Independence Day

From the Pastor’s Study   (7/4/2021)

When I was a child, I thought it was funny to ask people silly riddles such as, “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?” or “What color was the old gray mare?”   Another was, “Do they have a fourth of July in England?”  The answer to this last one is, of course, yes.  It comes the day after the third of July.  Obviously, the British do not celebrate the Fourth of July or Independence Day like we do here in the United States.  (I trust my sense of humor has matured somewhat since my childhood.)

It was a surprise to me when I learned that there are people in the Caribbean nation, the Dominican Republic, who actually do celebrate America’s Independence Day, the Fourth of July.  Some there have a deeper, more profound appreciation for our country’s birthday than most of us here in the United States. 

A decade ago I made the first of seven short-term mission trips to the Dominican Republic.  On July 4, the church my team was serving surprised its American guests with a special program.  Sparklers, hand-made Uncle Sam hats, a red, white, and blue cake, and fireworks portrayed on a bed sheet hung on a wall all made for a patriotic Independence Day celebration. The church choir had arranged a wonderful presentation for us.  They sang in English, God Bless America and the Star Spangled Banner. What a thoughtful expression of hospitality!  But there was more to come.

Following the musical presentation, the Dominican pastor, Joel Puello, spoke.  He spoke about his love and respect for the United States of America.  He talked at length about the liberty our nation has promoted around the world.  He made much of the fact that in 1965, American Marines were dispatched to the Dominican Republic to quell a Marxist revolution.  American intervention prevented his country from becoming another Cuba.  How thankful he was that his nation did not succumb to Soviet-style tyranny!  His country’s freedom was due in large part to the United States.  This man was not an American.  He was a Dominican.  Yet here he was, praising the United States of America! 

Then Pastor Puello described an even greater benefit his nation had received from the United States.  American Christian missionaries brought the gospel to the Dominican Republic.  They planted a church – and they reached his parents for Christ.  Later, it was through the influence of these American missionaries that he himself came to know the Lord.  He thanked God that the United States has been a launching point from which the gospel has been carried throughout the world.

As the program ended, several of these kind folks shook my hand and embraced me.  They thanked me for making the great sacrifice of being willing to be away from my own country on our great national holiday.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  I was also embarrassed.  I felt a sense of shame.  “What sacrifice?” I thought.  The truth is, to most in the United States, the Fourth of July means a day off work to spend at the beach or picnicking at a park.  People sleep in, cook out, attend a movie, or go to a ball game.  There is little or no thought given to the high ideals of our nation’s founders expressed in the Declaration of Independence.  Even less do we consider the sacrifices made by the revolutionary patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for the liberty we now enjoy.

What could I possibly say to my dear Dominican friends?  I simply wiped away a tear, and thanked them for their kindness.

Now, every Independence Day I remember that Fourth of July in the Dominican Republic.  And when I do, I am again grateful to my Dominican friends.  I am thankful to these fine people from another country who taught this American how very privileged I am.  God bless America!