Wednesday, December 23, 2009
On December 7 Ellen and I began our 15th year of serving our Lord in the Dominican Republic. It doesn’t feel like we have been here than long. However, we remembered that three of our five grandchildren have only known us as missionaries. They are or approaching 15 years old. It has been a remarkable gift that our mission supporters have given us.
We are both at social security retirement age. Yet, we find it difficult to think about leaving the mission field and especially our Dominican friends. We still don’t have a firm timeline. However, we would like to reduce our diocesan office hours in the near future to devote time to developing a street ministry.
Some events in the past year may have been the Lord’s way of telling us it is time to leave. In May we returned to the United States to see our daughter receive her Masters degree and our grandson Lewis graduate from high school. On this trip, I discovered a way to avoid the custom’s line at the Miami airport. As we were hurrying to catch our next flight, I tripped over my own feet and fell in the customs area. I received a deep gash over my right eye. The medical responders told me the airline would not let me board until I was checked medically to determine if my heart or diabetes was the cause of my fall. As a result I received a very expensive ambulance ride with sirens to a University hospital. The cause of the fall was my own awkwardness.
In July I was returning from the Las Americas airport in a rain storm when our SUV hydroplaned. I lost control and hit the concrete barrier separating lanes. Fortunately, I was alone and there were no other vehicles near me. Thanks to the airbags and seat belt my only injuries were a nasty scrap on my arm from the airbag and a very painful back problem. The SUV was considered totaled by the insurance company. A gift from a donor and the insurance money nearly covered the cost of buying another vehicle.
However, 2009 was also full of blessings. Our daughter Robbin and two of our grandchildren spent the holidays with us. In February Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefforts Schori visited the Dominican Republic and we provided her with a short tour and I had the opportunity to serve as deacon of the table in a mass with several thousand people. On different occasions the diocese also hosted the United Thank Offering board, three Bishops from Michigan and the Bishop Eastern North Carolina.
As I approach my 25th year as a vocational deacon, I have considered it a tremendous honor to serve as mentor of our 6 Dominican deacons. Deacon and Sister Priscilla Wright, Sisters of Transfiguration, this year celebrated her 45 year of ordination making her the oldest acting deacon in the North American Association of Deacons. She has devoted most of this time serving as missionary and has been in the DR for many years. She is one of the great treasurers of this diocese and we are so very thankful that the Lord called her to this island.
This year Deacon Alexander Romero and I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of Deacon Formation Coordinators in Mississippi. At that meeting we suggested that NAAD consider sponsoring a Latin American experience for candidates to the deaconate. Because the primary ministry of the deacon is in the world, an understanding of the Latino culture is essential. The future of the Episcopal Church in my view rests with this important segment of the US population. The proposal is being considered very seriously by NAAD.
This is the 13th year of the scholarship program. In the first year of the program we provided 150 students with scholarships in 7 schools. Even though the number of scholarships applicants increased every year, we were able to provide scholarships to ever student until this year. Though 775 students received scholarship assistance in one of our 24 schools, we fell short by 125 students. Those without scholarships were allowed to continue their education, but this caused financial problems for several of our schools. This year we reduced the number of scholarship applicants. Even so we have 812 applicants. If you are interested in supporting a student, let me know.
We thought the economy would have an impact on the number of teams we would host. Though 10 teams did cancel for financial reasons, the diocese still hosted a record 64 groups. We had: 9 medical teams, 22 construction teams 16 vacation Bible School groups, and 10 groups for tours of diocesan projects. This total represents 18 different dioceses.
In 2009 Bishop Holguin set a goal of building 100 homes for those living in poverty. In Azua 21 new home owners received deeds to their new homes. Several more homes are nearly finished and the diocese has nearly completed another 20 homes. Of all diocesan projects, this is one of the most satisfying.
Thanks to the web company Digital Faith, we have spent the last few months developing new web pages in English and Spanish. When the new web pages are completed, they will contain even more information than our old web. We have calendars for diocesan activities, visiting teams, and the pastoral visits of Bishops Holguin and Skilton. There are pages with information on schools, the scholarship program, diocesan history and growth, diocesan institutions and organizations, developing mission teams, and much more. There is also a clergy and church directory. In the future we hope to have individual web pages for every school and church. To check it out go to http//www.espiscopaldominican.org
This year I have also had the great pleasure of sharing the ministry at Epiphany with the Dean of our Seminary with the Rev. Napoleon Brito and the Rev. Dr. Michael Floyd, a professor at the seminary. I now have served as deacon for a longer period in the Dominican Republic, than in the United States.
On our way back to Nebraska for our annual vacation, we spent a week with our mission friends in South Carolina. During our stay, we attended the Dominican Development Group meeting, and I preached at All Saints in Hilton Head and at the cathedral for the Diocese of South Carolina. We also had a restful stay at the beach home of Howard and Joy Hall.
Ellen and I both like to travel by train, so we took Amtrak from Charleston, SC to Lincoln, NE. It was indeed a restful trip with short stops in Washington, DC and Chicago.
As we enter 2010, may God bless you and your family as he has blessed us by your support and prayers.
Posted by Bob and Ellen