The first impression of meeting someone is so impactful. There are many ways that a person can come across, starting with their facial expressions and body language. Then, how they speak and act toward you and others.
One of those memorable first impressions I have ever experienced was that of Padre Keiter, a community leader in Punta Licey in the Dominican Republic. I first met him during a lunch presentation given at El Alemendro school in the Dominican Republic. Padre Keiter, was there to meet and greet the HWI interns and to provide information about his community. Padre Keiter’s smile was the first thing that got my attention. It was full of joy and love for others. I immediately felt comfortable and accepted just by his smile and his genuine enthusiasm in meeting the other interns and I.
Throughout the lunch, it was clear that Padre Keiter was 100 percent invested in the time he was spending with us. Not only did he answer our questions enthusiastically, but showed interest in all five of these young, white interns by asking us where we were from and what we were doing with Healing Waters. He did not show partiality toward just the visitors, but with all the people included in the lunch. His attitude throughout the meeting was that of a servant leader who wanted everyone to see Christ in him.
A couple days later, we met up Padre Keiter at the Parish where he is the leader. Recently at the parish at Punta Licey, there was a water store set up in partnership with HWI. Padre Keiter took time out of his busy schedule to show us around the store and explain the impact that it is having in the community, and the challenges that they face on a day to day basis, such as a lack of electricity. We then went inside the parish and sat down while Padre Keiter showed us the business plan of the water store.
“WOW!” I kept thinking, “this guy is so smart,” through his presentation, but what really blew me away was just how much he cares about his community. He saw the problems of the community. The physical problem of not having clean drinking water and healthy sanitation practices, but also lack of emotional and spiritual health. But in that, he demonstrated hope, and lots of it. He discussed ways the community has been working together to solve problems. One way he told us about this is with the relationship between the Catholic church and the Protestant church in the community and in the Dominican Republic in general. He has dealt with hostile interactions with the Protestant pastors with him being a Catholic priest.
While he described some of that, he quickly after painted a picture of unity and how water is bringing the two denominations together, and, now, he is able to have discussions with pastors and be unified together to help their community.
Padre Keiter might not know the impact he has had on my life and the things he has taught me, but I hope to someday get the chance to tell him. He taught me the importance of smiling (as cheesy as that sounds). He reminded me of James 2 where the author talks about showing partiality to no one but loving all. He demonstrated that in our first lunch where he was kind and interested in everyone, and not just the visitors. As well as making sure that EVERYONE in the community had access to water, and not just his church audience. He also taught me the importance of unity in the Church. Whether Catholic or Protestant and the differences that come with that, Padre Keiter saw the importance of working together to be Jesus’ hands and feet, and serve the community in the name of God.
Thank you, Padre Keiter, for truly making a lasting first impression on me and for teaching lessons through your words and actions that I hope to carry in my own mission to serve others.
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.” James 2:8