The New York Youth Mission Trip is underway. Our group of 9 youth and 5 chaperones set off this morning on a Vamoose bus bound for New York City. On this trip our EYC, under the leadership of an organization called Midnight Run, will be visiting locations in the city where the homeless reside. In addition to passing out food, our young parishioners will be distributing clothing and toiletry items donated by St. John’s parishioners to those in need. Please keep our group in your prayers July 20–23 and watch this space for more blog posts each day.
I sat in church this morning deeply appreciating the air conditioning, as I had earlier appreciated a warm shower with great water pressure, brushing my teeth using tap water rather than bottled water, and a large mug of coffee when I wanted it. It feels strange, and it will for a few days, not to worry about which foods may be safe to eat and wonder whether the street noise or loud music will keep me awake. I am home, but it doesn’t yet feel totally normal.
A week ago we had just arrived in the DR and things were very definitely different than “home,” yet we found ourselves feeling very much at home with the community of San Gabriel. They warmly welcomed us into their worship, their VBS, their community and even their homes. Much of the week I felt I was being served more than I was serving.
We call it a mission trip, and it truly is. Not in the sense that we are doing something we think they need, but in the sense that we are participating in God’s mission. God is working everywhere, all the time, creating and re-creating, and during this week we had a very real sense of joining in that work. We improved a home, we built a climbing wall for the playground, and we helped teach God’s love in crafts and games to over 100 kids. The larger St. John’s community makes possible the beauty school and electrical class at San Gabriel technical school that we saw in action this week. But most importantly, we joined in God’s great work of reconciliation by nurturing relationships, across cultures and languages.
I hope we can remember what we learned this week about the abundant nature of God’s love and the power each of us has as a child of God to be channels of that love into the world. Because God calls us to join in God’s mission not just one week a year, but every day.
Today was the day of lateness, but somehow it seems less stressful here than at home. Our breakfast was late, which meant we were late to set up for VBS. That didn’t much matter, though, because VBS started late. Then the schedule ran late, meaning the 8-10 year olds had almost an hour in the craft room, where they decorated mirrors that remind them to love their neighbors as themselves. (The picture is the younger kids, though).
We spent our afternoon working on adding a climbing wall to the play set and prepping for tomorrow’s craft. For a special mid-week treat we went to a Mexican restaurant in San Pedro (leaving later than planned, of course) and to the nearby ice cream shop for dessert. The only thing early today is bedtime.
Each evening we reflect together on the day. We all are so glad to be here sharing the days with our San Gabriel family. Our cultures and life circumstances are different, but the love we share as God’s children transcends those differences. What joy!
This picture epitomizes the DR! Something growing from nothing. Today was another fulfilling day for our group. Vacation Bible School was full of activities and crafts for about 100 kids! Some of us were treated to exceptional hair care by the students in the Grupo de Mujeres Bellas technical school at San Gabriel.
During another wonderful lunch, we enjoyed fellowship with the Dominican volunteers we work side by side with during VBS. This afternoon we returned to the home of a San Gabriel parishioner and completed our painting project. Truly a beautiful transformation for her family which was equally meaningful for the St John’s missioners.
Joy. We heard it in the children’s voices, saw it on their faces and felt it in their hugs. We experienced it as we watched them play with a parachute or jump rope. Is there anything more fun than handing a child a picture of herself that she can put in a frame she is decorating? Not today. After a full morning of VBS, the church ladies fed us an enormous meal made with love, and we felt joy again, and deep gratitude. Fortified, we headed to a home in the community where we were joined by many helpers as we painted inside and out. We may not be 100% happy 100% of the time, but here there is joy, abundant joy. Wifi, not so much. Hopefully more pictures tomorrow.
We began the day worshiping at Iglesia San Gabriel and were so glad to be with our friends there. So many familiar faces, warm smiles and hugs. We had a brief planning meeting with the VBS organizers and are all set (?!) for 100+ kids beginning in the morning. After church, we visited a parishioner’s home that is badly in need of repair. We are excited to be able to help her -watch for before and after pictures! In the afternoon we went to Santo Domingo for lunch and toured around the Colonial Zone, great architecture. A rainstorm cooled us off and cut our tour short. Pray for us as we begin our real work tomorrow!
- We arrived safely in Hato Mayor, and spent the evening sorting through the hundreds of pounds of craft stuff we brought and preparing for the day-to-day of Vacation Bible School that begins Monday. The drive from the airport (2 hours or so) gave us a chance to enjoy the views and spot lots of cows, goats, pigs, chickens, and donkeys, not to mention people on motorbikes. We are so looking forward to being with the great people of Iglesia San Gabriel tomorrow!
Recharge and deepen your faith by exploring the Holy Land. Join a group from St. John’s, with the Reverend Kristine Johnson, on an 8-day pilgrimage with St. George’s College, Jerusalem. These courses often fill up, so although there is no firm deadline, we encourage you to register with St. George’s ($500 deposit required) as soon as you can. Program dates are April 16–23, 2018, with arrival in Jerusalem on April 15 and departure April 24. Program cost is $1960; airfare is additional. Contact me with questions or if you would like a link to the registration site.
Current 9th–12th Graders are invited to join us as we set out for the Big Apple to spread desperately needed supplies, food, kindness, and God’s love to those who call the streets home. Send $200 non-refundable deposit made payable to St. John’s Church. Questions? Email me or call 703-356-4902, ext. 160.
African Child Day at the School