Combining Sacramental life and Mission in the Dominican Republic
When the Rev. R. Randy Day, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) says he loves children, and that baptism is his favorite sacrament, he goes out of his way to show it. Recently, following an eight-day trip to Brazil where he observed the Brazilian Methodist Church’s mission outreach in action, he went to the Dominican Republic (DR), where, first, he attended a mission-related meeting, and then, he baptized a baby.
The meeting which Day attended was the Caribbean Methodist Leaders Forum, which followed the 11,000-member Dominican Evangelical Church’s (DEC) annual Assembly. The DEC is an autonomous Church founded conjointly at the turn of the 20th century by American Methodists, British Methodists, the Presbyterians, and the Moravians. British Methodist churches were turned over to the DEC in the 1930s, and the Moravians withdrew in the 1990s, but the United Methodists and Presbyterians continue in varying degrees of commitment. Today, the Dominican Evangelical Church of the Dominican Republic, with more than 90 congregations, is the only united autonomous church to which the GBGM relates in the Latin America and Caribbean area.
“This was my second trip to the Dominican Republic,” Day says. In 2002, accompanied by two GBGM staff members, a Board member, and a pastor, Day visited Barahona, a town near the mountainous western border between DR and Haiti, the two nations sharing the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. There, they saw encampments set up by Haitian refugees trying to escape from the abject poverty of their homeland by working as laborers on DR sugar plantations. However, neither planters nor the Dominican government has made them welcome, and the refugees eke out sub-survival wages, living in villages with no running water (water is carried in from rivers miles away each day by women), no electricity, nor any other amenity.
“I am especially excited about DEC’s ministries to Haitians,” says Day. “The Church is reaching out to hundreds of thousands of Haitian refugees who are seeking better lives in the more prosperous DR. The Church, with help from the GBGM, is implementing programs to improve literacy and health among the Haitians, and at present, is establishing outpost ministries for them.”
It was noted during his meeting with the Methodist leaders that Day was the first General Secretary of any United Methodist or predecessor agency to make an official visit to the island nation, which was the site of the first Methodist mission in the Hispanic Caribbean in the 1820s.
He also found time to take part in the baptism of Franklin Gabriel Guerrero, the four-month old son of GBGM staff member, the Rev. Franklin Guerrero-Jimenez (Executive Secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mission Context and Relationships Program Area), and his wife, Jenny P. Rosario, a native of Santo Domingo, the capital of DR.
Day, joined by Bishop Juan A. Vera of the Puerto Rican Methodist Church, and the Rev. Alejandro Figueroa, General Secretary of the DEC, baptized Franklin Gabriel Guerrero on January 26, 2003 at the Iglesia Metodista Unida in Santo Domingo. “Gabe”, who wore a smile throughout the service, was born in Belleville, NJ, in September 2002. “This was definitely a highlight for me,” says Day. “I have so many great memories of baptisms in the churches I have served. It is always a profound spiritual moment for me, and I look forward to many more.”
Date posted: Feb 11, 2003