Two Churches, Two Countries, One in Christ

Aug 8, 2023 | Stories from the Diocese

For 20 years, the people of St. John’s, McLean and San Gabriel Church in the Dominican Republic have shared bonds transcending the miles, language barriers, and life experiences. In July, parishioners from St. John’s reunited with their Dominican friends after a long travel hiatus during COVID.

The Rev. Andrew Moore, Assistant Rector of St. John’s, led a group of 14 missioners, including 5 youth, to the village of Consuelo. They worked alongside San Gabriel parishioners and volunteers to host a Vacation Bible School for the community. Over the course of the week, as word spread about the school, more kids showed up. In all, 100 kids attended.

St. John’s youth and local kids from Consuelo focused on providing arts and crafts and outdoor games, while adults ran the programming. The missioners also painted the exterior and interior of the school, and funded the repair of the roof and bathrooms. 

Both churches say that fellowship has always been the most meaningful aspect of the partnership. The people of San Gabriel hosted meals every day for their Virginia friends and put on a party one evening. Many people who had moved away from San Gabriel traveled home for the occasion to visit with old friends from St. John’s. Lodging for the St. John’s group was provided by the Kellogg Center, a facility of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic located in nearby Santa Domingo.

“I was most impressed by how much love there was for the people from both sides,” said Rev. Andrew. “There were such bonds of affection and such joy in just being together. It was the most relation-centered mission trip I’ve ever been a part of.”

St. John’s youth were intrigued by how the people of Consuelo were so interconnected, all caring for one another. It is a perspective that they will take home to their community.

The missioners were also amazed by how comfortable they felt in worship services, even though they were spoken in Spanish. They had the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer — well, in common — so the non-Spanish-speaking parishioners knew the liturgy and felt fully a part of worship.

Work projects have varied over the years based on needs identified by the leaders of San Gabriel Church and School. One year, St. John’s helped to establish a vocational center in the school, which offered IT training and other skills. Another year, they helped to rebuild the school playground.

One afternoon, a small group from St. John’s visited a nearby village to see a new water distribution center that the Diocese of the Dominican Republic has opened. Here, they collect, purify, and bottle water for a fraction of the cost of businesses. They are expanding accessibility to drinkable water in this very poor community.

St. John’s doesn’t know what their next trip will bring in terms of service projects. They just know they will continue to grow in relationship with their siblings in Christ at San Gabriel.

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