Check out: http://www.crcna.org/pages/libraries.cfm
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Recently, we spent a few days in the Dominican Republic to explore the possibility of developing a library in the new Ministry Center that is being built with the assistance of Christian Reformed World Missions and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee.
We met with several representatives of the Christian Reformed Church of the Dominican Republic, including the Education and Building Committees of the Ministry Center, the President of the Denomination, and the Director of the Christian School Initiative.
Since we had never been to the DR, we were not at all familiar with the scope and nature of our mission work there as well as the organization and development of the church with whom CRWM is working. In general, we are quite familiar with how missionaries plant and develop local churches. However, there were several areas where the work in the DR is unique. The church membership is made up almost entirely of Haitians who have immigrated, legally or illegally, to the DR. Some have been there for two or three generations, but, to the best of our understanding, many still have not been granted legal status by the DR. Many of them survive by doing menial tasks, and they, in general, are the poorest of the poor. (For more on this check out the following article in the Chicago Tribune, September 21, 2008.) Copy and paste the following address into your address line: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-dominican-haitians_avilasep21,0,3122104.story
Most of the older generation (which includes the pastors) has very little education. As we understand it, the CRC churches were not the result of a missionary church planter, but sprang into existence primarily, If not totally, through the Back to God Hour and spread by word of mouth. Most of the churches are all very small. Our missionary hosts took us to visit one about thirty miles north of Santo Domingo—the capital of the DR--where the Ministry Center is located.
The Church's Pastor
The poverty there was apparent. The only work the people living there could get was to pick oranges as day laborers for about three or four months a year for about US $1.00 a day—that is if they really worked hard!
Yet by their smiles, we could tell that they, though distressed, were not unhappy. They had learned to deal with their poverty.
Along with our DR missionary colleagues, we had a wonderful meeting with the representatives of the Ministry Center, Church, and Christian Schools. Most of the committee members did not understand any English, so everything we talked about had to be translated by the one committee member who knew English. Even though several of those present had little education they understood the value and necessity of developing a library. Heads were frequently nodding up and down as our words were translated.
Their enthusiasm was very apparent. They recognized that more of the younger generation was becoming better educated, and needed to have books to read, as well as the knowledge necessary to make use of electronic resources in today’s world.
One of the major purposes of the meeting was to determine where the library would be located. Originally the Ministry Center committees thought a small (10’X10’) room in a corner of the Center would be sufficient. As a result of the meeting they agreed to put the library in the middle of the Center in a large area that would also double as a Board/Conference room. They were also in agreement that several computers with Internet access should be included in the library.We also had the opportunity to visit a Christian school in one of the barrios on the outskirts of Santo Domingo.
It may be some time until the Ministry Center building is finished. A large volunteer work group will be going there in December and will accomplish as much as possible. It is doubtful they will be able to come close to completing it. When it is completed, several obstacles will still remain. There are very few books available to put in the library. All books must be in the Spanish language. Shelving will need to be purchased or built. They have no computers. And, most significantly, they have almost no money.
We will continue to work with them as much as possible by looking for Spanish language theological (and other good Spanish language books) that others may be willing to donate. Up-to-date computers will also be needed. After the book collection reaches at least 500 in number, and the facility is ready, we have promised to return (or ask another librarian to go there) to continue the development of the library. This may be a year or two off, but we are confident that they have a strong commitment to move forward.
Our hosts: Steve and Sandra Brauning (bottom); Joel and Alison Renkema (top)