the Eucharist was celebrated and God was glorified, and that is what is important.

The readings used at the Eucharist were: Acts 10:23-33; Psalm 22:22-30; and Luke 10: 25-37. Jordan King, Matthew Campbell and Audrey Burgher participated in the readings. I gave a short message on the Gospel text, which was the story of the Good Samaritan. In my address, I reminded the missionaries and our friends that we are called, not only to serve and minister to those who we love, know or of a similar social strata to ours, but to love all persons irrespective of who they are. I reiterated that we are all God’s people and when we serve, we are “God’s people serving God’s people.”The set-up and preparation for Vacation Bible School (VBS) and the Medical Clinic, with emphasis on pediatrics, were scheduled immediately after the Eucharist. With all hands on deck, and as people gathered we received our first patient sometime after 9:00 a.m. The clinic was divided into the following areas: waiting, reception and recording of patient information, physical examination of patients, and pharmacy. The Clinic was ably led by Dr. Pat Rowe King, a Pediatrician, and Head of Pediatrics at Broward Hospital, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, while Pharmacist, Audrey Burgher headed the Pharmacy.

Meanwhile, the first day of the VBS started at Iglesia de San Juan de Bautista with about 30 children. Actually it was a half-day. The expectation is that as the week continues the number of children will increase. Our missionaries – Maryella Reed, Jordan King and Matthew Campbell led the organizational part of the VBS. They did an incredible job. The children received religious education through a workbook format titled, “Solomon: A Reign of Peace.”The workbook consists of pictures to color, crossword puzzles, lessons, filling in the missing words, etc. They also enjoyed having fun by playing various games including musical chairs. The children had a blast with that game. Even some adults – Maryella, Jordan, Matthew, Mary, and me – had fun and were being kids again while playing musical chairs. In the end, Mary was victorious but I did not do too badly since she and I were the last remaining two. At the end of the VBS, I gave each child a blessing and they took home gift bags. In addition, one of the highlights of my day was while sitting outside observing life in Bonao, a number of children gathered around me requesting to have their picture taken with me.

In the midst of all of this, name tags for the Medical Clinic and VBS staff, and for the children attending VBS, were made from wood and beautifully decorated by two teenage girls, who are sisters and members of San Juan Bautista.

During lunch, I had a light-hearted conversation with Dr. Pat on child-rearing. Suffice it to say we share a similar style. Talking about lunch, we have been treated to delicious meals for lunch and dinner. The church has provided a Spanish chef for us… “Nuestro sincero gracias al jefe de cocina” (“Our heartfelt thanks to the chef”). 

Then it was off to our second VBS. Since I was the one floating around today, I decided to go with the VBS staff to the next venue for the second Vacation Bible School. The area to which we went was a much more underprivileged part of Bonao.  Originally, we thought we were going to the same venue as last year but to our surprise when we arrived at the venue, it was an open spot under a huge tree, no green lawn, no tables, no chairs, just a blue-colored tarp. Furthermore, there were just a few children, probably about 5. In fact they were more parents than children. We were surprised at the number of children and the venue (neither did it help that we were not told about this venue) and Maryella thought we had the wrong venue. But to cut a long story short, the venue was the correct one. It meant that Maryella, Jordan and Matthew needed to make adjustments to their program and this they did admirably.

But what was absolutely amazing was the fact that between 2:15 p.m. (VBS was to start at 2:00 p.m.) when we arrived and 3:30 p.m. about 100 children were present. Obviously, a decree, faster than a speeding bullet, went out from the village that the Mission Team of Holy Sacrament Episcopal Church had arrived. Children came from every direction imaginable and were ready to enjoy the afternoon’s program. Parents brought their chairs from their homes to sit under the tree and watch their children and us. Maryella, Jordan and Matthew worked tirelessly to get things under control and they did a superb job. They really deserve the rest of the mission off. But to tell you the truth, it was fun, but it was also a new experience that was surreal – the children came as they were but it was also an example of meeting God’s people where they are. The moral of the story is that you never know where God will place you in any given day among His people.

During the second VBS, I visited the new home of the Senior Warden who lives next door to where the VBS was held. The church built her a two bedroom home which she appreciates more than words can say. While the VBS was taking place, our missionary, Ron, and William, a member of the church, were painting the Senior Warden’s new home. They had earlier painted the wall of the Police Station. The Senior Warden expects to pursue a three-year diaconal program culminating with the hope of becoming a permanent deacon.

On another subject, the language barrier is becoming more and more real each day and there are just a few persons who can interpret effectively. I was having problems speaking to a number of persons today at the medical clinic and at the VBS. I express my heartfelt thanks to Jordan and Matthew who were my translators today at the VBS and they did a very good job – 1000 more times better than me. But today was noticeably difficult and sometimes frustrating so much so that I am planning on learning Spanish. (As my parishioners at Holy Sacrament and my wife read this, I can hear their voices ringing in my ear saying, “When does he expect to find time to learn Spanish?”) But I think the time has come for me to learn another language.

Since I last wrote of the number of motor bikes in Bonao, they seem to be multiplying more. But today, I also learned why there are so many bikes (my interpretation of things). On our way from the second VBS we traveled on a road that should fit two cars, the only problem is only one could travel at a time. So the persons coming in the opposite direction had to reverse until the road widens so that we could pass.

In our team meeting, apart from discussing what took place today, I asked the missionaries to share their thoughts on a question – “Give a situation in which you saw God at work today?”

William, Ron, Carmen, & Fr. Tony

I think I have said more than enough. Tomorrow is another day in the mission field. We go surrounded by the armor of God to love and care for God’s people.


[Click on thumbnails for larger photos]