The whole point of a bunch of gringos trekking off to the DR for a week was to partner with Paul & Sharyn in bringing the love of Jesus to those in Pedregal who are spiritually lost. Eternity is a very long time, and if we can make the difference for someone between spending it in heaven or spending it in hell, then it is worth every discomfort, inconvenience, or sacrifice. We were not there merely to do a job. We were there to engage people in conversations, build relationships, and turn hearts toward the One who loves them unconditionally and has provided the perfect and only way to the Father.
Conversation is a tricky thing when the undeniable obstacle of language is all up in your face, hindering your efforts and attempting to shut it down through frustration and discouragement, not to mention the embarrassment of failure. But love is the motivation that compels one to persevere until a way is found to push through the barrier, so push we did. Some are gifted at picking up language on the go. A word here, a phrase there, until a small repertoire of useful vocabulary is soon accumulated. Give one of these auditory-oriented Americans a few minutes with a willing Dominican and before long there will be dialogues in Spanglish that have the power to bond them for life. Over and over I witnessed this on the job site with amazement. The local master carpenter, Arcardios, who was hired to provide some semblance of order, direction and aptitude in our construction projects, exhibited the patience of a saint as he gave instructions or made requests for assistance while the rookies shrugged shoulders and waggled fingers denoting lack of comprehension. "No entiendo!" Often the fastest way to communicate an instruction to get a task done was simply to demonstrate or use crude charades, bypassing the need for language. Whatever works.
Arcardios giving instructions to Mark
Arcardios, keeping his thoughts to himself as he supervises Mark
Brad getting instruction on bending rebar from
12-year old Diego
Derry assisting Arcardios
Derry befriending Carlos
Brad & Carlos bonded as brothers
Out and about on foot, however, we encountered people on every road, around every corner, and along every path, quick to smile and accept us as we waved and called out greetings. "Hola!" "Buenos dias!" Hugs and arm pats were not uncommon, especially from older women, even in passing as we continued on our way. Whether we were out for our early morning walk in front of our villas in Jarabacoa, hiking from the clinic in Pedregal to a job site and back, or stopping in the local colmado to buy a cold drink, we did our best to make connections through friendly greetings. The warm responses were rewarding, and we felt genuinely accepted by the people, regardless of whether they yet understood the reason for our presence.
Debbie connecting with a local deaf mute woman
Roscoe, perhaps the most thoroughly extroverted member of our team, was caught off guard one morning when he encountered a young woman suddenly in close proximity. Wanting to be friendly and extend a greeting, he froze while his brain malfunctioned and stalled momentarily, then opened his mouth and with a big smile called out, "Aloha!" After her laughter subsided, the young lady returned his greeting in kind, and throughout the rest of the week she and various other locals could be heard calling out, "Aloha!" to the gringos. But it was all done in fun, and we laughed along with them, using even that glitch as a connecting point between cultures.