From ANN, September 30, 2015:    Four new churches with seating for 600 members opened in the Dominican Republic this month as the Seventh-day Adventist denomination strives to keep up with surging membership in the Caribbean island nation.

A total of 35 new churches were dedicated in the Dominican Republic last year, nearly half of which were built by Maranatha Volunteers International. Maranatha also built the four newest churches.

A few of the thousands of Maranatha volunteers who have worked to build dozens of churches in the Dominican Republic during the past decades. Several volunteers work on finishing the Villa Caoba Adventist Church in the eastern part of the island earlier this year. Credit: ANN/Maranatha Volunteers International.

A few of the thousands of Maranatha volunteers who have worked to build dozens of churches in the Dominican Republic during the past decades. Several volunteers work on finishing the Villa Caoba Adventist Church in the eastern part of the island earlier this year. Credit: ANN/Maranatha Volunteers International.

“We are so thankful to Maranatha for contributing in a big way to the development of the church in the Dominican Republic,” said Cesario Acevedo, president of the church in the Dominican Republic.

Maranatha first started constructing churches here in 1992, mobilizing 1,200 volunteers in the capital, Santo Domingo, to build 25 churches in 90 days. At the request of Adventist leaders, the group returned in 2002 to build 50 churches.

A third round began in 2013, and 19 churches and 13 Sabbath School classrooms have been completed so far in an initiative that will run through 2016.

“The dedication of a church is the final step in the long process that starts with years of prayer, close interaction with church leaders, generous contributions from donors, a time and energy commitment from volunteers, and the overall blessing of Jesus Christ,” said Maranatha president Don Noble, who attended this month’s dedications.

“Each church is as special as it is an answer to a congregation’s prayer,” he said.

The prayers come from pastors and church members who are active in sharing Jesus in their communities, Acevedo said.

“Our members are so excited when they have a beautiful sanctuary to which they can bring their neighbors and friends and grow the church,” he said. “Every time a new church is completed and dedicated, it fills up quickly.”

That’s exactly what local leaders have witnessed in the fast-growing membership of more than 300,000 Adventists in the Dominican Republic. The country has a population of about 10.5 million.

The newly finished Adventist churches are Luz de Javilla, Misionera de Amor, Brisas del Eden, and Paraiso Escogido. Three can accommodate about 125 people each, while the fourth has room for 250.

Each of the new churches includes Maranatha’s basic structure: a roof, floor, block wall, Sabbath School classrooms, platform, baptismal tank, plaster, and paint.

Congregations have added their own architectural and decorative details including tile floors, drop ceilings and landscaping.

Church members are engaged in contributing toward the building of new churches, Acevedo said, not only those in particular regions or districts.

The church has had a plan of building 25-30 churches annually during the past few years, said Acevedo.

“In 2014, 35 new churches were dedicated, nearly half of them were built by Maranatha volunteers, so they continue to play an important role in the growth of the church here,” added Acevedo.

Already, church leaders are projecting that between 12,000 to 15,000 new members will join the church during the next five years. That means more churches will be in demand, he explained. Therefore Maranatha continues to engage in dialogue with church leaders in the Dominican Republic regarding new plans for the upcoming years.

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination in the Dominican Republic has 304,862 church members worshiping in 1,262 churches and congregations. The church operates four conferences, two missions, dozens of primary and secondary schools, a university, a hospital, and an orphanage.

The Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.