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Lay Members Help Bring Thousands to Christ in the Dominican Republic

Story by Taashi Rowe/Potomac Conference Staff
Published 8/16/2012

Mariano Samayoa, a member of Potomac Conference’s Takoma Park (Md.) Spanish church, prays for the health of this couple’s marriage.
Some 25 people, most of them regular lay members, and a few pastors from Ohio; Washington, D.C.; El Salvador; and Costa Rica recently boarded a plane heading to the Dominican Republic. When they landed in Santo Domingo, the nation’s capital, they immediately got to work and started preaching in 56 evangelistic centers prepared by church administrators from two local conferences.

In every center there were at least 100 visitors. This mean that over the eight-day period, a total of 6,500 visitors were singing, reading the Bible and hearing sermons about God. Ruben Ramos, assistant to the Columbia Union Conference president for Multilingual Ministries, and four Columbia Union pastors accompanied the lay preachers while they preached, participated in community service, distributed food and extended invitations to the meetings.

“At the church where I preached, some 200 people came every night,” Ramos said. “I was so impressed by how people came freely to the church without prejudice. It was amazing that very rarely was there a white-haired person in the place.”

The trip was one of the latest planned by the Adventist Philanthropic, Evangelistic, Educational & Health Center (APEEC), a local group whose mission is to help the poor, proclaim the Word, heal suffering people and preach about Christ. They have been visiting Latin American countries such as El Salvador and Honduras since 2006. And while there, they work with local churches to distribute food and educational supplies, provide medical care and share God’s love. In 2008 Loma Linda University and Medical School (Calif.) sent some 30 medical students to work with the locals in El Salvador.

The trip was also a laboratory of sorts for graduates of Potomac Conference’s School of Theology, where lay members learn the finer points of evangelism and Bible study. Of the 21 lay preachers, 18 were graduates from the school.

“It was a spiritual feast, and they made a real difference,” said Raul Rodriguez, pastor of the Capital Spanish church in Washington, D.C., and one of the trip organizers. “Most of the results came from lay people! I think that when the pastors in the conferences believe in the lay people and trust them to preach in the churches, then will be possible to realize this great things for the Lord.”

Mariano Samayoa, a native of El Salvador, is now a business owner and member of the Takoma Park Spanish church in Takoma Park, Md. He is also a lay pastor. Last year Samayoa graduated from the School of Discipleship with an Assistant to the Pastor certificate but he has been participating in these mission trips from the beginning.

As in years past, he had a chance to put his training to good use. “It was amazing to see how the people receive God over there when you preach,” he said. “They rent a big space and people pay real attention when you talk about God. When you make the call to accept Jesus, a lot of people come.”

At the end of this year’s program, 2,631 were baptized; 2,500 bags of food were delivered and the group raised enough money so that 2,300 patients were able to receive free medical care at the Seventh-day Adventist hospital in Santo Domingo.

When asked how he feels about his eight days in the Dominican Republic, Samayoa said, “I can see that we really need this kind of project in the world.”

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