Carlos and Raydel work together in Dominican Rep. (as well as other Latin American countries) providing leadership training and serving the Church. Recently, Carlos sent the following report:
“As with most of the world, we had some rough months, particularly from April-June as the country was shut down and we could only leave our house for food and essentials. During that time, the churches were also shut down and trying to figure out what to do. In our country, most did not have the access to technology (such as Zoom) before the pandemic, and some churches even thought such technologies were from the devil. Yet in order to survive, churches had to learn to adapt.
So churches began to learn to do meetings and prayer services via Zoom and staying in contact with their people through WhatApp on their phones. While these were helpful, it was very difficult in our very relational type of culture. In July we had general elections in the country and restrictions were lifted so that people could participate. Since then there has been a bit more freedom so we were able to meet in small groups, though some church continue to struggle.
Typically, pastors think that in order to be a real “pastor” or leader they must have a building (bigger the better). Ironically, in a country like Haiti that is even poorer than ours, this is even worse. If a pastor does not have a building than he is not really a pastor. However, with the churches and leaders we work with, we have seen a shift in their mindset. Using the ICM materials over the years we have observed leaders grow into understanding that their role is one of equipping the saints not just contructing a building.
One such pastor in the city of Santiago (in the north of the country), was saving money to build a building before the pandemic. Going through the training with us of what leadership in the body really is and the need to develop others through small groups and equipping leaders, he began to shift his priorities. Once the pandemic hit, he realized that it might be better to take the money that they had already saved and instead of just focussing on one building, have five separate locations in the city, meeting in houses and other locations. So they began by developing others as leaders to facilitate these smaller groups so that the ministry would not be dependent on just a few “professionals.” So even during the pandemic they have been able to equip the saints through bible studies and other small groups. This has been a huge change in mindset from using their limited funds to just focus on buildings into using it to develop people. So now in the city there are five growing groups rather than just one church. This is going to result in a much greater multiplication effect as more believers will be able to use their gifts and calling rather than just being focused on a few “special” leaders. Because of this pandemic, some churches have changed their focus of what real success in ministry is. They now realize it is about people not buildings.
Our own training programs continued throughout the pandemic via Zoom meetings as Raydel would interact with those who were able to gain access. This helped to get through the worst months, but we realized we had to get back together in small groups as soon as possible. We are now helping other churches mobilize people in the churches to reconnect with each other (even though churches are open again, about 25-30% of people are not returning).
Currently we have around 2000 participants in one of our training programs and we continue to equip them to train others. For example, Esperanza continues to mentor a group of 5-10 leaders and Manny has also started a ministry called “Making Men of Action.” We have a huge problem in DR with young men who have no role models and grow up aimless in life. Every week he is mentoring a group of teenagers ages 12-15, training them in character building based on the Word of God as well as providing life-skills so that they can have a vocation to make a living.
In our country, the fear of Covid has forced big churches to rethink how they do ministry. The beauty of small groups, where discipling of believers and mentoring of leaders can take place, is that this type of ministry can function regardless of a pandemic or other such crises. While technology is helpful, and we use it, by itself it is not enough for the church to function as it was intended. We need to continue to train leaders so that their mindset shifts to one of developing others so that we can function as the early church did in Acts 2:42, “. . . devoted to teaching, fellowship, communion together and prayer.”