By Thomas Gregory
“I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
“The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.” – Psalm 121
Today was our first “working” day, and our group divided into three teams. The medical crew, led by Todd Fincher and Henry Flautt, headed to a batey to join the “Flying Dentists,” a group of dentists from the upper peninsula of Michigan and Buffalo, New York, who have been working in the Dominican Republic since 1999.
The other two teams consisted of a vacation bible school group and a construction crew and each headed in different directions to work with their hands and their hearts in bateys outside of La Romana. I worked on the construction crew in Batey Hata de Mana, up in the hills of La Romana province.
After a breakfast of cinnamon oatmeal, bacon, bread, and fresh pineapple and papaya, we loaded the yellow school bus for Hata de Mana. About twenty minutes into our trip, one of the back right tires on the school bus blew out, making a series of extremely loud machine gun-style noises as the flap of rubber repeatedly banged against the floor of the bus.
Kaity Box and Haynes Camp, both of whom were seated directly above the busted tire, screamed so loud it scared the rest of us. Haynes took things one step further and seemingly levitated off of his seat as he jumped to the other side of the bus. As the rubber continued to beat against the bus floor, our guides jumped into the aisle of the bus and began dancing to the rhythm. Bill Crump soon followed suit, leading the day’s first cultural exchange between our American group of missionaries and the Dominican guides.
We stopped in Guaymate, the next village, to change the tire. As soon as we got off the bus, the kids of Guaymate ran to meet us and invited us to play baseball with them. After an hour of walking the streets, meeting the kids and adults, playing Frisbee, and taking photos, the tire was changed and we were ready to depart for Hata de Mana, another hour’s drive.
At our destination, the construction crew unloaded the bus and met a team of masons who showed us how to mix concrete by hand. All of the ingredients had to be brought to the site in wheelbarrows. We spread a layer of sand, then a layer of gravel, and then we added cement and water, resulting in concrete. By lunch, we had made enough concrete by hand to fill the footings of the water filtration house to the proper level.
Around 1 p.m., we were joined by the ladies, who led arts and crafts at a local school, for lunch. We dined on ham and cheese poboys, chicken, rice, beans, and cookies.
After lunch, the crew began to lay block on top of the footings. A few of us went to meet a local family, who invited us into their modest home. We met Elena, the mother, Yosi, the 14-year-old daughter, and Elenita, the three-year-old child. We also met their pig and chickens. Yosi then took us down to el puenta rio (the river bridge) for a nice view.
Back at the construction site, we finished laying the second course of blocks, and then loaded the bus for La Romana. An hour and a half later, we were back at Casa Pastoral, where we enjoyed some of the most refreshing cold showers in a while. Dinner consisted of chicken, rice and beans, chocolate cake for dessert, and homemade lemonade.
At the end of the day, our group spent the better part of two hours sharing what we learned on our first day at work in the Dominican Republic. We told stories, laughed, cried, and prayed for strength and courage to do God’s work in our respective bateys. For my team, riding up into the beautiful hills outside of La Romana reminded us that we are not alone in our work here. We have help, which comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.