June/July 2011 – Language learning, home modification, understanding poverty

Greetings, family and friends!

Nick, Laurie, Daniel, Antonia and Paola (grandaughter)

We have spent our time since the last newsletter in the contrasting worlds of the dense capital city and the rural campo, so we’ll share with you a bit of both.

Our first two weeks of less formal language training were in a rural village called Arroyo del Toro. We have been to this community many times, and chose to begin our studies here as a way of supporting their economy, renewing friendships, and digging deeper into the culture. The work of living in a less industrialized country looks different in the campo vs. the city: picking beans, shucking beans, prepping the wood stove, cooking beans, eating beans. Blessed beans! The mornings consisted of beans and chores, then several hours in language study, both with our host dad (a retired teacher) and in self-study. In the afternoons, the world collapsed for several hours, because of the HEAT. Everyone was acutely aware of which spot under which tree had the best breeze. We had another hour or so of reading before the lights turned out with the sunset. The days and nights were lengthy; it was a gift to crave more work and activities after our usual overload of both in the U.S.!

While studying Spanish, we treated several people in the community. We truly enjoyed the exchange we had with our host, Antonia, who has chronic back pain from years of heavy labor. We evaluated her physically and did a home ergonomics assessment, which found reason for some home renovations. It was amazing to see how fast these changes can be made when homeowners are not primarily concerned with beauty, but view functionality as the main purpose of repairs. The day after the evaluation, a neighbor and husband filled in the sink with homemade cement, and built a shelf for the firewood, reducing the twisting and bending that Antonia had been performing for years. A miracle indeed!

Laurie shows the poor ergonomics that is a cause of many injuries in the campo

Prior sink depth: 25cm(9.8in) - Modified depth 12cm (4.7in) *Decreased sink depth & extended faucet length

The next day we sat with Antonia and another elderly church woman, recalling many of the churches’ hymns, two of which are recorded HERE for you, along with their translations. What a blessing to learn of God’s faithful presence in this community.

After 2 weeks in the campo, we moved to the capital, Santo Domingo, for 4 wks of formal language training. Our urban commute multiplied to about 140 minutes of daily walking and bus riding. We arrived home completely dirty each day as if in remembrance of our childhood! Every third day or so we were drenched from the waist down, by rainfall and/or the brown water that leaks through the roofs of the oldest buses when it rains. Our experience of poverty was much different here than in the campo, and we have seen too many very sad sights to relate here. As we understand the nature of poverty better in the DR, we will share more in the coming newsletters.

Every part of our senses and emotions are absorbing and evaluating life here, particularly in regards to our own areas of wealth and poverty, compared to what we experience in the lives of those around us. We spoke with a mentor who had lived in the DR many years to see how he responded to the consistent presence of monetarily poor people asking for money. He noted that the tension that we feel when people ask us for assistance lies not in the fact that people ask North Americans for money. These folks have every right to ask, out of justice. He feels that the tension lies within us, that we know that we have it. For us, the tension is not only in each decision to give up (or not give up) things that may be comfortable or feel normal, but in the difficult quest to give of our lives in a way that will truly be loving and redemptive in God’s call for justice in a broken world (not simply giving handouts). Like you, we care. Now what shall we do with this tension?

Antonia was bending and reaching under a table for firewood for cooking. We recommended putting a shelf. Here is the final product

Pray that we will learn to respond well to our new family members here. That we will respond in ways that will tip the scale towards health, joy, and God’s kingdom that redeems every part of our lives here and now. Pray that we will continue to have energy to ask God, ourselves and the church these hard questions.

We have now spent 3 days in our new home in Santiago! We are having wonderful times of laughter with our neighbors. A family from church came over yesterday to help with the initial cleaning, Dominican style. With no rugs in the house, one can simply bring in the hose and buckets and douse everything! We find public transit here more graceful than in the larger capital, which allows more time and energy for ministry, and the formulation of our rehab needs/assets assessment. Already we have had several fruitful meetings with both our Nazarene district superintendent and two Dominican physical therapists/professors. Pray for continued wisdom, settling and relationship building. Thank you for listening and sharing in this journey with us!

Peace in Christ,

Nick and Laurie

ADDENDUM: We received a question from someone concerned about the depth of the modified kitchen sink. In fact, we too thought the depth would be too shallow to be practical and so we mentioned this to Antonia. She said it was deep enough for how she cleans. Additionally, she told us that a little extra water on the counter-top did not concern her because she felt much more comfortable not bending forward (as much) when washing dishes.

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