I apologize for the extended hiatus from my blogging duties. Our mission work has picked up quite a bit and, consequently, the few free hours I have during the afternoons are typically reserved for napping and eating. Much has transpired since my last blog post. Felix and I have developed more or less of a schedule as we patiently wait and pray for a house to start renting. We wake up at 5 a.m. and walk to the Metro Station, which opens at 6. We take the Metro to the stop called ‘Los Tainos’ and deliver sandwiches to the homeless sleeping under the overpass. It is very sad because the majority of them are young men addicted to crack. Most of them are so out of it in the morning that all we do is give them the sandwich. However, a few of them are usually up and we are able to pray and talk with them and I will typically play a fiddle song or two for them as well. After this, Felix and I take the Metro to the stop called ‘La Educación’ and walk to the beach. From there we take ‘el calle mericón’ to the Colonial Zone. It takes up about an hour and a half to arrive at the CZ and we usually see between 8-15 homeless people sleeping along the coast. The CZ is my favorite part of the morning because are able to talk with Esperanza, Danilo, Andre, and, until recently, Anna. Felix and I always stop at the Cathedral prior to our visits with the homeless in the CZ. The Cathedral, established by Christopher Columbus in the early part of the 16th century, is so beautiful. Plus, as Felix says, you can feel the Holy Spirit (aka air conditioning)! After spending 20 or so minuets praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we go and spend time with our wonderful friends.
Danilo is a 66-year-old man in a wheelchair with no living family. He suffered a severe stoke 5 years ago and, due to the enormous medical bills, lost everything he owned and now he sleeps alone on street. Despite all of this, every morning when we go to visit him I say, “Danilo, how are you doing?” and he always replies with a smile on his face, “I’m still alive, thanks to God! Praise His name!” As we leave I always say, “God loves you Danilo and you are not alone.” And he invariably replies, “Amen!” I wish I could describe the feeling that comes over me in those moments. God is so strongly present in him it’s not even funny.
Andre is a paraplegic who spends everyday on the streets of the Colonial Zone begging for money. He is a great man with a wonderful sense of humor! I recently started playing the violin for him with the violin case open and any money I receive I give to him. We made well over 200 pesos last time, a new record!!
Anna is a 68-year-old character. Everyone tells us that she is crazy and that we should not talk to here. I tell them that her craziness is what I love most about her! She carries around a stick and she is not afraid to whack you with it if you’re not listening to her! She always asks for 5 pesos so she can buy a cigarette and the facial expressions she makes when she tells a story are so priceless and always make me laugh. She recently told me:
– Are you okay? You don’t look well. When you arrived here you were fat and white…now you’re blacker than me and skinny.
Felix and I nearly died laughing. Unfortunately, we no longer see Anna at the CZ. I’m not entirely certain as to what transpired but I know she had an altercation with one of police officers. However, we have seen her a few times during our walk on ‘el calle mericón’. The first time we saw her away from the CZ she said something that nearly made me cry. We were sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean when she said:
– The ocean is so beautiful and vast. It is so nice to be able to look at something so majestic when I am feeling sad.”
After a long pause she continued:
– You know that you two are the only people in the world who stop and talk to me, the only people who ask how I am doing, and the only people to listen to me.
Needless to say, I’ve doubled down on my prayers to her. However, Esperanza is by far my favorite. I cannot help but smile when I see her. When she smiles or laughs it is the most beautiful thing ever! She is a 76-year-old blessing with no living family. She lost everything she owned when Hurricane George struck in 1998. She calls me her grandchild and is always looking out for me and telling me to be careful. Without fail, she will ask me:
– What have you eaten today? It is very important to eat, especially before you go on a long walk. Have you been drinking lots of water??
She also loves to hear me tell her about all the new Dominican foods that I have tried. I am not a very picky person so I always tell her, “The food here is the best in the world! So rich, so delicious, I love it so much.” Finally she asked me, “David, what don’t you love?” I thank God daily for putting so many wonderful blessings in my life.
After all that we walk (or use a guagua if we are feeling tired) back to our house in “Los Tres Brazos”. By the time we return home it is usually around 12:45. Then I eat a huge lunch (rice beans and avocados) and take a nap till about 3:30. Then we go to Mass at either 5, 6, or 6:30, depending on the Church we want to go to. Finally, after Mass we go back out and do the same loop, except instead of going to “Los Tainos” we go to Venezuela, a street much closer to our house. There are three parks along Venezuela and we usually find several homeless people sleeping in the parks. All in all, we go through more than 40 sandwiches a day!!
On Wednesday and Thursday night, instead of doing the evening loop, we go to Praise and Worship groups (Charismatic Renewal). They both are 2 hours long and at first I was not that into them. But the faith and love of God that the people have is beyond words. God lives with them and the Spirit works through them! I have been playing the violin with the bands also! Other than that, I spend the little free time I have playing Dominos with the locals. It is a very fun and competitive game, and a great way to learn the local lingo!
Oh Señor mío, Dios mío, creo en Tí. Te adoro profundamente y te doy gracias por haberme creado, y por darme estas bendiciones y oportunidades. Te ofrezco todo mi trabajo, toda mi pena, y toda mi alegría. ¡Sin Ti no soy nada, pero contigo no hay nada que no pueda hacer!