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.