By Aaron Keller
In October of 2021, our MOVE team of twenty men hosted our first fall trip by going to the Dominican Republic to build a basketball court at a Christian school. As we were planning the project, we discovered the building the church, Iglesia Abierta Bancos De Arena, uses for their Christian school had the same structural issues as the apartment building that collapsed in Surfside, Florida, in June 2021.
Immediately we called for a meeting with the local pastor, Adan Guzman, and Raul Escalante, who pastors First Spanish Open Bible Church of Broward in Sunrise, Florida. Pastor Raul and his church have been instrumental in supporting the church in the Dominican Republic. Collectively we concluded that the building must be torn down. The church tried to accommodate space for the school, but it was not an ideal situation. So after we demolished the building, our MOVE team felt an obligation to help the church rebuild the structure. The problem was, we didn’t know when we’d be able to return.
God opened our schedule for a project to help rebuild the structure in February of 2022. We met with an engineer and developed the plans. It was designed to be bigger than the original building and more functional for a growing school in a community that has no other source of primary education. It was challenging knowing that with our limited time period of 16 days, we would be able to construct only the bones of the structure. Yet on February 22 our team of 26 men set out to complete this phase of the building. We never anticipated the spiritual battle we would face in completing the project.
Our first hurdle was the Dominican Republic government not releasing the funds we had sent early to purchase materials, but thankfully, we were able to resolve that issue. The second hurdle we faced lasted a period of five days. Working with the concrete companies in other countries always proves to be a challenge, but the issues with concrete for this project proved to be the most difficult we’ve encountered. We began the pouring of our beams and deck for the floor on the second story on March 1. After getting two-thirds of the way done, the pump truck broke and started spewing hydraulic fluid everywhere. Eventually we decided to use wheelbarrows and formed a bucket brigade to get the cement from the truck up to the second story where we were pouring this deck, but by then it was too late for that batch of concrete.
At the urging of the concrete company, we used the remaining concrete to pour the rest of the deck, but it was already beginning to cure. We had just demolished a building that had concrete structural issues, and if we walked away from this project, we would be leaving the school in a similar position.
If cement has already started to cure and you add cement on top of it, the two layers will not properly adhere together. Instead of the floor being one solid piece of four-inch-thick cement, you have two layers of two-inch thick cement. Also, because the deck was elevated, we had air movement both underneath and above where the concrete sits, so it cures faster than a cement pad being poured out on the ground. Frustrated, we sent the concrete company away and started brainstorming what to do. We prayed and made the difficult decision to tear out the last one-third of the deck. For two days our men worked tirelessly to remove the work we had done.
Friday was our next pour. While anxiously awaiting the arrival of the cement truck, we received a call that it had gotten a flat tire on the way. It showed up two and a half hours late, and again, the cement had started to cure. We couldn’t use it for the deck. We considered mixing it, but the only mixer within an hour and a half of the village had a broken pulley. Our trip was nearing its end, and we were running out of options. Saturday, March 5, we hired three local workers who helped us mix all the concrete by hand. We assembled a line of men with wheelbarrows that would deliver the fresh cement to other men holding buckets, who would fill their buckets and send them up a ladder to be poured. We hand mixed 5.5 cubic meters of concrete! After five days of challenges with a process that should have taken us only one day, we finally completed the deck. In difficult moments like these, we seek God and desire to understand what He would have us do. We were reminded of past challenges and remembered how we responded. We clung to this scripture from Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT): “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”
The next morning we got anointing oil and prayed over the four corners of the property and each man. The entire time the local pastors were encouraging us, praying for us, and reassuring us our work was not in vain. By the time we got to the dedication of the building, it became clear why facing so many challenges was worth it: we could see the impact the church is having on the community, the kids that look to that building as their school, and the teachers that work so hard every day. Most of all, it’s worth it when you see the pastors rejoicing, knowing that God is their Provider.
With regards to the structure itself, there is still work to be done. It still needs exterior and interior block walls, windows, doors, and plastering. The remaining phases and their costs for Iglesia Abierta Bancos De Arena are:
- Construction of all exterior and interior walls – $10,362
- Supply and installation of windows and doors – $5,042
- Construction of the second-floor wall (steel studs and cement board) that separates the two classrooms – $2,333
- Plastering of all walls (exterior and interior) – $8,930
We consider it an honor to be a small part of the work in Bancos De Arena. We know that our evangelistic impact as a missions team is small compared to the work the local pastors are already doing, so we have chosen as our mission to equip them with the resources they need to minister to their community. We celebrate their vision and the work they are doing and believe that soon they will have a completed structure for their school.
To see additional photos and videos from the trip, click here .
If you would like to donate to help cover the costs to finish this high school, click here .
About the Author
Aaron Keller is the National Director for MOVE Ministries and the lead pastor of Sunshine Open Bible Church in Des Moines, Iowa. MOVE Ministries started in 1981 and has completed 45 projects around the world.
Go to www.moveministries.org for information on upcoming projects.