Today was the last day of ministry for the two teams that have been here this week. I had the opportunity to spend some time with both teams helping them with their current ministry projects.
I began the day at a VBS program that St. Luke’s Episcopal Church from Birmingham was leading. This was in a community called “The Valley of the Pigs.” These are people who live directly downstream from a garbage dump and live off of the garbage dump. There is a pig farm that forms the other side of their village opposite of the garbage dump. This was one of the worst places that I have ever seen. The smell was horrible and the living conditions of the people were staggering. The entire time I was there, I could not get the image of gehenna out of my head. I need to do more research on this Greek word and topic, but I have heard preachers comment that one of the words that Jesus uses for hell in the Greek New Testament is gehenna. It is said to refer to a garbage dump outside of the city where bodies are burned and there is a terrible odor. The image of hell, as pictured in this description filled my mind, as I spent the morning at VBS.
I also had the opportunity to help distribute debugging pills to the children at VBS and throughout the community. These are pills that Brad distributes on a bi-monthly basis that work to kill internal parasites. There is a doctor from UAB here with the Birmingham team, and I had an opportunity to discuss these pills with him. He said that all most every person that he has seen over the week that he has been doing medical clinics has had stomach issues and pain. He said that these pills offer the people temporary relief from their symptoms.
We were also distributing water purification devices to people who had attended the seminar. These are 10 gallon buckets that have a clay pot placed inside them. Within the clay pot are layers of charcoal and silver, which serve as a filtering device for the water. These water filters are said to filter 95% of the bacteria and harmful substances from the water. At the seminars, people are taught the science of water being a source of disease and are presented with the truth that Jesus Christ came to provide living water. This is a material that I am going to get to help further shape and develop while I am on this trip.
In the afternoon, I went to the Mustard Seed House for disabled orphans. This was a very sad place. There was one child there who was 2.5 years old, but he weighed only 12 pounds. He had been neglected and malnourished prior to coming to the orphanage. It is truly heartbreaking to hear the stories of these children. It was amazing to me that almost all of these children had smiles on their faces despite their disability and the difficult place were they were in life.
In the evening, we went to the community where the houses were being constructed to have a dedication service. This was a great service. It began by taking some time for all of the people who had worked on the project to write Bible verses and prayers on the walls of the house. This was a great picture of grounding the building of the house in the Word. Then the pastor of the Reformed church in the community preached. He thanked all involved in the project and began to proclaim the gospel to the community. He said that with the Word of God being the formation and grounding of these homes that Satan would not be able to have a foothold.
During the dedication ceremony, the church sang some hymns in Spanish. The more that I travel and see the church around the world; the more that I feel like the typical American definition of church misses the point. In America, a building, numbers of people, and a denominational affiliation define a church. In this context, similar to the underground church that I was able to be a part of in China, church was the people of God gathered to remember the Word of God and to proclaim the greatness of God. The American church must begin to be defined biblically and not culturally.
I ended the day at dinner with Brad and his family at Burger King. It was nice to have a taste of the United States to end the day. I am praying that God would continue to place me in a spirit of listening to Him so that He can show me more and more of what He is doing for His glory in the Dominican Republic!