Above photo: A local team of baton twirlers helped celebrate the re-dedication of the school
Story and photos by Missionary Jana Inglehart, Regional Communications Specialist for Latin America & the Caribbean Region.
One of the goals of planting Lutheran churches in developing countries is for the mission congregation to become self-sustaining. That means supporting a full-time pastor and providing and maintaining a worship space with utilities and other necessities. Since church plants, by nature, begin small, it can be a real challenge for them to cover all expenses, especially in the beginning. As a result, many of our Latin American pastors support their families by working at a full-time secular job. They serve as the pastor of their congregation/s in the evenings and on weekends.
One of our fledgling mission churches in the Dominican Republic recently found a creative solution to address a pressing need. In Licey, a new Lutheran church and school were dedicated in 2018. Pre-pandemic, the school was filled with young ones whose parents regularly paid tuition to support the operation. However, following the extended lockdowns and job layoffs in 2020, paying tuition became a challenge for parents, and attendance dropped sharply. The beautiful school was at the point of closing.
A solution that only the Lord could have designed presented itself: The local public school was in desperate need of a school building in the area. Since Dominican schools welcome Christian education, an agreement was reached with the Lutheran congregation in which public school funding would cover all teachers’ salaries and benefits. Our Dominican Pastor, Yban Navarro, who serves the Lutheran school as the chaplain, is a certified teacher, so his salary and benefits are now covered by the agreement. Hence, Rev. Navarro teaches Bible and catechism classes and conducts regular Lutheran chapel services. The difference is now the student body consists of middle and upper-grade students rather than preschoolers. The bottom line is we still have our Lutheran school with a much larger student body.
At the re-dedication service for the school as a publicly funded institution, about two hundred students, parents, teachers, community members and dignitaries were in attendance. They wholeheartedly welcomed the Bible readings, a sermon and prayers by our Lutheran pastors.
As a gift to the school, the Dominican Republic Lutheran Mission provided a beautiful crucifix as a reminder to the students of the salvation they have in Jesus, His perfect life, death and resurrection. We thank God for this unique solution and pray this outreach opportunity will produce much fruit.
Students celebrated the re-dedication of the school
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