Hato Viejo

Moped horns, crowing roosters and people greeting each other at the top of their lungs. These are the sounds of early morning in Banica and it was the signal to wake up. Today we began our work at Hato Viejo laying concrete floors & building an “enramada” (think an open air palm thatched roof for celebrations underneath). I will be painting the small but quaint chapel in the town and decorating its sanctuary. The team is in incredible spirits. Their enthusiasm and joy is contagious. These are people who have prayed their way here and it is making all the difference. It is beautiful to see our team forgetting themselves, laying aside comfort and convenience and entering into the mystery of this mission. They are living it. 
The houses are simple, concrete block structures mostly. There’s an occasional house made of tin or sticks tightly tied together. This is an outdoor culture. The people meander around from home to home, place to place, greeting each other and talking about the simplest things. There’s little privacy in their lives, everyone knows everyone else. Kids run through the streets together. They climb mango trees and sit, for hours, talking and talking. These kids are capable of carrying on conversations and being creative, it has not been bred out to them. They are especially curious and inquisitive. After some time in the warm sun I sat down in the chapel to pray. As I pulled out my iPad to read for a little while 3 curious 14 year old boys, two Dominicans and a Haitian, slowly began to walk up and see what this strange thing I was holding in my hand might be. They stared at me with absolute curiosity and awe so I asked them to sit and join me. We talked for hours. They wanted to share their thoughts, learn how the iPad worked (thank God I downloaded some cool apps before i left) and help me out for the rest of the day. These new "assistants” are teaching me more than I could teach them. We exchange words, they learn a little English, I learn a little more Spanish. But the biggest lesson is to watch them interact. As they worked with me one would try to do something and the others would watch and offer advice. If one failed the other stepped in and the former worker (the now veteran) would make commentary based on his now previous experience. If there was a victory by one, all celebrated. If there was a failure, all wanted to learn the better way together. This is a culture that celebrates the other, rather than competes against them.  They don’t rush anything but work deliberately without a hint of perfectionism. These kids are different. They do not sit around in cold and disconnected apathy with swollen thumbs and medicated hearts. They are alive. Their eager smiling faces, warm as the hot Carribean sun, gives hope.  
Here in this town children frolic in mud covered roads under the keen eyes of the entire village. When was the last time we heard the laughter of children in our streets or the sweet melodious sounds of music piped through cheap tin speakers wanting only a dancer to take up her rhythm and bring that music to life? These are streets teeming with life, neighbor helping neighbor. They are free from the fear of human interaction. Their fears are simpler. They rub against each other here. There’s no room for distance and foolishly rabid individualism in their lives. We have much to learn from these people. God has a great love for simple people. I can see why.