By Thomas Gregory
Photos by Anne Marie and Thomas Gregory
On Monday morning, six members of our group led by Dr. Todd Fincher left Casa Pastoral to meet a group of dentists and dental students from Buffalo, New York to perform dental work in the bateys surrounding La Romana.
The rest of group returned to Batey 106, not to worship, but ready to work. With full bellies from the morning’s breakfast of oatmeal, sausage, bacon, and fruit, the construction crew began painting the metal panels that would become the roof of the house. Beth Tackett and her team of Vacation Bible School leaders arrived at the community church, unloaded their school supplies, and did their best to get the word out in the community about the day’s program, which consisted of games, songs, and arts and crafts.
On the construction site, the local construction workers were hesitant to trust our team of volunteers, which made for slow progress in the morning, but once the locals caught wind that our ranks included a professional contractor and a civil engineer, they warmed to us and our abilities, and things began to move a lot more quickly on the duplex we are constructing in Batey 106. By the end of the day, Patrick Johnson (the engineer), was on the roof with a local man installing roof trusses and the metal panels, a real sign of the progress we had made, both in the construction of the duplex and in building relationships with the locals.
By the end of the day, our construction team had installed the roof trusses, painted the roof panels green and installed them, and painted the exterior and interior walls bright yellow.
At 4 p.m., our group loaded the big yellow bus and headed back to La Romana through the sugarcane countryside. Back at Casa Pastoral, we enjoyed a dinner of beef, rutabagas, carrots, rice and beans, and chocolate cake. Before ending the day, our group gathered to discuss experiences that were “life giving” as well as those that were “life depleting,” providing everyone with an opportunity to share their day’s experience with the group.
On Tuesday morning, we enjoyed scrambled eggs, croissants, sausage, bacon, and fruit for breakfast. We then loaded up and headed back to Batey 106, accompanied this time by a missionary who spoke fluent Spanish, Creole, and English. The addition of Ketley to our team proved to be a Godsend for our Vacation Bible School team, who had difficulty communicating with the local children the previous day. With Ketley’s assistance, the VBS team was able to conduct their program in the school, which provided much needed structure for the kids and yielded much better results for the leaders.
The construction team continued working on the duplex house by installing a concrete floor. At our team’s request, we had a gas-powered concrete mixer delivered to the construction site, which sped up the mixing process ten-fold. Normally done painstakingly by hand with buckets of water, bags of cement, a pile of sand, and shovels, the mixer took most of the manual labor out of the mixing part, which allowed us to channel that energy into transporting the concrete from the front yard to the inside of the house by wheelbarrow.
A late morning rain shower provided a much-needed break for the concrete hauling crew, comprised primarily of high school boys. After a lunch of pork, rice, and ham sandwiches, the boys were back at it, loading wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of concrete into the house. Even in the rain, the boys didn’t let up, working hard all the way up to quittin’ time. Their mamas would’ve been so proud!
While the VBS team finished their day’s lesson, a small group of artists led by Angie Crick Cole began to sketch a mural of Jesus with little children on the side of the church. Although the rain put a damper on their plans for a while, they made some progress, and given dry weather, should finish their work by the end of the week.
Our group was pleased to welcome Jack Wehmiller, our contact with Rivers of the World, to the job site in the afternoon. Jack and his wife CJ were instrumental in helping us prepare and make plans for the trip, and Rivers of the World is the organization building the houses in Batey 106. It was good to see Jack again and have the opportunity to get to know the Dominican Republic a little better through his experience working in the country.
Back at Casa Pastoral at the end of a long, wet, muddy, hard day’s work, the team showered up and met for dinner, which consisted of chicken, pasta, veggies, break, and cake. The group socialized in the courtyard before our nightly meeting, where we discussed things we were thankful for, ways we were stretched beyond our normal routines, and people through whom we saw God at work in the DR.