… and now many of her friends are helping other families to access educational opportunities
February 9, 2024
The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, director of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, spent most of his time on a recent Special Offerings podcast, “Between 2 Pulpits,” talking about pigs and partnerships in the Dominican Republic.
Listen to González-Castillo’s conversation with the podcast’s hosts, the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson and Katie Snyder, here.
“That was an amazing trip,” González-Castillo said, a trip that came after years of working with PDA’s partner in the Dominican Republic, the Christian Reformed Church of the Dominican Republic.
The CRC works mainly with Haitians or people of Haitian descent who live and toil in poor and remote communities in the Dominican Republic, promoting, as González-Castillo noted, “youth empowerment and self-sufficiency.” Dating back at least to September 2017, when Hurricane Maria struck the Dominican Republic and other places with ferocity, many have been dealing with inadequate food resources.
It was CRC’s idea to provide female pigs to families in those rural communities, and PDA was asked to be one of the financial backers. González-Castillo was invited to come to see how the pig project was proceeding.
“Pigs are not only meat,” he said. “Once they have babies, they have monetary value.”
González-Castillo called it “a blessing” to hear how the pigs were being used to feed families, with piglets sold to help parents afford school supplies for their children. The agreement with the Christian Reformed Church is that families receive two pigs, then give away others to families in need. The program started with 30 families and has since grown to 72 families. “It continues to multiply,” he said.
He met with family members who were able to send their children to school through the porcine proceeds. “It’s beautiful to see how they are able to do more than we realized with those funds,” González-Castillo said.
The daughter of a CRC pastor was charged with making sure the pigs received the care they needed, including veterinary care. “She took us around and showed us what was happening, showed us the pigs,” he said. “To see her with so much knowledge and so much agency was a beautiful thing to see. It’s one thing to read about it in a report. It’s another thing to see it for yourself.”
“We saw the benefits of families helping other families,” he said. “The multiplying effect is amazing. We think of the Dominican Republic as a vacation spot. … We don’t hear about what’s happening with the migrant communities there. The government and the island continue to benefit from [the Haitians’] work, but they don’t receive the same resources or care. They deserve assistance not only from the government, but from anyone who can provide it.”
“You use the phrase ‘multiplier effect,’ and I think that’s spot on,” said Wilkinson, who leads Ministry Engagement and Support in the Administrative Services Group. Wilkinson likened the situation to a modern-day loaves and fishes story.
“You put investment in the hands of people trying to be faithful and authentic, and that multiplier effect takes over,” Wilkinson said. “Those dollars join with other dollars, and they can go a very great distance.”
“It speaks about the long-term dreams of communities,” González-Castillo replied. “We may think this donation will help just for this moment, but the long-lasting effects in communities is amazing.”
“People may have never visited the Dominican Republic or had the opportunity to connect with the Haitian community or a Haitian family in the Dominican Republic,” González-Castillo said. “But through Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog, they are able to reach out through these programs and serve the people in need.”
“I’d love to take the whole church with me to visit these communities,” González-Castillo said. “When we go to these communities, we’re in sacred places. We get to sit with families and hear their stories. For me, that is a sacred opportunity to see God working, to bring Matthew 25 to life, recognizing in the other the image of Christ.”
Between 2 Pulpits is a podcast of the Presbyterian Giving Catalog and Special Offerings. Watch other episodes here.
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Special Offerings
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Gracious God, we thank you for witness and ministry. We ask that you would give us the courage and strength to respond in word and deed to all those who are in need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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