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Inward Beauty Blooming in the Dominican Republic

Written by Stephen L. Woodworth on . Posted in The Gospel Coalition Blog

Article by: Stephen L. Woodworth

If scenes of white sandy beaches, tranquil blue waters, and exquisite resorts dominate thoughts about the Dominican Republic, then we’re not looking close enough. While this Caribbean island is home to much external beauty, postcards fail to show a country with unseen internal distress.

Bordered by Haiti to the west, the entire Dominican Republic is contained within 19,000 square miles. With one-third of the population living on just $1.25 a day, crime rates from robbery, homicide, and drug abuse are critically high, and forced labor of child workers is growing annually—discouraging facts for a country that claims to be around 95 percent Christian.

These issues highlight the acute need for discipleship training and biblical resources. Many churches lack the ability to counter the false teaching of the prosperity gospel that plagues the Global South.

Dominican church leaders have voiced their desire to assist congregations in communicating a holistic message of grace—in both word and deed. Theological support will help them accomplish this goal.

Exponential Effect

A ministry in Oakton, Virginia is focused on that whole-gospel endeavor. Empowering Action (EA) “combats spiritual and physical poverty by mobilizing expertise and resources in partnership with the local church.” EA uses seminars, classes, and programs to equip local congregations to share the gospel and confront social issues through sound preaching.

EA currently engages more than 1,000 leaders throughout the Dominican Republic. “Our goal is to teach the leaders and allow their training to trickle down to the congregations,” Director of Operations Andy Manfredi said.

Beginning in 2014, Manfredi partnered with TGC International Outreach (TGC IO) to bring needed resources to the island and enhance training for church leaders through regional seminars. EA delivered 525 Spanish copies of The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. This book addresses the necessity of engaging in ministry (the vine) without neglecting the essential work of tending the structures that make ministry possible (the trellis). 

In 2015, EA distributed copies of another biblical resource to seminar attendees, Que Buena Pregunta! (the Spanish translation of R. C. Sproul’s popular Now, That’s a Good Question!). Covering more than 300 topics, the volume equips leaders and laypersons alike to wrestle biblically with ethical and doctrinal questions.  

In both distribution opportunities, EA encouraged recipients to share the books. In this way, Manfredi says, the rich theology has an exponential effect: “The leaders who receive resources share them with colleagues in Haiti and in the local prison system.”  

Floundering to Flourishing 

The story of a single mother of four who didn’t know Christ illustrates EA’s impact. Amanda lost her employment and savings due to a work-related sickness. Through these circumstances, the Lord allowed EA to develop a relationship with Amanda during a home construction project. EA then introduced her to a local church, where she heard the gospel and received a Bible along with a copy of Que Buena Pregunta!

“[Sproul’s book] was used by the Lord to address many of the questions facing Amanda as she was confronted with the truth of the gospel,” Manfredi said. “She is now flourishing in Christ as an active church member, a small business owner, and a committed investor in the lives of other women in her community.”

TGC IO resources supply basic building blocks for sound theology, Manfredi says. Materials enable local churches to avoid focusing exclusively on social issues or physical needs. They strengthen believers by emphasizing a robust, full-orbed gospel.

Through this partnership, EA is transforming the inner life of Dominican Christians to match the beautiful image of the island’s exterior.

Editors’ note: Continuing with our mission of Theological Famine Relief, we have just released our latest Spanish book for equipping church leaders: Am I Called? by Dave Harvey. Free cases of this resource are now available for Packing Hope in our resource store. 

Stephen L. Woodworth is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and associate coordinator of the International Theological Educational Network (ITEN). You can follow him on Twitter

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