New Experiences with Old Friends

Four teams's November. The epic conclusion to my marathon months of STT activity was a team of two from Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Chesterfield, MO: old friends (of each other and of the DRLM) Marty & Kristin. We figured out that Kristin's first trip was in 2011, so both she and Marty have perspectives on the trajectory of the Church's work here, memories of former missionaries and mission locations, and longstanding relationships with missionaries and local members that I can only dream of. 

I loosely stuck to the "Mercy Outreach Team" they signed up for as I crafted their schedule, but in the end I tried to cater our activities to their unique vocational skills as much as possible: Marty is a semi-retired engineer and hobby woodworker, and Kristin is a retired home health physical therapist. 

My list for Marty included some special request sanctuary adornments for Iglesia Luterana Cordero de Dios, a bookcase for each of the five DRLM congregations (in anticipation of Himnario Luterano!), and putting a bow on some group home fix-it projects that a previous team started. I kept Kristin busy with home visits to individuals with disabilities or other physical challenges, assessments of the youth in the HLBP group home, and two health education talks. It may not sound like it, but we were actually together most of the time, with one team member supporting the other when he/she was in the spotlight and then vice versa. 

I do have to pat myself on the back a little bit because I managed to give these veterans some unfamiliar experiences: 

  1. Meeting new faces (a missionary spouse, future Belize missionaries in the DR for on-field orientation, and the 2022-2023 cohort of seminarians) 
  2. My botanical garden! (to be fair, it's only been open for 4 of their 11 years)
  3. Pica pollo (HOW they have gone 11 years without eating the Dominican's beloved take out chicken is BEYOND me)
  4. Taino Valley Park (new to me, too)
  5. Putting Christmas decorations up in October
  6. [Kristin] Teaching in the dark
If those are any indication, it was a fun week, but take a look and see for yourself.


On a scale of 1-10, how obvious is it that Marty has 5 granddaughters?

After a pizza lunch, Kristin and I left Marty at church to get started on the bookcase and went on one last visit.

One down, four to go. The wood is already treated so the bookcases are fine as is, but each church is also free to stain/paint theirs as they see fit. 

L to R: Rev. Yban Navarro, Kristin, Marty, Rev. Demetrio PĂ©rez (seminary field worker). If you're paying attention, yes, the lamb and cross altar appliques are interchangeable. 

I don't think I've ever seen Mona laugh as hard as she did each time she handed Marty a tool or finished pounding in a nail. Her unadulterated delight was a highlight of Marty & Kristin's entire visit for me. 

Step 1 of fixing closet doors that scrape when opened is taking them off the hinges. 

A coat of transparent varnish over the Ocean Breeze will make for much easier kitchen clean-up with soap and water. 

"Fit for Life" family night at Pueblo Nuevo had everybody up and moving.

Or down and moving, in Marty & Andrei's case ;)

Afterwards, everyone enjoyed healthy(ish) snacks and fellowship, and Kristin met with one of the deaconesses one-on-one about a recent ankle injury. 

Bonus project! We had to go to THREE hardware stores to get everything we needed, but Marty built a PVC pipe rack for use at LAC's annual regional conference...and whatever else we dream up between now and August. 

Marty and Kristin had been wondering aloud how Adonis (2nd from L) was doing earlier in the week and were understandably overjoyed when we visited his mom (center) Saturday afternoon and he was there. It was a God thing I couldn't have planned if I'd tried. We later visited his brother. 

Venezuelan cachapas and empanadas with Carlos & Berkis. 

When Carlos brought up a recent wrist injury, Kristin deftly shifted into therapist mode. 

Sunday after church, we visited a Pueblo Nuevo member's adult niece, Yudelkys, suffering from stroke-induced paralysis on one side of her body. More than anything, Kristin empowered her to be more independent. I started writing out some instructions to leave her, and she grabbed the pen from my hand to do it herself!

Monday, we drove about an hour outside the city to a greenhouse turned nature park and got what I think was the VIP tour of Dominican flora. 

Admission includes a bottle of water...and all the in-season produce you can carry. 

The tour ends with a petting zoo (donkeys, goats, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, doves, pheasants, and fish ponds)...

...and a spectacular view. 

We had lunch just down the road apiece at a place our guide recommended. It has one of those tourist trap photo ops...

We showed up at the group home Tuesday morning (October 25) and soon learned the youth had decided they could wait no longer to put up Christmas decorations. It's serious business; I mean, come on, you can't leave turquoise curtains up year-round!

After lunch, we made our way - in a guagua in the drizzling rain - to Iglesia Luterana Amigos de Cristo in Santo Domingo. The power was out, so Marty built a bookcase in the waning daylight...

...and Kristin taught some of the neighborhood athletes a stretching/injury prevention routine in pitch darkness. 

I'll have to be even more creative next time Marty, Kristin, and other Lord of Lifers come - and there will be a next time - but I'm up to the challenge. 

Until next time, blessings in Christ!