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Volunteers from North America work side-by-side with Haitians in the Dominican Republic to construct a church building

For two years, volunteers have not been able to travel to the Dominican Republic to assist with the construction of church buildings. Now Resonate is celebrating new friendships and a brand new church building for a local church.

An ox-drawn cart stood in the middle of a sugarcane field in the Dominican Republic. Haitian workers were loading piles of stalks into the cart when members from Faith Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Center, Iowa, walked up to lend a hand.

It was the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began that Resonate Global Mission has been able to send a service and learning team to volunteer in the field.

“It was very good to go back this year and work on another project,” said Duane Postma, who led the ten-person group from Faith CRC.

Since the early 2000s, Duane has been traveling to the Dominican Republic at least once a year to lead service and learning teams or to work on other projects. The coronavirus halted that work, and he’s missed working alongside Resonate missionaries, local pastors, and church congregants.

“I was excited the work would continue this year,” Duane said about Faith CRC’s visit to the field.

Volunteer helps with cutting sugarcane
Cutting sugarcane

Partnering with Haitian Immigrants in the Dominican Republic

Faith CRC partnered with La Iglesia Cristiana Reformada en San Rafael to construct a church building—but one afternoon, the group wanted to visit the sugarcane fields where members of the local community were working hard.

Christian Reformed Churches in the Dominican Republic are composed primarily of Haitian immigrants and their children. They left Haiti in search of better opportunities, but they often end up working in sugarcane fields where they receive little pay in exchange for long days. Many families live day-to-day.

“[Haitians in the Dominican Republic] are socially and economically marginalized and often victims of injustices including employment exploitation and immigration discrimination,” said Steve Brauning, a Resonate missionary.

Haitians living in the Dominican Republic are often looked down upon by many of their Dominican neighbors, but they’ve found community and care through Christian Reformed Churches. These churches often have few economic resources, however.

That’s one of the reasons why Resonate’s partnership with these churches is so important.

Two girls carry buckets to help with the construction of a church building
Volunteers partner with the local community to construct a church building

Helping a Local Church Thrive

For many years, Churches in Canada and the United States have worked with Resonate to partner with local churches in the Dominican Republic to construct church buildings. North American churches raise funds to help purchase building materials, and many groups also take the opportunity to travel to the country to visit and work alongside the members of the local churches.

The local churches spend weeks praying and preparing for these visits. By the time groups from Canada and the United States arrive, they have made a lot of progress on the construction in order to make the most of the time with the service and learning team.

But because of the coronavirus pandemic, volunteer groups hadn’t been able to travel for almost two years to the Dominican Republic to assist with these church buildings.

“Short-term volunteer experiences like this are such a valuable opportunity for all involved—the sending church, the volunteers, the host community, and our staff—to participate in God's ongoing work of building his church."

So it was with much celebration that members of Faith CRC were able to travel to the Dominican Republic this year. They partnered with First CRC in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to raise funds for the purchase of construction materials. Members from Faith CRC then traveled to the Dominican Republic for a nine-day trip to assist with the construction. 

“Before we went down there, the funds were already working,” Duane said. “[The church] had dug the footing and done almost all of the block work so when we came there for a week, it was an opportunity to give them a real boost with their construction.”

Volunteer teams provide encouragement and support for local churches.

“Once the church has its own building, it no longer has to spend money on rent and can focus more on outreach,” explained Steve. “Also the fact that the church meets in a stable and more visible location provides a visible testimony of the gospel and draws people.”

Volunteers from Faith CRC and the local community in the Dominican Republic by the brand new church building
Volunteering with Resonate in the Dominican Republic is not only about building a church building. It's also about building friendships.

Building Community

But serving with Resonate in the Dominican Republic is not only about the construction of the church building.

“While a physical church building is constructed in one place, we see God's family getting to know each other, working together, praying together, encouraging one another, and building each other up into his church for all times and places,” said Gillian.

Duane has led several short-term volunteer groups to the Dominican Republic, and he said his favorite part is watching people work together and build friendships. That’s why the moment in the sugarcane field lingers so vividly in his memory.

“Here were these upper-class Americans who were doing work of Haitians that even Dominicans would never do because that’s work of Haitians,” said Duane. “I thought about what a witness that was to these people that we were willing to do that kind of work alongside them.”

Faith CRC was sad to say goodbye to their new friends in the Dominican Republic, but the church building is well on the way to completion.

“It was a joy for us to be the bridge that joined the local church and the team, and we had a blessed time working, worshiping, and fellowshipping together,” said Steve. “The building is nearly ready to occupy, and this will free up the church to be able to invest not only in their own building, but also in outreach, community development, and other ministries.”

And Duane said that serving in the Dominican Republic is a valuable learning experience that transfers to serving and building relationships at home in Sioux Center.

“It breaks down barriers with people who are a lot different from themselves,” he said. “I know that that transfers when they get back home. If they’re living in communities that are more diverse, like we do in Sioux Center.”