Our foray into the Dominican Republic began with Carlos Contreras and a contact he developed from El Salvador. Carlos began to serve the Oasis group of churches in El Salvador some years ago and it turns out they had a large network of churches that stretched through out the Latin world to include the DR. Carlos traveled to the DR in 2008 and met with Tomas Martinez the pastor of Oasis church of Santo Domingo and Alvaro Rodriguez the pastor of Oasis church of Santiago. Carlos and I made a follow up trip to the DR together in the fall of 2009 and our relationship with these brothers has grown over the years as Jim Britt and I have made numerous trips by invitation of Tomas and Alvaro to train their leaders, conduct pastoral marriage retreats, and build relationally. It was through these men that we met Miguel Nunez of Iglesia Bautista Internacional (IBI) the host of Por Su Causa.
Recently I had the privilege of spending a week with Alvaro Rodriguez and the Oasis church of Santiago. We worked together to train leaders, evaluate pastors, and talk about team building. Alvaro has a vibrant church in Santiago (second largest city in the DR with about 1 million inhabitants). The most interesting aspect of my visit was the day I accompanied them into Haiti to watch them on mission with the gospel. It was fascinating to observe how they train and fund Dominican missionaries who work with the poorest of the poorest in Haiti. We have much to learn from these men and women who cross the border between these two countries to plant churches, dig wells, help Haitian farmers grow crops and of course preach the gospel and see a new generation of Haitian believers raised up. The churches planted all have Haitian pastors who work with the Dominican pastors. It is a beautiful partnership yielding much fruit. It is a brilliant testimony to the surrounding community to see Haitians and Dominicans working together as historically the Haitian and Dominican people have been at odds with each other. I took some video of my day in Haiti and trust it will serve to encourage us all in the gospel mission in which we partner. Sovereign Grace Ministries funds helped build some of the facilities we see in the video. The missionary couple supported by the Dominican church, Keith and Cookie Davis, are from Alvaro's church.
Al was raised in Miami, born to Cuban parents. He left Miami to join the army and receive his bachelor's degree from the University of Florida. He served on the staff of Christ for the Nations in Dallas for seven years and is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. After pastoring a church in Atlanta for two years, he joined the leadership team of another Sovereign Grace Ministries church, Metro Life Church, in Orlando. In November of 1996, Al fulfilled his dream to return to Miami and plant a church that is a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries, Palm Vista Community Church, where he now serves as lead pastor. Al and his wife Desiree have four children: Vanessa, Melinda, Stephanie, and Joseph.
June 27, 2012 by
Categories: Haiti | International
Rob Tombrella reports on a recent short-term missions trip that Grace Church (Frisco, TX) participated in and the lessons God taught him and his team through uncertain circumstances.
When the morning greeted us through echoing rooster crows and the increasingly familiar smell of burning trash we had no idea what was in store for us. This was not because we didn’t have a plan for the day. After all, we had been in communication with Jesus in Haiti for months talking through how we can serve their church, orphans, and children in the area. But we were soon to learn something about Haiti that long-term missionaries know all too well about the country they love—nothing goes quite as planned.
We arrived at Victory Bible Church early Tuesday morning with a plan to conduct children’s activities while I visited their pastoral staff meeting. Afterwards we were going to join the pastors in visiting various members of the church who lived in the nearby village who requested a visit from a pastor on Sunday.
On our way to the church that morning we passed what seemed to be around fifty people causing a stir. When we arrived at the church property we were informed that some residents of the neighboring village had just started a demonstration because their electricity had been shut off—a historic issue that was recently overcome only after the President of Haiti visited the village himself. We were encouraged to continue what we had planned and that the demonstration should be over soon.
As we carried on, the crowd down the road multiplied. After a couple of hours we learned that they blocked the road. Over walls that seemed much smaller now we could see smoke rising and hear gunshots. We watched alongside hundreds of school kids as the rioters drew closer to the church property. For the first time since arriving in Haiti, I didn’t feel safe. Curiously, the few police present drove away—in the opposite direction.
Suddenly, we were told to jump in the back of the truck—that the safest option was to drive away from the coming conflict while we were still in front of it. We crammed into the truck as poised and confident as possible. As our truck drove past the protection of the gate the noise of children was replaced by mob riot—but not just by the group down the road. We discovered we were not in front of the riot—but in the middle of it as men surrounded our truck with rocks determined to not let us through. I could hear my wife praying and my heart beating. The truck shook as a couple rocks slammed against the sides and stopped moving as our drivers attempted communication through the shouting.
It’s safe to say I’ve not been a prayer meeting like that in my life. A chorus of loud, bold prayer rose past the diesel fumes as our group ducked down both for safety. I watched God hold back men in throwing position from injuring us or the vehicle. After the leader was told who we were with they let us go—and we drove away.
That afternoon was spent battling anxiety and fear as our leaders determined our next move. Questions loomed. How long would this go on? Were we safe? Could we have been seriously injured or kidnapped? How serious is this? Where will we sleep tonight? With nothing but time, we were asked if we wanted to do a spontaneous Kid’s Club in the local village we had stopped for lunch. Feeling exhausted from the morning activities and the recent crisis we were reluctant, but decided to push through the anxiety of an unknown future and trust the Lord.
As we gathered up the kids to play games, sing songs, and share the gospel it seemed like the events of the morning began to lose its grip as smiling and laughing children welcomed us into their hearts—and into their world. We ended up doing the first Kid’s event of several that week in the most unlikely of places—at the most unplanned times. It was as if God had this planned from the very beginning of the day—and the riot steered us straight into it. God was letting us see his work in Haiti, despite the challenges and darkness. At the end of the week members of our team reflected that this event was the most meaningful—both in the way that he touched the children—and the way he turned a day from fear and anxiety to a day of peace and joy.
George Mueller said “Work with all your might; but trust not in the least in your work.” The same could be said of our planning—particularly when it involves the time-consuming and messy work of making disciples whether they live across the street or across an ocean. We must plan with all our might. But our trust must never rest on our plans—but in the One who promises to build his church in spite of our broken resources, shattered confidence, and failed plans. Nothing can interrupt that.
"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).
Rob serves as a pastor at Grace Church in Frisco, Texas. He grew up in the Galveston area before meeting his wife Michelle at Sam Houston State University. Rob earned his undergraduate degree at Sam Houston before attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he graduated in 2003 with a Masters of Divinity. He has served in a number of pastoral roles before joining Grace Church and graduated from Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College in 2008. Rob and Michelle have three sons: Samuel, Joel and Asher.