Roosters sound different here from what they do in the Unites States, and they sound even more different in the DR’s countryside. But they are a great way to start your day. And that is how we started ours. Up with the rooster to snatch the last glimpse of sunrise and beat the first stirrings of the house to see the views, then catch the whiff of peppers and onions and eggs and mashed yuca playing with the aroma of hot chocolate in the kitchen and terrace (we Dominicans love us some hot chocolate). Tomás kindly chose to be with us on this trip to serve as cook and driver and friend, and makes food smell delicious. What is more, he has this knack for playing Bach and Chopin and Beethoven on his speakers whenever he cooks, so that not only does he fill our house with the fragrance of food, but with the fragrance of music, too. Needless to say, meals are practically a royal, albeit humble affair.
After breakfast, we went through our next study in 1 Peter, which, speaking of food, drove us into some great insight on eating in general. But this is narrative, Jenn, narrative. Right. Once the study concluded, the gang of sixteen people piled into three four-wheel drives and headed out to La Vega (The Field) to see the conference center which my grandfather helped start and sustain. It now serves as a Christian retreat center, but when my grandpa and my dad lived there, it also was a seminary and the center of most missionary work in the country. The idea behind the seminary was to produce pastors who knew how to farm and how to plant churches. The seminary was basically self-sustaining, for the students needed to help grow their own food and raise their own livestock whenever they were not formally studying. To become a pastor, each student needed to leave the conference center and plant a viable church. Only then would they “graduate.” How neat is that? Especially considering the fact that it actually worked.
My parents, brother and I had lived in the conference center for four months a while back, so going back felt like returning to a childhood home. Even more so was this true for Daddy, however, who proudly showed us the room where he was born and told us about the nurse midwife who delivered him, and about ninety percent of the missionary kids of that time.
The grounds are luscious, full of trees loaded with mango and pineapple and avocado and pan de fruta (fruit bread?). We all enjoyed listening to some of the history of the gospel in the DR, as well as seeing such a lovely place. Of course, I personally liked it because this conference center is just so rich in my family history.
Our crew trekked the journey home in the late afternoon, and we stopped to get some Dominican pizza on the way. Five huge pizzas they ate, but considering its smell and our lunchlessness, I can totally see why that happened. Of course, we engaged in the cheese versus pepperoni versus interesting flavour debate. And, of course, I am not sure who won.
Once at home, I hurriedly ate some leftover meat and spinach because half of us had long been looking forward to watching the sunset on a mountain near our villa, and I was one of this party. The other half of us went with Daddy and Mumsie to a church in the village where Daddy preached. But I only know about the sunset crowd. We went over a few hills and reached this lovely open spot that had a perfect view of some further mountains behind which the sun was slowly descending in soft colours of pink, orange, and grey. It was beautiful.
Of course, Jessie Bear found some very interesting rocks to look at, and attracted a small circle around her figure as she explained how the shells and fossils and rock layers all proclaimed the power of God in creation and catastrophe. She demonstrated homeschooling very well, which I believe was an encouragement to our hosts, who want to homeschool but are rather nervous. Evelyn read aloud Psalm 104 and we discussed hydro-tectonic theory and the way the Bible beats scientists in explaining our world. So, imagine. We are watching a gorgeous sunset on a breathtaking mountain, and half of us are sitting on the ground staring at rocks.
The other half of us were talking hard-core photography because, as we all know, the world is better seen through a camera lens. I stood in the middle and actually watched the sunset while eavesdropping on both conversations. It was astounding to me to note the different ways we were all glorifying God; some were exclaiming over stones, some were marvelling at the star flaunting its brilliant colours, and others were sharing really cool knowledge about how to best attempt to digitally record this memory. As previously mentioned, I did nothing and I did it all.
The sun faded away and the stars appeared one by one as Jessie’s voice hummed on and on with fascinating creation wisdom, but it quickly became too dark and chilly to stay out, plus we had forgotten chairs for those who chose to sat on the ground. So back the house we went, where more flood conversation occurred. I eventually slipped down to bed and sleep, but for a while I could hear hot chocolate bubbling and people laughing and some very tired boys getting stumped by some very simple games. That was fun, and better than a lullaby (sorry).
Of course, they hatched revenge in the morning.