Ana María López was 25 years old when she heard that a special guest would visit her church’s worship service the following Saturday (Sabbath). It was late 1991, and López and a few other Adventist church members had been meeting under the trees in a park by the Caribbean Sea in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
She had been the second person baptized — after her mother, Bienvenida — into the Caleta Adventist church, a new group generous in faith, devotion, and missionary zeal. The fledgling congregation lacked a basic element, however: a church building.
Showers and Loud Music
Almost 32 years after that visit, Maranatha Volunteers International president Don Noble shared his memories of that special day in 1991 during his remarks at a church building inauguration in Santo Domingo on August 25, 2023.
“I was visiting the country because Maranatha was making plans to launch a major church-building initiative in the country,” Noble recalled. The plan was to build 25 churches during 1992, something that Maranatha had never attempted before. “When I arrived at the beautiful park, I told myself, ‘This is a wonderful spot to meet! Maybe these people don’t need a church building after all!’” he said.
Noble shared how he quickly changed his mind that morning in 1991.
“First it was the rain, as a tropical shower forced everyone ran for cover until it ended,” he said. “Then, some people arrived at the park with loud music, which made worship extremely uncomfortable. Right away, I knew we had to help them have a church building.”
Mother with Many Daughters
That first church building eventually became what is now known as the Caleta Central church, the “mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother church” of dozens of other Adventist congregations in the area and beyond. On August 25, Noble, López, and scores of other church members, neighbors, and church leaders attended the official inauguration of the Caleta V church, yet another “daughter” of the original 1992 congregation — and one more church building facilitated by Maranatha. (The congregations are now numbered up to Caleta VIII, along with another series of names springing out from the Caleta church.)
During the ceremony, as Noble recounted how God had led the organization he leads after his 1991 visit, López, now in her mid-fifties, felt deeply touched when Noble triggered her memories about that life-changing morning. “I was at the park that day!” she told everyone who would listen.
Both López and her mother have not stopped planting Adventist congregations in the area, she told Noble after an emotional greeting at the end of the inauguration ceremony. “We met in the park for three years, but then Maranatha arrived. It was a game-changer.”
A Helper Boy
But López was not the only one whose memories were triggered by the Caleta V church opening. Daniel Polanco, executive secretary of the Dominican Union Conference of the Adventist Church, shared memories of his own.
“I was just a boy when my father took me to one of the 1992 Maranatha building sites as a volunteer,” Polanco recalled. “That project changed my life,” he added, explaining how participating in a church building initiative launched him into a life of service to God and his fellow church members.
Polanco was the keynote speaker during the August 25 ceremony. Dominican Union Conference president Teófilo Silvestre, treasurer Winston Hiciano, and conference church leaders also attended the inauguration, the first of several in which Maranatha played a role during the August 25-26 weekend.
A Combined Effort
The inauguration of a new church building is always a team enterprise, Noble acknowledged. “This is the combination of the effort of many people — volunteers, donors, church members, and leaders,” he emphasized.
The Caleta V building was mostly funded in memory of the late Clarence and Anna Singbeil, a Canadian couple who funded the construction of scores of Adventist churches around the world. During the ceremony, a plaque was unveiled in their honor.
Leaders also honored key church members who gave of their time and effort to make this dream a reality. It included church member Dukens Durand, who opened his home as a place for the Caleta V congregation to meet for several years until Maranatha built the current structure.
A Multiplying Effect
The Caleta V congregation has not wasted time in reaching out to others around them. Even community neighbors who are not church members attended the inauguration. Among them was Glenis, a long-time neighbor and friend of church member Ramón Montero. “We have been friends for more than 30 years now,” Glenis said. “When he invited me, I told myself, ‘I need to be there!’ ”
Young families and a new generation of members also attended. The congregation includes college students, a sizable group of children and their friends from the community, and a growing number of babies. It is a tribute to God’s leading and the supporting ministries such as Maranatha that are helping the church grow and multiply, church leaders said.
In Spanish, caleta means “small cove.” It seems an apt name for a series of congregations that have become a refuge and a multiplying factor for the kingdom of God across Santo Domingo. And church leaders and members believe these “coves” are teeming with “fish” who are waiting to be called into the fullness of God’s truth.
God’s Presence Is Key
At the same time, the whole success of the enterprise hinges on the ongoing presence of God, church leaders emphasized.
During his devotional remarks at the ceremony, Polanco reminded attendees that, just like Solomon’s temple in the Bible, a physical place dedicated to God today implies a direct connection with the supernatural. “This temple is an invitation for God to come down and dwell with us forever,” Polanco said. “I know that God is bigger than I can imagine, but with this temple, I am opening my heart so He can also come to dwell in me.”
Polanco emphasized that building a church is also an invitation to fill it. The success of the enterprise can only come with the blessings resulting from God’s presence.
“It’s as if we are telling God, ‘Now, help us fill this temple and fill our hearts!’ ” he said. “Thank you, Lord, for being present in this place!”
Maranatha Volunteers International is an independent ministry and not operated by the corporate Seventh-day Adventist Church.