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By Jeffri Polanco
“native” man by surprise were already factored
When I was a young man, the Lord gave me a
into God’s perfect plan.

calling to return home after more than a decade
in America. As my wife and I reflected on the
In my eagerness to return home to the
things the Lord has done for
Dominican Republic, I had
us during our short time in
no anticipation of having
ministry, we were reminded
cultural challenges. Often, I
of the instance when Jesus
heard people speak of cultural
commanded a man to return
shock, but the term was
to his people. Go home to thy
foreign to me. How much can
friends, and tell them how
things change in a couple of
great things the Lord hath
years? I learned the hard way
done for thee, and hath had
that it is not whether things
Jeffri & Pam Polanco
compassion on thee (Mark
changed, but it is the fact
5:19). Similarly to that man’s
that I changed. Interaction
calling in Mark, I count it
with a different culture had utterly altered my
a blessing that the Lord wanted me to return
way of thinking and living. It was customary
to my home nation and share His Good News
for me as a boy to deal with the incredibly
with my people. Being called to return to my
warm weather, spontaneous routines, and
country has been one of the greatest blessings
unplanned visits and activities. Nevertheless,
of my life; however, there were a few factors I
by the time I returned to the Dominican, my
did not anticipate when I surrendered to follow
life had a new normal. In this transitional
God’s will. Thankfully, the things that took a
season that I had not anticipated, the Lord

taught my wife and me a lot about people.

Even if people from Nagua might do things
differently than we would, they are loved by
God just the same (even if they add ketchup
to their pizza). Returning home had nothing
to do with altering how people did things in
the Dominican. Instead, it was about teaching
them to see and examine even the ordinary
occurrences of life from the only perspective
that matters—God’s perspective.

In addition to the cultural challenges, we
experienced the challenge of church planting.

In the three years that we have served in the
Dominican Republic, we have seen a difference
in people’s openness to the Gospel from one
city to another. For our first few months in
Santo Domingo, it seemed to us as if people
were open to the truth, and we were eager to
share it with them. Nevertheless, as the Lord
relocated us to the town of Nagua, we came to
know another facet of the Dominican people—
many of them have a traditional Catholic
background and a closed group of social
acquaintances. Over time, we noticed that they
are not initially open to the Gospel (anything
other than Catholicism is not welcome).

However, we have learned that the best way
to reach them is through creating meaningful
relationships first. On many occasions, we
witnessed people simply trusting the Lord, but
in our local sphere, we noticed the effectiveness
of reaching them by building a relationship
first. Being a people person as Jesus was has
helped each of us build credibility among those
whom God called us to serve.

The title for this article is The Challenge of Going
Home, and I would love to finish by adding a
second part to that theme—But the Blessings
of Following the Lord. The key to everything I
have learned these last couple of years is that
following God is an ongoing process, but its
end is delightful. Fulfillment is only obtainable
as one takes the step of obedience and embarks
on his own God-given journey. At its core,
world missions is about people—people
boundlessly loved by God to the point of giving
His own Son’s life for them. Surely, it is possible
to look beyond the obstacles and see that God
is leading us to take the next step of obedience.

In our earthly journey, we must see that even
if people do things differently than we would,
they are worthy of our time, sacrifice, and love
because that is exactly what Christ modeled
for us. Pam and I love the calling the Lord has
given us and the people He has entrusted us
to reach. The Dominican people are warm and
welcoming; but more importantly, they are
deeply loved by God. Our prayer is that God
will continue to guide and call more servants to
this ripe field so more of our people can come
to the saving, factual knowledge of Christ. W