Lessons in ‘normal’
A PC(USA) Easter letter from the Dominican Republic
April 10, 2012
GUAYACANES, Dominican Republic
“It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat…Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.” Exodus 16: 15;21.
I have had much opportunity to reflect on the lesson of manna in the wilderness over this past year. It all started with the refrigerator. In my usual “plan ahead” mode, I stocked my small freezer with food ― mostly chicken and ground beef ― carefully packaged in meal-size portions for one. Then I bought the vegetables and dairy products for the fridge. It all seemed very “normal” in those first days in my apartment in Guayacanes, Dominican Republic.
And then I got a lesson in “normal” for here: the electricity goes off every day, sometimes several times a day, for several hours each time. It took three full times of losing everything in that little fridge before I realized — and accepted ― that I could not go on with this notion of “stocking” the refrigerator and freezer for the future.
Then there was the ant invasion. I came home after traveling to Cuba for a month to find that the ants had invaded the apartment and every package of food in the kitchen — rice, beans, pasta, cereal — everything not in a plastic container with a strong lid.
So all of that food also went out in the trash and I had another lesson in “as much as needed” for the day. Sometimes I am a very slow learner.
The latest lesson was not about food, but about a different type of need. My apartment was broken into in the wee hours of a Sunday morning just before Easter and I woke to find three men carrying out my laptop, television set, two cell phones and a small DVD player, escaping over the balcony of my second-floor apartment.
Thanks be to God, they were more interested in making a get-away than in harming me. But this “invasion” of a different sort brought home once again the need to rely on God day-to-day for what is needed: not only for food, but for care and protection and peace.
I daily see this reliance on God’s goodness, provision and strength in my interactions with the people of the churches in Cuba, in the Dominican Republic, in Haiti and throughout the Caribbean.
In an economy where prices continue to rise along with unemployment, I see the churches responding to those around them, sharing what little they have with those who have less: food, shelter, health care, educational opportunities. They struggle. The pastors and their families “do without” in many cases: without salaries or with insufficient salaries; most riding the buses instead of having cars; wearing the same clothes over and over.
But, in worship, the focus is on the provision of God, the strength of God to overcome all difficulties, the peace and love of God to fill one, sufficient for the day.
The worship services here in the DR tend to be two or more hours long, filled with much music in praise to God for all those good gifts that come to us daily, including the Divine Presence that makes it possible to live abundant life, not just to survive, and to testify to that abundant life through our own lives.
That is the Easter message, is it not? “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” said Jesus (John 10:10). Abundant life that fills to overflowing, enough for today…and for eternity.
May we live as Easter people, believing and acting in the goodness of our God of Life.