Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ministering in the Mountains of Constanza

Yesterday we drove up to the town of Tireo (2 1/2 hours from La Vega), bearing 150+ Christmas gifts for children.  We have been blessed to work alongside Pastor Felix Rivera for a number of years. He has a growing ministry in this area.  He had invited us to help in their annual Christmas program. These gifts were sent by a generous church from Wills Valley in Alabama that supports Pastor Felix and his ministry.  He has six After School programs he is developing in nearby communities. This is a program to augment what children are learning in the public schools. The purpose is to help children catch up where they are weak in their studies. He also provides a meal for these children on a daily basis. He has planted one church and is working on another in a community called Villa Hortalizas.

It is truly a beautiful drive.  Each curve on the road of the ascent reveals a beautiful view of the Cibao Valley and the Rincon reservoir. The verdant green of vegetation and ferns covering the mountainsides draws your breath away.  We drive from sea level to an area near Loma La Cigua, which is 8245 feet elevation, then back down to the little town of Tireo.

The Tireo valley is actually at 4100 feet elevation.  This is a rich and fertile agricultural area. 

 Lettuce, strawberries, potatoes, carrots, garlic, onions, celery, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and more are grown here. The fields are planted almost right up to the back doorstep of the houses. 

 For someone like me who didn't grow up on a farm, it's like an agricultural wonderland.  I had to stop and take pictures. I didn't get to mention that one stretch of the trip was through little towns that grow all different varieties of flowers to market in the large cities.  Another stretch of the road was lined with cedars and eucalyptus trees.  

When we arrived, Pastor Felix had a great lunch waiting for us. While the ladies in our group started filling the gift backpacks with toys and clothing, I headed over to pick up the roast pig (45 lbs). It's not really Christmas here without some roast pork. I learned a new meaning for the term "tail gating".   Pastor Felix had a crew working hard packing meals for the event.  I arrived at the house again to unload the pig and then we headed back over to the public school where his children's event was being held.  It was set to launch at 3 PM, but many children had arrived as early as noon to get a good seat.  The children were behaving really well.  Perhaps it helped that three policeman were on hand for crowd control

After an opening prayer, Debbie read and explained the Christmas Story from the Bible. She had a few volunteers that helped her.  Pastor Felix thanked the families and local town leaders for supporting the event. Ramona and her boys (who also accompanied us from La Vega) led out in some choruses accompanied by the children that had gathered. After that, Debbie had the children repeat a simple prayer to invite Christ into their hearts.

 Many parents were on hand which was a great help.  At one point as the children were starting to get excited about the meal, I played a quick game of "Simon Says" that helped get things back on track.  Then we started handing out the meals. 

By this time the children were actually pretty hungry.  I believe many had skipped lunch that day. This was a good meal on hand for them.  I think looking at the photo you'll agree they seemed to enjoy their rice and beans.

 Of course there was one more item they were waiting for and that was the promised gifts.  Over one hundred sixty four received gifts that day.  It was a logistic feat to get the girls lined up at one spot for their gifts, and the boys at another. The children had a great time,  and so did we.   

By 5:30 PM, we headed back down from the mountains.  It can be very dangerous in the evenings on these roads.   Clouds and mist will begin forming as the air cools, and visibility on roads is greatly affected.  We were fortunate to hit only a few minutes of fog on the descent.  Surely, to enjoy and visit some of these remote and beautiful areas is part of the joy of being missionaries in the Dominican Republic.


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