by Dan Jones
I have just returned from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and it was glorious.
I and my team members helped construct a platform for the front of the church, we painted some metal steps at the side and the front of the church, we brought them shoes and dresses and blankets for children, we brought them 40 pounds of extension cords and a case of Spanish Bibles, and we attended a three-hour church service where the praise and worship blazed and smoldered and thundered like the top of Mt Sinai in the book of Exodus.
We put on puppet shows, taught the church members how to use the puppets, and gave them puppets. We had a team member who gave them free violin lessons.
We did various craft projects with children and youth, including something called "The Wordless Book" which is simply squares of felt colored black, red, white, gold, and green.
We explained that the gold square represents the streets of gold in heaven where we were meant to live. The black square represents sin, when darkness and death came into the world. The red square represents the blood of Jesus, which cleanses us from sin. The white square represents the purity of that cleanliness, and the green square reminds us that we should continue to grow in Christ.
And through it all, we enjoyed this wonderful, glorious, holy relationship with our Dominican hosts. I truly felt like we were brothers and sisters (hermanos) in Christ.
One day, a brother from the church shared a delicious cold beverage he had made himself from local sugar cane and natural ingredients. It tasted a little like ginger ale and was very refreshing.
There was always a helping hand no matter what we did, always joy, always laughter, always love.
And this love and atmosphere of family was never more apparent than at meal times.
Dominican food is delicious and our hostess (the pastor's wife) and her crew of cocineros are fabulous cooks. There was fresh fruit at every meal, delicious juices made fresh from that fruit, hearty and healthy dishes, a few things to keep us from getting too homesick (pizza and donuts) and traditional Dominican dishes that rely on excellent flavor rather than an abundance of spice.
Perhaps my favorite of the traditional dishes was Moro de Guandules, which is rice with an unusual bean.
The English name for guandules is "pigeon pea" and they are grown throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America in tropical and sub-tropical regions. They have a delicious, rich flavor and have been found to have an excellent, life-sustaining balance of proteins and nutrients. The plants themselves fix nitrogen and actually enhance the soil where they are grown.
Although popular over much of the world, Dominicans are especially fond of guandules and consider them a gift from God.
One day, after yet another excellent meal which included guandules, we went to a neighborhood that just a few years ago had the reputation as the most dangerous barrio in all of the Dominican Republic. We met in a church where light shone through holes in the tin roof and the Holy Spirit was still at work poking holes in the darkness of the drug culture and saving souls nobody thought could or would be saved.
We walked through that neighborhood praying for the people there with the Pastor and some elders leading the way and six Dominican ladies (none of whom were over five feet tall) covering our backs like F-14 fighter pilots with Bibles.
As we rounded a corner, we found ourselves in the presence of some of the local drug lords. The man leading us through that neighborhood had been one of them before Jesus saved him and changed his life.
And the drug dealers recognized him and asked us to pray for them.
So we did.
And as I pondered all that was taking place around us, one of the Spanish words that I managed to learn kept coming to mind:
The word translates as "almighty" in English, but I think the Spanish version packs a little more "punch" as it makes me think "totally powerful."
And He is totally powerful in everything.
His love rescues drug lords from sin and darkness and certain death. His love unites and binds into family people from two different cultures thousands of miles apart. His love brings joy and love and fellowship among people who do not even share a common language. His love joins His people in praise and worship as they proclaim His glory.
And I even found His love proclaimed in the humble pigeon pea. For, you see, one of the brothers of the church had planted guandules right beside the church. And, as I was taking a break from painting the steps on that church as black as they make black paint, I noticed that when the flower of the pigeon pea first emerges from the plant it is as deep a red as the blood of Christ, but as the white light of the sun shines upon it, that flower opens to a glorious, heavenly gold.
And from that golden flower comes a green and growing fruit that brings life in abundance.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. Ephesians 1:19-23 (NLT)