The blessing started Saturday when Faelo called me to say that his dad and mom wanted to come to church this Sunday. I had told him last week that I was willing to pick up his dad and take him to church if he wanted to come. Faelo is a multi-talented individual (he just finished the rough-in plumbing on the addition to the Rieles church, and is helping us to hunt for a good deal for a van for the children's program, he has also traveled to Japan to bring in vehicles and parts). He has been coming to the church for three weeks. That makes him a church veteran, since this church started only three months ago. You can read about it in our Fall newsletter posted at our website www.dominicanmissions.com. The blessing for me wasn't so much that Faelo was reaching out to his family (which was great), but rather that his dad was willing to accompany
him to church. He hadn't realized how much I had been trying for years to get his dad to come to church.
I had known his dad, Rafael Jimenez or Fellito (feyito), as he is affectionately called, since we first arrived here in the country in 1992. At that time I was on-loan to a mission called World Team, to help run a Christian retreat center in La Vega. Rafael was a legal runner who had a long-term relationship helping the missionaries that managed the camp. A legal-runner, is someone who is not a lawyer but has worked enough with lawyers that he is able to do much of the legal paperwork, and only needs a lawyer or a notary's signature. He also takes documents to the different offices and makes sure that the work is done, and that the papers have the proper stamps. One of the frustrating tasks that every missionary hates to deal with is the red-tape involved in getting legal paperwork done. It is frustrating because there are long lines and unsympathetic clerks. It can be a long ordeal as you are sent to other offices to wait again, only to return and to have forgotten some detail like the purchase of tax stamps; all this for a license tag for your car, or an ID card, or for a property purchase, or a rental agreement. This process really helped me to empathize with immigrants in the US and the struggle they have fulfilling legal requirements. Of course there are no long lines, and no red tape or struggle in our US legal system (this written with a hint of sarcasm).
Rafael was a big help to us at the retreat center, as he handled many of the legal errands that had to be done. Later, when we were no longer involved with the conference center, he continued to help us with other legal needs. He seemed old then, now he is probably 80 years plus in age, and walks slowly with a cane. I still visit him for advice, and every once in awhile take him with me to look at legal papers when making an important transaction. Currently he has some physical needs and few resources to help him, so I have tried to help him from time to time with medicine costs. He is very proud and never asks for any money. He would usually just call and ask if I needed any legal help. I would give him a retainer for a future job. We had built up a friendship over the years.
For many years I had tried to convince him to come to church with us. He would not go to church. He would always say that it was because he was too involved in politics and had to make decisions that were not very Christian. He refused to go to church and be a hypocrite. He did promise me that whenever he stopped his involvement in politics, he would go with me. I remember I took him in my vehicle one day to pick up plantains and vegetables from a small farm in the country. From there he had me take him to a poor neighborhood in the city, to hand this produce out in the name of his political party. The purpose was that the families would remember which party had helped them. This was one of his ways of getting the vote out. A past Dominican President (Joaquin Balaguer, see photo below)) has been quoted as saying, "To get people to vote for you, you need to make sure their stomachs are full". Hunger does nothing to promote the party in power.
These last three years he had lost all interest in politics, his party had lost much of its political power, and he just couldn't get involved with helping his rival parties. So whenever I visited him during this period, I had reminded him of his promise to me. "Remember you said you would come to church with me whenever you left politics". He would smile and admit it, but would never come.
What a joy for me to pick him up with his wife Mercedes, and two of his grandchildren, and take them to church. They really enjoyed it, and in fact his wife volunteered to bring desert to the Christmas lunch next Sunday. My prayer is that this family will learn the true meaning of Christmas. I wonder how many of us will remember the birth of mankind's Savior this Christmas? How many understand the purpose for which that little child was born in Bethlehem? Jesus Christ was born to give his life for us, to win for us the pardon and acceptance with God that our sins had robbed us of. He also came to bring about a new spiritual birth within us. Without forgiveness and acceptance with God, there can be no true peace in our hearts on this earth! That wonderful night, the Bible records, thousands of angels appeared to some poor shepherds and shouted out "Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth and good will to man!"(Luke 2:14).
Please Remember the Jimenez family in your prayers this Christmas!