The footprint of Maranatha Volunteers International, a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that builds churches, schools, and water wells around the world, became clear during a recent church celebration in the Dominican Republic.
Thousands of church members, leaders, supporting ministries, and community invitees gathered in Santo Domingo on August 26 to celebrate 25 years of steady growth in the Adventist Church’s Southeast Dominican Conference (ADOSE). Church members and special guests attending the convocation thanked God for His care and blessings during the past quarter of a century.
At the same time, regional church leaders and members committed to redoubling their efforts to share the gospel message. The event included biblical messages, songs of praise, a baptismal ceremony, and special moments to honor those whose involvement has been instrumental in this development.
As part of the celebration, regional church leaders honored the three decades of Maranatha’s work, which, leaders said, has left a tangible footprint in the area. Church leaders estimate that the dozens of Adventist church buildings either funded or facilitated by Maranatha in the territory since 1992 amount to 30 percent of the approximately 370 churches in the Santo Domingo metropolitan area.
“Maranatha builds churches, and then we fill them,” a regional church leader said.
The massive celebration highlighted another aspect of Adventist mission drive: the power of synergy between lay-led supporting ministries and church officers working together in various capacities with the same goal, church leaders acknowledged.
Maranatha, a ministry that does not receive funds from the Adventist Church organization and is entirely funded by private donors and enterprises, has a long history of involvement in the Dominican Republic. In 1992, an effort to build 25 churches in Santo Domingo in a few months marked the first multi-project initiative the nonprofit organization had ever undertaken. Since then, Maranatha has returned several times — the last time in 2022 — to provide much-needed worship structures to an exploding membership.
During the August 25-26 weekend, Maranatha’s leaders and a group of donors toured current initiatives in the Santo Domingo area, which include dozens of church buildings and the larger project called “Ciudad del Cielo” (City of Heaven), an Adventist campus expected to be inaugurated by 2025 and which will include a spacious Education and Evangelism Center, a building with multiple classrooms, offices, bathrooms, and an auditorium, plus a large church for more than 400 people.
The visiting group toured some of the church buildings recently opened and participated in the inauguration of three more, besides attending the 25-year anniversary celebrations.
On August 25, the Maranatha delegation stopped at the ADOSE headquarters, where a wall-to-wall map of Santo Domingo and surroundings marks the exact place of every Maranatha-facilitated church building in the area since 1992. ADOSE president Gabriel Paulino explained how, from one Maranatha-funded church building three decades ago, other churches sprang up across the city and beyond. Those new congregations, called “daughter churches,” soon spread across the growing city, to eventually facilitate the launch of still new churches. During Maranatha’s latest stint in the country, the ministry inaugurated at least one “fourth generation” congregation, the “great-granddaughter” of the original church built by Maranatha in 1992.
A Lesson in Synergy
Not every ministry works with bulldozers, blocks, and beams, however. The August 26 celebration of ADOSE’s 25 years also highlighted how other ministries of the Adventist Church have provided manpower to preach, teach, and reach out to Santo Domingo’s neighbors with Bible truth.
The anniversary celebration included a keynote message by Henry Beras, vice president of the Atlantic Union Conference (AUC) in the United States. Beras, a native of Dominican Republic, was part of an AUC team that preached at venues across the city and beyond to support around 40 evangelistic series in the country.
It Is Written (IIW), another ministry, in this case of the North American Division, also provided preachers for the evangelistic drive in July and August. During the August 26 ceremony, regional church leaders recognized their work in the person of IIW evangelism director Wes Peppers. IIW support included General Conference associate ministerial director Robert Costa, who is also speaker/director of Escrito está, IIW’s Spanish channel.
The support from abroad, however, wouldn’t have been enough but for the buy-in on the ground, leaders acknowledged. “The fervor and commitment of local pastors and lay people toward fulfilling God’s mission was contagious,” Costa said at the end of a series of meetings. “Soul-winning in this country is a lifestyle.” According to regional church leaders, ADOSE welcomed more than 1,400 members between July and August.
God’s Guidance and Members’ Buy-in
During the August 26 celebration, ADOSE leaders acknowledged this synergy by honoring IIW, Maranatha, and others who stepped up to support the church growth across the region. At the same time, and despite all human efforts, leaders acknowledge God’s guidance and providence all along.
“What has happened here during the past 25 years is not simply the result of hard work and planning, nor the product of great churches, but it’s completely based on the miracle that comes from the gifts of God,” Maranatha’s president, Don Noble, said during the ceremony. At the same time, Noble, who in 31 years has made 75 trips to the Dominican Republic, acknowledged the local support of their endeavors. “We get excited about building in this country for this one reason: You are so friendly and loving and caring for others,” he said.
Before and after honoring those who committed time, effort, and funds to support the Adventist Church in Santo Domingo, music crowned the moments of spiritual reflection, a baptism, and dedicatory prayer. A local choir sang their hearts out as they called people to reflect on the connection between God’s involvement and human effort. “Through God we will do great things,” they sang.