Ramon took his job seriously. He wasn’t our bus driver, and he wasn’t our tour guide. I guess his job fell somewhere between navigator and bodyguard. And the entire time our medical team was in the Dominican Republic, he arrived early each morning and left late each night after he was sure that we were all safely in the hotel.
Ramon (seen in the picture on the far left with translator, Isai and team member, Dylan) could be the poster boy for “strong and silent.” He spoke no English. And although I speak Spanish, he tried to converse with me very little. Each morning when we were setting up our clinic, he would silently move from station to station, watching our body language to see what we needed and then doing it without being asked. Once the clinic was set up, he would slip over to the pharmacy and set a few pieces of candy or gum on the table in front of me and nod. “Para la Princesa,” (“For the Princess”) he would say and then he would go outside to make sure that the patients were getting along peaceably. A couple of times during the day, I would look up to see him guarding a door or window. When he caught my eye, he would give a small grin and then, he would point at his eye to signify that he was watching out for us. I would smile, nod, and go back to work.
Because Ramon was so quiet it was almost frightening the first time he came to me and began rattling frantically in Spanish. His face was grim and his voice, strident. His words tumbled over each other in such a rush that I had to call another translator over to translate for me. In the mad crush of patients we had in the clinic, he had seen a patient pocketing medicine that didn’t belong to him. Because of the mass of people, Ramon couldn’t get to me to stop the act and he couldn’t get out the door and down the alley to chase the perpetrator.
My new friend was so frustrated over the theft. At his insistence, I went to each station and warned them to watch their supplies more carefully. For the rest of the day, he didn’t move far from my pharmacy station. Thankfully, we experienced no more sticky fingers.
Our last day in the Dominican Republic, the teenage girls with us begged to go shopping. We loaded the bus and made our way to the historic district where all of the tourist-trappy shops are located. On the way our missionary gave us some quick safety tips—thing that I’m used to because I travel—but these kids had never thought of these things. For instance, don’t carry your camera on your wrist because a thief will slice it off with a razor. Carry your purse across your front with your arms crossed over it so that it can’t be snatched off your shoulder. Carry your wallet in your front pocket to make it harder for a pick-pocket to reach. And above all—never, never leave the group.
We had only been in the first store a few minutes when I noticed that Ramon seemed very tense. My personal “danger” antenna wasn’t buzzing, so I looked around to see what could be alarming him. When he noticed that I was looking at him, Ramon came over and spoke in low, halting Spanish.
“Sarita, their cameras and their bags—they are making themselves targets. Please tell them again to protect themselves.”
Ramon followed me over to the team and watched me as I reminded them of the warnings we had heard on the bus. With a very serious face, he nodded at them. Then, he pulled their bags and cameras in front of them and crossed their arms over their belongings to make his point clear.
That evening, I was telling the missionary about the scene with Ramon and the kids at the shop. She looked toward the front of the bus at our ever-vigilant guard. She nodded toward him and the bus driver, Alberto, and said, “I trust them with my life. They are pastors at two of our churches and so we work with them a lot. They feel a lot of responsibility to take care of us and they take that responsibility very seriously.”
I pondered Bonnie’s words that day and I still think about them. I think that we in the American churches have a great lesson to learn from Ramon and Alberto. They took great responsibility for a group of American strangers because we were part of the same family of God. I have no doubt that they would have given their lives for us if they had needed to in order to protect us. Yet so often, we in the American church won’t even give five minutes to care for the people in our own churches. How much stronger and more secure would our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ be if we would take such great and precious care of each other?
I got up early the morning we left the DR. I got downstairs just as the missionary was saying goodbye to Ramon, who was leaving us to escort another team that had come in the previous night. When I came out the door, he handed me a bag full of rings he had carved from seeds for the team.
He reached into the bag and pulled out one of the seeds and said, “Sarita, para usted—para recordar.” (“Dear Sarah, for you—to remember.”)
Ramon hugged me and then, with his hands on my shoulders, he gave me a blessing. “Mija, may God be your fortress and bless you abundantly.”
I believe that part of being a member of the family of God is learning to find the needs of our brothers and sisters and then meet those needs. God wants His children to bless each other. He wants us to guard each other, protect each other, and give each other gifts. And most importantly, He wants us to speak life over each other.
I’m thankful to Ramon for showing me what being a member of the family of God is all about. And he gave me a simple reminder that I can wear on my hand to remind me on a daily basis that I also have a responsibility to bless my brothers and sisters in Christ.
So, how may I bless you today?