P1000578Two weeks ago today, on Sunday, March 10, 2013, on the top of a steep hill with overcast skies (a blessing so it wasn’t too hot) and strong winds blowing, excitement built as members from several mission sites in the Dominican Republic and others gathered to dedicate The Reformer Lutheran Seminary in Palmar Arriba. It was a bit surreal to see that after eight years of intentional mission development, a Lutheran seminary in the Dominican Republic was finally established.

Early that morning, members from the church in Las Americas and Los Minas, communities on the south end of the island and a three-hour bus ride away, loaded up a large passenger bus and headed to the hillside, rural town of Palmar Arriba. Another bus loaded up members from Licey, a small town outside of Santiago. About 30 minutes prior to the anticipated start, residents and church members from Palmar Arriba began to gather at the top of the hill outside the seminary and waited for the service to begin. P1000576While more townspeople gathered at the seminary, we waited for the buses. As we stood at the top of the steep driveway looking down the road, we finally could see the buses arrive. Everyone was here and we could begin . . . almost.P1000585

As the buses stopped at the bottom of the hill, we began to see people unload and begin the climb up the steep driveway to the seminary. The transmission on the bus was slipping, and the driver was hesitant to take the bus up the hill. All passengers were able to climb the hill, despite being winded when they arrived up top.

Pastors from the United States, Argentina, Haiti and the Dominican Republic gathered to participate in the service. Quickly the pastors all vested, special handmade banners were set on poles, bulletins were handed out and the Rev. Ted Krey began the dedication service. Spoken entirely in Spanish, the people were led through the dedication of The Reformer Lutheran Seminary. This seminary was blessed for the service of forming seminarians, pastors, deacons, deaconesses and lay people in the study of the Holy Scriptures, Lutheran doctrine and The Confessions.P1000597

It is a two-story building, made out of concrete blocks with a beautiful, white cross painted on the front of the building. From anywhere in the town, you can look up to the hill and see the large white cross standing out against the brown/green hillside. While the building was only partially constructed before the property was obtained by the mission, the building was completed by volunteer servant teams from the United States. Over the last year, teams have worked to dig a well, run plumbing up the hill, pave the driveway, install bathrooms and a kitchen, install a roof, lay tile, add electricity, and paint both the inside and outside. Thanks to everyone who worked on the construction of the seminary!

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Despite the strong blowing winds, the dedication service continued on the top of the hill with many songs and prayers. After group pictures, the gathering of people began a parade down the hill and through the community singing and carrying banners. Everyone gathered back in the playground of Concordia Lutheran School where an altar and chairs had been set up for service. P1000624The children from the group home sat near the front and many other young children watched intently while sitting in their small, red resin, plastic chairs to the side. We continued with service with Divine Service and the celebration of Holy Communion. A children’s choir sang. Rev. Sergio Fritzler, rector of Concordia Seminary, Buenos Aires, Argentina, gave the sermon.

With a growing chill in the air and with winds continuing, the many children and parents gave thanks and praised God for the blessings in the mission and the establishment of The Reformer Lutheran Seminary. As is the custom in the Dominican, at the end of the service, many hugs and greetings were shared with everyone before departing. Songs of Praise

I can distinctly remember wondering to myself, eight years ago at my first meeting regarding the development of a Lutheran mission in the Dominican Republic, whether or not a mission was possible in this country. Would any Dominicans be interested? What little faith I had! Tears came to my eyes as I tried to take in the experience and comprehend what God had done through this mission. To Him be all the glory!

IMG_1678We started that day on the top of the hill. A couple hours later, having been fed through Word and Sacrament, we all departed out into our communities to continue the work of the mission—to be witnesses of Christ, share mercy to those in need and strengthen the bonds of our life together in Christ and the world. I left Palmar Arriba with excitement building for this mission and for what God has in store for the future.

Barb Below