The participants on Monday afternoon, after the first activity. From right to left (back row), Franklin, Leo, Esmiralda, Ambar, Maria Luisa, Clinton, Nayeli, Mark, Alberto, Meybi, Esperanza, José, Genesi, Yolanda, Santa. In front, Jenny, Annika, Keila, Ardell.
Wednesday, March 26th
Ardell Graner, Jenny and I arrived at Jenny and my home in Barahona at 9 PM, exhausted. We had just finished a workshop that Ardell had organized for us, training a group of thirteen youth from Batey 7 to develop Biblical-based lesson that will foster community development.
Ardell and her husband, Gordon Graner are mission workers who are also serving with the Evangelical Dominican Church (IED for its name in Spanish). Ardell and Gordon have been sent by the United Methodist Church (UMC). Ardell and Gordon came to the DR last April after serving for twenty-three years with UMC in Bolivia. Here is one web site: Gordon and Ardell. Here is another, with more details about their mission in the DR: Graner Family. Jenny and I began the initial conversations with Ardell over six months ago. Our excitement for this idea was fostered by the work that Ardell led in Bolivia, working with young people who were responsible for Christian Education (Sunday School) in their respective churches.
The objective of the workshop was to come away with two things. One of these was for us to have written materials that the young volunteers carry out their work visiting homes in Batey 7. We needed educational materials that reflect the cultural, economic and social experience of the people of Batey 7. The other thing we hoped for was to have a cadre of youth who are serious in their commitment to a fundamental and integrated transformation of their community--who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. This team would need to be the hands and feet to carry out the program of development developed by the Community Development Committee and the Counsel for Community Health and Development (see previous blog).
Jenny writes: "As Ardell, Mark and I were planning for this workshop, we wondered if these youth would be able to write about their lives and their relationship with God clearly. There were able. We wondered if they would be able to present it in front of others, even if they could write it. They did present it, in role play after role play."
In Matthew 10:5-9. Jesus sends his disciples not to exotic lands where the language is different (!), but to their own people. He sends them without gold or silver, with only the power and knowledge that he shared with them, which he commands them to share freely, just as they had freely received. In the final ceremony Wednesday night, we asked the youth to respond to that challenge. Were they willing to take their new knowledge and capacities to their neighbors, to share with them transformational messages? The youth responded, "YES!" We asked them if they truly believed that what they have within them is more valuable than silver and gold. Again they responded, "Yes!"
Jenny writes, "In closing, I invite you to read and reflect with us on the passage from Matthew....How often have we believed that wealth and material goods will resolve poverty and afflictions? How often have we come into a community like Batey 7 and told them what is best for them? Stop with us for a moment. Let's listen to our brothers and sisters. They have all the wisdom from their community to create a new reality."
Here are more of the photos:
All of the participants put their hand prints on a large cotton cloth, signed them and drew something unique in the center of each print. We were all in this together and each of has something special that only we can offer.
Still the first day, the youth in groups of three wrote down their understanding of each of ten issues that the Counsel for Community Health and Development has identified of primary importance for the community. After a couple of rough starts, the youth did an amazing job of explaining to us what each of those issues means and why they are important in the community.
The issues are:
1) The community's environment
2) The right to be recognized as citizens and to have legal documents
3) Sexual health and education
4) The rights of children and adolescents
8) Adequate housing
Alberto decorating his pot.
After the youth finished decorating, we took a hammer and cracked the pots, as Ardell shared with them the pain that often comes from living. We are often broken by life's sorrows.
Meybi and Maria Luisa working to put their pots back together.
Ardell working with Nayeli to "heal" her pot.
Some of the broken pots.
Getting down to the nitty gritty. From left to right (behind), Clinton, Alberto, Ambar and Yulis work on developing a Biblical-based lesson agriculture that speaks to the situation in Batey 7. The three visitors in front of the group were part of a visiting delegation from First Presbyterian Church of Muncie, Indiana.
Each lesson had to include a greeting, a prayer, a testimony from the participants' personal experience, a Biblical reference and a reflection based on that reference.
Clinton, Alberto, Yulis and Ambar doing a role play, visiting a household to share the lesson about agriculture.
After everyone had completed their devotional, they presented them in role plays. Mark represented the family in this first exercise, as the agricultural group presented their theme. In all of the rest, the youth themselves became the person or persons in the house receiving the volunteers and sharing the lesson.
Alberto, putting together one of the Biblical-based lessons. After the first set of lessons, created by the youth in groups of four, they did a second set of lessons, working in pairs. Finally, each participant had to write their own lesson.
The youth presented in role playing all of the lessons developed in groups of four and those put together in pairs. Time ran out for the final set of lessons and we did not role play those during this workshop.
We broke up the intensity needed for writing the lessons by playing games. This one was called "Shark." One person is the shark and "eats" all of the players by pulling out a ribbon tucked into their clothing. José, who is already a leader in the community, particularly among the youth, led the games.
José washing Yolanda's feet as part of a Biblical-based lesson that Jenny provided on hygiene. Jenny elicited from the group a list of important hygiene practices, then finished with the story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet. She noted that in that time, it was part of the local hygiene to wash your feet before entering someone's house, and the wealthy often had a special servant who was responsible for doing that. But Jesus' changed the dynamic when he washed his disciples' feet.
Clinton working on a special art project, yet another way for the youth to express how God was touching their hearts in the workshop.
Yulis with her chocolate drink, as part of the Feast of Agape that Jenny led, one of the traditions of the Moravian church, where she is a member in Nicaragua. The Feast was part of the closing ceremony which included a commitment, spoken together, to share their new skills in Batey 7.
Ardell and Yulis.
Jenny writes, "During the two and a half days of the workshop, we were responsible for thirteen young people between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. And we didn't know them very well. But during the workshop, we exchanged laughs and we played games together. And we discovered and were sometimes surprised by their gifts." Most importantly, we became friends.