It seems clear to me that the Spirit of God is producing a wonderful work of grace and power in Dominican families. Now, I'm certain the D.R. has its share of family troubles, breakups, and pressures like every other country in the world. So, I'm not being overly romantic here. And, I must admit that it's not as though I spent a lot of time with a lot of families while in the D.R. But I did spend considerable time with three families and in each family the fruit of the Spirit was abundant.
Here's what I observed:
In each home, the husband/father seemed clearly to embrace his role as head. It was not a power grab or an insecure defense of inadequacy masked with authoritarian tendencies. Nor was it a Latin, Hispanic, or Spanish machismo. Mr. Feliz, Mr. Saladin, Mr. Piantini, and Mr. Gomez each displayed tenderness, compassion, doting concern that opened doors, patient attention to each member of the family, and quick readiness to laugh out loud--the kind of laughing out loud that gladly "suffered" being the brunt of jokes and delighted in having the chance to be with family. No husband/father demanded attention for himself but gladly pulled in others into the conversation. No husband/father seemed at all concerned about his needs, but looked to serve everyone else. Yet, there was never the sense that they avoided or regretted having the leadership role. They loved the role; but more than that, they loved the families they were leading. They each gave evidence of dying to self in order to love their wives. One brother once wrestled with armed gunmen to protect his family. You'd never know he has the bullet wound to show for it because he never talks about himself and his house is filled with laughter. Good men all.
In each home, the wives/mothers excelled in their roles as helpers. Now, few things are as disdained by the larger society and even some Christian women than submission. Few things are more often misconstrued, distorted, and reviled without proper understanding. But when the Bible's roles for men and women are embraced, few things make for more freedom, joy, grace and beauty. And that's what I felt I saw in Mrs. Feliz, Mrs. Saladin, Mrs. Piantini, and Mrs. Gomez. Each lady cared for her husband, her children, and her home with Proverbs 31 dignity. Each woman also joyfully contributed to the life of her church and the spread of the gospel with real joy. They generously practiced hospitality. They gave their husbands freely to the work of the ministry. One is learning to speak English later in life when she could just as easily avoid doing so. Another works tirelessly with a radio ministry. Another worked with the Bible Society and has a heart for missions. Another has a small business she runs from her busy home. I could go on. You'd likely never hear of these women, but their children will rise up to call them blessed and they will be honored by our Father for the way their lives adorn the gospel.
In each home, the children--young and old--honored their parents. I know that strong family ties is typical to Hispanic culture. Family occupies so much of the individual's time and focus. Many Western cultures can learn a great deal from this. But what I saw in the children of these families wasn't just a cultural habit but a genuine Spirit-given humility, reverence, and love toward their parents. Older children with families of their own still invested plenty of time with their parents. Whether it was visiting on Mothers' Day, joining their parents for dinner, or hosting their parents and siblings in their own homes, the families practiced hospitality and love with one another (not just with this intruder). It wasn't a special production or done grudgingly; it was natural, routine, and happy. On display was generations of godliness and worship in the family setting. It was beautiful. There were the shy little ones with recently lost teeth. There were the 20 and 30-something adults with growing families and busy careers. But the priorities seemed clear: the Lord Jesus, marriage, family, church, and vocation. It seemed to me that the Spirit was blessing this divine ordering of things. Children seemed never to be sacrificed on the altar of career or ministry, and they seemed the happier for it. They were confident, yet humble. They were gracious and spiritually aware. I had conversations with 14-year-olds about assurance, discussions with 30-somethings about conversion and sanctification, and had the opportunity to pray for those who have not yet been born again. In all of it, one could recognize spiritual interest and spiritual warmth in the children of these families.
I could write more. But the lasting impression I have of the Spirit's work in the D.R. is that in these homes and I trust many others He is producing rich spiritual fruit that redounds to the glory of Christ and the praise of God. We often think of the Holy Spirit's work in our churches and perhaps forget to consider the importance and need for God the Spirit to work in our homes. We need and should desire evidence of His presence in our living rooms just as much as we desire His presence in our Sunday assemblies. May He continue to do this work not only in the D.R. but in all our homes.