June 14, the fourth day of our missionary work, was a very interesting and varied day for me personally as the rest of the team continued to serve with dedication and love in their hearts and in their assigned positions on the medical and VBS teams and the painting crew.

The day started at the usual 5:30 a.m. with a knock on my door from Maryella. Being not accustomed to waking up at this time, I am amazed that I could get up this early and be alert or somewhat so. But it is the grace of God that is keeping, not only me, but all of us going each day. It is truly marvelous what our missionaries are doing this week. They have dedicated a week of their vacation time to minister to the people in the DR and in our other mission in Jamaica.

As usual we gathered at Iglesia de San Juan Bautista for the Eucharist. The readings were taken from Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 57 and John 17:20-26. Brian McClain and Ron McDonald read the first reading and the psalm, while Father Vicente and Maryella Reed read the Gospel and the Prayers of the People respectively. While the VBS team held the second Vacation Bible School at the church during the morning period, the medical team and I journeyed for 20 minutes to a village named, “Piedra Blanca” (“White Stone”) to conduct a medical clinic there. Father Vicente drove the team. The clinic was held in a small, abandoned government building which had no electricity or running water. The people placed an American flag on the outside of the building to welcome us. Father Vicente is seeking to acquire the building from the government to be used for worship and school. In addition, he would also like to acquire a uninhabitable house next door to use as a pharmacy for the residents in the area. Father Vicente took me to see the building he is presently using in the area as one of his mission churches. It is the home of someone from whom he rents. About 70 members worship in that church.

Then it was back to San Juan de Bautista Church to get Father Vicente’s car which needed repair. I drove for the first time in the Dominican Republic since I needed to pick up Father Vicente after he took his car to the garage. It was an interesting experience. However, if we, as Americans, drove in the United States like they do in the DR, our driver’s licenses would be revoked PERMANENTLY (the redundancy is for emphasis). But it was fun while it lasted – I did not hit anyone and no one hit me. Thanks be to God!

Next, Father Vicente took me to his home, the Church’s rectory. It’s a nice home in a quiet and beautiful neighborhood. He gave me a tour of his home and showed me the changes that he has made since he and his family resided there. His horticultural exploits are an important aspect of his life. One of my highlights at his home was the passion fruit juice he offered me. It was the first time I had real passion fruit juice, made from passion fruits in his garden, since I was living with my parents whose home I left 22 years ago (now I am telling my age). They also grew a passion fruit vine in their back garden. 

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Fr. Vincente & Nancy Pena

The time I spent with Father Vicente was wonderful. We bonded very well. I believe this is the case because we share a lot in common. We realized that we are the same age (he is just 6 months older) and our wives are similar in their nature and character. They are exactly one year apart in age with his wife being the older. You would never believe that Father Vicente was ordained 4 years ago based on the number of things he has already done including starting 7 mission congregations, having a total of 8 churches. Each church averages about 70 members – all of whom attend services every Sunday. Father Vicente is very much a workaholic, passionate for the gospel and ministry. He is a faithful priest who has a caring and loving heart and is also a visionary. In other words, he is a lot like me (smile) although the “workaholic” part is not a good thing. We have truly built a wonderful and genuine friendship and relationship which we plan to continue in spite of the distance that separates us. We relate as if we have known each other for a long time.

Meanwhile, back at the Piedra Blanca, the Medical Team was dedicating enormous time and energy in caring for the children in the area. Some of these children do not see a doctor until our Medical Team comes each year. Several of the 84 children they saw were in worse health than the 80 children they had seen the previous day at San Juan Bautista Church. The children at Piedra Blanco were very ill with many of them having parasites and cerebral palsy. They were several who were under weight. In fact, a one year old child weighed only 16 pounds.  Dr. Pat and the medical team gave the mother a few cases of formula to nourish this child to a satisfactory state. Another discovery was the many young mothers with multiple children, and no job to support their families. It was truly heartbreaking. But the team reached out and cared for these children, giving them the help within their capacity. 

This is a proper time to thank God for the people in our homeland of the United States who donated several cases and tins of formula, medication, and medical supplies for the benefit of these children. Your generosity and kindness are beyond imaginable. We assure you that all the donated items are put to very good use and are helping children who are so badly in need of them. We really cannot thank you enough. 

In the afternoon, I attended the VBS and thought of ways to make a surreal situation real. While they were nearly 100 children on the previous day, they were now 125. The answer came in purchasing more tarps and dividing the children into groups. I do not know why that was not thought of before. However, we were able to divide the children into 4 age groups – under 6 years, 7-8, 9-10, and 11 and over. It worked beautifully. Each group was assigned 2 groups leaders. I continue to feel handicapped by the language barrier and am unable to communicate as effectively and quickly as I would like. I truly thank Jordan King, Matthew Campbell, Brian McClain, Karen Eddy, and Yamilex, a young member of San Juan Bautista, for interpreting on my behalf. 

I had an exhausting day and decided to take a nap before going to dinner with the team and with Father Vicente, Nancy, their children and other members of San Juan Bautista. We went to the Berlin Restaurant where the chef, assigned to preparing our meals, works. It was an opportunity to dress up a bit and to have a wonderful evening together. We were given a tour of the restaurant and grounds and some of our missionaries played a game of pool while awaiting their meal. After an absolutely delicious meal, wonderful fellowship, beautiful ambience, and a team meeting, I was too exhausted to blog and instead went to bed.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]