Equipping Pastors and Churches in Dominican Republic

Rich and Sharon Doebler from Cloquet Gospel Tabernacle (Cloquet, Minnesota) recently led several pastoral and leadership training conferences in the Dominican Republic. Ministers and leaders from across a wide spectrum of denominations in the DR benefited from the Doeblers’ 37 years in ministry–Rich teaching from a pastor’s perspective on developing vision and other leadership topics such as dealing with church conflict; Sharon, as director of children’s ministries, on building and strengthening care to children.

Several years ago, Jim and Renee Larson, missionaries from the Cloquet church, began reaching out to churches and pastors throughout the Dominican Republic. They discovered the passion of local ministers to reach their towns and neighborhoods for Christ was often limited by a lack of training or resources. As a result, the Larsons founded Every Day Ministries (www.everydayministries.com) along with their partners, Adrian and Sharon Thomas. Since then they have committed themselves to equipping church leaders, instructing local pastors, and resourcing churches with both teaching opportunities and physical improvements.

“A hurricane thwarted our earlier plans,” Doebler said, “but Jim and Renee are tenacious–and got us to try again.” The effort was well worth it, he explained. “Our church in Minnesota can tap into all sorts of resources: curriculum publishers, leadership training, ministry conferences, and helps provided by various parachurch organizations. But in the DR, those advantages are extremely rare. I thank God for the Larsons and their commitment to stand in the gap, ministering to the ministers.”

Each year a number of short-term mission teams partner with Every Day Ministries to assist in accomplishing some of these goals. Local churches in the Dominican (from a number of evangelical backgrounds) have been blessed with new or improved facilities and evangelistic events.

Divine Connections in Nigeria

In August, Pastor Dean Bjorlin of Valley Christian Church (Breckenridge, Minnesota) and an elder, Vern Aaseby, attended Nigeria’s two-part FCA Convention. Here is Dean’s inspiring report:

What are the odds that the Nigerian man next to me on the plane would have a son attending an American college in, of all places, Fargo, North Dakota-40 minutes from my home? He kept saying, “Wow, this is a Divine circumstance!”

This was not the first such connection. I had traveled to Nigeria once before, in 2005, when I “happened” to meet Bishop Success Samuel. That was the start of a friendship that brought him and his group into the FCA. The work there has now blossomed into 103 local churches, plus more twelve churches in nearby Ghana and three in Togo, and a Bible school. Not bad for a chance meeting five years ago!

This year’s convention was held in two cities (Lagos in the southwest part of the country, and Owerri in the southeast) to make it easier for more pastors to attend. Over the three days in Lagos, speakers included Eric Black (YWAM missionary from Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle, who is living in Port Harcourt), Rev. Mrs. Success Samuel, and the two of us from Minnesota.

The graduation ceremony was a moving time, with the congregation singing “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” as only a crowd of 450 Africans can sing. I challenged the 33 graduates to do their best in what they attempt, to prepare well, and then to trust God to open doors for their ministry. Vern Aaseby shared about the importance of building up the leaders in your church and trusting them to serve with you.

In Owerri, the two-day convention drew about 275. Bishop Stafford Nwaogu shared as well as Eric Black, Vern, and myself.

We came away very impressed with the integrity of leadership among the FCA pastors there. They were very transparent with their members about financial matters. They realize their need to become self-supporting, and desire to do so.

The FCA is alive and well in Nigeria. Keep praying for them.

One Church, One Orphanage

Orphan girls have now moved into an impressive new facility in Itarsi, India, thanks to the giving of just one FCA church. Designed to accommodate 160 girls, the three-story building is part of a group of ministries led by Dr. Matthew Thomas, including a boys orphanage and also Central India Theological Seminary.

“I was in Itarsi to teach at the seminary in September 2008,” says Pastor Paul Vallee of Living Stones Church, Red Deer, Alberta. “One day they asked me to help dedicate an empty piece of land, where they hoped to build an orphanage for girls. As I stood there listening to the various remarks, three powerful thoughts started whirling through my mind.”

The first was, Why can’t some of the richest people in the world help the orphans of some of the poorest people in the world? Nobody had directly asked Vallee for financial help, but he felt drawn to consider the need.

The second thought was that our church family could do this! While his church back in western Canada had its own needs and was facing decisions about land and facilities, Vallee wondered if the coming year should be focused instead on funding something different, a project that held no personal benefit.

That led to a third thought: This could be our church’s “Jericho.” The Israelites were told that in the wake of their first conquest in the Promised Land, “the city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord” (Josh. 6:17). Nobody got to keep anything for themselves. Only when they captured later cities were they allowed to take cattle, furnishings, and other valuables.

“God had promised them the whole land,” says Vallee, “but something was unique about Jericho. God expected it all. I think that the principle of giving to God first is established in the Scriptures.”

So the pastor came home to explore the idea with his elders. They responded positively, and the concept moved along to the church board and eventually the membership. Enthusiasm began to surge. A goal was set: $160,000.

People began thinking of ways to raise money. A church cookbook was created for selling. One of the young adults put on a classical-music concert, raising $5,000. An elderly woman recruited sponsors to donate for each lap she swam in the pool. She ended up swimming more than 180 kilometers (112 miles) over the next few months.

In one particular week, $45,000 came in for the project. People caught the vision and carried it in their hearts. The goal was reached in eight months; total giving from the Red Deer congregation has reached $180,000.

“India is the largest mission field in the world with a very small percentage of Christians,” says Vallee. “Rather than waiting to reach lost adults–as important as that is–our church has gotten excited about transforming the lives of children and training them to make an impact for Christ. God’s Spirit initiated this whole thing, and we’ve been blessed to move along with his leading.”