In the Zona

Happy Shrove Tuesday. I don't know about you, but I'm having pancakes for "brinner." It's hard to believe we're almost into Lent, but alas, the winter 2023 iteration of LAC's biannual regional leadership meeting was last week already, so here we are. 

We were supposed to go to Belize, but an overnight in either Santo Domingo or Miami on the way there and back excited exactly no one. Plan B was Santo Domingo. Admittedly it sounded like a bit of letdown, but in the end I wasn't mad about an extended stay in the heart of the Zona Colonial, or old city center, at all (I was a little mad about the lack of hot water in my shower). I've been there a bunch of times, so I enjoyed the chance to meander its now familiar streets during down times, without the pressure to do ALL the things. 

And really, regional meetings aren't about the place. While being offsite does remove the entrapments of everyday life, allowing for that "in the zone" (pun intended) kind of intense concentration and enhanced creativity, the purpose of getting the entire LAC brain trust in one room is to worship together, learn from one another, and ask the hard questions. Big changes are afoot, but grounded in the Word and aligned in our strategic vision, we can be certain that Spreading the Gospel, Planting Lutheran Churches, and Showing Mercy will continue unabated. 

Tirzah, Jamielynn, and I at dinner on Monday, arrival day. 

Day 1 of the meeting was about reflecting on the six months since we were last together, in each of our areas of responsibility. Cheryl (Mercy Center/VDMA), who went last, woke up the room with instruments and a matching game. 

Speaking of "the room," we met in the hotel's attic. I was in a minority that was happy with the temperature most of the time (when I got warm, I knew everyone else was roasting). Heat rises, and the A/C didn't work well until maintenance fixed it with about 4 hrs. to go on the last day. 

The pastors among us took turns officiating opening and closing services. 

Speaking of meandering...I remembered seeing a mobile library as we (I carpooled with 4 others) drove in. A library! It was closed when I went back to investigate, so it's on my "next time" list. 

You don't even have to do anything to be captivated by the Zona Colonial; the allure of color, shadows, new mixed with old, and people watching makes it a living, outdoor museum. 

I was (and still am) nursing a cough, so I wound up at a coffee-shop-cum-gluten-free-café that wound up being my dinner spot, too. 

Buuuuuut it was Valentine's Day, soooooooo...we all screamed for ice cream later.

Another day, I stumbled upon an end-of-day flag lowering ceremony at the Pantheon. 

The meeting continued through Thursday. Day 2 was the mirror image of day 1, minus the instruments: each of us sketched out the next six months for the large group. On day 3, we took a critical look at the org chart, strategic plan, and FY24 budget. I had little to do with the creation of any of the above, but as I internalized what was on the screen, I could see how my work feeds directly into what was there. Our leaders concluded things with some encouraging words about how each of us is uniquely suited for the roles we're in and prayed for by them daily.  

My capitaleña friend Kelsey met up with me Thursday night when she got off work. We did the old married couple thing and shared two entrees at a place one of my colleagues raved about, then tried a new crepe place for dessert with Tirzah. 

Five became two on the way back, so Tirzah and I took it nice and slow, heading out mid-morning and stopping twice, 
  1. at Krispy Kreme (for her nieces and nephews!) and; 
  2. to scout out a potential cultural excursion for volunteers, FORO partners, and other visitors: a 94 yr. old chocolate factory with a state-of-the-art visitors' center and restaurant. I'm already thinking about how many summer short-term team schedules I can work it into. 

Until next time, blessings in Christ!