Culture At Large

Witnessing transformation in the Dominican Republic

Chris Meehan

Over the last five years, an alliance of Christian missions groups in the Dominican Republic has offered theological and spiritual formation for about 1,500 leaders, helped a group of prostitutes start a jewelry-making business and translated books and articles into Spanish to be used by Christian schools.

Known as the Strategy of Transformation, the initiative has also accepted, trained and placed several interns into ministry settings; mentored innumerable church leaders in one-on-one meetings; and worked closely with some 75 people who are now actively engaged in ministry.

“We have many reasons to give thanks to the Lord because he has been faithful to us as we strive to serve him by proclaiming and teaching the good news to the poor and oppressed in marginalized neighborhoods,” wrote Rev. Mario Matos, director of the Strategy of Transformation in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean in a recent letter to supporters.

"We are working with missional communities who often work on the margins of society with the least, last and the lost - people who live in extreme poverty and experience frequent violence," said Matos.

Matos has been director of the organization in the Dominican Republic for five years. An evaluation of the ministry took place in November in Santo Domingo, the country's capital.

In the letter, Matos writes that the project that trained the prostitutes to use their creative skills to make jewelry and start a business came about through the combined efforts of the Strategy of Transformation, BuildaBridge International (a nonprofit organization that engages the power of the arts to about bring hope and healing) and a local church, Casa Joven Church.

“Seven of Casa Joven’s women members of the church were part of the project to learn alongside the prostitutes and to relate and minister to them," Matos wrote. "Three interns sent by BuildaBridge taught the course for three months.”

Matos also described some of the challenges, especially the level of violence, that the Dominican Republic currently confronts.

“(In 2011), over 200 women have been murdered by their male partners,” he wrote. “Nearly 200 citizens have been killed by police, and nearly 80 police killed in the line of duty. Many young people are among those killed by the police or as result of the violence relating to the drug trade and other acts of delinquency.”

Despite the difficulties, Matos remains hopeful, saying he is encouraged that by God’s grace the Strategy of Transformation has planted the seeds - in many people and organizations - that can grow into a range of transformational ministries.

He wrote that he hopes, out of these seeds, to see the formation of additional "missional communities" in such places as churches, health care and rehabilitation facilities, as well as Christian schools. The church Matos pastors in the community of Guaricanos, Santo Domingo, is trying to find property on which to locate a health clinic where, he wrote, “people can access medical … treatment for common diseases. We need medical equipment and medicine. We trust that the Lord will provide for this.”

(Photo courtesy of the CRC.)

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