Saturday, August 9, 2014

DR Trip 2014: Samaná and Almost the End

Oh, Samaná. One of Mumsie’s favourite spots on earth, and with good reason, too. We tumbled into the big van at a decent time and began our hike cross-country to the beachy world of humpback whales (local and in season), fresh coconuts, early churches, and guanabana. After a car ride laden with excellent conversation, and some ‘60s kid music, we reached one of the earlier evangelical churches to be planted in the Dominican Republic. It was originally a community of slaves from the United States who had been released to help colonise the DR. When their pastor died they were left without spiritual guidance. Realising this (it would be nice if we had that same sense today), they sent letters to both England and America asking for help with their church plant. A Wesleyan church in England answered their call and sent a young couple to help establish this church. The wife died of malaria shortly after her arrival, but the work she helped her husband do planted a church that is still going today, 190 years later. That is the kind of woman I want to be, eh?

Hearing their story, and knowing that God can use young lives because it is God who is working in the first place, was a great boost to all of us rather tired and rather motivated young people. And then the acoustics in that church were amazing, so we sang a few Psalms until our skin was tingling with the beauty of it. Then we piled back in the van and headed to our final destination: the resort.

The resort. The resort was a totally unexpected gift for which we are truly thankful. I know, it sounds awful, a mission’s team finishing their last two days at a snazzy resort, but honest it was a gift from God, who can use riches as well as poverty to draw us closer to Himself. That is what He did on this trip. Both at the poverty in Villa and in the total chillness of this all-inclusive result, God was using our surroundings to pull us nearer into who He is. 

See, we desperately needed an unwinding and debriefing period before returning Stateside. The changes going on inside of us and outside of us were very real and very huge. That was kind of the point of this trip in the first place, but I certainly did not expect it all to happen on so large a scale. 

But it did. And not having to worry about food and schedules and car rides and bedrooms and cleaning up helped it happen easier. Not to mention the warm beach and treadmill. They helped, too. What can I say? We were very thankful for this outside-stress-free environment in order to solidify the already stabilised friendships for the months and years to come, and to look inside each of us and really ponder how we were by God’s grace going to embrace His grace and the changes that need to occur in light of that grace. Grace is scary, because Grace means freedom, and freedom means relationship. Not control. Not micromanaging. Not doing it my way, but loving to do it His way. It will take more than two days to sort all this out ~ it will, in fact, take a lifetime ~ but these past two days were certainly invaluable to the process, and I am very grateful to those who provided it. 

So we spent time eating (I got to eat Not My Food!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and walking on the beach, and seeing the stars and sunrise, and writing, and asking a lot of questions. We had one more study on the heart, but the rest of our group time was spent parking on certain questions that had come up during the trip. Key. Vital. Necessary. Yay. I loved watching everybody, from 8 to 60, Dominican and United Statesian, interact in meaningful ways during these discussions. I think we have been able to internalise everything a bit better, so that then we might externalise them naturally throughout the rest of the year. Understand, my friend, that one of the things we learned was that most people do it backwards, working from the outside in rather than the inside out. But that leads bright on the outside and dark on the inside. We want the light of Christ shining in the darkness. Praise God that He knows our hearts and works with our souls and makes us new

The last two days were excitingly hard and wonderful, culminating with the time to say goodbye. That we did, at the airport, surrounded by luggage, and Patrick and Emanuel left us in a Breaking of the Fellowship sort of sadness, except that we know the end; one way or another we will be seeing each other again. And, hey, there’s always Facebook and G+.

While we waited at the airport for a variety of things, each of us read each other’s notes from Emanuel. The kind soul had stayed up until the wee hours of the morning writing each one of the team members a personal note of appreciation. That floored all of us, and passing the notes around are what kept our spirits up as the prospect of total farewell loomed ever closer. 

The plane to Miami was delayed, and it was a literal squeeze to make our connecting flight, but God knew what was needed and good, and we made it to Dulles safe and sound around midnight Friday morning. 

We did, but not our luggage. Nope, a lot of Saturday was spent going back to the airport to pick up all those nineteen suitcases which did not have time to be scuttled onto our connecting flight the night before. But in that too God was working His good will because having to deal with 950 pounds of luggage late at night would have been slightly overwhelming. No, it was much better to handle those pounds the next day, after a good morning’s sleep and some food. Plus, it was an excuse to see everyone on the team one last time. 

But now farewells are officially said, not forever, but for as long as God would have, and we all feel better equipped to live life as Christians made confident through faith and adoption, through God’s glorious might to be patient in all He would have us do and be and wait for. I love having these friends forever, just as I loved making them real friends over the past two weeks. The love of God is something that cannot be broken, and it was enriched in us throughout this trip. For that I am truly grateful. 

As Jessica Grove said at the end of it all, Greater Things Are Yet to Come. Greater things are still to be done! So, let us move further up and further in to the love and truth of God by His grace! 

Thanks for all your prayers as we travelled far away from home. I hope this smattering of delayed updates has provided you with a glimpse of not just the doings, but also the learnings and encouragements and growths we experienced in the DR. I am grateful for each one of you! Signing off. 

Actually, I think there will be one final "Highlights and Appreciation" post, but this is mainly the end. Thanks for joining me!

(please excuse typos. this will be the last time I ask you this, really.)

DR Trip 2014: La Tinajita

La Tinajita. If you happen to recall anything from my batch of posts from last DR Trip, you might remember La Tinajita as a little bit of heaven on earth. It really was its own earth-placed paradise. Well, nothing has changed since last year. It is still there, lovely as ever, and this time we were even more eager to be there. Our van pulled up with smoking tires and we staggered and stretched out of the car to fall into the arms of our lovely hosts, Ambiorix and Rosario. Only after wildly giving hugs all around and making a special point to pounce on the vecinas with a warm embrace did I get to looking around and falling in love with La Tinajita all over again. The fairy arbors were still there, the hobbit walks still meandered from one door to the next, the house still spoke of Rivendell, and the view still struck you with a majesty too deep for words. And the mango and jobo trees still lined the gazebo-speckled property. 

By the time we had settled into our rooms and supped, our tiredness was too great and manifold for a real study, so we went around the terrace-lounging group again to hear what had so far impacted and taught each one of us in special ways. It was a great way to wrap up the first part of the trip, the getting-to-know-you and welcome-to-non-American-cultures part, and enter into the second part of this learning experience called travelling, the I-got-to-know-you-now-what part. La Tinajita proved perfect spot for embarking on this new adventure. 

See, it is very public, complete with a huge terrace and jacuzzi and bedrooms jumbled into kitchen and living room and dining room and outdoor porch. There is an intimate, old-word feeling about the place. But it is also very private, spread out on a hillside with the house at the top and branches and branches of paths winding down the hill to a symphony of little tables here and reading nooks there and covered gazebos hidden all over the lawn. Perfect for plunging into the communion that is in Christ and the meditation that is in Christ. Just perfect. 

So that is what we did. We talked and laughed and played games, and sang ’til I thought my throat would drop off. We listened to the studies as a group while ingesting them as individuals. Then we walked and thought and read our Bibles, and journaled ’til I thought my fingers would give out. Both the we and the me were fed during our stay here. I think that is what we are most thankful for now that all is said and done: the deep fellowship we developed. And it all flourished right here in La Tinajita.

On Saturday we continued our studies in Colossians and the Heart, learning more about what it truly means to have our lives “hid in Christ” and how to deal with our souls now that they are alive in Him rather than dead in our trespasses and sins. To me, it was encouraging more than I can say. Convicting, yes, to see the clear distinctions between the dead and the living lifestyles, but encouraging because I am alive and don’t have to live like I did anymore. Because Christ. And in Christ. 

That afternoon, the music director for the church in Santiago (Iglesia Bíblica Reformada de Santiago or Reformed Bible Church of Santiago) came over to practice the songs included in Sunday’s worship with the members of our team who would be playing in their service. Timothy sang the violin, Joshua strummed the guitar, and Joanna trilled the flute whilst the Emelii and James played the keyboard. It was neat to see how many great English songs had been translated into Spanish, and we were all happy that people from our team could worship God through instruments on this trip. 

After hours of practice, during which time many of us retreated to think and/or talk, it was beyond a shadow of a doubt time for dinner. I believe the main meal for that day involved an impeccably scrumptious assortment of rice, beans, and bistec, made the more merry by two young women, Jeannine and Julia, who danced about the terrace handing out drinks and refills and more refills. We turned in at a decent time for the night, knowing that tomorrow was Sunday and we would have quite the drive to church in the morning. 

Sunday service was amazing. We drove down on time and got there almost an hour early, which was important because we ended up needing to rearrange the sanctuary so that the English-speaking crowd could sit in an undisrupting location for translation purposes. We sang some of my favourite songs, and our guys did a magnificent job by God’s grace of leading us in worship of our Lord through song. The accent of the violin and flute grounded by the chording and percussion of guitar and keyboard sounded spectacular together. Then Dad preached a great sermon on 1 John, focusing on the togetherness and interweaving of Truth and Love in that letter. Joshua and I translated, and we often ended up saying the same thing at the same time in the same intonation as we turned Spanish into English for our friends. 

Post-service we welcomed the surprise request of teaching the church some new songs we had been singing throughout the trip. Although it was a spontaneous performance, God used the words and music in the life of one of the maids from La Tinajita, who had for some reason decided to join us for church that day. Later that evening I found her crying in the kitchen and she asked for the lyrics to one of the songs we had sung that morning. Please pray that God would save her, so she would be one of our fellow worshippers next year! 

The service done, we drove to Ambiorix and Rosario’s main home in the city, where we were regaled with a feast amidst friends, arrayed in a stunningly beautiful home, and all graced with the love and generosity of believers. Those stewed bananas smelled…wow. Good food, my friends. Good food. 

Full and sleepy, we lounged about the house talking and napping and touring the gorgeous mansion. Many of us used the home’s internet to call parents back home. All of us drank in the restful afternoon, which we all needed badly. Sooner than later it was time to go back to the mountains and fresh air, with the stars glittering in a cold sky. Elvish, I tell you. We had another excellent and challenging study, then sang and sang again until it was very very time to hit the sack. 

We did. 

In brief, Monday consisted of Jessie going to the doctor with Katy and Mumsie and Rosario (Jessie’s fine) and then them buying souvenirs, whilst the rest of the gang stayed home and went through a six-hour long study session. So, SOOO good. I can’t tell you how good. Then we faintingly crawled to the table for food after having skipped meals for the Bible, and boy was there food! The vecinas (this family call their maids “neighbours” instead of “maids”, which is a great testimony of Philemon-like community) cooked us up an amazing sancocho (everything stew) in the outdoor cookery place, and it came with avocado and fluffy white rice until we could not eat anymore. Our brains were dead and our tummies full, so it was a perfect time to journal and talk and play. 

That evening, Dad and some of the boys headed back down to the city so he could teach the pastors he usually Skypes on Tuesday nights. While they were away, we started packing our bags yet again and listened to Ambiorix tell us his testimony and teach us some principles about handling money. This man was born into a very poor yet dignified family; he shared a pair of shoes with his brother and worked in the fields before and after school. He worked hard. Very hard. Eventually he made money. A good deal of it. But he did not ever spend more than he needed, saving most of what he had and using what remained to keep on going. He helped us with some good common sense, and then inspired us with how the gospel changes how we view money and people and time. From not cheating taxes to loving the brethren, this man has grown in everything, and I was personally excited to see how God has changed Ambiorix from grace to grace since he became a Christian. We love him, and we love his wife Rosario. Thank God for them with me, will you?

Tuesday morning found us scurrying around to get out the door and headed to our next and final destination, Samaná. But that will come next post.

(please excuse typos)

DR Trip 2014: Jarabacoa

It is Thursday the 7th of August and I am 10,334 miles above sea level with only 28% battery life left on my pretty banged up laptop.

July flew to somewhere and August for some reason appeared, ready and able to fly by even more quickly than July. The pilot has just announced our decent to Miami Airport and the sunset evening lights up one side of the plane in rose and gold while down the aisle and through the window I see the sea awash in moving greys and rather Byronic blues. It could not be more perfect. Perfect to describe how our whole team is feeling: on one hand happy and blest by our time in the Dominican Republic with each other, and on the other hand sad to need to say goodbye but peaceful in the memories we can now all share. God is awesome, no matter which colour one feels. 

The trip has, in fact, been very colourful. So colourful that my noble goal to blog every day fell by the wayside. But I think enjoying more time to be with my teammates and journal to myself was well worth the lack of blogging. In an attempt to catch up, I will offer all you my faithful readers and pray-ers an overview of what followed my previous blog post, and what all happened to bring us up to now, on an airplane quickly swirling down towards the United States and all it holds for us. 

Goodness, that takes me all the way back to Thursday in Jarabacoa, which feels so very long ago. That morning I believe we had mangú with queso frito again, followed by morning studies, a lunch of leftovers (a mess of moro tossed with picadillo, a quick Dominican fry-up of ground beef with, yes, blissfully bright vegetables), followed by another walk that involved climbing up a very slippery and sheer hill only to discover something on the sliding hill-top caused a delightful little rash all over one’s body. That was fun, and steep, and hard. Our team still could not believe the number of beautiful flowers and fruits dotting the paths down which we trod, and we all grew in the gratitude of simply being there. 

Throughout the day, I had been simmering the beans which Joanna and Janelle had so faithfully sprouted over the past three days. The maids, of course, were shocked at three American girls’ treatment of their native dish, but they enjoyed the differences and were quite curious about how to make things more digestible. One of the maids had recently undergone a colonoscopy for severe intestinal issues, so hopefully she was able to pick up a few tips and practices from us. The best part of being in the kitchen with both maids was to see their willingness to help accompanied by their eagerness to learn, and their complete surprise at how simply we did things. But they liked the pork and bean soup we had for dinner, so hopefully the surprise produced positive results.

Right before dinner, however, the lights went out. Now, the electricity turns off every day in the Dominican Republic, but most houses have generators or inverters to compensate for this occurrence. Well. Our inverter decided to have issues. No lights. Whatsoever. 

Yet what seemed to be a problem at the beginning, God turned into a blessing by the end. Does He not always? If only we would trust that more. At least Dominicans smartly use gas stoves instead of electric ones, so at least our dinner was cooked through when we ate it. At least the men in our group were helpful and kind and loving and gentlemanly, so we girls always had one of them to hold flashlights by our side as we chopped vegetables and prepared delicious avocados. At least some of us had “randomly” decided to pack early and shower late so that many of us were ready to go in the morning, regardless of our electrical condition. At least this forced us to have no manmade lighting as God’s own lightning struck the charcoal sky throughout the evening. At least God gave us memories to sing and sing songs without lyrics after dinner. At least God gave us brains, and some boys with brains, to figure out what really was going on with our inverter so that we were able to turn in for the night with the knowledge that, yes, we had electricity again! Thanks, Andrew. ;) 

Trusting in God always works. 

Friday morning dawned too soon, and our hot chocolate oatmeal was gone too quickly, and our packing was done too efficiently, and our games were lost and won too easily. It was time to leave Jarabacoa, and it was time for one of our group, Jose, to leave for good. Leave not just us, but his homeland and friends and life to move to North Carolina. We bade many, many farewells until his dad finally ushered him out the door and our ride finally arrived. 

Leaving Jarabacoa was hard for many, because the place was so beautiful and restful and what was to come remained in the scary realm of the unknown. 

But remember about trusting God?

He had good things waiting. Despite our tiredness and unfulfilled hunger, the ride to Santiago was peaceful and fun and full of sleep for some. We stopped on the way in La Vega, the Christian seminary of which my grandfather was one of the founders, and where my father was born. It is always such fun to see him slide right back into his old life with his old friends full of their old stories together. The seminary is now a Christian camp, but the mango tree my grandfather planted is still there, still giving us mangoes whenever we go back to visit. My family lived there for a summer when I was a little girl, so even I experienced some nostalgia walking around the lots where I used to make mud puddles and the buildings that always smelled so good of Dominican food. They still do. It was also great to hear of a place and of a people that actually valued Christian discipleship and the sufficiency of Scripture, while teach pastors soon-to-be how to plant churches as well as how to plant plantains. 

But we were hungry and on a schedule that day, and needed to make it to the hills surrounding Santiago in time for dinner ~ and lunch had yet to be eaten. We stopped in the hub of the city for  some quick sandwiches at about four in the afternoon, then drove through the city to pick up eight mattresses that were piled on top of our SUV, and at last trekked up the mountain to La Tinajita, the place where our next hosts were awaiting us with supper and…well, I will talk about that in the next post.

(please excuse typos)

DR Trip 2014: Days Six and Seven

The last two days have blurred somewhat in my mind, so this post should cover both, albeit in whimsy and windy fashion. Tuesday involved a gorgeous lighting of patched and terraced hills. Here it truly is a lighting rather than a sunrise, because the morning fog is so heavy and the mountains so nearby. The early hours also involved coffee, of course, and boiled yucca with fried cheese. This preceded a morning of journaling and studies and a walk around the countryside. Someone is constructing a residence a way further down the hill, but neither the noise nor the smoke is heavy, and the workers are admirably fast. On Tuesday they were torching black something onto the roof and today, Thursday, the roof is almost completely tiled. That is one thing about Dominican culture. Time is not of the essence; events are. But in their own way, Dominicans can be very efficient and hardworking, especially in the realm of construction and engineering. It reminds me of the person in the Santo Domingo who used an old Pizza Hut box as a sun guard for his windshield. You make do with what you’ve got, and you do it well. 


We almost completed the first chapter of Colossians and delved deeper into our Theological Heart Surgery sessions. One of the challenges of this trip has been the way the size of our group has affected, or rather, could affect, the closeness of the communion we enjoy. Now that we are all staying in the same house, those challenges are being overcome and we are growing together into Christ. This has begun to influence our studies and I hope will continue to deepen the level of conversation as we proceed deeper into what the Bible says about us and our hearts. 

One of the chief topics of conversation here has been grace. The unsurpassed and overwhelming grace God has shown us in Christ. Our sessions on the heart describes our need of that grace so exquisitely and painfully, but then Colossians rushes in where our self-justification fears to tread, and shows us Christ. Christ in all His power and meekness and mercy and love. Kind of like the way the sun slowly lights up this beautiful place each morning, the light of Christ has been dispelling our own darkness, only to leave His beauty in its stead. There are so many shadows waiting for that glorious brilliance.

Thankfully, growing in the knowledge of God in all spiritual wisdom and understanding must needs flow into a growing love for our brothers in Christ. I see that happening with this group. We are able to talk, enjoy each other, and pass very pleasant and jolly times with one another. Apparently Bible knowledge does not preclude, but speeds on, brotherly love. And so it goes. Together we have sung and played some rousing games, varying from the requisite “jacked up” (Jessie’s phrase) versions of Speed Uno to intricate rounds of Psychologist. Daddy loves games, and loves watching us play games, not because he is a party animal (he really is not one at all), but because he believes that in games, as well as in mealtimes, who we really are unintentionally comes out. And genuine sincerity plays a vital role in these trips. Thus, the games have been merry and often. 

In between group times, plenty of smaller conversations have taken place. The gift of these occurrences has been that no cliques have formed. We all engage in more private discussions, but we pass each other around pretty well and feel comfortable talking openly with anyone who happens to be sitting next to us. Yes, this group is great. 

But back to Tuesday. After a lunch of crunchy salami with bread and farmer’s cheese and fresh wonderfully fresh and vibrant and snappy and snarky and sweet and satisfying and delicious vegetables (can you tell we missed fresh veggies in the city?), we gathered around for another Theological Heart Surgery session and then Joanna, Janelle, and I prepared supper, with a bunch of help. 

I have so loved getting to work with Dominican ingredients in a Dominican kitchen with American friends. Collaborating with Joanna and Janelle has been a sweet growth to our relationship, and we are all learning from each other. 

So Tuesday’s dinner consisted of (my first attempt at) moro de guandules and a happy bowl of steamed green, purple, and cream cauliflower, all accompanying a dish of minute steak marinated in Dominican seasonings and grilled by a few able young men. Thanks to Andrew and James and Emanuel, dinner tasted swell and non-overcooked. 

Wednesday brought hot chocolated oatmeal, or oatmealed hot chocolate, depending on how you look at it, followed by a morning of more studies and an afternoon of stewed chivo, a mouth-watering meat accompanied by all the usual Dominican sides: rice and beans and plátano and avocado and garlic casabe. The person responsible for spoiling us with such an over-the-top delicious meal was Tomás, our faithful jack-of-all trades pastor, missionary, visionary, servant, cook, chauffeur, networker, and master of cooking to classical music. He seriously has all the best classical songs every composed, and plays them at the top of his speaker’s lungs to our great joy and delight. I think it makes his food taste happier. We love Tomas, and there’s an end to it. 

Our days here have been punctuated by walks around the neighbourhood, walks made all the more exhilarating due to the steep hills and wild orchids growing by the wayside between wild banana plants and orange trees. These outings keep our body going so our brain can continue functioning through the whirlwind of sessions upon which we are embarking in this trip. Apart from steadily working through Colossians and being dazzled by Christ with each verse, we are steadily digging into the ways we and others work as we learn to not treat problems with the bandaid of “being better people” but with the Master’s Surgery of going deep into our hearts’s most earnest desires and ingrained processes in order to apply the gospel constantly to our souls. By God’s grace our actions will change, and instead of pharisees and slaves, God will have sons and a people who love to worship Him. 

To be frank, talking about the gospel and Christ and our hearts’ sins and cures can get messy, even with a close group of Christians. But the messiness has been good because the messiness causes Christ’s stellar perfection to glow even brighter and His grace to shine its warm rays all the more closely upon us. Sure, we are sinners, but like Colossians says, we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the inheritance of the saints in light. That is awesome, and in that beautiful truth we are truly walking in love with each other. I confesses to loving our group, this band of brothers, and I am confident everyone here would say the same. 

It all has been so worth it. Thanks for praying, and please continue to do so.

(please excuse typos)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

DR Trip 2014: Day Five

Day Five. Sunday number one for our group. Father’s Day. After breakfast, our entire team gathered at the apartment to pile into the twenty-one-seater bus that awaited downstairs. Our driver, José, steered the streets well and we eventually ended up at the correct church after stopping to ask for directions. I guess it is kind of normal to get lost when someone gives you the wrong address for your destination. But get there we did with no bones broken, and filed into a crowd of very welcoming brothers and sisters in Christ. 

This church, Iglesia Fundamento, is located in a poorer part of town, less safe and speckled with more tin roofs and more trash than what we had so far seen. But the church itself was cheery and bright and clean, all four stories of it, and the people were so very loving and immersed in the beauty of Christian fellowship. It was all different, but I think we as team felt at home in a sense, too. We worshipped together with great joy and learned from Scripture with glad song and simply enjoyed the communion of “foreign” “family”. Despite the drip drip of faucets, despite the doubling up on toilet flushes, despite the dearth of air conditioning and the surrounding scenes of poverty, we were blessed and with people we loved because they loved God, too. The church kindly sang songs that were likewise in English, and put the English lyrics side-by-side the Spanish ones. Everyone chose their language and sang, sang with life. 

Then Dad came up to preach on Ephesians 2:1-10, a heart-stirring passage that you absolutely must read to once again relish the grace God has showered upon us undeserving sinners. The team sat upstairs, near the fans and basking in the yellow light bouncing off the sky-blue walls. Sure, it was hot, and, sure, the whirring of the fans made translating difficult, but Josh and I and the team worked together to hear God’s word and were blessed. 

After speaking with some of the members there and being passed cokes and chocolate (they are very kind to foreigners), and after a good degree of baby-holding, we traipsed back into the bus to eat at Viscaya, a favourite Dominican restaurant with strong Spanish (Spain Spanish) roots. We were twenty-one people, not to mention all the fathers who were eating out to celebrate Father’s Day, so the food took a while to come, but that provided ample time for good conversation. Half of the fun and growth on these trips comes from getting to know the other members of the team itself, and this provided us with the perfect context for that. The food came in rounds, first Spanish tortillas (think omelet or quiche-minus-crust laden with potatoes), then baskets of garlic flat bread, then a grilled assortment of meats, then a round of fish, then rice and beans and tostones (fried green plantains), maduros (ripe fried/baked plantains), fried potatoes, and finally avocados. It was a feast, wrapped up well with a dish of flan (a sort of custard) and strong Dominican coffee laced in its own creamy foam. Yum. One experience I doubt team-members will forget was having bites of Dad’s favourite mondongo, a dish of stewed beef tripe. It was hit with some of us (great for GAPS!) and not so much a favourite with others. But everyone ate something they liked, and walked away very, very satisfied. 

Now we are gathered at the apartment again, waiting for news about Jorge Daniel and relaxing before evening service begins. Tonight we will be attending IBNP, something about which we are all very excited because we know people there and it will be nice to see the place we painted buzzing with believers. And the music. And the preaching. And everything a church is about. 

I am at the church now, brimming with internet and postability. I will check back next time I get wifi, which will probably be in a week because tomorrow we are leaving to a place in the mountains, brimming with non-internet and all the lovelinesses that brings. Enjoy the week! I know I will. 

(please excuse typos)

Thanks for remembering us in your prayers!

DR Trip 2014: Day Four

Next day began slow and steady and ready to finish our paint job. But first, many of our team members got to sit in on Dad’s closing class with the group of pastors he has taught for three years. For me, it was exciting. I have seen Dad start the survey of the Bible, proceed to systematic theology, and end in counselling as the men in his class got married, had kids, and grew in the knowledge of God and His word. Today was the last class of those three years, and our team got to be there. Josh translated for most of the English speakers while I translated in a corner for the rest. I won’t tell you what the class was about because we will be studying it more in depth during the rest of our time here. 

Following the morning-long marathon (what they call Dad’s Saturday morning classes), it was most definitely and assuredly time for vittles. We walked the dusty streets to the same restaurant as yesterday, La Quinta, but this time the cooks were ready for our herd of nineteen hungry stomachs. The music was again odd, the food was again good, the air conditioning was again…mercurial, and the conversation was again pleasant. Refreshed and revived, we walked back to the church to finish the paint job. Reinforcements of paints and brushes had arrived, so we were ready. 

Everyone except Jessie, Joanna, Dad, and myself. We went with an elder of IBNP who works for an organic-friendly supermarket in the city in order to buy food for this following week. IN Jarabacoa, where we are heading next, there are mountains, beautiful mountains. That means less than smooth roads and a wee bit of isolation. Actually, a lot of isolation. So we needed to bring from the city whatever we wanted to eat in the country. 

Shopping in the DR was an interesting experience, one which with I am familiar, but never have I done it for a week’s supply of food for twenty-two people. I thoroughly enjoyed, partly because we had Daniel, the elder who works for the store. Jessie, Joanna, and I put our heads together, came up with a meal plan, and basically sent Daniel on a store chase to fetch our always growing list of items. We say cauliflower of purple, green, and cream, rows of okra and yucca eggplant, a wall of peppers all bright red, and an entire floor section filled with exotic fruits and vegetables you would not know of. 

Our team had been craving veggies, so you can imagine how our hearts leaped when we reached the produce section. We had already oohed and ahed over the REAL milk we were bringing home and the block of cheese bigger than my head we would seen be frying up for breakfast, but when we saw the antioxidant-laden colours of fresh produce, our day was made. We bought succulent mangoes and bright green avocados ready to ripen and fuchsia-coloured cactus fruit, as well as little round fruits of a sugar cane hue called nispero. On top of that, two sizeable coolers somehow fit into our Ford explorer, and we returned to the church feeling satisfied with a job crazily but well done. Praise God for Daniel, who understands all our “weird” food needs and desires!

By the time shopping for twenty-two people was over, the paint had been slathered on and dried and the team was renewing their appreciation for Ninja, Zip Bong, Cheese, and other pass-the-time group games. The team split up to take showers (“freshen up” for the evening meal ~ how charmingly old-fashioned to the American mind) and then regroup for another round of sandwiches and shakes. I had snagged (and payed for) some spinach and mushrooms so my meal of pork chop from was scrumptiously accompanied by green and darling little edible buttons. And it was hot. Every time I come here, my gratitude for a warm meal redoubles. 

The day closed with another study, this time one that began our “Heart Surgery” course. We opened to the book of Genesis to read of the temptation of Eve and what it all entails, both then and now. Prayer and singing again followed our study, and then we turned in early for the night. Tomorrow was Sunday and church, after all. 

Except Group One. Group One tumbled into their house only to be regaled by a symphony of fireworks, including those happy smily face ones, in honour of Dominican Father’s Day. Way to close the first week here with a bang, eh?

More tomorrow, and we are thankful for your prayers. 

(excuse typos)

*P.S. We just received news that Jorge Daniel, a dear friend and fellow worker who always helps us out when we stay with IBNP, got into a car accident this (Sunday morning). He is walking and okay, but stuck in the hospital until he is given a clean bill of health. Please pray for him and his sister, who are here alone because their parents are in the States to figure out what is wrong with their dad, Pastor Hector, who has been having seizure-like episodes. Yeah. It’s nuts. Please keep them all in your prayers!

DR Trip 2014: Day Three

Day Three began this morning. The problem is this morning feels like ages ago. So let’s give this post a whirl and see what happens. 

We woke up at an earlier time today and managed to have breakfast at 9am. Group Two’s morning carried itself much like yesterday morning. I am not sure how Group One’s morning began, but they showed up at our apartment look bright and fresh and well fed, so all indications indicate good things happening. 

Today we worked on the building of IBNP, the same church who ministers in the village we visited yesterday. We were unsure of what our specific tasks would end up being, but we did know the church is adding some space to the front of the building and we were supposed to help prepare for the construction. So, we arrived in ditchable clothes and with lots of water, curious as to what the day would hold. 

It held paint. Lots of paint and not enough paint. Upstairs in the church there is an open concrete area for fellowship, and it all needed a fresh coat of paint. Also, the office space beside the fellowship area needed to be unwired and unceilinged. You know those styrofoam-like tiles at the top of everyone’s basement? The ones you always wanted to poke with a stick as a kid and see what was in between one floor and the next? Yeah. Those. We got to poke them up and out and to the ground to our heart’s content. ’Twas fun. 

And painting. Who doesn’t enjoy painting? Roll up and roll down and sideways and tape everything and be careful not to smudge the door frames or window sills. Peach on yellow was not a bad colour combination, either, and with the sun beating down everyone felt fun and thirsty. 

Everyone except Emily Leich, Daddy, and myself. We had to go to the American Airlines office in Santo Domingo because (I forgot to explain this before), Emily Leich has identity issues! Yes. As we were boarding the flight from Miami to the Dominican Republic, Emily was stopped by the boarders and told that she could not be here because an Emily Leich had flown to the DR on the previous flight. Well now. Emily Leich was indeed right here with us, not on some afternoon flight to Santo Domingo. It was a bit of a tense moment, but eventually Dad and the person in charge worked something out to let Emily fly with us with a coupon. Praise God! But to sort out what happened, we needed to visit AA’s Dominican headquarters and make sure the same thing would not happen on our return trip. Also, we were just a slight bit curious about who might be posing as Emily Leich, if anyone was. 

Thankfully, everything in the Emily Leich category was sorted, and she is flying home with us and she is a real person with no identity issues. God is taking care of us!

The office visit turned out to be surprisingly short, and after a bout of traffic we returned to the church in time to throw ourselves into painting until lunchtime. We were a little short on paint and brushes and rollers, but everyone took turns between brushing and taping and playing Ninja (it’s an actual game), so everyone kept busy. 

Lunchtime brought us to La Quinta, a little eatery for workers needing a warm meal on a hot day. While playing American pop music from all eras in the background, the restaurant served us a meal of rice and meat and avocados, plus a by now extremely popular chinola (passion fruit) juice. Three types of rice, three types of meats, and bowls of habichuelas (stewed beans) all around! It was a good meal and prepared us for walk back to the church for more painting. 

And that’s we did. More painting ’til the paint ran out. I stayed close to the ground and worked my thighs to paint baseboards while others faced their fears and climbed up ladders to hang over the roof edge to paint high walls (you go, Jessie Bear!). 

And then there was no more paint. So we trekked home to shower and eat a supper of grilled sandwiches filled with DR’s famous pork, beef, cheese, onions, and condiments accompanied by, you guessed it, more chinola juice. Although some free spirits broke the mould and got zapote or mango juice instead. 

After this scrumptious repast, ’twas time for our first study. 

We went over the first two verses of Colossians, remembering God’s great holiness and how He has made us holy. It is amazing to think that God made people like us saints and fellow brothers. It was hard to think of ourselves as holy because Christ is holy, even through our sin. But He lives in us and that is where our holiness comes from, what bears the Fruit of the Spirit, and how we can become more like Christ. We also went over the familial relationship we know have with God and our fellow brothers. That bond of similarities because of God’s indwelling grace holds us together so that we may and should and will live in fellowship with our family in Christ first, before any other earthly relationships. God living in us and loving us allows us to live with and love those whom He loves. 

In short, we kicked off our series of Colossians studies with a glimpse of glory and mercy, and a taste of the fellowship we hope to cultivate over the next two weeks. Our session ended with an hour of singing, heavenly singing and rhythmic, soothing guitar accompanied by the gorgeous other-worldly strains of a violin. 

Of course, sleep was sweet.

(please excuse typos)

Friday, July 25, 2014

DR Trip 2014: Day Two

Day Two, our first full day in the Dominican Republic, began as first days often do: whiplashed, jet-lagged, and doggone tired. But happy.

The Groves brought a special treat of bread and honey, so Group Two breakfasted like kings and queens (I guess, if I were being historically accurate, we breakfasted like peasants, but whatever) and spent most of the morning journalling about all the new sights and sounds and reactions that being in a new country entails. It was a lovely slow start we all needed to pull ourselves together. 

Group One breakfasted like kings and queens (again, really Dominican peasants of the past), encountering their first sumptuous feast of mangú, ham and cheese, scrambled eggs, and anything else lovely and nice. And they have two maids and internet and air conditioning, so, parents, no worries. Around noon, Group One flied into Group Two’s apartment looking bonnie and bright, and we went over what Mumsie would teach the kids at VBS. 

Because Mumsie was told there would be a VBS only a day ago, in the wee hours of the morning before sleep. She woke up early and prepared a lesson about Elijah and the Widow: God always provides even though He works in strange ways using strange means, and all for HIs glory. And His best provision is Christ, the bread and water who will never run out or run dry. Then Dad and Mumsie taught the whole team a lil kid song that went along with the Bible story. It was probably the first song I ever really learned, and I had not heard it in ages, so there was definitely a bit of nostalgia going on. 

After learning a bit about Spanish pronunciation and a few brave attempts at forming Spanish vowels, the team was ready to sing. We ate a quick lunch of ham and cheese and bread and butter (special Farmer’s cheese that is just so very delicious but you have to get used to it type-thing), and then crammed into two vehicles to head out towards Villa Alta Gracia, not knowing what to expect. 

It is about an hour’s drive from our apartment to the village, giving the newcomers their first opportunity to see Santo Domingo in broad daylight. Everyone made great observations and took in all the newness like champs. Our driver managed to keep up three phone conversations on two cell phones at the same while manoeuvring around motorcycles brimming with bread and trucks overstuffed with various and sundry comestibles. Plus taxis. Taxis here just. stop. Right in the middle of the road, where pedestrians are merrily waiting for them. Welcome to the DR.

Eventually we escaped the sound and fury of the city and were ushered into the island’s majestic mountains, some bright green and patched with pastures, others covered with richly-coloured pines all the way to the very tips of the mountain tops. Everything was punctuated by palms, tin houses, and startlingly red flowers. It is a wild calm beauty, a release from the crazy rush of the capital. Our first view of the mountains took our breath away and then let us breathe easy. Did I say majestic? Majestic.

Unfortunately, the majesty was rather spoilt by a huge beer advertisement. Welcome to the DR. 

We reached the village. After a while, the other car reached the village as well. Our experience in Villa was one of mixed of surprise, joy, regret, longing, and change. The surprise, for some, was the poverty. The surprise for all was the number of children gathered to hear us. There were easily 100 children crowded onto the cement floor we had laid last year. They welcomed us with loud applause, and I think we were all humbled that so many eager children were so happy to see us. Us. With no clue of this 24 hours ago and felling unprepared and overjoyed and uncomfortable and glad all at the same time. 

We went through some introducing, and more clapping and loud “Siiiis” (yes) from the kids, and then Mumsie went on a vim and vigour retelling of Elijah’s story with the widow. Jeannine had drawn some beautiful pictures to go along with the story, and those visuals coupled with Mumsie’s engaging narrative, not to mention the prayers in which everything was covered, helped make the presentation an excellent one. 

But the theme of today was not Us, but God. God did it. God does it. We were completely lacking, and He was completely full. In Elijah’s story, Israel’s disobedience had brought on a drought, and Mumsie ended her story with God’s promise for rain, real rain that represented the provision God through His Son Christ Jesus provides. Talking to all these children about hunger and thirst, children who don’t always know where the next meal will come from, talking to these girls about the way God is sovereign and works in mysterious ways, girls who could easily be trafficked and prostituted tomorrow, was at once heartbreaking and hopeful. We prayed and prayed that this little, not-enough seed, would be used in the chain of providence God orchestrates to bring some of these children the assurance of salvation, even when everything else falls apart. 

And then Mumsie’s story finished, with that promise of rain. And you know what? As soon as her last word was spoken, the heavens poured down rain, loud pounds of water clattering the tin roof as though it were in a percussion competition. We could not hear anything, but everyone was excited about the rain. 

A girl from the village had cooked arepitas (seasoned and fried balls of yuca shreds) to sell, and Dad bought them all to hand out to the gathered children. Not everyone got some, but it was the best we could right there and then. After (most) tummies had something in them, we got to interact with some of the children on a more personal basis. The little girls just came up and hugged us and asked to be held while the boys, well, goofed off with the boys. Knepps had photo prints of children she had photographed last year and the girls mobbed her (again) with smiles and laughs as big as anything as they got to hold their very own pictures of their very own selves. Knepps, as usual, you are brilliant. 

Soon we trekked up the hill, baby on hip and girl clinging to hand, and caught a beautiful panorama of the village. How can something so desolate look so beautiful?

But it wasn’t desolate. There were people. There were people with lives and souls and hardships and happiness. They do what they can with the land, and it bears fruit. They do what they can with they have, and they play games and work, just like anybody. It is beautiful. 

And ugly. Ugly because of the continued sickness and danger and prostitution. Most people do not know Christ, and that is why I am so, so grateful for the people Iglesia Biblica del Nuevo Pacto (IBNP), who have invested in this village for years. Right at the crossroads there is now a church. Now there is a pastor and children and parents learning and loving the Word. I believe there is hope, and hopefully that hope will spread. 

Time to say goodbye came. We all felt like we should’ve done more, stayed longer, talked more, helped more, done something, with all these faces and hearts behind them. But it was time to say goodbye. 

I was not quite sure what to think on the way home. Honestly, I felt terrible we could not do more. 

We went home and changed and went out to a restaurant, introduced some hungry people to the delights and differences of Dominican food, and met with a dear and long-lost friend, Ricardo. He will be moving to the States soon to attend seminary, so he and his family could not travel around with us like they did last year. But at least we could eat dinner and ice cream with them. Mr. and Mrs. Grove and my parents talked with Ricard about homeschooling, a subject about which he is anxious to learn since his family will begin that adventure once they are settled in the US. Exciting, no?

And then, we were really, very, honestly tired. Not even hazelnut and coconut and mango gelato could change that. We split up into Group One and Group Two again, and went to our respective homes. 

But here’s the point. Dad talked to us about how we were all feeling about Villa. We felt like such a small part in something so big, and we were. But he reminded us that it is not about us. God uses all our talents and gifts and time. We give them over to His care, and He puts them to use. God brings a story of people into the different stories of our lives, and some play big parts and others little parts. They are all important and they are planned by the One who knows best. We may have just been a very small puzzle piece in the big picture called Villa, but God wanted us there for that time and we were there. We gave what we could, just like the widow, and God will use mysterious and obvious means to bring His children to Himself, even in Villa. Because, really, the lesson for today truly was the lesson for the day: God always provides even though He works in strange ways using strange means, and all for HIs glory. 

Please keep IBNP in your prayers as they continue to be the tools God uses in one, small, precious village. 

(excuse typos)

DR Trip 2014: Day One

And we are doing it again. Going to the Dominican Republic with a bunch of crazies for two weeks full of introductions, recognitions, growth, and random service projects. Really, there is a lot of random. 

For me, the DR Trip 2014 started long before we landed here last night (this morning). It began with the planning meetings and the emails and the early flights to Dulles for an early round of fellowship and getting to know near strangers whom we love because they love Christ, too. 

But there is something nice about airports and departures and arrivals. We are really here at long last. Again. 

The day began with people sauntering out of bed. I use the word ‘sauntering’ sparingly because I do not really care for how it sounds (it needs somebody with one of those artiste moustaches, no?), but this morning people really were sauntering out of their beds, moustache or no. Josh cooked breakfast for a crowd and people ate at their own good time, then sat around chatting and pulling some last minute things together before the rest of the team arrived to our house around eleven o’clock. Dad and Timothy, one of our teammates, travelled around Northern Virginia and Maryland doing yet another batch of errands. People from past DR trips relived old memories and beckoned the new faces into the fun. And there was something about sheets and notebooks and missing checks. I submitted my final exam, packed the infamous green cooler, and managed to squeeze in most of my course’s last discussion session before popping off to the airport. 

Our airport experience was singularly boring compared to last year’s trip, but considering last year’s trip included being stranded in a parked airplane for four hours and bright blue shirts flashing by to catch a connecting flight, I think boring was a welcome surprise.  

And, honestly, it was beautiful. We had two first-time flyers who experienced the exhilaration of taking off and the excitement of landing, the glory of seeing things from above, and flying face to face with a rainbow. That rainbow was majestic, as if it were saying, “Peace, be still.” As the sky darkened and we neared Santo Domingo, the island lights glittered like jewels across a black ocean, and we were regaled with a different kind of majestic. 

Oh. I forgot Miami. Between the rainbows and the glitter, there was fish. Fish on my plate at the delicious Cuban restaurant in which we ate and then fish on the walls past which we walked. Yeah, seriously, there are walls of dead and colourful and arranged fish lining Section D in Miami Airport. And they are lovely, really. 

But enough of that. We are here now. We were picked up from the Dominican Airport by Tomas Toribio and Bronco Chen(m). Tomas, you may recall, is a student and fellow missionary pastor with Daddy. He cooks breakfast to classical music. Bronco Chen(m), whose real name is something like Alex Almonte (but nobody really knows), was the driver for the team Dad took to Haiti and he attends one of the churches we know here. His name is hilarious. You might think, “Okay, Bronco’s weird, but, hey, he has a chauffeuring business, so Bronco kind of makes sense. Who knows about the Chen(m).” 

But it’s better. Bronco Chem is the name of a medicine here for Bronchitis, and somehow the name stuck to an unwitting Alex Almonte (or something like that). He ran with it and stuck on his business truck. So the name of the business and the name of the driver are one and the same. Thank you, Dominicans, and thank you, Bronchitis. 


Bronco and Tomas drove us to one of our homes, we unloaded our 19 suitcases plus carry-ons, and spent much time discussing who should sleep where and if a cold tile floor sounds more appealing than a soft warm bed. 

Sleep won out in the end, and half of the team went Pastor Hector’s house while we stayed in our apartment. Group One, who stayed at Pastor Hector’s house, included Emily and Andrew Knepper, Jessie Blomgren, Katy Leamons, Timothy Rogers, James Caldwell, and Emily Leich ~ everybody without parents. Housing just worked out that way. Group Two was made up of everyone else, namely, the Groves and the Raimundos. It was hot out, but the city seemed to sleep that night and eventually everyone drifted off to a wee bit of rest before morning light really began. 


Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb…you know. Now the team is breakfasted and back together in one room (and it’s only noon!) and we are going to have our first study session/information seminar before heading off to Villa Alta Gracia to host an impromptu VBS. But more on that in the next post. 

Thanks for praying!

(excuse typos)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

World Cups and Kotlovina

The 2014 World Cup kicked off this Thursday with a rousing and questionably refereed game between Croatia and Brazil. In our house, and in our church, too, come to think of it, the World Cup ushers in about a month of excited conversation, sporadic shouts of glee or frustration, and general Football craze. It is all very lively and lovely indeed, and to make certain I do not completely abandon the sporting festivities, the Raimundo household began a fun little tradition last World Cup of following the Football schedule as our eating plan. I get to cook the foods of the countries playing any given day, we get a little geographical, gastronomical, and cultural education, and everyone gets to enjoy the World Cup as a family. Splendid solution, do you not agree?

We decided to cook Croatian for the first game, and after some internet browsing and cookbook searching, I decided to try my hand at Kotlovina, a dish named for the pot-pan-spidergrillthing in which it is traditionally prepared. When Wikipedia (oh, my Wiki!) described Kotlovina as a pork knuckle stew, there was no doubt as to what we were eating Thursday night.

Kotlovina it was. But I would need pork for this meal, specifically joints, bones, chops, and sausage (I ended up nixing the sausage). Alas, the Raimundos are currently awaiting the arrival of our next half-pig from Skye Ridge Farm, so we resorted to The Organic Butcher in McLean, the next best place to buy pork in our area. An early morning call assured me there would be some succulent bones calling my name, plus a few Polyface chops which were on their way for fresh afternoon delivery. Honestly, the shopkeeper and I were mutually impressed the other knew what Polyface was. Anyway, some hours later found me soaking wet in their darling little hole in the wall, where I stumbled (I know, I'm a klutz) across some deliciously green and organic Brussels sprouts. These bright sweet cabbage-looking things are some of Jenn's favourite vegetables, and the organic kinds are a treasure to come by. Needless to say, they joined the pork on the wooden purchasing block in a heartbeat. Supper was cooking itself before my eyes!

The vehicle I was driving somehow delivered me safely home amidst torrents of rain and loud music, then I grabbed the camera, did a jig, and started cooking. My research had offered me a handful of Kotlovina recipes from which to choose; they were mostly similar, but some were more stewed and some were more fried and some were more starched and some were more veggied. You know what I mean. You also know that Jenn finds it insurmountably difficult to leave a recipe alone, so you can imagine what three recipes left me cooking. This is what happened:

Kotlovina, or, A dish from a certain part of Croatia that I can't remember the name of

Two pork shanks
Two 2-inch bone-in pork chops, a little bit more than a pound's worth
Three onions, sliced
One stalk of celery, sliced
One green or red sweet pepper, julienned
Two large ripe tomatoes, sliced
Five cloves garlic, sliced
One tablespoon paprika
A dash of hot paprika or red pepper flakes, to your liking
Two teaspoons ground mustard
Two or three cloves
A few fennel seeds
One crumbled bay leaf
A toss of the following spices: sage, oregano, thyme, parsley (we like a generous quantity of oregano)
A half cup of white wine or broth.
Real Salt, to your liking

Whew! That looks long written out, but it took me no time to throw all the seasonings in. Honest.
Since whatever Kotlovina is usually made in is usually made out of cast-iron, I used our cast-iron skillet to make the meal more authentic and to make clean-up afterwards a breeze. Double delight.

Thy pork marinates
Before cooking, season the pork with salt and pepper and let it marinade for a few hours.

Thy vegetables are chopped
But when it comes time to cook, the first task is to chop thine vegetables. You know how the Food Network people make meals in minutes? That's right. They chop all their vegetables first. I slice the onions last so the chemicals have the least time to make me cry, and by the time my onions are slicing, my pork is browning in a medium-high heat skillet. 

Thy chops are browned
Get the pork nicely browned on all sides until it smells tantalising and not burnt (you can slice your onions now). Between the skin and fat from the shanks and chops, I did not need to add any fat to accomplish the browning. However, your pork might need some help. I trust you to make the call. Once beautifully browned, remove the meat from your skillet and add the onions. Sprinkle a smidgen of salt on the onions and let them become translucent. 

Thine onions await
Proceed to toss in the rest of your vegetables and seasonings. Cook everything down a bit and stop to smell the flavors combining in a happy dance. Here's where you add your broth and/or wine. Whoosh! Don't you love that part? Your vegetables should start melting into a gorgeous mash which will serve as the perfect bed for your pork. 

The vegetables mash (and their steam gets in the way of pictures)
Thy meal is ready
Put the pork to sleep in the skillet, turn the heat down to a lulling low, and cover the skillet with a decently-fitted-lid-that-didn't-come-with-the-cast-iron. The meat should take about thirty minutes to thoroughly cook into a tender rosy gray. During this time, you may add some more broth to maintain the dish's proper mushy consistency. Then it is finished! Serve with roasted potatoes or rice and a vegetable side, such as...

They're green. They're cute. What could go wrong? 
Pan Seared Brussels Sprouts

One package of organic Brussels Sprouts, about three or four cups? I don't really know.
Pork drippings and snippings
Three garlic cloves, chopped
Water or broth
Salt and Pepper

Wash the sprouts and heat a pan to medium-high. Throw in the porky goodness and let it sweat a bit, then add your Brussels to the party and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss the veggies around for a bit to make sure they brown but don't stick. Eventually you will need to add some water or broth so they can keep on softening without burning. About five minutes before serving, throw in the garlic and stir everything around. I truly wanted to avoid burning anything, so these Brussels sprouts took about twenty minutes to cook. After all, they are basically sweet little cabbage-cabbages.

And after
Hope you enjoy the food! I wonder for which countries we will be cooking in the final. Hmm...

P.S. This is the third time the Indiana Jones main theme has played since I began writing the post. I almost feel like Wagner would be a relief. Almost.