Saturday, July 6, 2013

Celebrating the Dedication of the Ranchito Church Santuary

What a blessing to participate in the dedication service of the Iglesia Cristiana de la Comunidad de Ranchito.  The children's choir welcomed the 350+ members and guests that afternoon.  It was the culmination of many years of hard work and partnership for this congregation.

It was maybe 9 or ten years ago that Pastor Joselo Toribio had first invited me to minister in his church in Ranchito.  I was blessed by this congregation meeting under the tiny carport.  There were about 25 adults and children crowded under the roof and they were excited about their faith!  It reminded me of the "first love" enthusiasm of new Christians.  These humble folk, mostly rice 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pitfalls of the Unreached People Groups (UPGs) Bandwagon

Sitting in a classroom full of missionaries and pastors in a Doctoral class on Missions Theology, I could not believe what was unfolding before me.  The pastor of a large church was boasting about how his churches missions dollars were only going to support missionaries working in Unreached People Groups (UPG) areas of the world.  The impassioned logical appeal of the professor had prompted this response from him.  The idea was being presented that all missions funds need to be channeled towards this purpose.  This was the final frontier of the church. Suddenly, I felt my ministry was being re-classified as unnecessary, or at best, of secondary importance.  The ramifications of this type of thinking could adversely affect the support of thousands of missionaries.

UPGs, or Unreached People Groups represent 1/3 of the world's population today. Most of these 4000 plus ethnic or language groups are located in areas (100 countries) where traditional Christian missionaries are not even allowed.   See, BIMI World Magazine Online, Volume 1, 2000

The validity of my ministry, and the ministry of any missionary working in nations where more than two percent of the population was considered Christian, was being questioned. The two percent mark has been decided by organizations dedicated to "frontier missions" as the point when a missionary could say that their nation or people group had been reached.  (See )   In other words, once the 2% was reached, the national church itself could go on and evangelize the rest of the nation, and the foreign missionaries work was no longer needed there.

This creates some serious discussion. Should missions dollars be withdrawn from all ministries not directly related to reaching UPGs, as proposed by the pastor mentioned above?  Since UPGs were considered to be the final and ultimate unfinished task of the church, how important could anything else be? This was the implication.  The country I work in was reported by Operation World as being  9.1 % evangelized/evangelical.  I work with a great team of missionaries involved in helping to fill church needs, and to train local Christians to evangelize their own nation.  We help in Bible Institutes, since very few of the pastors have advanced degrees in Theology.  We help provide training for Christian teachers and administrators in Christian schools, and have been instrumental at starting Christian schools in different areas of the country.  We help churches to train their own leaders and develop discipleship programs for their adolescents and youth.  We are on the ground floor in fostering the sending out of Dominican missionaries to the needy areas of the world.  Together we are contributing to the acceleration of the growth of the church in the Dominican Republic.  And we do it because God has called us here, and not to a specific Unreached People Group.  I respect and highly admire those who have indeed responded to a call to reach out to the UPGs, but our real value as missionaries is not based on where we go, but rather on our obedience to our call wherever the Lord might lead.
Spending charts show very little missions funds are currently being spent on reaching UPG groups.  Is this a sign of the need for a drastic shift in missions funding to these areas? Also, there were pie charts showing how few missionaries are working in the less than 2% evangelized area of the world, represented by the UPGs. This would seemingly support the great need for finances and man-power to these areas.  However these figures can be misleading as the vast majority of the UPG's are actually in nations that are closed to traditional full-time missionaries. This would certainly contribute to the picture of a great financial chasm between the two.  Since there are so many nations that do not allow traditional missionaries and their projects, it would be normal for less money to go towards support of on-going efforts into those countries. The fact that traditional missionaries are not allowed, can also explain why there are fewer missionaries working in these areas. Again I must
The red area (where most UPGs are located) is largely  where traditional missionaries face closed doors.
reiterate, that I certainly want to encourage support of UPG missions efforts, however not at the expense of the good work being done in the rest of the world by dedicated traditional Christian missionaries.

That missionaries have successfully crossed the 2% number barrier and are still working effectively and fruitfully in their respective nations seemed to have been overlooked in class that day.  The vast majority of these missionaries feel that God has asked them to work where they are, this call factor seems to have been forgotten in the discussion.  I want you to understand that as a missionary and a missions teacher, I am committed to present the plight of the UPG's and to challenge young people to go, but not at the expense of the valuable work being done by traditional missionaries. When I travel

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Rose of Sharon Educational Center Beginnings

It was a year and a half ago when with a two thousand dollar donation we were able to help in the start of a Haitian school in La Vega.  You can see the impact of this program on the smiling faces of the forty children that regularly attend the program.  These are children who without the school would be

 either closed up in their homes while their parents worked or else out on the streets with no supervision.  Often they speak no Spanish, have no legal papers to attend public school, and cannot afford the uniforms to attend the public school. Their future would be bleak.  But they have hope now.

Just a few weeks ago we were starting to let friends and supporters know that we were looking for some land where we could move the current Haitian school, and start a Dominican church. The building is on a very small plot of land.  Pastor Juan Ortiz, the director of the school, found a great property to move to in Barrio Inco.  That very Monday we made a commitment to buy the property within the week with only half the funds on hand, and if need be, to finance the rest with the owner.  But by that Friday all the funds we needed had come in and we closed on the 
property at 6:00 PM that evening.  It was amazing how the exact amount of money we needed was provided at the last minute.   Now we have purchased the land and we are praying for teams and finances to put up the new building.  As you can see in the photo below, 
the current wooden building needs some help.   It will continue to serve the 40 + children, until the new building is built. Missionary Ryan Pauly (his name is the link) on his blog did a great job of sharing some of the history of this project. I invite you to visit his site.  He has become an integral part in the process of the development of this school. 

. One of our La Vega Christian School (LVCS) graduates is studying architecture at the university and has made some concept drawings for us of the new school.  He was a sponsored child at LVCS, and of course we are quite proud of him. Below is one of his renderings of the future school. The new building will have an industrial kitchen, a large dining area where church services can be held, and four classrooms with the potential of caring for 100 students, with a nice playground area outside.

Aside from the facility serving for the formation of a Dominican Church in the area, we are looking at the possibility of developing an after-school remedial learning program to help Dominican children keep up with their studies.  There is an almost 40% drop out rate after 6th grade in the public school system.  Already $5000.00 has been pledged towards the building.  Estimates are that the 50’ by 80’ building will only cost $48,000.00 to complete the first phase. We are counting on construction teams from the U.S. to help us with this project. We are amazed with how quickly the Lord has been supplying funds for this project. We believe that with God's help it will be built very soon.  
We carefully move forward, trying to be sensitive to what God is doing, and what He wants to do in this community.  It is in a very needy low income area of the city of La Vega. Christianity is about helping people spiritually and also in tangible physical ways.  Good works help to qualify the message of hope in Christ that we bring.

If you feel led to help with this project call us at 1-863-248-1119 (US Vonage phone), and we will be glad to help answer your questions.  Or email me at . 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Unidos Por El / United For Him Event a Success!

It seems that the event is getting better and better.  Our largest crowds ever,  from the first day when Isabelle Valdez sang, to our last night with Edgar Winter leading the youth to a commitment on their knees. [Please visit the link above to Facebook to see a video of the closing call] As I looked out from the stage at this crowd, I was touched by the seriousness of their faces.  400 young people kneeling on the grass for over an hour, praying to God.  Many with tears running
down their cheeks.  90 young people signed a list to each lead 10 people to a commitment to Christ throughout the remainder of this year.  That last Sunday we saw over 2000 people attending at one time.  For the first time we had three buses drop in, one from Ranchito, and two from Santiago.  The word is beginning to spread.  Our goal is to see Christian youth inviting their un-churched friends to the concerts instead of visiting the carnaval celebrations.

Debbie's favorite nights were Saturdays, as after the worship team and the guest musicians ministered, we had a different speaker share the Gospel message to the young people.  The messages were outstanding.  Ricky Gell, Gemuel Delgado, Otoniel Bonilla, and Zoila Garcia challenged the young people to live for God.

The good news is that we have paid off all debts for the event. The Lord came through again this year.   These concerts were offered free and depended completely on donations.  We are thankful to people like Ted Krupski,  Felicidad and Alec Pyron, Living Waters Worship Center (Green Cove Springs, FL), Calvary Academy (Lakewood, New Jersey), Ryan Pauly from Transition Ministry, and Calvin Fortner (Greenville, SC), for their contributions.  There were also some local area businesses that helped to

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Unidos Por El Youth Event Ready To Launch

Our event is featured on the front cover of BENDICIONES Magazine 
   Every February in La Vega, our city is host to the largest Carnaval celebration in the Dominican Republic. 
 Carnaval is a type of Mardi Gras celebrated in our city every weekend  (Saturday and Sunday) during February.
  Over 300,000 visitors participate in the weekend  long parties and concerts.  Later in November a large amount of "children of carnaval" are born, to single young women who don't even remember having relations with anyone as they were so inebriated those weekends. Many young people die during February of motorcycle and car accidents, again attributed to imbibing high amount's of alcohol and drugs.  There are no age restrictions for purchasing of alcohol, though age drinking laws do exist.  There is no enforcement of these laws, as you can see from this link to a video we made.

Unido Por El 2013 Promo _ Your chance to transform young Lives for Christ _ Anti Carnival from Elias Castillo on Vimeo.
As a result of the negative effects of carnaval on the youth we have created a Christian alternative to the event that we call "United For Him" or "Unidos Por El".  At the same time that the parades and 
concerts are happening in the city, Christian Artists and youth motivational speakers challenge young people to a life dedicated to God at the La Vega Christian School campus.

Opening up this year, the first Saturday will be Isabelle Valdez. 

Last year over three thousand youth attended the Unidos Por El event.  Financially we cannot charge anything as the carnaval events and concerts are offered at no cost in town.    This brings me to  the reason I am writing this blog.  For us to host the event we depend  mostly on donations.  We currently have raised $3,800.00. Local businesses have also helped in the past with $2,000.00.  We still will need $9,200.00 to cover the costs of this event.  Every year I make this appeal, and by the grace of God, and the generosity of his children, the costs of the event have always been covered.  Will you or your church consider making a one-time offering to help with this event? Please contact us at 863-248-1119 ( or mitch's cell 809-757-9928), for more information.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

College Students and Missions: Who will go?

With 3,500 university age attendees and 300 plus missionaries on hand, the December 2012 World Missions Summit in Fort Worth, Texas was awesome!  On December 28th-31st we attended the conference. We were invited to be host missionaries to represent the Caribbean area..
December 2012 World Missions Summit

It wasn't the numbers that made this three day conference great, it was the openness and response of the young people.  On Sunday morning, out of that mass assembly, 951 young people made their way to the platform (see this link) to say yes to the "Go for a year, pray about a lifetime" challenge. They went right up to the stage and shared where they felt God was asking them to go, or at least that they were committed to go wherever God would lead for a year.

On hand were displays dealing/w human trafficking, sex slavery, social issues.
My eyes teared up.  The missions baton was being passed on to a new generation.    My mind went back to the wonderful missions chapels at Southeastern University (Lakeland, FL),  where in response to a challenge to missions, I would find myself going forward and kneeling again and again in commitment to Christ.  In the midst of so much materialism and self-absorption that we see abounding in society today, here was a group of representatives from the younger generation saying they were willing to sacrifice and to take up this cause of world missions.  What was the cause?  There are two billion people in this world who have not heard a clear presentation on the importance of faith in Jesus Christ, because there are no Christian workers near them. Who will go to these dark regions of the world? I am convinced that man is a spiritual and emotional being,