This country is as befuddling as it is endearing. With vibrant culture and a friendly disposition, you would give it a hug if you could do something silly like hug an entire country. Also present here is a pervasive survival mindset that sometimes turns folks against each other. In places like The Hole, for instance, even Dominican churches rarely go. The issues are complicated, and no gringo will be able to explain them all, much less solve them, in a six day visit.
The good news is there are boots on the ground. I’ve already shared the incredible work going on here through the faithful service of so many folks with G.O. Ministries. I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to the folks who started it all.
It was Ramon and Tata Gabriel who Brook Brotzman met when he travelled to the Dominican Republic in June of 1991. Ramon (though as far as I can tell everyone calls him, “Gabriel”) was a pastor who introduced Brook to many other faithful Haitian and Dominican pastors. Some were working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet as well as serving their churches.
I got to sit with Ramon and Tata for a few minutes. They are old now, and the patriarch’s right arm is drawn up slightly from a recent stroke. Through laughter and smiles they shared their story, and though translation didn’t afford me a perfect understanding, I get the gist. They are faithful people. Ramon came to know the Lord through an evangelist who visited him when he was sick and gave him medicine. He’s since preached in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Columbia, the United States, and several other countries. Though he wasn’t a Christian when he was a teenager, he has made a huge impact since.
“I didn’t become a Christian so I could do all this,” he said, “But I am grateful to God I have had these opportunities. I have never regretted or been ashamed of my life as a Christian.”
I leave the Dominican Republic today encouraged by the landscape-shifting work going on here. I can see vast differences in influence since my trip here nine years ago. I can only speculate as to the differences Ramon and Tata can celebrate over the last three decades of ministry.
This island is in good hands. There are thousands of God-fearing, gifted people investing in the work of G.O. Ministries. It is my observation that though this is an exceedingly difficult ministry, they are about to reach a tipping point where they begin to grow even more exponentially. In another decade it will be startling how much the Kingdom has been advanced–churches planted, partnerships arranged, Americans impacted through short term teams, and the next generation reached through sports outreach.
Somewhere, on the streets of the Dominican Republic this morning, there’s another Roman Gabriel walking around. Perhaps they look upon the house where I stayed this week, wondering why so many “Americanos” come and go from there. He is not a Christian right now, he is a kid in a neighborhood who plays games and wonders about life and it’s mysteries. He wanders in the street, but he won’t always wander.
Like Gabriel, someone will reach him. Some missionary from G.O. Ministries, or a pastor of one of the affiliated churches, is going to reach out to that child when they are sick and give him medicine or lonely and be his friend. They’re going to share with that kid the love of Jesus. The impact that is made on that child’s life–on those children’s lives–will be significant and lasting. Like Gabriel, that child will never be the same.
And neither will the island.