With a knock on my door from Karen Eddy at 6:52 a.m., I awoke from my slumber.  Having completed my devotions, I headed to the great room where we gather for our meals, our meetings and socializing. Having said my “Good mornings” I proceeded to the balcony to experience the freshness of the morning. As I look at the town from the third floor, the huge sign bearing the names, “Karna Bar” and “Coco-nut Disco,” was erected across the street from the building. Nevertheless, although it was rather early for a Sunday morning, people were already on the move. An interesting feature about the town of Bonao is that it can be called the “Capital of Motorcycles.” From my 24-hour observation of the city, there appears to be far more motorcycles than cars, at least five cycles to one car according to my count, while on the balcony this morning. They were even as many as three persons on a cycle which was as tight squeeze, but it worked.

We were not too far into the day when one of the missionaries provided some excitement for the group. One of my two fun-loving travel buddies, who shall remain nameless, sat on Melissa Schleifer’s bed and it collapsed on one side (either bad construction or …). Suffice it to say that Melissa and I felt this was a blogging moment; obviously our dear friend was not amused. We certainly do not want Melissa sliding off her bed so the hotel plans to have the matter rectified.

After breakfast, it was off to San Juan Bautista Episcopal Church in Bonao, one of Father Vicente’s eight churches, for the 10:00 a.m. Eucharist. The church was about a ten minute walk from the hotel but in hot, humid weather, one can be perspiring in no time. Yesterday, Father Vicente invited me to read the gospel in English, and he will read in Spanish, and to con-celebrate with him at the altar. The church building is small by Episcopal Church standards but the church family at San Juan Bautista is extremely hospitable, energetic and spiritual, and is incredibly charismatic in their worship style. Their vociferous and enthusiastic singing and praise to God is a hallmark of this church.  

There was no doubt that the San Juan Bautista congregants were elated to see us as we reacquainted with old friends and made new ones. On significant reunion was between our own missionary, Linda Schlepp Gray, and a young lady, named Yani, whom she met nine years ago when Yani was 9 years old. Linda and

Karen E., Linda SG, Yani & Juan Carlos

Yani have maintained their friendship through the years. Yani’s presence at worship this morning was a total surprise for Linda since Yani, her husband, Juan Carlos, and their two children live a 2 ½ hour ride on a motorcycle from the church. Karen organized it with Father Vicente and what a wonderful gesture it was. In addition, during the sharing of the Peace, which exemplified a ‘glorified fish market,’ 90 Dominicans and Americans embraced and kissed each other with tearful eyes. These portrayals of love and affection demonstrate the fruitfulness of the work done by our missionaries and the lives they have touched and continue to touch in unique and special ways.

An amazing observation in this congregation is the youthfulness of its members, which is not typical for an Episcopal Church. If I was to make a guess, I would say that the average age in the congregation this morning was between 25 and 30 years. Furthermore, from my viewpoint, I would add that at least 70% were less than 40 years of age. In my address to the congregation, which was interpreted in Spanish by Father Vicente, I mentioned that their youthfulness is a sign of a healthy church and will serve San Juan Bautista in its future ministry.

Another significant opinion is that in a Spanish-speaking country, one’s English name is changed to a Spanish name. So for the next week in the Dominican Republic, my name is no longer “Father Tony” or “Father Anthony,” it is now “Padre Antonio.”

Visiting and sharing with the people of San Juan Bautista on this day of Pentecost was extremely appropriate. Sharing the reading of the Eucharistic Prayer with Father Vicente in both English and Spanish alternatively epitomizes what took place on that first day of Pentecost when the people of different languages gathered together and spoke in their own language through the coming of the Spirit on the church and it grew by thousands.

Senior Warden, Carmen & Nancy Pena

After the service ended, the fifteen missionaries took a picture with the congregation. After saying our good-byes, we returned to the hotel for lunch and then to unpack 16 large boxes and 15 huge duffel bags of medical and Vacation Bible School supplies – the reason for why we are here.  A few of the members from San Juan Bautista, led by Nancy Pena, Father Vicente’ wife, also assisted with unpacking arranging the supplies.

Tonight, after dinner, we discussed our plans for tomorrow and reviewed today’s highlights. I asked the members to share a highlight that took place in their lives today. Linda shared her story about Yani and the joy of seeing her today. Ron McDonald spoke emotionally of seeing a family who lost their husband and father last year. I shared with the team members two highlights for me today – first, the friendliness and hospitality of the people at the church and second, the ‘God-incidence’ that we were worshiping with our Spanish-speaking friends on the Day of Pentecost and sharing the Eucharist in both English and Spanish.  

Ron McDonald & me dancing in the streets

As I am ending my blog for the night, our missionaries are all huddled quietly in their rooms having just seen the stunning defeat of the Miami Heat by the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals held in Miami, Florida. We were watching the game in Spanish but the good thing is that actually watching a game has no language barriers. For those who do not know, we are from the Miami area.

Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks!

[Click on thumbnails for larger photographs]