For fifteen years, Pedrito built this church, literally, brick by brick. You have to understand that Pedrito and Arelis make very little money. Pedrito has a health condition that prevents him from holding regular employment. Arelis teaches at two different preschools and makes the equivalent of $4000 per year. They are not rich, but what they have, they share. Last spring when I was there, I watched as an emaciated woman approached the gate of their house. Although I could not speak the language, I could tell some bargaining was going on. The woman would talk, Pedrito would shake his head. Gently he spoke to her. Soon, Pedrito reached into his pocket and placed a few pesos in her hands. Through a translator, I learned that the woman was a drug addict and she came begging for money. We asked Pedrito why he gave her money. His response was, "She has babies. They need milk." A few moments later, the woman walked past, a quart of milk dangling from her hand. With a nod and a glance, she whispered, "Gracias, Pedrito."
Whenever Pedrito would receive a donation, usually a small one, he would purchase materials for the building. Perhaps it would be enough for two cinder blocks or perhaps a coil of wire. Bit by bit, he cleared the land. Piece by piece, he built. Fifteen years later, we came to put on the finishing touches. For years, the people in the barrio would watch him. "Look," they'd say, "there goes crazy Pedrito. What's he doing today?" They would scoff and they would laugh, but during the two weeks we were there, a change in attitude became apparent. We gringos became quite a novelty in the neighborhood and curiosity brought people out of the woodwork. Before our return to the U.S., we were able to have the first worship service within the church. They packed the house!
The first service was at night, scheduled to begin at 6 pm. Well, you know, there is American time and then there is Dominican time. By 7:30, we were ready to roll. The journal entry I wrote about this night said this:
Father and son 1
Father and son 2
I am green as a ripe avocado with envy that I couldn't make this third trip.