In the winterim...

I'm still riding a high from the best in-person short-term team I've hosted this year: Concordia Seminary St. Louis (CSL). And they left over a week ago! 

The LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM) has a burgeoning relationship with BOTH seminaries. As workers preparing to be sent out into a multicultural, multilingual harvest, it behooves pastoral and diaconal formation students to understand their place in the global priesthood of all believers. And oh, hey, I know a church body with 100+ missionaries serving in who knows how many countries: it's a match made in heaven. This isn't the first international mission trip CSL has offered, or even the first OIM trip CSL has offered. Two deaconess students came for a week of "mission education" in January 2020 (I went to Puerto Rico and missed them entirely), so you can imagine my joy at seeing FIFTEEN names on the 2023. The team makeup was as follows:
  • Team leader and First Lady, Tori
  • 4 pastoral formation students and their wives
  • 1 deaconess formation student and her husband
  • 4 more pastoral formation students: 2 married but unaccompanied + 2 single
It was important to me that they see our work in Santo Domingo and Santiago, so we divided our week; I'll divide my photos and commentary into two posts along the same lines. 

I ducked out of a baby shower to pick them up at the Santo Domingo airport on a Saturday afternoon. Who cares that some hadn't even gone to bed the night before when you have an hour in the Colonial Zone before dinner?

Me, Joanna (the group's token Spanish speaker and team leader of a team that's coming in June), and Tami. 

I and a few others walked all the way down to the Puerta del Conde intending to visit the Parque de la Independencia. It was closed, but we serendipitously got to see the tail end of a parade in honor of the Virgen de la Altagracia, one of the DR's patron virgins (it was a national holiday in her honor). 

I welcomed the team with Venezuelan food!? I'm not completely off my rocker: between Venezuelan seminary students, Alliance missionaries, FOROs, and immigrants in our church communities, I eat a fair amount of Venezuelan food and love it. This particular place is walkable from my go-to hotel and bends over backwards to accommodate whenever I bring a large group. Exhibit A: when I learned it was Wesley's birthday, a quick WhatsApp message ensured there'd be dulce de leche cheesecake. 

The next morning, we worshiped with the congregation at Iglesia Luterana Pan de Vida (PdV). I left before the team's shuttle bus so I could stop by the neighborhood supermarket to order rotisserie chickens for lunch - a process improvement born out of the previous two occasions on which I've organized a similar potluck. 

I love how familial the PdV congregation is. They welcome me like a long-lost family member every time I'm there, which isn't THAT often. 

The team would get a full-blown presentation on Himnario Luterano later in their week, but Rev. Sergio Maita whet their palates by including them in the PdV congregation's "The Church Sings the Faith" series. 

After a few more hours of Colonial Zone free time (shopping, a newsletter photo shoot, and gelato for me) and a bus ride that took us the looooooooong way, we made it to Iglesia Luterana Amigos de Cristo. Rev. Lucas Elberhardt oriented us as to the church's present status and vision for the future, and then finally a few of the guys who'd been drooling at the chance to do so joined the contingent on the court for an open "gym" basketball scrimmage. I had to be the bad guy and drag them away so Bellamar didn't figure we were a no-show and cancel our dinner reservation.

Debriefing their first full day on the "solarium."

Monday makes a good travel day between cities since everyone and everything in Santiago is quiet. Everyone stopped by my room early to make a sandwich so we could hit the road after breakfast bound for a government-run psycho-social rehab hospital at about the halfway point. The director, Marisol, who's also the director of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Homes group home adjacent to our school/church/seminary property in Palmar Arriba, gave us her spiel, highlighting how drastically things have changed for the better since church involvement began. We stuck around another hour or so to offer enrichment activities that fall outside the residents' normal programming: BINGO, wiffleball, and an impromptu game of catch. 

Team members interspersed themselves with the residents and helped them cover the appropriate numbers, with rocks when the markers ran out.

Even our bus driver, Raudy, got in on the action. Instead of clearing cards after the first BINGO, we played until everyone had won (and the team's giant bag of candy had run out). 

We could have played all afternoon, but knowing what the rest of our day held, I again found myself being the bad guy. Catch ya on the flip side...

Until next time, blessings in Christ!