After another scrumptious breakfast buffet, our Compassion group had morning devotions, some information about the day ahead and we climbed on our bus, ably driven by Pablo.
It was about a 3/4 hour drive to today’s Compassion centre, a church and centre literally in the middle of nowhere. But what a church and what a welcome. This was a lovely church along the lines of most that I’ve seen in this area of the world but with a lovely tile floor and platform with beautiful curtains hanging behind. Once again, we were welcomed by smiling children, music, and this time a brief play about King David. We served the children snack and then brought some games, bubbles, colouring pages, skipping ropes and soccer balls from the bus and everyone had a great time!
The pastors at this church had a vision for the community and with the help of Compassion have implemented many programmes beyond the survival programme, child sponsorship programme and the youth programme. Besides the school which is next door to the church, the church also owns the next building which is a vocation training centre, a bakery/pastry kitchen and store and a water bottling plant. They gave us a tour.
They train people in skills such as baking, hire them to work in the kitchen or store, and sell the bread and water for less than they would have to pay for water alone in other places. They provide work for some of the moms in the kitchen of the school preparing lunches/snacks and provide bread on contract to the government to schools in the area. Some of the locals buy the bread and go out into surrounding communities and sell it, so it provides income for them, too. The money the church makes from the bread and water goes back into their programmes and makes a better life for more and more members of the community. This should be a model for other churches around the country.
After a lovely lunch, we split up into small groups again to visit homes and take a box of non-perishables to families who have a child in the Compassion sponsorship programme. We were lucky because it was a short walk to the family we were visiting and it started to rain. We received a very warm welcome from a mother who works at the school and centre making lunches. She has two boys, one 5 and one 13 months. She said she was very lucky to work there because she can take the children with her. The rain was very loud on the corrugated metal roof but it was solid and non of the rain came in. Her older boy told us he wants to be a professional baseball player when he grows up and that he’s a good hitter.
Maria is one of the lucky ones. Her sister owns her house and lets her live there so she doesn’t have to worry about rent. Also, she has a good stone floor. It is her prayer that he boys will be healthy and will stay on the right path, loving Jesus, and that she will be able to be strong enough to keep providing for them and also stay on that path. We’re shared pictures on our phones of our family members and she asked us each what we did back home in Canada. We also showed her pictures of snow and my beautiful balcony view of sunsets.
After our visit with Maria and Matteo, we returned to the centre where we prayed with the Compassion team there and presented them with bags of toys, clothing, and toiletries. They were so happy with our gifts but also so grateful to us when he realized we were all sponsors of Compassion children.
We had some extra time before our daily debriefing so were able to get some rest after our series of long days. One of our team was ill today and others are finally over jet lag but everyone is full of amazement at the joy we see in the faces of these loving people who live in extreme circumstances and the hope they have in their own futures thanks to the help they get from the church and Compassion, DR. They are grateful for so much even though they have so little.
Our dinner tonight was at a waterfront restaurant in Santo Domingo, about an hour’s drive from our hotel. We got back late and headed straight to our rooms as we have another full day tomorrow. Here, finally, are some pictures of the sorting of the gifts we’ve been taking to different centres we’ve visiting. These were taken by another team member and show the huge amount of necessities, toys, and sporting goods that 31 team members brought with them from Canada.
Cheers from the Dominican!