Last July, during my first visit to the northern coast of the Dominican Republic I was accompanied by fellow colleague, Tim Long (who served with his wife, Patti, and children in the DR from 1985-1995) and I had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Ygnacio. As we drove the one hour north of Pastor Ygnacio’s house into the mountains for the Sunday morning service, we discussed that The River of Life Baptist Church had sustained a devastating fire which had caused structural damage to the cement roof of the building. When we arrived, Pastor Ygnacio dropped us off and began a series of trips back and forth to different areas of the surrounding community to transport church members for the service. He explained that many people live miles off the main road, and they will walk from their homes to the main road and wait for him to drive them the remaining distance to the church. As we waited for the service to begin, we helped to set up the white plastic chairs, that were stored in the small bathroom as it is the only room able to be locked due to the damage of the fire. An extension cord was run from a neighboring house to power the speaker and microphones. As Tim and I helped alongside to prepare the area for service, I had the opportunity to speak with some of the church members about the history of the church, their daily lives, and the impact of and hopes they have for their church and community.
These types of questions are not unique to this church. This is how Lynette and I approach any new ministry we encounter. We take a learning and listening posture to see what the Holy Spirit might reveal to us. Often times, there are things to be learned, stories to be heard, and more questions to later be asked.
One of the conversations I had with a church member had her explaining to me that while the building doesn’t appear to be in the best shape, they don’t mind too much. This explanation came as we stood in the doorway, trying not to get soot on our clothes! She told me that, “The building could fall down, hopefully everyone is safe, but we can worship God in the driveway. Our faith and desire to worship God is NOT dependent on this building.” This really struck me as a powerful mindset that this woman had. Little did I know, this would not be the only time I would hear similar phrasing and thoughts like this!
“The building could fall down, hopefully everyone is safe, but we can worship God in the driveway. Our faith and desire to worship God is NOT dependent on this building.”
I also heard testaments of how the community works and is tightly knit together. I was told about how they had raised some money to begin rebuilding the church, but then some storms passed through causing severe flooding and damage to the mountainside homes with dirt floors. The church members gathered and made a decision to do something about it. They called Pastor Ygnacio to say they wanted to use the money that was saved for the church to help these elderly community members (not church members) by installing cement floors in their homes so they wouldn’t be washed away again.
As I worshipped during the service surrounded by the congregation of agricultural laborers, both Dominican and Haitian, my mind began to revisit the conversations I had heard with these new-to-me faces. I began to think about how missional minded this church was and despite the people living in what many would consider highly impoverished, they didn’t see themselves as poor or use it as reason to hold on to their resources for themselves. They saw the need for the church to be outside the walls of a building; in fact, they were committed to continuing everything they were doing, even if the church building fell down! I began thinking about being sent as a Global Servant to support churches and leaders. What more could I want this church to be doing that they are not already doing? What support or wisdom could I impart here? Just then, as I sat listening to the sermon, I thought about which way I would scurry, if this happened to be the day that the roof would collapse! It was then that I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me with the possibility of accompanying them in the reconstruction of their church building.
With much prayer and discernment, I entered conversations with Pastor Ygnacio and Tim, who had mentored Pastor Ygnacio for many years. Pastor Ygnacio had already had an engineer visit the site and had a developed budget estimate for the entire project. After review, it was clear to me that Pastor Ygnacio was prepared to complete this project, but he simply lacked the funding to make put the plan into action. As we discussed partnership, I explained that Lynette and I would share their story within our networks in the United States to tell them of this small church in the northern mountains of the Dominican Republic that serves as a beacon of hope to their community as A church and as THE Church. We would commit to telling them how this small rural church takes the Gospel and lives it out daily through sacrificial generosity and a love for others to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And we would tell of the ways they work to meet the needs of their community with the resources they have, despite them being limited.
Would you please join me in prayer for the River of Life Baptist Church in the Area of Yaroa and consider supporting the reconstruction project of their church building?
For More Information, Visit the River of Life Baptist Church Reconstruction Project page.