Saturday, December 15, 2012


For all those who ...
Traveled to the DR to share in the lives of their Christian brothers and sisters. . .Prayed for us and our ministry in the DR . . . provided the financial support we needed during our 16 years of mission service. . . for our family who supported us and made it easier for us to be away from them . . . for the street people and those living in poverty who taught us how to find joy and peace in all circumstances.  AMEN.

Celebraton of our Ministry in the DR
     This entry should have been shared with you, three months ago, but we simply did not know how to describe our lives since our decision to leave the mission field.  Being with our family and old friends has brought us great and lasting joy.  However, Ellen and I miss our Dominican friends and our Epiphany church family.  Spiritually, we are not the same people who left Nebraska 17 years ago, because of them.
 Ellen and I arrived in the Dominican Republic on December 7, 1995.  The airport in Santo Domingo at that time reminded me of the one in the movie Casablanca.  We arrived with seven large boxes of things we really didn't need.  Our always faithful friend and God's servant Bob Stevens was there to meet us.  When we left the mission field  we had to hire a shipping company to carry our 53 boxes of "mementos" and four pieces of furniture to Lincoln, Nebraska.  The airport Las Americas is now as modern as most in the United States.
      We said good-bye to the DR at the end of June.  Before we left the Bishop and the people of Epiphany organized an incredible good-bye celebration of our ministry.  There are so very many Christians in the Dominican Church who have given their entire lives in service to the people of this remarkable Caribbean paradise that we were humbled by the tributes paid to us.  We felt the same way when Fr. Ed Miller and the people of John's, McLean, Virginia named a vocational school building after us.  St. James raised all the funds for this special ministry.  The love we felt on both occasions made leaving all the more difficult.  Even now we can feel the love which was showered upon us by our Lord and the people who have been such an important part of our lives.  Thank you .... Gracias...Thank You.
     Ellen and I heard a strong call to leave our jobs and family in Nebraska to enter  the mission field.  So, we knew that when our work was done in the DR, we would hear an equally strong call to return to Nebraska.  In Spring 2011 we both separately heard a call to return, because the work we had been called to do was completed.  It wasn't an easy call to accept.  In many ways it was more difficult than our original call to go to the DR.   
     In November of 2011 we began looking for a place to live in Lincoln, Nebraska.  In early December 2011 we found a townhouse which suited us, or so we thought.  We made an offer which was accepted.  A down payment was made, and we waited for loan approval.  We had no bills, so we thought the process would go smoothly.  Because we had no bills and lived in a foreign country for 16 years, we also did not have a credit rating.  By the end of December we still did not have loan approval. We decided to withdraw our loan request, because we were returning to the DR.   Though we were extremely disappointed, our faith told us there was a reason. 
     In July of this year, less than two weeks after our return, our real estate lady called and said that she had found a townhouse which would meet our every need.  When Ellen and I walked in the front door, and before we had looked around, we both knew it felt like home.  We didn't  need to look at other possibilities.  The Lord indeed had reserved a home just for us.
     Here's the miracle.  An elderly couple had lived in this townhouse.  They had moved out and put the townhouse on the market.  However, they were not satisfied with the place they were living.  As a result they took their townhouse off the market and moved back into their home.  A little before our return, this 90-year-old couple found a comfortable place to live in assisted living, and put the townhouse back on the market at about the same time we were returning.  The home was extremely well taken care of and our townhouse is located in what I would describe as a very small park.  Indeed, it was another way for our Lord to tell us that we had made the right decision in returning to Nebraska.
Bishop Barker presents us with Bishop's Cross
     Even so, it has not been an easy adjustment.  In comparison to the DR, everyday here lacks adventure.  In fact we have to make our own excitement.  Here is what we have missed the most: 
  • Bishop Holguin and our office and diocesan family.
  • Lively music, clapping, and passing the peace for a minimum of 5 minutes.
  • Our street people friends who taught us what thankfulness really is.
  • Dona Grace, who served as our spiritual rudder.  She died on the day of our good-bye celebration which served as another sign that it was time to move on.  Her funeral service was my last service in the DR.  Though I mourned her death, I gave thanks to the Lord for giving me this opportunity.
  • Knowing that in serving and assisting the poor, I was truly living out my diaconal ministry.
  • Believe it or not, going to the airport to meet teams and sensing their excitement as they begin a spiritual adventure which will change their lives forever.
  • Visiting one of our schools and knowing that the church is working in young people's lives to change their country through education.
  • Our Saturday morning English bible-study where we mixed coffee and incredible bakery goods, with lectionary bible discussions.  Many of my sermons came out of these discussions.
  • Giving diocesan tours to those who are considering the DR as a foreign mission destination.
  • Knowing that we were members of a team which has made the DR one of the fastest growing dioceses in the Episcopal Church.
  • Being involved in simple ways in the lives of our clergy.  I miss those discussions with them, as we shared our ministries, our hopes and desires.
  • Those living in the DR won't believe this.  I miss the challenge of driving in a country where traffic lights aren't always functioning and the only rule of the road is lookout for the other guy.  Oh, I also miss playing chicken.
  • I miss the sense of adventure that I felt everyday when I got out of bed.
  • I also miss leaving our apartment in a short-sleeve shirt 364 days of the year.  I know there are 365 days, but there is usually one day a year where I might need a sweater.  I think we are the only couple that has retired and moved from the Caribbean, back to a cold climate.
  • I miss the DR's outdoor society where people actually know and care about their neighbors. 
  • Frankly, we miss the Dominican people.  They are incredible in their friendliness, love, spirituality, and generosity.  Sure, there are those who would steal your front teeth, if they could.  But those who generally care make up for those who don't.
     Well friends, our adventure in faith in the DR has ended, but another adventure begins as we begin to adjust once again into this land of plenty.  Come back to this blog in a few weeks and see how this new adventure is unfolding.

     May God Bless you, as he blessed us by your prayers and supports.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What the Mission Field Has Taught Us

As Ellen and I look back over the last 16 years, we have gained a special appreciation for life.  Neither one of us ever expected to live in a culture different from our own, much less a foreign country.  We are not the same people who arrived in the Dominican Republic on December 7, 1995.  This country and our Dominican and Haitian friends have taught us many lessons – some good and some bad.  But it has been a learning-experience from the first day until now.

Bob – Like most missionaries we arrived in this country with some crazy ideas on what we wanted to do.  The first lesson we learned was that mission isn´t about what you would like to do.  Mission is about what those you came to serve would want you to do.  This is by far the most important of all our lessons, but here are some others –
  • LISTEN TO Dominicans – They know their country, they know their culture, they know signs of danger.  If they say don´t do xxxx, don´t do it. Too many visitors coming here, think they know more than their Dominican hosts.
  • My good friend and diocesan van driver observed that the poorer the barrio, the richer the spirituality of the people who attend our barrio church.  He´s right.  You want to see the richness of Christ´s love, visit a church in an area of poverty.
  • The Spanish word for STOP in Spanish is PARE.  A friend from Nebraska said this actually meant Proceed Aggressively Risking Everything.  I remember this every time I come to an intersection and I am convinced I have had fewer accidents, as a result.
  • The meeting will start at 9 a.m. really means it will start at about 10 a.m. (Dominican Time).  When Dominicans want to start a meeting on time, they will say 10 a.m. American Time. 
  • While we are on the subject – Dominicans place more emphasis on personal relationships than on time.  Even if a Dominican has an appointment, he or she will not look at their watch.  They will give you the courtesy of listening to what you want to say.  At first, we were frustrated by late starting or late arriving visitors.  But we soon learned that to live comfortably here, you must learn to be patient. 
  • This is a go with the flow culture.  Stay calm and patient even in difficult situations where you have no control.  I have served in two weddings where the bride was over an hour late.  I helped plan a funeral service that was moved to another city, even though it was advertised in a daily newspaper for Epiphany Church.  The immediate family didn´t inform us or many of their own family members of the change.  When the body and the family didn´t arrive at the church, we called our contact number only to learn the funeral was in progress in a nearby town.  What do you tell family and friends who have been waiting for over an hour. 
  • Dominicans place great value on personal relationships.  When they enter a room they will in most cases greet each person individually.  We quickly learned we need to do likewise.
  • This carries over to passing the peace on Sundays.  It is important to greet as many people as you can.  This great event of Christian-caring can last 10 minutes, and on rare occasions even more.
  • Prayer heals people, solves problems, and brings peace to a troubled soul.  I knew this in the head.  My mission experiences transferred it to my heart.
  • Street people know how to survive.  Most will ask you for money, because their needs are great.  However, what they often need most is someone who cares about them and will listen to what they have to say.
  • If you have trouble trusting people, you will have trouble helping the poor.  You need to trust people, even if they steal your watch.  A fact – In 16 years, 8 car batteries, five side-mirrors, and one tire off the back of my jeep have been stolen.  Our apartment has been broken into.  Ellen was assaulted on the way to church.   Even so, we trust Dominicans but are as wise as a serpent in doing so, around people we do not know.  If we didn´t trust them, we might as well leave the country, because we could not be effective ministers of the gospel.
  • If you are afraid to hug a men and women who are not related to you, do not come to the Dominican Republic.
  • We will never be able to totally understand the poor, because we have never lived in poverty.  But by being ourselves, those in poverty will accept us as one of their own.
  • Build it and they will come concept really works.  If the diocese wants to build a new church or school, the Bishop will with faith and prayer commit diocesan funds to put in a foundation.  Three or four years later, the diocese will dedicate the completion of a school or church.
  • I have prayed many times that I never, ever get use to seeing poverty.  It is so easy to get a hardened heart when everyday you are surrounded by families living on the edge. When you don´t get emotional in seeing the many signs of poverty, it is time to leave the mission field.
Ellen – I realize that my thoughts will be slanted because most of my experiences have been with the church and church people.  As I reflect about this, I realize that most people that I have had contact with have been very warm and friendly.  The scripture readings lately have been about love and the love of God.  I wonder if a person that loves God so much reflects that love back to others that they meet.

It is hard for me to pick one thing I have learned because they are all inter-related.

I think I have learned to always turn to God the Father when something goes wrong or when I have a problem.  If a I turn to Him and ask Him for help, He never fails to help me out.  I remember once when we were getting low on funds and our mission agency was ready to pull us out of the field.  Bob and I prayed about this.  In a couple of days, we received a check large enough to keep us in the field for at least three additional months.  We were so relieved. 

I also remember another time when a difficulty came up and I prayed about it.  The next day the problem had been resolved.  Sometimes the problems were resolved in a way I didn't expect.  This in turn taught me to trust in the Lord.  He is always faithful if we turn things over to Him. 
Another very precious thing I have learned was how to share in a very different way.   Somewhere I learned to share with an open heart, not worrying about what I might need, but to consider what another person needs were at that moment.  I am more concerned about the needs of other, especially those that have a lot less.

My perspective of skin color awareness has definitely changed.  After living in a country where I am in the minority, I am much more aware of how this feels.  I stick out like a sore thumb with my lighter skin and blonde hair and blue eyes.  One time when we were visiting a sugar cane village, a three-year-old ran to her father when she saw me coming, and was definitely afraid.  

At first I felt that I would never fit in.  I am now more be empathetic to those who are of different color or who speak a different language.  My experience with the Dominican people is that they are very kind to a person who is struggling to speak Spanish.  They are very tolerant of errors.  However, they do think all North Americans are rich.  They will try to charge you higher prices for things.  But I have learned to use humor to change that around.  I say,"  That is the North American price, now, what is the Dominican price."  Then I laugh.  Then everyone knows I am wise to their game.
I have also learned to relate to the poor and the street people.  I used to be fearful of street people, but because we have so many come to the church where we are assigned, I have come to look at them in a different light.  I believe God showed me that they are His children also.  I have learned that a hug or a touch can mean so much to them.  No longer am I fearful of them.  In fact, I want to look into their eyes and understand them.  I have a true love for them that only God can give.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

People who Influenced Our Ministry

Fr. Bruno and Family

ELLEN - Somehow I can't think of just Fr. Bruno.  I think of them as a family.  They are so special to Bob and I that it is hard to describe them to you.

We met Fr. Bruno when we returned from a furlough in 2000.  At the start of his ministry at Epiphany, he had moved into the rectory without his family.  A month or so later his whole family came from Haiti.  His wife, Maryse, his daughters, Dominique, Ann, Sarah and the youngest Cristal, came together.  Another daughter, Rachel, was finishing up her degree to become a doctor in Haiti. 

As our friendship grew, we got to know each one of them individually.  Since they had all daughters, and we had all daughters, I had a special bond with Maryse and the girls.  Each member of the family had unique personalities and special gifts.

We got to know Fr. Bruno first, because he was without his family.  Bob was his deacon for nine years.  Fr. Bruno is tall and thin and has grey hair and a grey beard.  He looked like a tall thin Santa Claus.  He had a wonderful laugh and I still love to hear him laugh.  He is a man of great faith.  I learned that I could talk to him about anything.  Since he spoke good English, it was easier to share with him.  We immediately bonded.

We grew to trust each other.  We started bible studies and prayers groups almost immediately after he arrived.  We had dinners and lunches together.  We found out he was a man after Bob's own heart.  He likes Taco Bell.  

We girls started praying for each other.  I especially had a strong bond with the youngest daughter, Cristal.  She became like a daughter to me.  To this day, she still comes to me for advice and prayers.  

Although, the Bruno family is often at their ministry in Haiti and the girls have a life of their own, we still keep in touch and when we are together, it is like we have never been apart.  Our affection for Father Bruno and his family is so special and precious.  I feel very blessed to have had them in our lives.  We thank God for this family. 

BOB  – Fr. Jean Monique Bruno came into my life as we began our fifth year of ministry in the Dominican Republic.  We would serve as pastors at Epiphany Church for nine wonderful, but sometimes difficult years.  Father Bruno was more than my friend and companion in ministry. We developed a deep and truly loving family relationship.

Fr. Bruno and I grew up in two very different cultures.  He grew up in a family where each day was a challenge.  For this reason, he understands poverty and the struggles it brings.  I grew up in a lower middle class American family.  I had food on the table each day and school was just something I had to do.

Fr. Bruno spoke four languages nearly perfectly, and I was struggling to learn Spanish, my second language.  He understood prejudice as both a Haitian and a black man.  I lived in Nebraska where there was a very small minority population.  I did not become friends with an African American until I was at the University of Nebraska.  Even in the DR where I am definitely a part of the minority population, I did not feel prejudice.  Well there is one exception.  The prices of nearly everything increased when vendors saw me coming.  Even with these significant cultural differences, we connected on the spiritual level.

Father Bruno and his family are perhaps among the most committed Christians I have ever met.  His five daughters are committed to especially helping their Haitian brothers and sisters, and this was intensified after the earthquake.  Through a foundation they formed, they have a school of over 700 children.  They feed these students every day.  The ministry also includes a clinic and community out reach projects.

In our mission life, we have been blessed with many loving friends.   Yet, the Bruno´s are more than loving friends.  Our DNA comes from two very different culture backgrounds.  But the true blood of life comes from the Holy Spirit.  Here we are the same, and we have a very special bond that can never be broken.
Episcopal Church Women and Cursillo

Ellen - In addition to Vivencia and Hijas Del Rey. the groups  that have been an inspiration to me are the Episcopal Church Women and Cursillo.  The Episcopal Church Women have been the spine of church activity.  It is like it used to be in the States.  When Episcopal Church women have conventions in the DR, over 200 women from all over the diocese attend.  Because many members are poor, this is a financial sacrifice for many.  These women continually have projects to help the needy and the church.  The force that moves these women is the love of God and it shows.  Cursillo, is alive and well here.  The leaders of Cursillo are the leaders in the churches across the diocese.  They give of themselves unselfishly all the time.  They are an inspiration.  When we first arrived, the first group to reach out to us was Cursillo.  They enveloped me in their activities.  As I became more active with my own ministry, I had to pull away from them.  They made me strong enough to go out and do things that I didn’t feel I could do.  They helped when they could to establish my ministry.  I will always be grateful for loving support.  

Esthervina Gonzalez

Estervina is in the pink
ELLEN  – When I speak of Cursillo, there is one person who pops into my mind immediately.  It is Esthervina.  When we first arrived here, she was the first person to grab my arm and lead me into a Cursillo meeting.  My Spanish was terrible.  She had enough gumption for two of us.  She pushed when I felt inadequate and she encouraged and pushed some more.  She is always ready to help when the need arises.  She is always willing to serve.  She never runs out of steam.  She has some health problems, but that never stops her from helping.  She always says I love you and never stops.  What a woman and an inspiration to me. 

BOB -  Louis, her husband, and Esthervina are members of Epiphany Church.  Louis is laid back and easy going.  Esthervina is a driver.  You want something done, go to Esthervina.  Want an honest and forceful opinion, go to Esthervina.  Want someone who will help you on just about any matter, go to Esthervina.  Want someone to care, go to Esthervina.

    Every church needs to have someone like Esthervina.  I was sitting with her at our diocesan convention when the Bishop named Epiphany as the diocesan Cathedral.  I am so glad I was because this is something we both desired.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and we found ourselves hooting, hollering, and jumping for joy.   Estervina is a doer and a shaker, and I am so blessed to have her at Epiphany Cathedral.


Bob – ¨Did anyone ever care about him, or love him.¨ This was the first thought I had when I first met Manuelito.   There are many people in Santo Domingo who call the streets near Epiphany, their home.  However, Manuelito is unique among all the street people, I have met.
Gasque, where Epiphany and our apartment are located, is an old middle class area.  This part of Santo Domingo combines some of the better tourist hotels with tall apartment buildings, several hospitals, and clinics, discos, and the street businesses that the tourist trade often attracts.  Manuelito strolls through Gasque, as if he were truly the owner of everything he surveys.  Most people live on the street out of necessity, but Manuelito acts as if this is the life he prefers.

Manuel is normally barefoot, has no front teeth, and those teeth he does have are decaying.  His cloths in most instances are dirty, his beard is scraggly and his hair even scragglier.  In a word he is scary.  In my opinion he probably suffers from a mental disorder.
When he first came to Epiphany, he was disruptive during our coffee time.  Some church members were so concerned that they wanted to bar him from entering our church garden.  For a time period, we actually did have two policemen monitoring the situation.

As deacon I saw it as my responsibility to work with street people coming to the church.  In the beginning his responses to me were angry.  But over time, Manuel mellowed.  Honestly, at times I was fearful myself, because I could not predict his reactions.  When he periodically had violent outbursts I learned how to calm him down.  Over time, these outbursts became fewer.
Everyone knows Manuel, especially other street people and the police.  I have seen him dig food out of the garbage, and I have also seen him share food and clothing with other street people who he judges are needier.  There are times when he will disappear from the area for a long period.  He always honestly tells me where he has been.  Sometimes he has been in jail and other times he has been ¨traveling¨.

For me, Manuel is a good friend, even though I know his attitude can change very quickly.  He has a street wisdom that is absolutely remarkable.  He expresses himself openly and on occasion in a way that embarrasses me and other people.  I am sure Manuel did not experience positive love when he was growing up in San Pedro, and I judge he has been living on the streets since his teens.  You and I could probably not survive in the conditions in which he lives.  But for Manuel all of Gasque and beyond is his house and home.  I make it a point to always touch Manuel in some way when we meet.  I imagine few people do likewise.  But I believe touch sends a message of care and concern.

Through concern and love, Manuel has come to see Epiphany as a church with people who care.  I often see people sigh deeply when he enters the garden.  Some even move away from him.  But Manuel talks freely about his life on the streets, and I have learned how to reach out to those whose life is difficult to comprehend. Through him I have learned how to touch those who call the street their homes.  I cherish my friendship with Manuel, and I am confident I will never have another friend like him.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Influential People in Our Missionary Life

Father Sandino Sanchez 

ELLEN - One of the first priests that I worked with on mission team plans was Fr. Sandino Sanchez.  He is a small man with a very stern but kind face.  He speaks very slowly.  I was not sure if that was because my Spanish was so bad at first or if his profession as a teacher made him speak with authority.  I soon learned that his faith is very strong.
Fr. Sandino Sanchez
     This is one of those times when words cannot express how deeply I feel for this man and how much respect I have for him.  He speaks very little, but when he does speak, people listen.  His depth of faith and strength is so profound; you can feel it and see it in his face.  He is a good friend and a spiritual confidant.
  He never ceases to come see me when I am struggling spiritually.  He always has a bible verse or bible story to guide me when I am struggling.  He has been  a good friend all the years that we have been here.  If I need someone to discuss a difficult issue with, he is the person I turn to.  My husband is always my confidant, but Fr. Sandino has been a confidant for both of us.  It goes both ways.  He has shared with us some really difficult things with us too.  Because of that confidence, we have grown very close to him and his family.  Even as I write this, I feel a tug on my heart for this special, special man.  

BOB - The Dominican Church has many excellent and dedicated clergy.  But Ellen and I grew up as missionaries at nearly the same time as Fr. Sandino grew up as a priest in this diocese.  When our daughter led a team to the DR, they decided to help complete the church in Santa Maria Virgen in Montellano where Sandino was the priest.  Earlier his ordination to the priesthood was the first we attended in the DR.  When Sandino was invited to preach at my daughter´s church in Dallas, we were invited to come with them.  It was Isabelle´s first trip to the USA and it was a joy to see her experience the USA for the first time.  The trip to the USA cemented our relationship.
     Father Sandino is an exceptional man and priest.  His wisdom is far beyond what I have experienced with other people.  There is little doubt that his wisdom is spiritually connected.  He is a special friend.

Hijas Del Rey or Daughter´s of the King

ELLEN - Before we left the States, I was trying to find a chapter of Daughters of the King.  I was not successful.  When I arrived in the Dominican Republic, I became so busy, that was not one of my priorities.
     Then a small group of women from South Carolina came and offered to do our first three lessons to become Daughters of the King.  We had a large of group of women who started out.  I think we had almost 20.  We continued with the lessons until we finished.  We then asked to be installed.  Those women came back with the National President at that time to install our first chapter. 
     Since then, many chapters have been started.  The driving force behind this organization has been Virginia Norman.  She has been training people to start chapters all over the diocese and has been to almost every installation.  She was a member of our first chapter installed here and she will be training Daughters until she can’t physically do it anymore. 
     The Daughters have been an inspiration to me.  They have challenged me to move and do things that I might not have done without their help and encouragement.  They are a wonderful group of women that get things done.  They think with their hearts.  They try to help in every way they can.  They have done some amazing things. 
They will sacrifice a lot to get to a meeting or to help with a project.  They are my inspiration.
Virginia Norman

ELLEN -When we first arrived in the Diocesan Office, one of the first people who spoke English to us was Virginia Norman.  She was and is the grand dame of the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic.  Virginia is a remarkable person.  She knows the history of the church because she was involved in its history since at least the 1930’s.  She was originally a school teacher in one of our oldest schools.  She has always been active in the Women’s activities.  Bishop Kellogg asked her to work in the diocesan office and she was the first women treasurer.    She has held offices in the National church for decades.  She was on the Church Pension fund for many years and she served on the Executive Council. 
     I have stood beside Virginia and observed her faith and her wisdom for 16 years.  She has been patient with my Spanish and she has always been courteous and kind.   I have great respect for this wonderful lady.  I am not the only one in this diocese who respects her.  Bishop Holguin listens to her.  She is slowing down because of health problems and her age, but she is still as sharp as can be and is still going strong.  She is one special and blessed person.  Anyone who is around her can feel her specialness.

BOB – If Virginia were a baseball player, she would be the BABE RUTH of the Dominican Episcopal Church.  This school teacher from San Pedro de Marcoris has been a tireless servant of the Lord for more years than she will tell me.  However, she taught Bishop Telesforo Isaac, the first resident Bishop of this diocese.
     Virginia is a walking history book.  Ask her about any priest who has served in this diocese, and she can give you their biography.  Asked her to talk about Bishop Kellogg, the first diocesan Bishop, and the revolution which took place shortly after his arrival and she can tell you.  As Ellen indicated she was the ¨first¨ of nearly everything.  The first Dominican to do this, the first woman do that. 
     But this is what makes Virginia special.  She has the respect of many, many bishops, priests, and lay people, because of the Christian love and confidence she exudes. She speaks English, but in our first couple years, not to us, unless she thought we did not know what was being said in meetings or conversations.  She took the time to kindly correct our Spanish.
     Thank you Virginia.  Thank you for what you have done for us, but more importantly what you have done for this church. 

Tatica¨s Family
ELLEN - She has been known by that name ever since she started to work for us.  Like many Dominicans this is a nickname and nicknames change.  At first I had to be convinced to hire her.  She needed a part- time job.  I was a typical North American housewife, wanting to do it all by myself.  One of the other missionary wives explained to me that if I hired her it would free me up to do other ministry and to help a Dominican with a living wage.  So we hired her part time.  That was 16 years ago.  She is now part of our family.  She looks out for us.  She pays our bills.  She stays in our apartment when we are gone.  Her youngest daughter is our God child.  We know all our children by name.  Some of them have come to visit us.  We pray for them when they have problems.  We wouldn’t know what to do without her. 
     She is not only a good friend, but she is an example to me.  She is always kind and humble.  She is a great mother, who talks to her children.  She never speaks in a sharp voice always in a gentle but firm voice.  If Tatica would have had an opportunity to study, she would have been a successful and bright student.  But she has always served her family with dignity and pride.  She is full of wisdom and gentleness.  I know that God has blessed her and us.  She is my hero.

BOB - Everyone needs someone to take care of them and teach them, when they are learning about and adjusting to a new culture.  Our Lord put Tatica into our lives.  She not only took cares of us but she taught us about her culture. Within a short time she became a part of our life and thus a part of our family.
     When she asked us to baptize her children, I knew she saw us as part of her family.  She invited us to her daughter´s quienze anos(or 15th birthday) a special honor for us.   When we arrived we were the only foreigners and the only people with light-colored skin.  They gave us special seats to view the activities.  Ellen and I both felt uncomfortable in being given this special attention.  But, it became apparent that they were showing us their love and acceptance.
     We have a granddaughter named Emily.  When we returned from our fall trip to the USA Tactica had given birth to a daughter.  Ellen and I were surprised when she told us the name of her daughter was Emily.  When I said Emalia, the Spanish name, she corrected me and said Emily.  She has become our granddaughter in every way, but blood.  She has come every Saturday since she was old enough to walk.  We both look forward to seeing her.  Tatica and Emily, two very special people who taught us the Dominican way.  Oh, Tatica is a tremendous Dominican cook.  And both mother and daughter know how to pick out the best fruits and vegetables.

Church Family in Azua

A special moment in Azua
BOB - Azua was a favorite stop on my tours of diocese.  When I scheduled a stop in Azua there were always lots of kids and several adults.  Those with me were always impressed by the friendliness and spirituality of these people.  Most of the people in the congregation were poor in material wealth, but rich in the spirit.     The church was their most valuable possession.  They willing gave what they had to those who they judged had a greater need.  With active evangelism of Fr. Alvaro and his wife Angela, the church grew from less than 20 to over 100 in a year.  They were indeed a family. 
     Others in the community saw what they had and wanted to join in.  In Azua I saw the living gospel.   I learned from them the art of Christian  giving.  A gift of heart and spirit is more valuable than a gift of silver and gold.  If the Episcopal Church wants to grow, they need to study the two Episcopal churches in Azua.  The Azua Church family cannot be described with words   To understand why I have included the Azua Church family, you need to visit there and experience their love.