The three guys in this picture were on site doing just that in January 2012, the Foreman is in the foreground facing away from us.
Rafaelito was lead foreman at the beginning of the construction of Rio Vista Guest House. Since then he directed many men, Dominicans and Haitians, in the build of the project. At our first meeting he seemed a kindly man, sincere and genuine, with a strong handshake and wide smile from ear to ear. I was taught at a young age by my father that when you meet someone for the first time, you must put out your hand in greeting and when offered the other hand, grip it firmly and as strong as you are met in return, if not slightly stronger. Rafaelito must have had the same lesson. Each time we met we would clasp hands and just stand there in a power struggle of friendship; each increasing the power of the handshake until finally one of us backed down from the pain. Usually it was me.
I know it sounds like a male thing, but most of you understand that there is a level of respect that goes along with the authority of a powerful handshake and greeting. Maybe it was just the way I was raised.
All through the construction of Rio Vista, Rafaelito continued daily to work beside his men until one afternoon in April he indicated he was off to the neighbor city of Santiago the next day for a visit to the hospital. I immediately asked him what for? He always appeared fit and able everyday we saw him; his powerful grip was a testament to his will.
He told me he was diagnosed several years ago with brain tumors that continued to grow and now he was off again to receive treatment at the hospital for his condition.
What a shock!
He showed Laura and I his head and the scars from several surgeries from the past; as well as the immense soft spot on his left side of his head. His skull cap had been partially removed a few years ago in order for the tumor to grow without increasing pressure on his brain. I am absolutely convinced that this solution would not even be considered if he had access to proper medical care.
Rafaelito returned to work at the project in July of 2012 and most of the construction was almost finished; at least for his part. Over the next few months little work was done on our project so we did not see Rafaelito until we heard he passed away quietly at home with his family around him. He finally succumbed to the tumor, the cancer now having spread to other parts of his body.
Rafaelito never gave up on his Faith that God was the center of his life. Daily he professed his love for the Lord. Let us understand something of this; having Faith in God may not save you from an early death or even an illness that can end your life suddenly. For me I saw daily the strength and fortitude of the Lord which carried this man for years until he could go no more. While I only knew Rafaelito for a few months, I saw a man stronger with his illness than most men I know who do not have death knocking on their door.
His strength came from the Lord, it allowed him to get up each day and go out to provide for his family the only way he could; with his hands.
The Dominican Republic has a poor social net and an even worse medical network to provide for these individuals properly. There are no health subsidy programs here; there are no cancer centers; there is little hope.
In my opinion, Rafaelito was the poster child for 2 Cor 12:7-10
7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Rafaelito expressed his desire for his family to be cared for and prayed until his last breath that God would care for them after he was gone.
Laura and I are lifting up his family in prayer, join us if you could.