Monday, October 7, 2013

Our First Week in La Vega, DR

We arrived here by plane from Miami.  We flew directly to Santiago de los Cabelleros which is where our Mission Office is as well as the Mission President and his wife.  (John and Rebecca Douglas).  They are from the Atlanta Georgia area but also lived in the lower NY State suburbs outside of NYC.  He was and will probably return to be a International Finance Lawyer for a very large firm.  They are doing a great job serving the missionaries and the people of the DR Santiago Mission.

It was good to see them outside the airport when we walked out of the airport with our luggage push carts and three pieces of luggage each for a total of 280 lbs of stuff.  They greeted us with a nice air conditioned and a "learn and explain as you go ride" to the mission home.  We learned a lot about some of their culture in that 20 minute ride.  The most obvious was their driving habits.  We'll be talking about those for years to come.  We enjoyed a nice dinner with the Douglas's and rested up for our first full day which was Sunday.

A couple of the young Elder missionaries drove Katherine, myself and Sister Douglas down to La Vega to attend church there.  We attended the Conani Branch (congregation) which is a small branch of the church in a crowded part of town.  Sunday is respected by everyone and the church has a nice piece of property there.  We were very cordially received and the meetings went well.  After the meeting we went to where the
Pres. Diaz and family
Local District President (that would be the person who oversees the church congregations in the area) lives. He had his mother prepare a lunch for us.  He and his wife and three children live upstairs from his mom in a small apartment.  This part of town was even more crowded than where the church was.  She prepared the "Bandera" or national meal of the DR. That would be rice, beans and some meat.  It was very nicely prepared and presented.  We loved it.  We struggled to understand their dialect of Spanish but we survived.  We were attended meetings visited some of the people there.  It was a busy afternoon.  We returned to Santiago and the Mission Home.

Monday the Elders brought our new 2014 ISUZU 4wd pick up truck.  Katherine & I loaded our stuff and we followed the elders down to La Vega and to our apartment.  We got settled in, connected up to the internet and were issued cell phonesl

We then went shopping at La Sirena which is the Dominican Republic's (DR) equivalent to Wal-Mart. We must have been there for two hours or more.  We wound up running a cuenta (bill) of $9,000 + pesos.  So Mom pulls out out Veridian Credit Union Debit Card and the cashier says "Seguro" (sure).  So we paid the billed with the credit card along with a 1% transaction fee.  Later, we met the Dueno (owner) of the apartment who lives below us.  He is retired and is the same age as I am. . .62.  In fact we are only 11 days apart.  I'm older.

Later that evening, the district President came over and he and I went to the local Conani Branch president's house where I met him and the Elder missionaries serving in that area.  Katherine was glad to be able to settle into the house and had some alone time to study Spanish.

Tuesday started with a nice visit to a member of the church who returned to the La Vega from Chicago to care for her ex husband of 40 years ago.  He has cancer and no one else had the time to take care of him.  She felt the need for a visit and a priesthood blessing so the District President, Katherine and I went over and had a very nice visit and ministered to her needs.  She is a woman of faith and depended on the Lord for strength to help her through this.

Later in the day Katherine and I went visiting members of the church with the Branch President.  We visited a few families both those who are active and serving in the church and those who are less active.  Everyone was very warm and kind to us.  The people are wonderful.

The last stop we made was near the Conani Chapel.  We pulled the truck into the gated compound of the church grounds which is surrounded by a 10' block wall topped with barbed wire rolls to discourage others from entering.  The gate is manual and locks up with a hefty chain.  We walked from there to our last stop. It is 9 o'clock at night and plenty dark.  There is street lighting in most of the neighborhoods but they also have rotating blackouts.  So as we go walking to this family's home, the streets get narrower and narrower.  Now I see why we did not bring our truck.  There are still lots of people around and in the streets because it was 90+ degrees that day and no breeze.  So until the insides of the houses cool off everyone puts their patio furniture or whatever they have out on the sidewalks, or in the street, where there are no sidewalks.  So we are meandering by saying hello everyone.  The road dead-ends but we keep walking into alley ways where there are no lights.  The President turns on his "cell phone light."   As he did that another person with a cell phone light comes walking out of an alley.  It was Juana who we were going to visit.  Her husband Juan comes over and we go into their dwelling which is built off of the side of an existing building.  Kind of a "leen-to."  There was no power, so we visited by candle light with them and their two children.  We invited him to the general priesthood broadcast meeting coming up on Saturday night.  We said that we could meet him and his son at the chapel at 7:30 pm and provide a ride to where the meeting would be.  He agreed.  We had a nice visit and prayer with the family.  On Saturday night, that brother and his son met us at the church to get a ride to the meeting.  We provided rides for several men and we ended up with a total ten of us in the truck. Four young men and six adults all needing a ride to great meeting.  Four of the adults rode in the truck bed. Of course, the young men wanted to.  That's why I have the crew cab.

Our other days were filled with similar experiences. We have seen gecko's, you know the Geico Insurance guy.  Well many of his cousins live here. They are fast and show up in unexpected locations, like in the chapel.  

We honestly feel like we have been here a month. We heard a speaker during the churches general conference explain that when he was working in the fields with his mother as a little boy in Africa he was so impressed with all of the work they had accomplished, he wanted to to tell her and show her. So he tried two or three times to get her attention and have her stop and look at the work they have accomplished.  She eventually stopped, looked at her son, and said, "Never look back, never look back, always look ahead and focus on the work that is before you."  He went on to explain how we do not want to cloud our vision with things that we may feel that we have accomplished when there is still so much more that we need to do and can do with our lives.  That is truly the way we feel.  There is so much work to be done that we are trying to stay focused on what is before us.

We love it here and we love you and miss you.


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