Beyond the Walls

In the Colonial Section of Santo Domingo: (l to r) Back row: Sor Mercedes, Tom Wetzell, Cristian Del Rosario Urbaez, Joanna Urbaez, Pastor Secundino Ulloa; Middle row: Beth Crosby, Elpidio Zapata, Dan Jones, Alice Urbaez; Front row: Alberto de la Cruz, and Ysabel Paulino.

 

As many of you know, I’ve just returned from a five-day mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

 

And yes, I freely confess that I do not regret missing the snowmegeddon which has raised walls on either side of my driveway approaching a height sufficient to hold back an invasion of Mongol hordes.

  

But enough of that. 

 

The trip was glorious! HALLELUJAH!

 

As for the details, let’s get to it then.

 

I was joined by Kinship Announcer Beth Crosby and Tom Wetzell of the MICB Board of Directors.  (MICB stands for Minn-Iowa Christian Broadcasting and it is the legal name of the charitable organization under which all of the Kinship Christian radio stations are organized.)

 

Our intent was to meet with some Dominicans I had come in contact with as a result of previous mission trips who were operating a fledgling internet radio station called Radio Bendicion Digital. (Blessings Digital Radio) The trip was not financially sponsored by Kinship Christian Radio, but Tom and Beth and I all have a deep and abiding love of Christian radio and we thought maybe some of the things we knew from the radio ministry here might be helpful to the people operating Blessings Digital Radio. 

 

We went to offer what we could, as God allowed, asking that all would be to His glory.

 

What we found was a ministry deeply devoted to proclaiming the glory of the LORD, saving lost souls, growing disciples, and ministering to those in need. 

 

These are people who will spontaneously break out into worship or heartfelt prayer. They will stand in a circle holding hands and begin to pray, each calling out to the Lord in what seems like many different requests and praises, but it all comes back into focus in thanks and praise as they conclude their prayers. 

 

These are a people whose church will hold a one-hour Bible study on Sunday afternoon and follow it up with a three-hour service during which absolutely no one will fall asleep. Ever. The neighbors down the block will not fall asleep. 

 

When the Newsboys sang the line “Let the church live loud” in their song “We Believe,” that church is alive and well in the Dominican Republic.

 

Blessings Digital Radio broadcasts music and teaching and shares the love of Jesus Christ. Director Elpidio Zapata controls all the equipment needed from a single desktop.

 

Digital, internet-based radio has the advantage of not being tied to massive antennas spread out over a wide area. On the morning we were there, we could see his equipment registered about 2,000 people in the Santo Domingo area tuned in with many others listening all over the world including the United States, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, and even China.

 

But Blessings Digital Radio also has a heart for the needs of its community. Its people, many of whom are pastors, are involved in ministries for children, the disabled, unwed mothers, orphans, and other needs that have touched their hearts. The walls of the radio station do not contain them.

 

Those walls are in a small office up two dozen or so stairs above the busy streets of the nation’s Capital, Santo Domingo. For Ysabel Paulino, who broadcasts a program for people with disabilities called “Impactando Vidas” (“Impacting Lives”) that means her wheelchair must be carried up those stairs by two men. The stairs look like they would be very slippery if it rained and Ysabel said she had been injured on four different occasions going up or down those stairs. Handicap parking and accessible buildings simply do not exist in the Dominican Republic.

 

That doesn’t stop them.

 

At one point, we met with a pastor who had pledged a portion of her small church as a place where a new office could be built for Blessings Digital Radio. Walls would have to be constructed and the drum set would have to be moved, but Pastor Magandy and her congregation were willing to help the radio station. That office would be at ground level.

 

As we met with the pastor and talked about how all this could work, a Holy Spirit connection developed between Beth and Pastor Magandy and suddenly we all broke out into spontaneous worship singing “Aleluya” and “Cristo Viene” for I cannot remember how long. (“Cristo Viene” means “Christ Returns” and the implication is that it will happen soon.)

 

There were also many Spirit-led conversations, many of which occurred while our host, Pastor Secundino was driving us around Santo Domingo. 

 

Let me give you a little background on “driving us around Santo Domingo” before I get into the conversations.

 

The Dominican Republic has the second-highest rate of traffic deaths of any place in the world. Driving in Santo Domingo is absolute bedlam. There are about three million people who live in the area around the capital and they all seem to be going in different directions at the same time. There are virtually no stop signs, no street signs, no speed limit signs, and zero concept of leaving more than a gnat’s hair of space between the vehicle you are in and any vehicle around you. I counted a grand total of two stop lights in that city the whole time I was there.

 

“Vehicles” on the packed roads include everything from horse-drawn carts, three-wheeled bicycles loaded with 200 pounds of pineapples, thousands and thousands of small motorcycles and scooters that weave in and out of traffic like each one is driven by Dale Earnhardt, countless old (1991 to 1996) Toyota Corollas used as taxis and typically carrying seven or eight Dominicans, tiny Japanese trucks capable of no more than about 30 mph loaded eight feet tall with plantians, the occasional Land Rover or Mercedes, and full size semi-tractor trailers.

 

In official documents, it says they drive on the right side of the road just like we do. In practice, that concept is irrelevant. They drive where ever there is room to drive. 

 

In the middle of all of this are three gringos and varying numbers of Dominicans (including not one but two wonderful interpreters) in Pastor Secundino’s ten-passenger, four cylinder diesel van. The pastor’s real name is Secundino Ulloa, but a lot of us call him “Papa Cundo” because that’s a lot easier and more fun to say. 

 

And Papa Cundo proves that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are real. In the midst of all this swarming, frustrating, life-threatening utter chaos, Papa Cundo never once says a curse word, raises his voice, or loses his cool in any way. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control radiate from this guy under circumstances that would have me on my knees confessing my sins for days.

 

I know this because almost every time we went anywhere, I was riding shotgun. I arranged for Tom to take the right front seat once and he refused to do so ever again.

 

And, one day, while Papa Cundo is driving through all this, a conversation takes place in the back of the van about the church, what it should be, and how it comes to grow.

 

So, when the traffic is less life-threatening than usual and because I know he is wise in these matters, I asked Papa Cundo what causes the church to grow. And, through our interpreter, he said it was prayer and the fruits of the Spirit. 

 

It’s the church being the real church.

 

Shortly after that conversation, Beth interviewed Pastor Secundino for a Kinship Crossroads report. Using some of the radio technology we brought with us, we were able to sit at the Ulloa’s dining room table and have him tell Kinship Christian Radio listeners 2,000 miles away that the growth of the church, the effectiveness of the church, was about the church going out beyond the walls of the church.

 

And that night, we went to an event called a campaña (campaign) where the people of Secundino’s church picked up the stage and the keyboard and the lights and the sound system and the drum set and moved it down the block to an intersection in the street where there are several places where people commonly come to drink. They literally picked up the church and moved it out beyond the walls of the church. And they preached and they worshiped and they sang and they proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord right there in the street.

 

And they did it with great fervor and strength and joy.

 

They did it with a faith as strong and rich as a cup of Dominican coffee. They did it heartily, in a genuineness that satisfies your soul like a bowl of their national dish, sancocho.

 

They did it without fear or concern about being “too religious.”

 

They did it as if unto the LORD.

 

And as I sit and write this now, I know that the same Spirit is alive and well in Blessings Digital Radio. I know that the God my brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic call “todopoderoso” is the same totally powerful, almighty God who can and does save the lost through the death and resurrection of His only Son, Jesus Christ.

 

And so, I join them in their praise and worship shouting, ALELUYA! GLORIA DIOS! ALELUYA!

 

Today’s Praise

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11 (NIV)

 

 

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