Martin Ovil was a successful construction contractor in San Pedro, the Dominican Republic, for many years. In his spare time he served as an evangelist for the Christian Reformed Church in the Dominican Republic (CRC-DR), encouraging established churches and church plants in their outreach ministries.
But after participating in a workshop on church planting in 2008, Ovil felt God calling him to something new.
So he left San Pedro and traveled more than two hours away to begin planting churches in Bávaro, a tourist region on the Atlantic coast. He soon connected with former CRC-DR members, Haitian immigrants, and others who had moved to the area for tourism-related jobs.
After 16 months, two small church groups with a combined total of 50 people had developed in Bávaro, along with several home Bible studies.
As a church-growth trainer and consultant for many years with Christian Reformed World Missions, Steve Brauning knows that though Ovil’s church plants are young and small, they show promise of developing into strong faith communities founded on Christ.
“As with most of the Christian Reformed Church in the Dominican Republic, these [church plants] are mostly made up of Haitian immigrants working in the DR in construction and agriculture,” said Brauning.
For many immigrants struggling to fit into the Dominican community, these churches “provide a place of culturally-appropriate worship and belonging for those who are often marginalized and oppressed due to their race and language.”
Recently, Brauning attended the closing event of a summer discipleship Bible study program. Naasson Civil, a seminary student at the National Evangelical University in the Dominican Republic, had begun leading the Bible studies as a seminary assignment. But what began as a summer program emerged as a church plant with 30 to 40 worshipers.
Brauning noted, “Many of the 26 [people] who received certificates of completion [from the Bible study program] were new believers. The others who attended were friends. Some were interested in joining the studies, but most were there because they were seeking a church and got connected to this one.”