Love in a Dominican Church

I got kicked out of a Dominican church service.  Okay, I exaggerate.  I was told I was not welcome and getting in the way with my cheap little camera.  Yup, getting in the way of God’s work.  Is that possible?  Apparently so when you are messing up their big-time video production—spotlights, costumed dancers, band.

So what’s the big deal?  Somebody messed with Dave.  That’s what.  Nobody does that.  Nobody.

My latest dust-up with divinity happened in a baseball park in the Dominican city of Santiago, venue for a flashy service—a glitzy masterpiece of show-business complete with stage managers and security guards.  As foreign correspondent for Access Humboldt, I couldn’t wait to show the folks back home.

I forgot that things work differently there.  The have’s and have-not’s are canyons apart.  If you have money, you have a shiny car, safe neighborhood and an all-access pass to everything.  Poor people over 60 don’t have health insurance because they assume you already have died.

If you have ever felt irrelevant to anybody, you know what I mean.  It dismantles your soul.  You are a teacher without a class, a TV reporter without a newscast, a father without a family, a spouse without a partner.  That’s when faith kicks in.

It happened my last night in Santiago.  It had been a long week of disappointment for me.  It is no country for old men.  I had been fantasizing of new life in a new land, sipping mango juice under a palm tree.  I thought of a job, a life, a family—rebirth in the Caribbean.  It would not be possible—certainly not practical.  There are too many variables for an old guy.  If it were that easy, it wouldn’t be fantasy.

No money, not enough food and no more patience, I was ready to come home.  That is when I heard the amplified voice of a preacher and then his wife.  I followed the sound through the dark and dangerous streets where I stayed.

He was in the middle of one of his spirited sermons, waving his arms, shouting and jumping as his followers, children and adults, raised their arms and cheered.  Suddenly, he spotted me and motioned me in, his wife walking toward me.

“I just want some pictures,” I told her in Spanish and she relayed the message to him.  It must have struck a chord, because he began waving his arms and pointing at me.  They shouted and cheered again, as if I were some outer-worldly prophet appearing from beyond.

Finished with his sermon, he motioned to me again and put down the microphone.  He asked me to speak.  Then he stepped back.

A hush fell over the room, men women and children staring at me, waiting for what I would say.  I wasn’t sure myself.

I took a breath and began to speak in Spanish, words flowing one to another.  I said that I admired their faith and fortitude and that they would always be my family.  They crowded around me.  Children took my hand.

I’m still not sure what happened.  You can draw your own conclusions.  But it was something transformative, making purpose of life’s pain and loss.  Something as simple as light in the darkness—and something just as beautiful.

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