At the start of the Equal Exchange Interfaith Fair Trade Cocoa trip to the Dominican Republic, in which I participated for UMCOR, one of our early stops was an optional visit to the Cathedral Church of the Epiphany, the Union Church of Santo Domingo.
The Rev. Ashton Brooks led the congregation in a message that stayed with me throughout the cocoa tour. He referenced the scripture (Luke 24:13:35) which speaks about two men on the road to Emmaus who were discussing the recent events of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus walks alongside them and joins their conversation. When they invite Jesus to stay with them, Jesus accepts and joins them for a meal. When Jesus breaks bread, gives thanks, and passes the bread to them, the scripture says, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
As Rev. Brooks continued, I closed my eyes. I saw the image of a light shining in a basket. I pondered the meaning of the vision. So, here I was sitting among a community of believers and sensing that this place was something special to God. What does it mean? I asked the Lord quietly. “I know you are the light of the world, and that baskets may hold food or bread, and this basket was holding Your light.” At best, I knew this was a communication from God that described the uniqueness of that particular church community and their specific call.
At the end of the service, I learned that the church is involved in a weekly food distribution program for the hungry, called Lazarus’ Basket. They also hold weekly Bible studies at a local restaurant where other people may be drawn to participate. So, there it was. The church brought the message of light which is Jesus as a form of spiritual food. The church was the carrier of that basket of light that “passed bread” to a hungry community.
My eyes were opened, and I recognized Him.
How does God become recognized in our day-to-day activities? How often is Jesus recognized through our work or associations with people? There was something so simple, yet so profound in learning how this small congregation carried such a heavy call, yet did it with such ease and love for one another. And, perhaps that was it. These light bearers loved God and each other.
When I stayed at the home of Eusebio Velen, a cocoa producer, he asked me in Spanish, “Are you married, do you have children?” I replied joyfully in Spanish, “Right now, I’m married to Jesus and my children are dance students that I am training.”
The conversation paved a way for me to share a part of my personal story and struggle. As I noted Eusebio’s concerned response, one that only a father could have, I realized at that moment that God was being recognized in me. Later, he publicly said to the delegation that I was like a daughter to him and that I was welcome in his home anytime. I was warmed by his remarks, which satisfied that place of belonging as a daughter that I have missed since my father’s passing last year. At that moment, Eusebio became a light-carrier for me. Through him Jesus was inviting me to be a part of that family and community.
I was miles away from my residence in New York, but I was at home sitting and sharing with Eusebio in the Dominican Republic. And, isn’t this what life through Christ is all about? That through loving your neighbor, providing the ministry of presence during a storm, embracing a moment, holding a hand, or extending a hand of support — all of which UMCOR represents—that He is recognized. What a blessing to recognize Jesus!
Pass the bread.
By Judith Santiago, Media Communications Associate for UMCOR