At the beginning of the summer, Maggie and I made a pastoral trip to Students International in the Dominican Republic. The goal for our pastoral trips is always to meet individually with staff: to listen, to give advice, to encourage, to bless, and to pray. It was an amazing time! We loved hearing the heart and passion of the staff as we had lunch, dinner, or coffee times together. We sensed God empowering us with a special grace to give encouragement. We also relived so many memories of our move to the Dominican Republic with our family in 2002 and the nine years we served there with S.I. What we hadn’t anticipated, however, was how God would use this time for us to not only to encourage others but for us to also receive encouragement. It was as if God was telling us, “Nate and Maggie, I want to encourage you by reminding you of the power of long-term investment in the work of my kingdom.” How did God do this? He simply took our hand and walked us through the following stories.
Fifteen years ago, soon after Students International began to work in the Dominican Republic, an education ministry and a women’s social work ministry were opened in a small squatter community called El Callejon.
Cocó, who lives in El Callejon, was connected to S.I. from the beginning. She came to women’s social work activities when she didn’t have to work. She participated in women’s bible studies. Cocó has five children. All of them were students at the S.I. preschool. She attended parent meetings where the gospel was presented. Never during all those years did Cocó surrender her life to Christ. That was until eight months ago when she opened her heart to the gospel at a small church that began to meet near her house.
When I (Nate) heard this, I knew that I had to go see Cocó. Tears came to her eyes as she told me about her decision to follow Christ. She is excited about church and faithfully participates in church activities. Cocó is praying for her now adult children and wants to see them come to Christ. Cocó is also learning to read. As I stood with Cocó and prayed for her, God encouraged me. Here was the fruit of fifteen years of kingdom investment.
Los Higos Church
Los Higos is an agricultural community located in the mountains. Nearly twelve years ago, Students International had the vision to open an ag ministry in Los Higos. An entitlement mentality created by government programs and other organizations made those first years difficult.
Several years later, Andre came on staff. Initially Andre helped lead the ag ministry, but when S.I. saw how well he connected with the adolescents and teenagers in the community, he was commissioned to open a youth club ministry. Andre did a great job with discipleship of these youth, and out of this a church was born. Later Andre resigned his position with S.I. and dedicated himself to pastoring the church.
The church has flourished. Of the 350 people who live in Los Higos, 100 now faithfully attend the church. Andre identified pastoral qualities in one of the men of the church. He discipled him and installed him as the current pastor. The church is now planting three daughter churches in other communities. A church from Ohio who came on S.I. outreaches has partnered with the Los Higos church and helped them construct a church building.
As Maggie and I stood in front of the Los Higos church and thought about its impact, we realized that we were seeing the fruit of seeds that had been planted twelve years ago. Again God reminded us of the power of long-term kingdom investment.
Hector was born and raised in Los Higos. Hector began coming to the Students International youth club when he was ten years old. Andre, the youth club leader, led Hector to Christ when he was thirteen. At age fifteen, Hector was baptized. The evening of his baptism, he preached his first sermon. When Hector turned sixteen, he began to work with the church youth group.
Hector graduated from high school at the top of his class. He was offered a scholarship to study architecture at a university in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Instead he chose to help at the preschool Students International had opened in Los Higos and began to study to be a teacher.
A year ago, Hector came on staff with S.I. and is currently leading the preschool (read more about him and his ministry here). He had an opportunity to teach at a prestigious bi-lingual school, but instead felt the call to invest in the education of his own community. Hector is now also the pastor of one of the churches that the Los Higos church has planted. Seed that was sown and watered in the life of a ten-year-old boy, now twelve years later has produced a teacher/pastor/leader who is positively impacting his world.
In Galatians 6:9 (NLT) we read these words, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Thank you for your partnership with us in long-term kingdom investment.
Nate & Maggie
Read more about the Slabach’s ministry with Students International here.