Mark and Jenny periodically visit the US and are able to visit congregations as their schedule allows. Email them to extend an invitation to visit your congregation or organization.
About Mark Hare and Jenny Bent’s ministry
Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana (IED), an ecumenical church founded in 1922, was formed in a united mission effort of Methodist, Presbyterian and United Brethren (“Hermanos Unidos”) evangelists from the United States in cooperation with Dominican religious leaders. Many of the US evangelists were from Puerto Rico. All of the founders had a common vision of an independent, indigenous and national church that was not dependent on or an extension of the US denominations. As laid out in its 1922 statutes, the IED’s areas of focus would be: evangelism and new church development; the establishment of medical services, including a hospital and a school for nursing; the organization of primary and secondary schools in areas where none are available; and the development of programs of social action, including community development.(i)
The leadership of the IED has remained faithful through the years to this work of evangelism, health, education and social action. In 2012, this vision led the executive committee to create an opportunity for Jenny Bent to begin a pilot project applying the techniques of Community Health Evangelism (CHE) in the community of Batey 7, one of some 15 or more settlements among the sugarcane fields of the Dominican southwest. In addition to initiating the pilot CHE project, Jenny began working with the health team at the IED clinic in Batey 7 where she has helped establish and run a small medical laboratory.
Community Health Evangelism (CHE) is a Christ-centered educational program used by hundreds of Christian churches and organizations across the globe. The goal of CHE is equipping communities to identify and mobilize the resources they already have to engage with the issues and problems they face, working for positive and sustainable change. (ii) As a mission worker applying CHE principles, Jenny finds one of her challenges to be encouraging people living in very difficult situations to believe that God has in fact given them all that they need — in their hearts, their minds, their souls and in their very beings — to begin being the good neighbor, loving God, themselves and those around them while working to make all of their lives better.
The response of community leaders from Batey 7 who began working with CHE was ultimately very positive, leading to homes being repaired with new tin roofing, drainage ditches being cleaned and a basketball court being built for the youth, among other accomplishments. In 2015, the leadership of the IED was inspired to take CHE to the national level and began introducing the strategy to every region of the country. In the meantime, at the beginning of 2016 Mark finished up a four-year yard garden project with Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP) and other farmer groups in Haiti. Presbyterian Disaster Agency (PDA) and the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) provided the funds for this project. With the CHE work revving up, the IED leadership proposed that Mark’s new assignment would now be to support the CHE work within the IED, alongside Jenny’s work.
Currently Mark and Jenny are between them working with four communities where IED churches in the southwest of the Dominican Republic are supporting CHE programs. In addition, they are organizing and leading CHE-based workshops that focus on popular education and community development. Through the workshops, Mark and Jenny share practical information and techniques that have proven effective in their work in Batey 7 and other communities —community mapping, assets-based surveys, organizational mapping and prayer walks. All of the work is rooted in Biblical themes shared at the beginning of each activity: Nehemiah, for example, is a story that provides rich insights into the integrated re-building of a community. The scripture demonstrates complete social, economic, physical and spiritual renewal, made possible through God’s people working together.
Mark continues to maintain connections with the grassroots farmer organizations in Haiti. MPP, with which Mark has served for over 10 years, is a grassroots movement whose goal is to help small farmers improve their living conditions. It began in 1973 in the small community of Papaye and now has members throughout Haiti’s Central Plateau. Introduced to CHE through their relationships with Mark and Jenny, leaders of MPP were intrigued and have requested that Mark and Jenny initiate a pilot CHE project in the ecovillages built near the central offices in Papaye, about 75 miles northwest of Port au Prince. The ecovillages are permanent communities of refugees who chose to relocate from the city to the countryside and reestablish their lives as farmers.
Mark also maintains communication with organizational leaders in several parts of the country who continue to practice and spread the yard gardening concepts Mark has been helping to promote. He was encouraged to discover that after the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in areas where he had worked one of the first things some families rebuilt were the vegetable- producing areas of their yards.
Mark Hare and Jenny Bent’s ministry continues focus on Haitians living in the Dominican Republic as well as Dominicans of Haitian descent. Mark and Jenny have developed close friendships in Batey 7 in particular, but also through their daily experiences living in Barahona, where there is a very large community of immigrant Haitians. Jenny and Mark want to be witnesses for reconciliation. Jenny says, “My vision is that our Dominican neighbors, friends and colleagues will recognize the inherent dignity of Haitians, and that our Haitian friends and colleagues will recognize the inherent dignity of Dominicans.”
Mark – December 9
Jenny – October 9
Keila – July 16
Annika – July 10