Above photo: Baptismal font at the entrance of Amigos de Cristo Mission in Santo Domingo.
“As unthinkable as it might sound, in the Dominican Republic, a Roman Catholic country heavily influenced by Pentecostalism, people are thirsty for the Gospel,” shared Rev. Sergio Maita, a Lutheran missionary pastor from Venezuela ,”They struggle between the laxity of popular Roman Catholicism and the rigidity of a demanding, moralistic Pentecostalism with a standard which is difficult to achieve. When they discover Lutheranism, they embrace it with such thankfulness because they find a way to live properly as Christians, with a good conscience for Jesus’ sake, unwavering faith in God and active love for their neighbor, especially those at home.”
That is why reaching out with God’s Word is vital not only to Dominicans but to people all across the Latin America and the Caribbean region.
In September Pastor Ted Krey, Regional Director for the Latin America and Caribbean Region, received a request from a family in San José de Ocoa (simply “Ocoa” for locals), a community located about two hours west of Santo Domingo. They desired baptism for seven family members.
Pastor Ted Krey at Amigos de Cristo Mission in Santo Domingo
With only two Lutheran pastors serving in Santo Domingo, a city of over three million souls, the pastors agreed to do the baptisms with the stipulation that the family would need to make the trip to Amigos de Cristo, our Lutheran congregation in Santo Domingo, for the baptisms. They eagerly agreed. On September 27th God brought those seven family members into the Body of Christ through the waters of Holy Baptism.
Baptisms in Santo Domingo on September 27th
Photos: Seminarian Josue Ventura
Following the baptisms, Pastors Maita and Krey began to travel to Ocoa on a rotating basis for follow-up visits with the family and further outreach to the community. Seminarians and Deaconess Intern Kate Phillips accompanied them as often as their schedules permitted. Friends and neighbors began to join the in-home Bible classes, and news of the gathering spread. Soon the home was filled to overflowing. Children were excited to gather with Missionary Kate for Bible stories and related activities. Neighbors and passers-by gathered at the windows, the doorway, and even in the street, eager for the opportunity to hear the sweet refreshing Words of the Gospel.
Baptisms in Ocoa on December 12th
Photos: Rev. Ted Krey
On December 12th, a service of the Word and four more baptisms were celebrated in the community of Ocoa, marking the beginning of a brand-new church plant and mission start. Missionaries, seminary students, and the members of our missions in Santo Domingo came together for the birth of this new mission. Over 80 participated in the worship service, which was held in a local park about a five-minute walk from the home where they had previously met. This gathering spot for the community was the perfect location to accommodate the growing group and connect with new contacts.
Photos: Missionary Kate Phillips
Thanks be to God, following the service numerous people wanted to be baptized, including eighteen youth. Lord willing, the catechesis and baptisms and will take place over the coming weeks, and this growing group of fledgling Christians will continue to shine the light of the Gospel in their families and throughout their community.
As a gift of love to the people in Ocoa, members of our Lutheran mission in Ozama gathered clothing to share with those in need. That gift was greatly appreciated.
“The mission in Ocoa was unexpected and demonstrates how God continues to provide for us and provide new ways to reach out to people in the DR with the gospel of Christ. All the credit goes to Him,” Missionary Kate Phillips acknowledged, “The amazing part about this day was not just the fact we were able to hold the first Service of the Word in Ocoa, the baptisms, and a great turnout in the community, but also that members from both congregations in Santo Domingo came together to serve in Ocoa. It was wonderful to see the youth teach the kids about Jesus, sharing the faith from one generation to the next.”