Sharing God’s Word in Santo Domingo and Beyond
Behind the Rev. Joel Fritsche stands a network of supporters who have partnered in the work in the Dominican Republic.
“When you support a missionary, you’re supporting someone who is working hard to prepare a brother or sister in Christ in a country of service to continue the work of the Gospel there,” says the Rev. Joel Fritsche, an LCMS career missionary in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic.
“In other words, not only are you supporting the work of one individual, you are laying the groundwork for more pastors, deaconesses and other church leaders to plant churches and to share the Gospel for generations to come in that country and beyond,” he adds.
In his missionary role, Fritsche works to plant new churches in a country encompassing the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (the western third being Haiti). The Dominican Republic’s population is roughly 10.6 million — including around 3 million living in Santo Domingo. The area is known for its tropical climate and its rugged highlands and mountains interspersed with fertile valleys.
In Santo Domingo, Fritsche forms and develops groups of believers into mature, self-sustaining and self-replicating congregations through Word and Sacrament ministry. He also serves as the director of Concordia Seminary (Centro de Misericordia Seminario Concordia el Reformador) and Mercy Center in Palmar Arriba. As director, he teaches courses and helps prepare men to be pastors — pastors who then proclaim God’s Word not only throughout the Dominican Republic but also throughout the Caribbean and parts of Latin America.
“Last fall, a young man named Miguel from one of our Santo Domingo missions asked me if I would teach him Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament,” Fritsche says. “He wants to be a pastor someday. His parents were among the first to be baptized early on in the mission, and now, by God’s grace, a new generation of [Lutheran] pastors is on the rise.”
Fritsche says preparing Dominican church leaders for tomorrow would not be possible without the support of the generous people who are vital partners in the mission work being accomplished in Jesus’ name. This partnership is central to the Network-Supported Missionary (NSM) model — a coordinated effort to link LCMS missionaries directly with a dedicated group of financial and prayer sponsors.
At certain times, international missionaries return home to visit with congregations and individual network partners. During these visits, they report to sponsors on what Christ is doing around the world and offer more people the opportunity to be personally involved in His important work.
In his April-May mission newsletter, Fritsche outlines his family’s “home service tour,” which began with travel back to the United States April 6 and concluded with their return to the mission field in mid-June. During such whirlwind visits, he reconnects with supporting congregations. His recent itinerary included visits with several congregations in Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin.
“During the weekend of April 29-30, we had the privilege of visiting the saints of St. John [Lutheran Church] in Plymouth, Wis.,” he writes. “St. John’s has invested in the mission for a number of years, supporting our family as missionaries [and] also sending short-term teams to the Dominican Republic.
“Missionaries are the Lord’s hands and feet on the ground in certain places, near and far,” Fritsche says. “However, the Lord makes use of a vast network of individuals, groups and congregations to spur each missionary on through prayers, financial gifts and even assisting with the smallest of tasks — like printing and mailing a missionary newsletter. It’s a partnership where every supporting role is significant and vital to the work of the Gospel.”
The Fritsche family includes Joel’s wife, Clarion Fritsche, who holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis. Before heading to the mission field, she taught at several Lutheran schools. Joining them on the mission field are their three children: Viktor, Sergei and Andrei, who are home-schooled by Clarion.
“Charitable contributions and spiritual support are so vital to missionaries and their families,” Clarion says. “Not only are prayers and monetary donations greatly appreciated, they are necessities in the daily life of a missionary. We could not do any of the work that we do without our generous supporters.”
A Brief History of the Dominican Republic
Christopher Columbus explored and claimed the island of Hispaniola on his first voyage in 1492. In 1697, Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island, which in 1804 became Haiti. The remainder of the island sought to gain its own independence in 1821 but was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for 22 years. The country finally attained independence as the Dominican Republic in 1844. In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire, but two years later they launched a war that restored independence in 1865.
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book
- Get to know missionary Rev. Joel Fritsche: lcms.org/fritsche
- Learn about the Synod’s missionaries: lcms.org/missionarysupport
- Detailed information on the NSM model is provided in the Synod’s white paper, “Missionaries Raising Money? Genesis of the LCMS Network Supported Missionary Model.” Visit lcms.org/doc/nsm-model, or request a hard copy of the document by calling the Synod’s toll-free Donor Care Line at 888-930-4438.
Pray with Us
Lord Jesus Christ, You sent Your disciples throughout the world to be Your witnesses. As Paul and Barnabas went with the blessing and support of the Early Church, so empower the Church to faithfully bear witness to Your love and support those who work to bring that witness to foreign lands. Bless the work in the Dominican Republic. May those who hear Your truth trust in You, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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