by Marc Hays
As I write, I sit under an umbrella on the patio behind a house that I cannot afford. Somehow, my brother-in-law, Steve Griffin, a missionary with Daystar Baptist Missions, has connections that put us here for around the cost of a decent hotel. The villa where we’re staying could just as likely be found on the Mediterranean as the Caribbean, but I don’t know that it could be any more exotic. The sky is clear and blue; the sun is shining and warm; and palm trees are the norm. There’s always a chance of rain and never a chance of snow.
My brother-in-law and his family do not live in this town. They live about 15 minutes east in the city of San Pedro de Macoris. San Pedro is a city teeming with people – about 250,000 of them. It is dirty, and it is loud, like many cities. There must be 50 motorcycles for every car, and at least 4 people for every motorcycle. It is common to see a family of four riding down the street on the same motorcycle.
I like to drive, but I am glad I am not driving here. There are lines on some roads, but a painted line has never kept a car in it’s lane. There are lights at some intersections, but a light has never stopped a car, or a motorcycle, yet. I have not witnessed a traffic accident, but I have seen thousands of near-misses. It seems like every car or motorcycle you pass is a near-miss.
The buildings here are all made of concrete. They build a single-story house like we build sky-scrapers in the States. The support structure is made of steel reinforced, concrete columns. The walls are made of concrete blocks and finished with a layer of stucco. The floors are concrete. The ceilings are concrete. The roofs are concrete covered in tiles. Wood rots. Concrete doesn’t. They laugh at us for building houses with “sticks.” The termites and the humidity will not allow for stick-built homes here.
When you build a house in San Pedro, you need more blocks than just the ones for your house. You need blocks for the walls that encircle your house. Virtually every home is surrounded by a concrete wall, and entry to the property is secured by a steel gate. Due to the alarmingly high number of petty thefts, even the doors and windows of the house are covered in iron bars. The Dominicans have done well in adapting though. Many of the homes’ anti-theft protection is made of intricately woven patterns of iron and steel, painted in blacks and golds. The bars and gates are as beautiful as they are necessary.
But, oh, how the gospel could change all that. “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” (Eph 4:28) Oh, how the gospel will change all that. The earth will be full of the knowledge and glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Is. 11:9; Hab. 2:14) A city with no need for walls may sound like some utopian ideal, but it’s not. It’s much simpler than that. It’s heaven on earth.
This Christmas, we remember that when Jesus began to grow inside the womb of Mary, heaven and earth overlapped. It was small at first, but God likes to start small. He starts with a trickle from under the altar. (Ezek 47) Jesus grew and the overlap grew with him. Kings murdered; demons railed; hypocrites pontificated; traitors kissed; witnesses lied; and soldiers nailed; but no one could stop the overlap from growing. The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers took counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed (Ps 2), but the water had already begun to flow out from under the altar. Immanuel, God with us, was here, and he was not returning to the Father unsatisfied. The Kingdom was his for the taking; all he had to do was die, and die he did. The veil was torn in two. The waters that flowed from under the altar had overflowed the threshold of the temple and were becoming a river.
But Jesus did not stay dead; for death had no power over him. He arose, and the river swelled deeper than the knees, the waist, the chest. The overlap between heaven and earth was ever growing. Jesus returned to the Father and the Holy Spirit was sent. The river from the temple made it all the way to the sea, and the salt waters were made fresh. Jews and Gentiles became brothers and sisters. The middle wall of partition was taken down, and the overlap grew.
But how will the Dominicans, or anyone else, know that Jesus came so that they could stop building walls? How will they learn that a poor man with a crust of bread that he bought is happier than a poor man with a stolen plasma screen? How did the people of Bethlehem find out that heaven was overlapping earth in a stable just outside of town? “When they (the shepherds) had seen this (Jesus in the manger), they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” (Lk 2:17,18) How will they hear unless there’s a preacher? (Rom 10:14)
This Christmas, I’m happy to be in the tropics, meeting some fellow Gentiles that Jesus came to redeem. I’m glad I got to give my children the gift of seeing other Christians, other people, in other places. This Christmas, I’m glad that Jesus sent preachers into my life and is sending preachers into every nation until the overlap is complete – until the earth is as full of the knowledge and glory of God as the waters cover the sea through the Son of God, who is also the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.
Go to www.drvision.org to find out more about the mission organization that Steve and Julia are working with.