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January 11th, 2008

Real Live Preacher (a.k.a. RLP)... remember him? He's the preacher I mentioned making a donation to in December to help fund his trip to the Dominican Republic... the trip he had committed to, but then realized he didn't have the $950.00 he needed to make his final payment... the one who asked for money, but has never asked for money in the entire year I've been following his blog... the one who did it reluctantly, and seemed more than a little embarrassed about it...

As I mentioned in that blog entry, I'm not at all religious, but over a year ago, this preacher's blog captured me by how obvious it was that the "P" in RLP stood for person as well as preacher. His thoughts, actions, and writings all lay out his humanity before us. No pretense. No holier than thou. Just, well, real...

Well, he ended up raising not only the $950 to pay the rest of his trip, but an extra $3500, which the group he's working with there is using to install an extra water system while he's there with them—and he's there now. And he's blogging his experience.

And once again, I'm struck by his humanity. An excerpt from his first day—words which follow the exactly-what-you-would-expect-to-hear about arriving in a foreign country and meeting your hosts and how nice they are, etc.

Okay, I'm not proud of what follows, but it is the truth. It's important for me to admit it because, well, it's the truth. I don't really know how I'm going to sleep here tonight. I have a top bunk with one sheet and no covers. I won't get to shower until tomorrow, maybe. Tonight I'll brush my teeth with a cup of bottled water. Windows are open to the outside, so I don't know what kind of bugs I'll encounter during the night. And to be honest, I had a hard time eating that hot dog [which he talked about earlier in his blog entry].

I could only finish about half of it. I have no idea where it was purchased and how long it was on that table. So I'm hungry, and I really don't know when I'll eat next. I hear they are serving us breakfast in the morning, and I'm afraid to see what it will be.

And I'm ashamed of myself because this is as good as it gets here. Our hosts welcomed us and were so delighted that we have come. They've given us their best.

And to think when I arrived at the airport I took this picture [of a Coca-Cola Light bottle, included in the entry] because I thought it was going to be a struggle dealing with the fact that you can't get real Diet Coke here. You get Coke Light, which tastes like straight Coke. At the airport, that actually seemed like an issue to me.


Read the full account of day one.

And here's an excerpt from Day 3. There was some "break time" in the water system installation, so the group split up for a little while. Tell me you don't see the real in RLP in this man's writing and in his heart...

The other half (I and the 5 women from Murray State University) went to visit an orphanage in a very poor area of town. The place was spotless on the inside, but very simple and poor. There didn’t seem to be any area for the children to play outside, as far as I could see. When we arrived they were lined up waiting for us. A fair number of these children have disabilities of one kind or another.

Two sisters caught my eye, both in wheelchairs, both terribly small for their ages. Stephanie is 11, the same age as my youngest daughter Lillian. But she has the body of a two-year-old. Her older sister Clara is not much bigger, though she is 15. That’s the age of Shelby, my practically grown and healthy middle child. In very crude Spanish I tried to tell them that my own children were the same age.

“Uh...Me Nina es (I tried to think of the word for 11 but couldn't) eleven... tambien?"  I’m really embarrassed that I live in Texas and don’t know Spanish well enough to get out such a simple sentence. That’s not correct, but maybe the idea got across.

Stephanie and Clara and Pauline each colored a picture of Jesus, signed their names on them in crayon, and gave them to me to keep.

Gave them to me to keep. Gave them to me to keep. For a moment, it seemed like the whole world narrowed to that instant in time. Gave them to me to keep.

Okay, just stop for moment. Stop your busy life and think about this with me. What did it matter that we visited an orphanage today? And what will it mean, ultimately, in the lives of these children? What will this hour of fun mean to them? And what am I to do with these cheap, coloring book pictures of Jesus? What value would you place upon them? Or what would you give me in return for them? Wouldn’t you agree that in the eyes of God, these pictures are worth more than the Mona Lisa?

Do I really believe that? Yes, I think so. What am I to do with the pictures? I don’t know. It’s quite a dilemma, isn’t it? I can’t treat them like ordinary pieces of paper, right? I can’t throw them away - God forbid. And if I take them home and tack them to the wall of my office at our church, what does that mean? Does that mean I’ve committed something to these little girls? Will I look at these drawings sometimes and tell people, “Oh, those are from two little girls in an orphanage in the Dominican Republic that I visited once upon a time." Will people who see these pictures think I'm a nice guy because I spent an hour in an orphanage one afternoon?

See, there’s no good answer to this. I ask you, what am I going to do with these pictures?

[Some paragraphs skipped here, but well worth a read...]

Okay back to those pictures. I truly do not know what to do with them. I've placed them carefully in my backpack with my computer, in a place where they cannot be harmed. I'm going to carry them back to San Antonio. And then, I'm going to figure out what to do with them. Something about these pictures is bothering me. I can't figure out a decent response to their obvious value and meaning. Maybe you'll have some suggestions. Think about it, will you?

Oh, and I finally figured out what this day of play with these children means.

It means everything.


Read Gordon's full account of day three. There's so much more to this entry than I've included here.

Following this venture makes me feel like this is one of the most fulfilling donations I've ever made.



I met Nacia (bluglass) for lunch today at Panera's in Crossroads. We had a nice "catch-up," and I enjoyed a nice breakfast, while she enjoyed a nice lunch.



I stopped at Old Navy on the way out, where I bought five shirts that I returned later in the day.



I stopped to get a hair cut, and ended up getting 'em all cut.



I had a productive meeting with Nathan today, and he's going to pull a good portion of my investments out of the small cap funds I'm in as this, and possibly next, year are not looking good for those. He gave me direction on moving some of my IBM money as well.



I made that Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce of the Spaghetti Squash, and in a word, it was disappointing.

Robert and I did a couple of crossword puzzles, while I also did a couple of loads of laundry. And he helped.

Joe and I are off to Key West tomorrow, and then Orlando later in the week. I'll update as I'm able.

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