His name is Jose Luciano. He’s the pastor of a church in Santo Domingo called Iglesia de Dios Misionera. Like many bi-vocational pastors of small churches, he’s wrapped himself up in his work and used ‘busy-ness’ as an excuse for not being the shepherd that God called him to be. As a result, his flock was struggling to find their purpose and identity in Christ as well.
But all of that is different now.
Pastor Jose joined a group (supported by LoveServes International) that provides him with valuable training and mentoring. That’s his coach, Rafael, sitting proudly next to him as Jose tells us about how serving his community has not only transformed his life, but also the lives of the people in his congregation.
How to BE the Body of Christ
They make regular visits to hospitals and the infirm in their area. Their desire is simply to minister to the needs of the people who are physically unable to take care of themselves. It doesn’t matter what the needs are, or whether the person is a member of the church or not. Where ever there’s a need, they try to meet it.
It’s become about living the Gospel for Pastor Jose and his church.
The best part of this isn’t just the renewed vision and purpose for the Body, it’s how they accomplish it.
Like many other churches in poor areas, resources are limited. But they don’t sit around and wait for resources to come in from wealthy U.S. churches. They take matters into their own hands.
They start by doing what they can with whatever they have in front of them. And when there’s more need, they turn to the (secular) marketplace. Many women in (and outside of) the church bake food that can be sold in the local markets as a way to raise money to support their projects.
The church has become totally self-reliant while going out and making a big impact on their community. The only outside resource that Pastor Jose has gotten is the training and mentoring that helped him launch his church in this new direction.
A Stark Contrast in Ministry Styles
I’ve been on other mission trips where our presence and what we could offer was a dominating factor. Taking food to people is important when it comes to filling an immediate need, but what happens when the food is gone? Fixing a generator that stops working is awesome, but what happens when it stops working again after the expert mechanic leaves?
The immediate needs certainly need to be addressed, but it seems that a critical part of foreign missions is to support long-term success… not to create a dependence on what we can bring.
How to Support Indigenous Ministry
Please hear my heart… I’m not knocking short-term missions in any way. Lots of good gets done on trips of all kinds. But in order to have the greatest long-term impact we’ve got to make sure that we’re focusing on the right things. Our presence should be in the background, while lifting up the arms of those who’ll remain long after we’re gone.
Is it okay to meet the immediate needs? Sure it is. But when we bring fruit, let’s also bring seeds and garden tools, and show them how to farm their own food.
Often the poverty we encounter isn’t one of physical resources, but the knowledge and wisdom needed to maximize those resources.
Even outside of going on mission trips yourself, one big question that we should be asking of the organizations that we wish to support is…
How do you support long-term change as opposed to meeting just the immediate need?
For more from this trip check out the dominican republic diaries.