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.
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)