Sister Churches

            Bridging the cultural gap between the United States and the Dominican Republic, two congregations established a relationship. It began with a 1999 disaster relief trip in which one of our members participated as a translator and worker. Upon his return, Israel Rosas shared with his friends at the Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren the story of his journey. One thing led to another, and this congregation in the northern suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland began exploring the possibility of a sister church relationship with the Luz y Verdad Iglesia de los Hermanos (Light and Truth Church of the Brethren) in San Juan de la Maguana, a city in central west part of the Dominican Republic.

            In 2001, Long Green Valley Church hosted the pastor of the Luz y Verdad Church and his wife for an extended visit, which included the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, that year taking place in Baltimore. During this visit Pastor Miguel preached the gospel at Long Green Valley Church.

            In January of 2005, a group of six from Long Green Valley traveled to San Juan de la Maguana for an exchange. Along the way, they participated in several worship services at Luz y Verdad, one in which Pastor Pete preached, spent a couple of days on the road sightseeing with a group of youth and young adults from Luz y Verdad, and generally got to know their Dominican sisters and brothers. Read some of our folks reflections on that trip.










            That summer, the pastor's wife and daughter came to Maryland for a visit.

            In 2006, Long Green Valley contributed toward sending a group of young people from the church of the Dominican Republic to our Denomination's once-every-four-years National Youth Conference. Unfortunately, through a misunderstanding, none of those youth were from Luz y Verdad.... The following year, a smaller group (not including Pastor Pete), traveled to the DR, visiting many other congregations, but also spending time in San Juan de la Maguana with brothers and sisters in Luz y Verdad.

            The summer of 2008 brought another opportunity for this relationship, as five youth and two adults from Long Green Valley were sent to participate in a work project at Luz y Verdad. The previous group in 2005 had involved four persons age 50 or over, and two young adults in their twenties. This 2008 group was more of an exchange between youth groups, as together we worked on adding a second floor to the small educational wing of the meetinghouse.


            Along the way were ball games and swimming and hiking trips, as well as staying in the homes of church members. Worship was inspiring, even given the language barrier (see clips in the first video below). Pastor Pete, instead of preaching in English with a translator as he did in 2005, wrote his sermon in Spanish and preached it. Leaving was, indeed, sweet sorrow. On the last day, the Luz y Verdad people gathered around the Long Green Valley youth and prayed mightily for them. It was a great experience for all. On the way home, we stayed 2 nights in a youth retreat center in Santo Domingo (encountering the strange critter in the second video below in the girl's bathroom), and enjoyed a day at the beach before flying home.



            Not much has been done since. Maintaining a cross-cultural relationship is hard work, especially when it comes to making it mutual, and not parent (U.S.) and child (Dominican). It is so easy to fall into paternalistic patterns, with one looking up to the other to provide wealth. Though the government of the Dominican Republic is no longer a dictatorship, patterns learned from those many years in the last century are hard to break. Likewise for those in the United States seeking to be helpful. Wealth flowing into one congregation over many others who also need help can hinder fellowship among the Brethren in the DR . It can also encourage dependency, and become much less than mutual. A struggle within the leadership of the Dominican church has gotten in the way of further relationship between Long Green Valley and Luz y Verdad. Additionally, the illness and death of Israel Rosas in 2012 took away an important bridge between us. Sister church relationships between U.S. and DR churches are no longer being encouraged.

            It has been, however, a wonderful journey together. May God bless both congregations in the years to come!


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