Over the past 9 years, my heart has been focus on the school and water project in Cuesta Arena. Through ups and downs, through the support and love of so many missionaries (some have never even traveled to the project), the water project continues to distribute clean water to the community and the school will celebrate it’s 4th graduation!!! I am overwhelmed with joy each time I talk with the families whose lives the project has touched and they talk about their love for their community. Moms who once covered their mouths and had downcast gazes, now walk with pride and feel empowered to not just seek a better lives for their kids but also for themselves. I was privileged to take the dream of the families of Cuesta Arena, Pastora Sairy, and the missionaries that came before me and to make it a reality with the support of so many churches and missionaries. I remember standing on the property, before we even purchased it and thinking how big a task it would be to build a school.
Now, 9 years later, Pastora Sairy, has a new dream, a Leadership Development Center. With a construction plan much like La Islita, the dormitory facility the missionaries currently stay in, she desires to purchase land in Guayabal, near the Santiago airport. The Center would serve the Iglesia Evangelical Dominicana (as well as other sister Protestant denominations), specifically targeting the ones in the northern region. It’s primary usage would be to offer leadership development education to help grow new leaders in the church to plant new churches and to serve in their communities. The facility would have a secondary usage to host missionaries when they are in the area serving. Fees charged for the useage of the facility would help sustain the facility after it is completed.
As a former camper, team member, youth director, and current educator so much of my ministry can be attributed to my time at Warren W Willis UM Camp in Leesburg, Florida. As a youth camper, it was a critical part of my faith formation and where I first felt called to serve in the church. As a team member, it was where I learned to serve and to respond to the call in my life. As a youth director, it was the place I took my youth to in order to truly encounter God’s presence without any distractions and a place I would retreat to connect with other youth workers. As an educator it is where I go to teach others about the children they care for and how to serve God in their field of profession. Camp has always been a place to find peace, encounter God, and escape from the world to discern how God is calling me. In my opinion, it is what this Leadership Development Center would be to Santiago. It would open new door to new places and people to hear God’s calling in their life.
Over the past week, Denvil and I had the privilege of walking the property, praying, and discerning what this call is that Sairy has so clearly felt for Santiago. The land is approximately 2.2 acres and will cost $55,000 with building costs on top of that. This space, this land, this dream is bigger than I ever could have imagined. Like with the school and the water project, we have already had set backs (not receiving the Advcance scholarship) but I am reminded of Sairy’s words to me when I started working in the Dominican Republic, “Don’t walk in front of God, walk behind him.” I have learned that God is bigger than any project or dream we could ever have. With the support of the Renewed Hope Board and the numerous churches across the US that are involved in the project, I am reminded to trust a big God with a big heart and love for His people.
Through recent donations and savings over the past few years, we have already raised $11,000 toward the project. If 9 churches came together and raised $5,000 a piece, we would be past our fundraising goal!!! What would it be like to provide a space for new pastors to be trained and churches to born? How would Santiago be changed? Could this space have the ability to change Santiago like the school has changed Cuesta Arena??