On March 26th I arrived in the Dominican Republic to meet up with Brothers Alfred Irizarry and Renny Escorcha from 7th day Gospel Ministry in Indiana, and Ruben Marte from Producciones Celestiales in Florida. We united to conduct the First International Conference in Santo Domingo, focusing on the love of God. The theme of the conference was based on my book, God’s Love on Trial, entitled in Spanish, El amor de Dios en tela de juicio. I brought 400 copies for distribution and 200 copies of Christ in You (Cristo en Ti in Spanish).
I was greeted at the airport by several brethren, including Alfred’s father, Ramon, a long-time brother in the faith who has been very active in sharing the love of God. If you have had any contact with him, you will likely have received some type of literature.
We were invited to stay in the home of a dear brother, Julio Florimon, who has been very active in door to door evangelism and Bible study. This dear brother is impressive. He is 88 years old, and can still scamper down the stairs, and run. Many years ago he had an accident where fire nearly took his vision. The Lord miraculously healed him of this, and evidently did a great job because at 88 years old he is driving well and reading clearly without the use of any glasses. (Driving in the Dominican Republic is a difficult task, definitely not for the faint of heart.) He is still as active as ever in sharing the good news of God’s love.
Friday March 27
Friday was spent in visiting some of the brethren to encourage them to be involved in the meetings. That evening we had a meeting for the local group, in which I shared a study on the importance of allowing Christ to live in your heart to transform your life. The Lord greatly blessed in this presentation. Several people from the community listened from the outside, with very favorable responses. One man poked his head in the door to listen to an appeal to accept Christ into your heart. He seemed to be thrilled with what he was hearing.
Sabbath March 28
On Sabbath morning Brother Renny shared an earnest appeal for the brethren to study the Bible for themselves, outlining some of the dangers of blindly following man. For the second message I shared a study on the amazing benefits of Christ living in us, sharing with us His faith. We also saw how dramatically things changed from the old covenant to the new, when the system of types and shadows were abolished at Christ’s death (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14-17). We saw some of the benefits Christ gained through His experience as a man. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered,” and “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [help] them that are tempted” (Hebrews 5:8; 2:18).
We saw the “weakness and unprofitableness” of the old shadowy types which were “a figure for the time then present” “imposed on them until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 7:18; 9:9, 10). This presentation generated a lively discussion, as some were under the impression that the shadowy types of the feasts were still required to be observed today. I left them with an appeal to accept Jesus Christ into their hearts Who alone is able to transform us into the image of God. (For a thorough Bible study on the feasts, please request the February 2011 and September 2014 issues of Present Truth.)
Sabbath afternoon was utilized by groups going door to door and through the streets distributing literature and inviting people to attend the upcoming evangelistic meetings.
Sunday March 29
On Sunday morning we were invited to have an hour-and-half interview on a local radio station to explain the upcoming conference and encourage people to attend, receive free literature, and get some of their questions about God’s love answered. The Lord blessed us at this time to encourage people that God loves them immensely, so much that He is willing to give everything for them.
Monday March 30
Sadly, our Brother Ramon Irizarry had a difficulty with his eyes. We spent many hours praying and seeking help for him. He ended up boarding an airplane to fly back to Indiana early in the morning. Please keep him and his family in prayer. He had surgery to repair his retina on Thursday, April 2. His surgery went well, and he is recovering well. He still needs our prayers.
We spent the rest of the day travelling around the city preparing for the upcoming meetings and inviting people to come.
In the evening we had a two-hour Bible study with Julio and his wife about the plan of salvation. It was one of the few Bible studies I had almost entirely in Spanish. The Lord blessed us all with the ability to understand each other.
Tuesday March 31
We finished up last-minute preparations for the meetings, and moved to the hotel where we would hold the meetings each day. To my delight, I found that a few of the people I had met on the airplane were also staying at this hotel. We were blessed to have Brother Ruben arrive to help. He was my roommate for a few days, and it was a blessing to get to know him a little better. The Lord has blessed him with a simple and clear manner to share the love of God.
Wednesday April 1
We began our meetings at 8:30 am. Brother Ruben had the first message on the validity of the Bible. The people seemed to relate very well to his message and were encouraged to continue in the meetings. Brother Renny had the next message focusing on Christ as the Son of God. He covered some very interesting historical facts about how this teaching has been hidden or denied in different churches.
I shared the next message on the one God of the Bible, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6). Many people asked questions, and it was nice to see the interaction. The last message of the day was shared by Brother Ruben, who talked about Christ in us as our Comforter. It was nice to see how easily he was able to interact with the people who seemed to really enjoy it. He closed his message with an appeal for everyone to invite a friend for the meetings the next day.
In the evening we began our public evangelistic meetings (the daytime meetings were to strengthen the local brethren). We held these meetings at a different location, very close to where the group meets every Sabbath. When we arrived there was no electricity in the building. Fortunately, the brethren planned for this and had a generator, but it would not work. Some groups of prayer warriors kept the matter before the Lord while other brethren were trying to get the lights to work. After more than thirty minutes of struggling with sporadic success, the power came back on, and stayed working throughout the meeting. Several people from the community came to visit, with a promise to return the following day. Brother Renny shared an excellent message on the love of God in giving His Son to die for us. The people were very receptive and eager to return the following evening.
Thursday April 2
On Thursday morning Brother Ruben shared a moving message on the importance of worshiping God as He is revealed in the Bible, instead of how we imagine He is. He pointed out that just as the false gods of the Philistines were dismembered before the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 5:2-4), false ideas about God fall apart before the light of truth coming from the Bible. He gave several examples of how false theories about God cannot stand up to the truth of the Scriptures.
During the break I noticed a group of ladies in the hotel preparing to play in a volleyball tournament. I felt impressed to pray for them. When I approached them, they said they would be happy to have me pray for them. I asked the Lord to protect them and reveal His love to them every day. They seemed very happy for this. I don’t usually approach people like that, but at this time I felt impressed to do so. I pray that God will continue to reveal His love to them.
I shared the next message about the complete death of Christ, as well as the beginning of His work as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary. This generated a lot of questions and interaction. One new lady seemed thrilled with what she was learning about the depth of Christ’s work for our salvation.
In the afternoon, Brothers Renny and Alfred worked together to share a study on what the Scriptures say about Christ, and then explained that the New Testament was originally written in Greek. They shared some dangerous errors that are coming in, seeking to undermine the validity of the Bible by claiming that the Greek New Testament cannot be trusted. They shared clear evidence to demonstrate that the Greek is reliable and was the original text. The message was received well.
In the evening Brother Renny shared a wonderful message on the love of God in giving His Son. The meetings are held in a poor part of town with a lot of foot traffic. I decided to stay outside handing out books and invitations to the meetings. Several promised to return the next day, while a few went right in to listen to the message.
Friday April 3
I shared the first message on the love of God in giving His Son, very similar to how I shared it all over Costa Rica and Nicaragua on my visits to those countries earlier this year. The Lord greatly blessed, and many people appreciated it. The next message was shared by Brother Ruben on the wonderful promise of Christ living in you. After lunch, Brothers Alfred and Renny again united to share an excellent message on the validity of the Greek New Testament, as well as strong proofs that it is not necessary to use Hebrew names to be saved. They included several thoughts from an article I wrote, called, “Must we use Hebrew Names to be Saved,” found in the November 2005 issue of Present Truth. Brother Alfred had translated it into Spanish, and I had 50 copies for distribution. This was a lively discussion, but many people seemed to be truly blessed by the message.
This was our last day of meetings at the hotel. It was with joy that we embraced each other, knowing that we would be united again the next day at the local church. We moved to the home of a dear sister who had a small apartment built on top of her house for visitors. It reminded me of the Shunammite woman who built a room for Elisha to use when he was passing through (2 Kings 4:8-11).
In the evening, Brother Renny shared another wonderful message on the death of Christ and how false theories about God undermine our understanding of His sacrifice. Several people we had invited the night before attended to hear the message. It was beautiful to see the light shining in the community.
Sabbath April 4
I was asked to share a message for Sabbath School on the sacred names. Several people had questions about whether or not we must use Hebrew names for the Father and Son. They wanted a clear Bible explanation of this topic. We saw that Abraham called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 12:7, 8), and we also saw that he did this without using the actual name of God, because he didn’t know that name. Hundreds of years after Abraham died God told Moses, “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them” (Exodus 6:3). We learned that we can call on the name of the Lord without pronouncing any special word.
We saw that declaring the name of God is sharing the character of God rather than teaching people how to pronounce a word (John 17:26). I shared my testimony of how God miraculously delivered me from an extended acid trip when I asked Jesus into my heart, even though I did not use any Hebrew words. God loves us so much that He is willing to give up everything for us. He is not so concerned about what sound comes out of our mouths when we call upon Him as He is with the condition of our hearts. He can and will transform us if we invite Him to live in our hearts in whatever language we use. God can speak every language fluently, and “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
I cautioned people against viewing God as so extremely cruel that He would destroy someone for not pronouncing His name correctly. When you see God in this way, it will definitely change your character into something that nobody will like. As we behold God, we are changed into the same image, whether that is a good perception of God or a false one (2 Corinthians 3:18). This message was received well, even though some still desired to see God as being extremely concerned with hearing the sound of His name correctly.
The next message was shared by Brother Ruben about the importance of putting Christ first in all things, including every topic of study. He showed that the Scriptures are designed to lead us to Christ (John 5:39). We saw the danger of viewing the teachings of the Scriptures as intellectual knowledge instead of a love letter from the God of the universe.
After lunch, we had an open session of questions and answers about the different messages that were presented. There were many questions on nearly every topic presented. It was nice to see the interaction of the people who had been attentively listening to the messages. This meeting lasted for over three hours, and everyone seemed to appreciate the opportunity to get some of their questions addressed.
Brother Renny shared the final meeting of the public evangelistic conference on the subject of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, showing the importance of His work for us now. The people were very responsive to learning more about the One who “ever liveth to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:25).
Brother Alfred also gave a testimony of how he was picked up on the way to the meetings by a taxi driver and was surprised when it happened to have been a driver to whom he had given my book, God’s Love on Trial, a few days earlier. The driver related that he had shared the book with his wife, who read the first chapter and related she loved it and plans to finish reading it. Alfred told me that the experience really impressed him and reaffirmed the idea that we sometimes don’t know how far one moment of witnessing may reach; that we should reach out and let God do His work through us.
Sunday, April 5
Brothers Renny and Ruben left for home, and Alfred and I moved back to the home of Alfred’s uncle, Julio, for our last night in the Dominican Republic. We spent some final hours with our wonderful hosts who had been so hospitable. Some of Alfred’s extended family came for a visit, and it was a pleasure to meet these wonderful children of God. I came to really appreciate this family and their love for one another.
Monday, April 6
Alfred left for the airport in the morning, and I stayed longer to have a Bible study with one of the local ministers before I left in the afternoon. At the airport I had several opportunities to meet people from different walks of life. It was thrilling to interact with them and share some encouraging words and literature where I could. A few wanted to begin receiving our monthly newsletter, Present Truth. You never know how far an act of sharing will go. Jesus shared God’s love with one lady at a well, who went and shared it with many others, and soon most of the city came to hear from Jesus (John 4:5-42).
There are many wonderful people in the Dominican Republic, and there is a universal need for a deeper understanding of God’s love. Please keep all these brethren in your prayers. God cares about us tremendously and wishes that we prosper and be in health (3 John 1:2). He loves us so much that He gave His Son to die for us. No amount of circumstances can take that away. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?… For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:32, 38, 39).