Jeff and Ann VanDerMolen serve with Kids Alive in the Dominican Republic. Jeff first shared this story at College Church's Spring Missions Festival. Jeff's story, and others like it, were printed in the festival guidebook, giving us glimpses of how God is at work around the world.
What is God doing in the global church?
As I think about this question and what we have observed in our 20 years living in the Dominican Republic, a series of faces come to mind. What I see God doing in his church is utilizing people to impact the lives of others. Ordinary people. People who may seem unprepared and inadequate, like I am. People who take bold steps of obedience to God and despite not being fully prepared, step out to do what God has called them to do.
I'd like to introduce you to a few of these people.
Carmen is the cook at our ANIJA school. Every day she cooks for more than 300 kids. She cooks in enormous cooking pots on top of a giant three burner stove. She goes through more than 120 pounds of rice a week. Carmen knows how to cook in quantity, and she has been doing it for more than 20 years. I've done the math: she has cooked 750,000 plus meals as an act of service in her ministry to the ANIJA kids. And in her spare time, she cooks in the evenings for the visiting work teams from North America. If you come to Jarabacoa, you will meet Carmen as she prepares your evening meals.
Carmen is one of my heroes. She has a servant's heart and a quick smile. She is involved in the lives of the kids, her neighbors and those she comes in contact with. God has used Carmen to impact the lives of those that she interacts with.
Jessica teaches second grade. When she was young and living in a broken home in a poor barrio neighborhood she was invited to church by her neighbor Carmen (yes, that Carmen, the cook). Jessica came to know the Lord and looks to Carmen as her spiritual mother. Jessica entered the ANIJA school and graduated from eighth grade. Jessica continued on through high school, and with the help of a Kids' Alive scholarship, went to university, graduating with a teaching degree. Jessica has various options of where to teach, but chose to return to teach at the ANIJA school, whose focus is working with at-risk kids. She knew what it was to sit in these classrooms as a child coming from a hard situation. Jessica has chosen to invest her time and talents to impact this next generation of kids who are growing up in the ANIJA school.
Nojean teaches French and tutors in one of Kids' Alive's school in the Dominican Republic. This might not sound unusual, until I tell you that Nojean is Haitian. There are more than a million Haitians living in the DR, many of them here without visas. They live in some of the poorest conditions, receive the lowest wages and work some of the hardest jobs. Life is not easy for them. Yet there is a vibrant church within this community. Each week as my family and I drive to our Spanish speaking church, we pass a church building where the Haitians meet to worship in Creole. Their service starts before our church service and ends after our service ends. They know how to worship.
During the day Nojean serves in ministry to at-risk in the Kids Alive school, and in the evenings and on the weekends serves as pastor of this Haitian church. He makes his living as a teacher, but chooses to serve as an unpaid pastor. This is common in the DR--bi-vocational pastors who meet their financial needs through a day job; then serve as church leaders as part of their ministries. Nojean has a heart for at-risk kids as well as the Haitian population living in the DR. Nojean is an example of a typical pastor in many parts of the global church, a job during the day and ministering to a church body in non-working hours.
When I think about what God is doing in his global church, I see the faces of those that he is using to accomplish his tasks. He is using ordinary people to do extraordinary things, people who are affecting the lives of those around them in obedience to God.