By Rev. Jason Weber
In the mission, we (the people of Arlington) serve the people of the poorest area of the Dominican Republic on the border with Haiti. It is through the generosity of many folks that the various programs and ministries are able to function; from our school to a scholarship program, to assistance with families, and much, much more. However, it is also most important that the people whom we serve also learn to serve and generously support one another.
Leading up to Christmas the youth group began to organize their Christmas drama. One of the leaders of the youth group had the idea to go to Guayabal, one of the poorest villages in the parish to offer a dinner, the Christmas drama, some clothing, and other goods to distribute to the community. He set the date for a week prior to Christmas (Saturday, December 17) and the youth group began to collect donations to distribute and money for the dinner.
Of course, there were some snafus. About 4 days prior to the event, one of the leaders came to me and asked if the church could help support the cost of food for 200 persons. I asked how much it would cost. His response: 25,000 pesos (about $550 USD)! I asked how much they had raised. His response: 3,400 pesos (about $75 USD). Obviously, there was a lack of planning but I was not about to bail them out and legitimize a kind of taking advantage of the Church. However, we had a painting project at the school coming up, painting a number of the classrooms and some of the exterior walls. So, we made a deal. The youth group would provide the labor for painting the school and the church would fund the dinner. I wasn’t bailing them out, but we did find a solution to the problem.
The event was beautiful. A bit more than 200 people came from three different villages, (we sent trucks to bring them from two other villages), to participate in the festivities. The
youth presented the drama of the nativity beginning with Gabriel being sent to Mary in the annunciation, then traveling to Bethlehem, a group of children representing the angels, the three wise men and their meeting with Herod and the like. For the 200 people who came out in attendance, it was probably the first play that most of them have ever been to. Following the play, we had dinner and distributed the clothing and other goods that we had brought with us. It was getting dark at the time, which made clothing selection a touch more difficult, but in the end, we managed.
All in all, it was a beautiful gift from the youth group to the 200 who live in the more remote villages. It was also organized entirely by the youth group and supported by the community. A few persons leading the youth group took the responsibility upon themselves and generously sought to bring the brilliant light of Christ at Christmas to our fellow parishioners less fortunate than those in Bánica.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Jason Weber