One of the goals of planting Lutheran churches in developing countries is for the mission congregation to become self-sustaining. That means supporting a full-time pastor and providing and maintaining a worship space with utilities and other necessities. Since church plants, by nature, begin small, it can be a challenge for them to cover all expenses, especially in the beginning. As a result, many pastors on the international mission field support their families by working at a full-time secular job while carrying out the pastoral ministry in their off hours.
A fledgling mission church in Licey al Medio, Dominican Republic, recently found a creative response to the challenge of funding. Lamb of God Lutheran Church and School, Licey, was dedicated in 2018 and was soon bustling with children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, tuition payments became a challenge for many parents, and attendance dropped sharply. The school was at the point of closing.
Then an opportunity opened up. The local public school was in desperate need of a building in the area. Since, unlike public schools in the U.S., Dominican schools are welcoming of Christian education, an agreement was reached with the Lutheran congregation whereby the public school could use the building in return for covering teacher salaries and benefits. The Rev. Yban Navarro, chaplain at the school, is also a certified teacher. He now teaches Bible and catechism classes and conducts regular Lutheran chapel services for more students than ever.
On March 31, about 200 students, parents, teachers, dignitaries and members of the community attended the school’s rededication as a publicly funded institution. There they heard Scripture readings and a Lutheran sermon and prayers. As a gift to the school, the Dominican Republic Lutheran Mission provided a crucifix as a reminder to the students of the salvation they have in Jesus. In a report on the re-dedication, Jana Inglehart, communication specialist for the LCMS Latin America and Caribbean region, wrote, “We thank God for this unique solution and pray this outreach opportunity will produce much fruit.”
Posted June 20, 2023