Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Friends and Family,

It is so hard to be so far away from all of you on this holiday, especially in a country that does not celebrate Thanksgiving. Everything goes on as usual on that Thursday!

We are so blest to have our daughter, Melissa here with us for Thanksgiving. Our friends, Madge and Steve, gave up their Thanksgiving with their family to help make ours easier, and we are so grateful.

We have so much to thank God for during this season, but, most of all, we want to say thank you to all of you who have prayed for us, supported us and kept us going during these first few months of our adventure. We are here because of that support, and we pray that God will bless you on your journeys and that our paths will remain intersected!

Today, we want to share the beauty of this country with you through a few photos. For this beauty and the peace and the repose it brings, we give much thanks to God!

Alta Gracia and her 2 day old baby, Omar.

"Listen to the song the Angels sang on the day you were born"

The Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo

"Happiness is not tomorrow. Happiness is Now!"

Bayahibe, Dominican Republic...Isla Saona

"Nothing has changed except my attitude and so everything has changed!"

The view from our walk to the Batey every morning.

"Extend your arms in welcome to the future, the best is yet to come"

Sunset view from our roof...

"How rich are Nature's songs. How deep her silence"

Another view from our see why we seek peace on the roof!

"Only look and someday you will see!"

The incredible beauty of God's keeps us going. Carmelita.

"God cannot be seen. He can be recognized".

All quotes have been taken from Anthony De Mello's Book, Wellsprings.

Happy Thanksgiving with love and gratitude, Cindy and Greg

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

La Tormenta (The Storm) Noel

Tropical Storm Noel - October 29, 2007
Batey Lecheria, Dominican Republic

Tropical Storm Noel swept throught the Dominican Republic with a vengeance. There were 2-3 days straight of rain and winds from a tropical depression before the tropical storm actually hit. One of the first things that we noticed about storms here is that there is very little warning. In the US we have the Weather Channel with tropical updates very hour; we have dopplers with up-to-date weather for YOUR neighborhood; the weather people work around the clock to tell us what Mother Nature is doing now or will do in the next 24 hrs, and then they give us the 10-day forecast! We had no such thing here....which fits right in with our lessons in living for the moment and trusting God with the future.

In the middle of the night, we awoke to 60-70mph winds and torrential rains in our house (remember we have no glass in our windows! We truly were in the midst of the storm...) When the storm moved on, the rains continued for several days and brought the floods. At that point, electricity and along with it, the internet, were gone, and we had no idea how long the rains would last. We had reports from the locals that up to 100 people had died and many more were missing.

We finally trudged through the mud to the Batey and found the people really suffering. The waters had flooded many of there homes. The rain had soaked everything they owned. They had no "carbon" (charcoal) to cook with, and no food to cook. The mosquitos were multiplying and the parasite-infested water was all they had to drink. The floods had destroyed the fruit trees and vegetable gardens that they received much of their food supplies from.

As the rains continued, we scrounged around and found some cans of beans, rice, pasta, boullion cubes, peanuts, etc, and went down to the batey and made soup. It was a blessing for our community as we gathered people from our neighborhood to help us to prepare and serve the food. We piled 20 people in a truck in the pouring rain to find a way to help our Batey community. The rain stopped just long enough for us to serve everyone, before it began again.

The children gathered with bowls and cups to receive the soup and bread (sopa y pan).

Esperando y Esperanza

Our great lesson during the last 3 weeks as we move past La Tormenta has been in Waiting and Hoping: Esperando and Esperanza. Isn't it wonderful that the these 2 words in Spanish have the same root? We would not wait if we did not have hope that the blessing is around the corner, that God is present in the storm, that people care and help will come, that love and life are present all around us. Hope is showing up for life every day and believing that the God of Miracles is waiting for us and is in us.

Whether we are waiting for the electricity to come on, or for clean water to drink, or standing in line for a cup of soup, or to see the doctor; whether we are a little white dog sitting at our back door waiting for a chicken bone, or a sick, elderly man waiting for God to take him home, we wait with hope knowing that God hears our cries and is never far away. And we wait because, so often, there is nothing left to do except to wait... and hope... and trust.

"Waiting is endless....I wait because I am powerless to do anything else. I wait because what I most treasure is what is deepest within and protected by silence. Out of the waiting comes patience. Out of accepting my powerlessness comes strength and love and the courage to dare" - Christin Lore Weber

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Hunger Feast!

A Reminder: The majority of the people in the world go to bed hungry!
Every Monday night we have Community Prayer that is facilitated by one of the members of our community. Last week Erica was in charge of the prayer. She had been impacted by the poor nutrition of the children in the school and felt that we all needed to be reminded of how blest we are to have all the food we need....and more. We have 3 meals a day here--with plenty of snacks. We can afford to go down to the store and get Diet Coke and beer. We have plenty of food for all of us with left overs for lunch. While we sometimes feel we are "suffering" because we only get meat once a week, or we are eating the same vegetables every night, we have way more than the people we are walking with here.

The people of the Batey are lucky to get 1 meal a day, which usually consists of beans and rice, cooked in water from the river. The children of the school receive one meal of milk, bread and a vitamin. They cook on fires made in a stone pit.

Yesterday, my heart raced as I watched an unattended baby of about one year old, with no clothes on, stirring a pot of boiling food on the ground with a large knife. The image haunts me still.
Back to Monday night prayer! Erica decided it was time for a " Hunger Feast". For our friends at St. Lukes, you know this as a Third World Dinner. In the real world, about 3% is First World, 20% is Second World and the rest is Third World. For our dinner that night every one picked a "ticket" out of a hat.

One person picked a First World ticket-Greg was the lucky one. He got a steak dinner with wine and dessert.

Two people got the Second World Ticket--Kathleen and Catie. They got to eat beans and rice.

The rest of us were Third World-we got rice and water. I have done this exercise so many times before....except this time, I didn't get to eat all I wanted when the dinner was done (Greg did share a drink of wine, a bite of steak and I got a piece of apple cake). I was hungry when I went to bed that night.

I couldn't help but think of the children coming to school with growling bellies and wondering how they can possible learn!
One thing we can all do is sit with our next hunger pang for awhile and thank God for our blessings ... and say a prayer for those who live with hunger for most of their lives.

A view from our morning walk to the Batey

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lesson 1: Gratitude for Blessings in Life

We arrived here in Los Alcarrizos, our new home for the year, on Friday, September 7, 2007. Here we are with our fellow volunteers, Catie and Erica, with all our luggage on the front "galleria" of our house.

We were overjoyed to the double bed in our room. Originally, our room had 2 single cots in it and we were not sure how our backs would survive. The bed pretty much takes up the whole room and we cannot both be moving thru the room at once! The bed is very comfortable and we are sleeping pretty well here. The white curtain behind the bed is the mosquito net that fits securely around the bed. The mosquitoes tend to bite more in the morning and at dusk. There is an epidemic of Denge Fever right now and it is contracted from the day-biting mosquitoes. Mosquito repellent is applied several times a day.

Our bathroom is small, as you can see from the picture. The large white container seen in the shower is to collect water. We don't have running water here. The water gets turned on in our town several times a week. We listen for the sound of gurgling in the pipes and the holler of "Agua!" on the streets and we know the water has come on. There is a frantic scrambling in the house as we all grab a hose and fill up the water drums. All the water containers must be kept covered to keep the mosquitoes from breeding. We then scoop out the water with pitchers to use for bathing, washing dishes, scrubbing floors, flushing toilets, washing clothes. We never imagined we'd be grateful for a pitcher of cold water to pour over us at the end of the day! We cannot safely drink the water that comes from the pipes, so we have large bottles of water all over the house to use for drinking, brushing teeth, cooking, etc. The drinking water is purchased from water trucks that come through the neighborhood daily to fill the bottles.

Give thanks for electricity that flows endlessly through our homes in the US. The electricity here comes and goes...mostly goes. The pattern of this past week was that it was usually on from about midnight until 8 AM and off most of the day. The neighbors tell us that the electric company is punishing the people for not paying their electric bills! We cannot keep food in the freezer and we go to the local market, a "colmado" daily to get the food to fix for dinner. We miss the fans desperately when the electricity is off. And we often "shower" by oil lamp. We are telling ourselves that we are on a year-long camping trip. HA!HA!

There is much about life here that is difficult to get used to. The constant noise is overwhelming right now the neighborhood children are sitting outside our door yelling and talking. There is constant music, babies crying, dogs barking, roosters sounds like there is a constant party going on right outside the window. Of course there is no glass here to muffle the sound.

Our rooftop terrace is often our refuge and allows us to "rise above" the noise and clamor and find a bit of peace.


We have become aware of how much we had back home. So much of our life that we took for granted gifted us with time to enjoy life. We now spend that time in activities of basic survival. We will never again take a hot shower without a smile on our face. We will give thanks when we sit in a room with an air conditioner on a blazing hot day. When we open the refrigerator and it is filled with ice and cold drinks, we will be grateful. When we lay our head down at the end of the day and there is silence, we will say a prayer of thanksgiving. A recent meal of chicken (meat!) and baked potatoes and roasted carrots felt like a celebration and I couldn't stop talking about how wonderful it was!

We are grateful for new friends who smile graciously at our fractured Spanish, for fresh mangoes and pineapple, for our housemates who are so patient with us as we learn to make a new life here. And we are grateful to you, our friends and supporters praying us through this year.
As hard as it is, our life is so much better than the people we have come to serve in the Batey. They have had no water for 8 days and they walk a mile to the river and collect buckets of filthy water to live on. They are lucky to have one meal a day. They have no clothes to wash or toilets to flush. They cannot escape to the city for burger or pizza. They have no family and friends in another country praying for them.

Or do they? It is our job to let them know that there are people across the water who care about them and are praying for them every day. Keep on is a gift to them and we will help deliver it.

Stay tuned for more lessons learned from our Home Sweet Home in Los Alcarrizos, DR!

Love and prayers, Cindy and Greg

Sunday, August 12, 2007

How This All Began

Welcome to the story of our Adventure!

We are just your average, middle aged couple in Charlotte NC. We have a great life here. Our daughter, Melissa graduated from college a year ago and is living and working independantly as a nurse. She went with us to the Dominican Republic in February 2007 (see picture below)

We had a wonderful cottage in Plaza Midwood neighborhood, where we had dreamed of living for many years. Cindy is a school nurse and Greg works in the IT department in the Public Library system. We have been taking week-long mission trips to the Dominican Republic for 2 years, building latrines and working with the people living in a Haitian community called a Batey.

Last February, we felt a nudge to come down for a year and try to do a blitz on latrine building. The nudge became a conversation with the Sisters working there, which turned into an application to spend a year as a volunteer, which became a committment to a year in the Dominican Republic.

We are working with the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus through their Lay Volunteer organization called Response-Ability. We aren't exactly sure what we will be doing, but we envision that Greg will be working to build latrines and Cindy will be working in the small clinic in the Batey. Stay tuned to see how our job descriptions evolve!!

We have sold our home, put our "stuff" in storage and are living with our wonderful friends (aka family!) Madge and Steve Daly. (See the Dalys below)

Our last days of work are coming up at the end of August. We have spent 2.5 weeks in training with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in New York and with the Response-Ability group in Philadelphia. Our flight for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic leaves on September 7.

Our church family, St. Luke Catholic Church, in Mint Hill, NC is supporting us in this journey. We are so grateful to them and all our friends and family for all their love, prayers and financial support of the projects in the Batey.

This blog site will serve as a journal documentation of the upcoming year. We have no idea what this year will bring, but we hope to keep you all on the journey with us through pictures and stories.

Welcome to Greg and Cindy's Most Excellent Adventure!!!