After Farming in the Rain - PIMA DR Give Back Tour 2011

After Farming in the Rain

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Boy, this was one of the hardest blog posts I’ve ever written for some reason…

People have been asking, “How was the Mission Trip?” Well… Stunning… On several levels. (Note: I’ve hyperlinked many of the comments to the corresponding pictures in the photo gallery on SmugMug. Click through as you read!)

I wept. I’ll just be right up front about it. We all did actually, at different times and for different reasons.

For me, thinking back on it, I’d best describe it as an incredibly complex mixture of ….

  1. Spiritual gratitude, joy, and despondence
  2. Emotional happiness and sadness
  3. Physical pain and exhaustion, and yet “a good kinda tired”
  4. Mental fatigue and mind-bending contrasts
  5. And an overwhelming assault on my senses – smells, sounds, sights, touches, and tastes

Serving God in a Third World country is intensely personal. Some of you might say, “Well, the DR isn’t really ‘Third World’.” Well, some of the resorts like Punta Cana are up-scale. But where we were? There was electricity – a little. There was cell phone coverage – for the nationals, not for us. There were mopeds and pick-ups. There were stoves and running water. But the people we were serving generally had no cars, shared mopeds, lived in small little wood and/or cement huts, used communal waste facilities, no garbage pick-up, very little food, very little money, and almost no medical/dental/vision care. So call it what you want, but it’s a pretty unforgiving environment. As an example, if a child gets dysentery there – they die within a week. So the fresh, clean water we connected to the school definitely will save lives over time.

What did we do? The big item was spanning a river with a water line that had been washed away three months before in Hurricane Irene. It had rained 10” in 5 hours and the water level had risen 20’. So the local school and surrounding 10 homes had been without a steady supply of fresh, clean water for three months. In fact, Doug Brown on the team reported seeing a teacher dole out a drink to a student in the lid of the jug of water – that’s right, the LID. That was a simple but relatively hard project.

We also accomplished a few more things:

  1. Laid a cement floor in the home of a local family
  2. Dug, fenced, and planted two full gardens and part of a third – in a downpour
  3. Laid about 400 ft2 of cement outside our main compound
  4. Trenched a new water line to a new house
  5. Repaired the fresh water spring and natural filtering system
  6. Encouraged a local church by singing to them in Spanish
  7. Met with several families in their homes to ask for prayer requests

We slept poorly in bunks, took cold showers, got cement burns, ripped up our feet, defended ourselves against bats, shaved very little, lost weight while eating and drinking well, cursed the blasted roosters who had no sense of the actual sunrise, hung on to each other to keep from falling out of the truck on a road that in the States would be considered ‘out’, saw a rat run out of the kitchen, and left all of our clothes, shoes, and money right there. But what we walked away with was a deep sense of satisfaction, something that can only be gained by doing exactly what we did.

Here’s the key verse from the trip. Note the different spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental aspects to it.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

To my fellow PIMA members: Will you have a similar experience next year if it comes to pass? Possibly. But it bears saying again. Each person has a different response to a trip like this. Each team overcomes new obstacles. Each trip has unique weather conditions. Interpreters and construction staff will vary. So it’s impossible to say. But here’s the thing: Our expert leader, Dave McCarty, was spot on right from the very first email he sent out to the team: “No expectations.” Just ‘come and see’, go and give. And that seemed to be the key to a successful trip. So pray about it, let things happen as they will, without resisting based on expectations, and step out of your comfort zone. You will likely be extremely blessed beyond measure.

Final thoughts:

  • Overwhelmed by a feeling of great fortune for having my cup filled to overflowing because of so many things that had happened along the way
  • Deeply moved at the feeling of separation from people I had come to love and respect in profound ways, especially my 11 teammates
  • Immensely satisfied by what we had accomplished physically in such a short time-span, and the positive, perhaps life-saving and life-giving implications
  • Above all, my prayer in the weeks leading up to the trip had been for God to soften my heart and prepare it for the people I would be with

And boy did He.

PS.

A couple funny anecdotes from Doug and Cindy Brown, via email to the team following the trip, with permission. You’ll get some additional insights and smiles.

Having some issues re-acclimating…

The strangest thing happened on Sunday morning.  After arriving home at 1:00 AM we dropped our luggage in the front hallway and went straight to bed, exhausted.  My eyes opened at 7:00 AM Sunday morning.  The first adjustment came when I realized Ed wasn’t sleeping in the bunk above me.  In fact NO ONE was sleeping above me.  I could see all the way to the ceiling!  The next thing I noted was Cindy in bed next to me.  I quickly checked to see if she was still breathing although I had decided, whatever the outcome, I would have to deal with that later.  No purpling!

I laid there for only a moment taking a mental inventory.  Two aching legs.  Check.  Two aching arms. Check.  As I went through the list I determined only my hair didn’t hurt.  I listened for a moment, a strange silence filling the room.  Then it occurred to me, there wasn’t a single rooster crowing anywhere.  I called out, “Hey guys, what happened to the roosters?”  No response.

Confused I made my way to the shower.  This is where things got really strange.  I tapped on the door and asked if anyone was in there.  Hearing nothing I grabbed the door with both hands and nearly pulled it off the hinges.  I then stepped inside fully clothed.  I tried lifting and pulling the door to get it mostly closed but it gave no resistance and instead, slammed shut seated perfectly in the track.  As I took off my clothes I began looking around for nails and any other sharp points where I could hang them so they were partially shielded from the shower head and any fine streams of water coming from the pipes.  Get this, the shower stall was dry!

As I stood there at a 30 degree angle to adjust for the slope of the floor it occurred to me, the floor was nearly flat with only a slight slope toward the middle where there was a small grated hole.  I started to share this new found information with the person in the stall next to me when I realized, I was all alone.  There I stood, no other men or women to share in my discoveries.  In fact the next nearest shower stall was down the hallway.  I felt so alone.

After fumbling around the shower head looking for the valve I noticed on the wall, two, that’s two handles.  Feeling adventuresome I turned them both on full.  After an initial blast of familiar cold water the water temperature began to rise, first warm and then HOT.  I quickly turned off the water, lathered and rinsed, the whole process taking less than 47 seconds including when I accidently opened my mouth and a few drops of water entered.  I spit out every bit of moisture from my bowels forward.  I wasn’t going to die in the shower from some intestinal thing carried in by questionable water!

I grabbed a towel from the corner of the stall and used the driest part.  At first I thought I had the wrong towel because it smelled like dryer sheets, not my 7th grade gym locker.  I put on my damp clothes and flip flops and stepped out of the shower.  That’s when it hit me!  I was inside the house!  I was in a bathroom with a sink, a toilet with a small pile of toilet paper on the floor next to it from sometime in the night, towel bars, and toilet paper actually hanging from the wall.  No tiny stick with a duct tape handle.  I took off my flip-flops and the floor was cold and smooth ceramic tile.  Not a grain of sand anywhere!

Then, like Dorothy it struck me, I’m not in the D.R. anymore… I am in Kansas!

The rest of the day was mostly normal.  Except when I passed a construction site and jumped out to mix concrete by hand.  A policeman stopped me.  “Sir, you can’t do that.”  I told him oh yes I can, I’m “Meester Kansas Guy” and he insisted he was going to have to take me to the station.  I told him that was fine but I would like to ride hanging on to the outside of the vehicle.

It’s good to be back.  Hope your adjustment is going well.  What a great experience serving God, and the people of the D.R. with you.

Doug

I too am adjusting to being back in the good ole USA.  Some reflections on what I learned in the DR.

  • Who knew the roosters have immigrated from all different time zones and not adjusted to the time change?
  • The bats in the DR have a gender bias, I know I would choose to hang out in a women’s restroom, wouldn’t you?
  • Plantains can be cooked many ways, a new method for each day of the week.
  • Hot sauce enhances any food, at any meal, just ask Pedro.
  • Hot water is highly overrated.  Have you ever seen more excited people to be given the opportunity to shower with cold water?
  • Hairdryers and curling irons are not necessary for beauty, just ask Mike Wise.
  • Duct tape on the end of a stick saves sticky fingers
  • The off-roading experience was included in the deluxe package we all signed up for … as well as, deep pore cleansing, an apricot (well maybe sand) scrub and a daily steam bath.
  • Pirates dwell everywhere, especially in the Caribbean.
  • Hexagons are harder to create than one might think.
  • The simple things make kiddos smile, a buddy to play football, jump rope, bubbles, wash cloth cupcakes, foamie crosses and glo-sticks.
  • Hugs and smiles cross all language barriers.

God is alive and well in the DR.  He is on the move, using the 12 most unlikely saints, hand-chosen for a time such as this.

It was a joy to be in your presence, in the presence of the living KING.

In Him,

Queen “Cindy” or Sheba

See all the pictures and links to videos here.

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