On March 16 my son, Josiah, and I boarded an airplane to fly to the Dominican Republic for an evangelistic outreach, where we would be joined by Nader Mansour, Imad Awde, Alfred Irizarry, Ruben Marte, and Renny Escorcha. We united to conduct the Second 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 250 copies for distribution along with over 1,200 other materials.
We met Alfred at an airport in New York City and traveled with him the rest of the way. Our flights went well, and it was thrilling to visit with and share gospel tracts to those around us. We were greeted at the airport in the Dominican Republic by Miguel Cabrera and Julio Florimon, who brought us to Julio’s house where we would be staying for the next few days. To God be the glory for seeing that our 1,500+ booklets and tracts arrived safely. At the airport, I was asked what was in the three large boxes, and when I explained that they were books to be given away, the officials escorted us past the rest of the security checkpoints without opening the boxes, telling us we were free to go. Alfred said that was our God intervention VIP treatment. I believe God is happy to get this material into the country. Please pray that every piece will bring the most blessing possible.
Thursday, March 17
After a much needed night of rest, we went to visit Alfred’s grandmother, Lucia, who had an injury that prevented her from attending the meetings. After a three-hour bus ride, we reached their pleasant home in the country. It was a beautiful home with a large garden area on a river. Our hosts had a meal already prepared for us. Lucia is such a blessing to see. Every time I have seen her, she assures me that she prays for my family and me every day. That is very encouraging! I know from first-hand experience that God blesses through the interceding prayers of others (See 1 Timothy 2:1-6. For a Bible study on the power of prayer, read the August 2013 and January 2014 issues of Present Truth).
After a refreshing tour of their place, prayer, and visiting with several of the people there, we took a bus back to Julio’s house, sharing literature along the way.
Friday, March 18
On Friday we made some preparations for the upcoming meetings. In the evening we took a very exciting taxi ride to meet with the local group Julio and Miguel have been working with. The taxi driver did some fancy maneuvering; much more extreme than anything we have seen anywhere else. My son learned some of the things not to do in traffic unless, of course, you are in the Dominican Republic. It is probably high on the list of places you do not want to drive. It seems that stop signs and other road signs mean little to nothing to the drivers there. Yet, everyone seemed to move around peaceably without any indication of road rage. Horns were used very freely, but not in anger; rather to inform of their presence.
After about forty-five minutes of extreme driving, we safely arrived at the church, Movimiento Pregonero de la Verdad, where I shared a message about God’s pleasure in accepting us as sons and daughters. We saw how our status changes after being born again and we recognize God as our Father. (You can read a written version of this study in the August 2015 issue of Present Truth.)
In the midst of the meeting a drunken man from across the street very excitedly came in and set a few coins on the pulpit as an offering. He left as quickly as he entered, and later returned briefly. It was thrilling to see the Lord working on his heart.
The message was very well received, and I invited everyone to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. It was a pleasure to have my oldest son, Josiah, with me. He was glad to help in some of my illustrations, as well as just generally helping in the things that needed to be done. This was his first trip overseas, and it was a blessing to him.
After praying for them, we embraced and returned to our homes for the night, this time much more calmly, in the car of one of the brethren.
Sábado (Sabbath), March 19
In English, we can call the seventh-day of the week either Saturday or Sabbath, but in Spanish there is only one word for the seventh-day of the week, Sábado, which means Sabbath* [Footnote: For a study on the Sabbath, contact us and request the pamphlet, 100 Facts About the Sabbath Question, available in Spanish and English.] On this morning we met at the same church. Brother Miguel shared an insightful study on John 14 and 15, followed by some presentations by the children. I shared a message on the importance of allowing the Word of God to transform us so that we treat others with love. I cautioned against allowing minor differences to split us off from members of the body of Christ. This generated some lively participation from the audience. (You can read a written version of this study in the July 2015 issue of Present Truth.)
In the afternoon we returned to Julio’s house and studied with some brethren for many hours, covering several topics, mostly on prophecy.
Sunday, March 20
On Sunday morning, we left early for an interview on a radio station about the upcoming meetings. I was prepared to share a short devotional. It turned out that they wanted a brief explanation of the seminar, followed by a one-hour Bible study. I was not expecting this, but it was an excellent opportunity for the Lord to work. He gave me an encouraging message about God’s love for us even when we fall. He sent His Son to die for us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). After Adam and Eve sinned, they became afraid of God (Genesis 3:1-10), but God did not change; He still came to spend time with them. We saw that this type of fear of God has made it difficult for people to approach Him today. I shared my testimony of how God came to me while I was hosting a drug party to let me know that He loves me and wants me to live forever. This study will probably be printed in an upcoming issue of Present Truth. Aspects of it have been printed in the Feb-Mar 2015 and August 2010 issues.
I encouraged everyone listening to accept Jesus into their hearts, and to come to the meetings for more encouragement. Brother Alfred did an excellent job translating the message, and Brothers Miguel and Leonel used their powerful radio voices to give the details of the upcoming seminar.
That evening, the brethren requested that Alfred share a message during their vigil from 6:30pm until midnight. There is a custom in the Dominican Republic to have late-night vigils. Brother Alfred shared a study on how to be ready when the Lord returns for His people. Brother Miguel shared some interactive messages that everyone seemed to really appreciate. By the end of the evening we were tired, but many gave testimonies that they were glad to participate.
Monday, March 21
On Monday Josiah and I moved to a sister’s home on the other side of town, where I had stayed last year—in a small apartment built on the roof of her house. Our host, Sister Paula, was very kind. Her helpfulness reminded me of the thoughtful lady who arranged to have a room built on her roof for Elisha to use as he traveled (2 Kings 4:8-11). May God richly bless her for her kindness.
This was also the day that Brothers Imad and Nader arrived. They had a forty-hour trip from their homes in Australia; the longest they had experienced. I greatly appreciate their commitment to sharing the gospel. Brother Renny also arrived from his home in Mexico.
Tuesday, March 22
On Tuesday, we traveled around town making the final arrangements for the seminar. It was to be held Wednesday through Friday in the same hotel as last year. Brother Ruben arrived from his home in Florida, and stayed with us on the rooftop.
Wednesday, March 23
The nice thing about our morning showers was that we did not have to wait for the water heater to warm up again, as there was no water heater. Fortunately, the water was not that cold. We left at 7am for the first day of our seminar, which began at 8am. Traffic was especially congested, so we detoured through downtown, which introduced us to an especially poor part of the city we had not seen before. We also drove by the burial place of Christopher Columbus, a very large building that can be lit up at night to project a cross into the air.
Brother Ruben shared the first message of the day, about Christ as the center of our existence. Christ has the law of love in His heart, and when He lives in us, His law is in our hearts. Imad shared the next message, about the necessity of Christ living in us literally, not just words or theory. For an article about this read my booklet, Christ in You.
For lunch each day, the whole group ate at the buffet in the hotel. All of the food was very well prepared and included some local foods. One of them was mangu (not mango), which is a dish made from boiled, mashed plantain, mixed with sautéed onions, which I enjoyed very much. They also had some sweet beans, not like our baked beans, but rather sweetened and mashed as a desert. There is something in my mind that has a hard time eating sweet foods that I am used to eating savory, and vice versa. Despite this difficulty, the beans were pretty good, but not good enough for seconds.
In the afternoon I shared a study on the history of various conceptions of God in early Christianity. It was a sermon version of the last part of my book God’s Love on Trial (See the last article, Available Publications, for a description of this book). All of the meetings contained enthusiastic responses from the audience, and they really seemed to appreciate them.
Thursday, March 24
Brother Renny shared the first message focusing on God’s love in giving His Son. Renny is the most animated speaker I have seen. He is very expressive and interactive with the audience, who seemed to reflect his enthusiasm. Brother Imad shared the next message, comparing the Christ of the Bible with the false Christ of various religions. Brother Nader shared the next message, showing how the gods of Babylon have been worshipped through many cultures throughout history. Brother Ruben shared the last message of the evening, emphasizing the importance of not allowing someone, or something, to take Christ away from us.
That evening we had the pleasure of helping to make arrangements for a wedding that was to take place the following day during our seminar.
Friday, March 25
Our drive to the meeting place was very short, as the country was celebrating Good Friday, and the roads were nearly barren. The Lord gave me a message to share on the sufferings and death of Christ, which brought some tears of love and gratitude. It is absolutely amazing how much God loves us, as was demonstrated by Him giving His only begotten Son to endure extreme suffering and death for us. This theme should be meditated upon every day. (For a printed version of this study, read the October 2011 issue of Present Truth, also available as chapter 4 of my book, Understanding the Personality of God. See page 15 for a description of this book.)
Brother Nader shared the next message on the outstanding benefits that Christ gained for us when He died on the cross. It was thrilling to get a glimpse of some of the blessings that are ours because of His time on earth.
In the afternoon, Brother Nader officiated in a humble wedding ceremony for a couple in the church. Please pray that God will richly bless their union so that His love will shine out from that home to be a window of God’s character to the world.
Brother Imad shared the next message, about the old and new covenants, demonstrating from many scripture passages, that circumcision and other aspects of the ceremonial law were not to be kept after Christ’s death. (For a printed study very similar to this sermon, read the September 2014 issue of Present Truth.)
Brother Alfred shared the last message of the public seminar, on Christ as our Mediator. Later that evening, he and Brother Renny went to interview baptismal candidates and to give a Bible study.
Sábado (Sabbath), March 26
The hotel where we were holding the meetings agreed to let us use their swimming pool, and five souls committed their lives to Christ through baptism. We shared in the joy of heaven (Luke 15:7) over these new disciples of Christ. Those who were baptized were not baptized into any denomination, but rather they were “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27). (For a study explaining this, please read the July 2010 issue of Present Truth.)
After the baptism, Brother Nader shared about the new life that Christ introduced to humanity by His life, death and resurrection. It was refreshing to focus on how we are “saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).
In the afternoon, we had a question and answer session where people could ask any Bible question they wished. There were questions about the New Earth, the millennium, the divinity of Christ, Zachariah 14, Colossians 2, etc. I believe these sessions are very helpful to clear up any misunderstandings about what was presented at the meetings.
That evening Josiah and I accompanied Brother Renny, and Brother Miguel and his family, to visit a castle built by the brother of Christopher Columbus. It was an impressive structure with six-foot thick rock walls protected by canons. Josiah enjoyed climbing on things, one of his favorite pastimes. I look forward to seeing the New Jerusalem, thrusting upward hundreds of miles, which will far outshine this massive structure.
Sunday, March 27
On Sunday several of us went to the ocean. It was a pleasant, bright sunshiny day, interspersed with some light rain. The ocean is beautiful there. It is clear, with colors varying from turquoise to deep blue. The part of the beach where we went was a large cove only about four feet deep, with almost no waves, making it a very nice place to swim. It was refreshing to spend time with friends in this peaceful setting.
Brothers Ruben and Renny left for home on this day. It was a privilege to work with these dedicated men.
Monday, March 28
On Monday, Brothers Nader and Imad left very early in the morning for another forty-hour trip home. I enjoyed working with these brothers to spread the gospel in the Dominican Republic. Josiah and I left with Brother Alfred in the afternoon.
We had an interesting experience in the airport as we were leaving: After going through security, there were many people filling out paperwork to allow them to go through customs. We found a place to sit and began writing out our information. Then we noticed a young man behind our seats looking for something. He had misplaced his passport, which he had last seen on the seats we were using. He was beginning to get stressed by the situation, knowing that without it he would be stuck in the Dominican Republic. We helped him look for the passport for a short time, and then I offered to pray for him. He was glad to accept. I prayed in my broken Spanish, asking the Lord to help him find his passport.
He thanked me and walked away. Later, as we were in line to go through customs, I noticed he was in line ahead of us. When he saw me, he excitedly came over, holding out his passport, and gave me a big hug. He was delighted to see the Lord work in his life. Please pray that this man will continue to see God’s love manifested every day.
Josiah and I safely arrived home where we were excited to be reunited with the rest of our family. Josiah returned home able to speak much more Spanish than when we began our trip, and more importantly with a deeper appreciation of God’s goodness. I am hoping he will be able to accompany me on future trips as well.
We appreciate your prayers for the spread of the gospel in the Dominican Republic, and for the people who are both spreading and receiving it. I look forward to seeing these brethren again. There are plans for meetings to be held there again next year, as well plans to visit some other countries in the near future. Thank you for all your support, whether through your prayers, sharing literature, or other resources. It is a wonderful thing to be “laborers together with God” (1 Corinthians 3:9).
God is preparing a people ready for the coming of the Lord. I pray that you will be actively involved in sharing the gospel in your area. You are a window for God’s love to shine out to your community. May that light shine brighter and brighter each day, especially as we see the day of the Lord approaching.