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)
(please excuse typos)