by Hannah Castro
After serving overseas with The Alliance for many years in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, Rick and Tammie Romano felt that God was changing their focus for ministry. Because of their entrepreneurial skills, they decided to serve with marketplace ministries (mm), a structure within Alliance Missions that utilizes vocational professionals to disciple those around them. Through mm, the Romanos started Mission 2535 in 2014 with a vision to create sustainable and joy-filled communities in the Dominican Republic that draw people to Jesus and give them the opportunity to learn and experience the gospel.
The name, Mission 2535, comes from Matthew 25:35–36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Wanting to understand the greatest needs of the El Ciabo region of the Dominican Republic, Rick and Tammie worked with local leaders and churches to identify and help meet four significant needs within the region: clean water, food sustainability, education and job training, and dignified health care.
Opening doors for local people to know God and experience His goodness has been the main focus for Mission 2535, and it has done so by creating and sustaining several innovative projects on their property, Community of Hope. These projects include a furniture factory, vocational/technical school, medical clinic, rehabilitation center, and other tangible, need-based initiatives.
Mission 2535 has also been involved in humanitarian ministries with local government partners at orphanages, juvenile detention centers, youth rehabilitation centers, senior homes, homes for people with special needs, and safe spaces for at-risk children—and even the local dump.
“Every day is different,” Rick reflects. “It really depends on what the current need is. But it’s a great thing that we can love on people and share the gospel with them where they’re at.”
Providing Hope and Direction
The Romanos felt their greatest impact would be to open a faith-based youth rehabilitation center. The center will welcome boys ages 9–19 and will provide 6–12 month-long programs, as the boys walk through the rehabilitation process.
“We’ll work with them through drug, alcohol, and behavioral issues; but the whole focus of our youth rehabilitation center will be faith-based,” Rick says. “It’ll be Jesus. We know that He can turn these kids around.”
The Romanos have found that the kids in their area often get into trouble because they lack direction. Rick and Tammie’s hope is to give these boys focused education and job training through Community of Hope, training and sending them out while working with their families in the process.
“One thing we’ve realized,” Rick notes, “is that boys who are usually in these centers may be rehabilitated, but if the parents don’t know how to help when they get home, the kids go right back to their ‘before’ behavior.”
Working with and training the entire family is an effective way for Mission 2535 to partner with even more people, sharing the goodness of God through rehabilitation and direction.
The construction phase of the rehabilitation center has been funded through the generosity of the Alliance family, and the building is set to be completed by the end of 2022. Raising the funds to run the center will begin shortly after, and they are praying that the doors will open in early 2023.
The rehabilitation center is the most recent of Mission 2535’s outreaches to provide direction and opportunity to the El Ciabo community in the form of education and job training.
A few years ago, Mission 2535 built a vocational technical school at Community of Hope, offering three classes: English, computer skills, and electricity. The school graduated 300 students the very first year. Since then, the school has added refrigeration, beauty, barber, cooking, pharmacy, and nursing classes. Because Mission 2535 believes strongly in working together and not alone, it has often partnered with the government in these programs. Rick says:
We provide the space and the students, and the government provides the teachers. We’re planning to add a business section, and that’s where we would bring the gospel into it. We’re partnering with an outside organization from the United States that will train us, and then we will train our local partners who will share the gospel with the students who come through that program.
Partnering with the National Church
About 15–20 of the Alliance churches Mission 2535 works with are within a 15-mile radius of Community of Hope. The Romanos feel strongly that their role as international workers involves working alongside the national church.
“We believe that our role here is to equip and allow the locals to lead—to empower the local people to run it,” says Rick. “God gave us this vision for Community of Hope and Mission 2535, but the biggest thing we can do is pass it off to the locals.”
One of the local pastors, Pastor Luis, runs the ministry’s furniture factory, which provides jobs for the community and makes all of the furniture for Community of Hope—about 250–300 sets of bedroom furniture a year.
Pastor Luis brings boys off the street who may be struggling with behavioral issues, drugs, or alcohol. He teaches them and trains them, and they become his workers. The factory is able to bless these boys and their families by giving them jobs and opportunity.
Ten of the twenty staff from Community Hope work in the furniture factory. About two years ago, Mission 2535 started having devotionals with their employees on Mondays and Fridays. Rick explains:
It’s a way for our pastors to speak into the lives of the people at Community of Hope. One day, one of our pastors shared the gospel, and about four of the guys from the furniture factory prayed to receive Christ.
That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. Not only are we providing these guys employment but we are also giving them the opportunity to come to faith in Jesus. The community has been transformed because Pastor Luis was looking for ways to be the Church in his community.
The Romanos believe that everyone in their community needs help, but they have made an effort to let the local churches and pastors determine which ministries Missions 2535 pursues. Rick and Tammie are visitors in the villages, so they depend on the local churches and the pastors to decide what each community needs most. Whether they’re providing a water filter, a bag of groceries, or an entire house, working alongside the national church is essential to Mission 2535’s ministry.
“We have had a tight relationship with the national church,” Rick reflects. “We’ve told them that our role is not to go and do our own thing, but it’s really to say, ‘You give us the marching orders to do what you need.’”
Because of their partnership with the national church, Mission 2535 has been able to resource seven new church plants in the last six years, help 165 C&MA churches during COVID-19, provide food through a food bank, and build 26 homes for people in the villages who were in desperate need of basic shelter.
Community of Hope is a fitting name for the ministry taking place through Mission 2535. By listening to and partnering with the community, it is able to provide sustainable resources, opportunities, and a saving gospel presence to the people of the El Ciabo region of the Dominican Republic.
Mission 2535 is always looking for partners, interns, and people who love the Lord and feel called to walk alongside their ministry. To learn more about them and to discover the opportunities available, click here.
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