The History Of Mission Emanuel
As we look back over the 30-some years, we can see God’s fingerprints all over the lives of Javier and Rosario de la Cruz and their ministry called Misiõn Emanuel. Even as young people, a dream was envisioned to help children escape poverty through education. Both Javier and Rosario grew up poor and lived in home conditions as difficult as any of the 500+ children who now attend the Emanuel Schools that they lovingly direct. Even from the beginning, there has been a unique partnership between Dominicans and North Americans that God has brought about. As a young teen, Javier would walk the streets near the Dominican Fiesta Hotel and yell out “limpia bota” (shine your shoes). In one of those nice homes lived Jim and Grace Cochran, Canadian missionaries. Over time, the Cochrans “took him in” and Javier worked around the house, taking care of the lawn, washing cars – you name it. The Cochrans also helped Javier get in school, which he would diligently attend every weeknight.
In the early 80’s, when the Cochrans went back to Canada for three years for an extended study furlough, Jack and Georgia Ana Larson moved in and continued to employ Javier and his sister, Carmen. The Larsons had moved there to start Youth for Christ and run short-term mission projects. Javier soon became indispensable in helping set up and run these activities. During a YFC Crusade, Javier committed his life to Christ and through his early discipleship, a vision of ministry emerged.
God brought Rosario, a beautiful Christian girl with the same dream, to Javier. The de la Cruz’s were married by Jim Cochran and the reception/fiesta was held in the Larson’s home.
After three years, the Larsons turned over the YFC ministry to a trained national director and board. They then started the World Servants program and the Project Niños Children’s Medical Center which were also turned over to national leadership. Javier worked full-time during all this time helping the Larsons set up and run projects, and helping with the leadership training seminars done around the DR for the national youth leaders.
After YFC, Javier worked three years for Betania, a Christian book distributor. He and Rosario were also going to school full time at night. They gave birth to Carol, Melissa, Raisa, and Dorca. During this time, Rosario was a full-time mom, full-time student, and full-time teacher. Within a few years, she received her Masters in School Administration. and Javier received his Masters in Education.
During the 80’s, while Javier made about $300 per month, he bought a little plot of land in Nazeret on the western end of Santo Domingo, which was totally undeveloped. Every spare dollar and minute of time, Javier would buy a few cement blocks and a bag of cement and build their future home on Saturdays. After 3 years, they moved into their very rustic basement/house built into the hill (still without windows or floors). Their idea was to live downstairs and run a small Christian school upstairs for 40-50 students. Little did they know that God had bigger plans, and these emerged, as they were good stewards of their little school.
The First Students
In 1992, the de la Cruz’s opened the door (and windows) to their first students. The 18 students didn’t seem to mind the very primitive conditions and delighted in their new school. You see, none of these children would have had any other place to go, as the public school was overflowing and far away. Not only did they learn their ABC’s, but also about God’s love for them through their teachers, Bible lessons and, of course, exuberant singing.
In 1990, after turning over World Servants, Jack started working with The Gathering/USA, Inc. based in Orlando, Florida. The Gathering is an evangelistic and discipleship outreach for which Larson became Mission Director. and ran projects in the DR, Mexico, and the US. (The Gathering remained the base of operations until September 2013, when Mission Emanuel became an independent organization.)
In 1995, Jack Larson led a team of adults from First Presbyterian Church of Winston-Salem, brought by Steve Lineberger, a veteran of a previous DR mission trips. The team had come to rebuild the Project Niños Children’s Medical Center built back in the 80’s. Javier proudly invited us out to look at his school. We were all deeply touched by the depth of ministry commitment and hearts of Javier and Rosario. Margaret Wray, then children’s director at First Presbyterian, suggested taking pictures of 15 children, with the hopes that maybe some of the members might like to sponsor the children at $15 per month. The cost of sponsorship went to $20 per month as complete medical services were added.
Little did Margaret or any of us realize the strong partnership God had brought together. When the presentation was given, we were all overwhelmed. All 15 kids were immediately sponsored with the unbelievable problem of not having enough kids to go around. Soon more pictures were taken and the rest of the 36 children were matched with sponsors.
Donations for the sponsorship program is sent down to pay teacher salaries and other costs for running the school. Each student’s family is encouraged to pay what they can, but all the children come from families that barely make enough to buy food, let alone the “extravagance” of sending their children to school. (The uniform itself, required by Dominican law, could cost one week’s wages.)
Building the School
In 1995, a team from World Servant Europe came and built a new two-story cement and steel structure with 8 classrooms and a foundation designed for expansion to four floors. In 1996, another team from First Presbyterian, Winston-Salem, came and built a basketball court for the school. The school increased to 100 students. The explosion had begun.
Now with this growing enrollment, we became aware of other physical and medical needs. The answer was to build a children’s clinic at the school. When Sandy Weaver, a close friend of the Larsons, was tragically killed in an auto accident, her family responded by giving a memorial gift to build this clinic. Sandy was a public health nurse who loved children, so it was a very fitting way to honor her memory.
In 1998, with some other gifts, a beautiful home was built and decorated for the de la Cruz family in what was the top floor of the old school. This was done by the First Presbyterian Youth Group. That freed the lower level to be converted to a children’s clinic, kitchen, and school administrative offices.
The Medical Clinic
Dr. Maria Mosquea, an 8 year veteran from Project Niños, was brought on to supervise and take care of the medical needs of the students and other sick or malnourished children in Nazaret and Cielo. A grant from First Presbyterian Church of Orlando was given to pay the staff costs for several years. This was in response to the tremendous mission project run by that church in 1997 when they built a children’s playground for the school.
In the spring of 1998, a large team from Orlando came and built a baseball stadium for the city of Nazaret. A field was graded with over 250 trucks of fill dirt. The team then built dugouts and installed fencing around what became Nazaret’s pride and joy. The dedication was done at night with the speaker lit up by cars parked in the outfield. The Mayor at the dedication announced that the government at many levels had made promises for years to build the community park but never had. The mayor said, “You are the only people who said you would help and you did. You are the only people who kept your promise.” After this, Kent Sterchi preached and challenged the people to follow Christ. Bibles were handed out to every family in attendance.
Subsequent teams from Winston-Salem and Orlando built bathrooms and many other badly needed projects. The school enrollment soon jumped to 150.
In September 1998, a hurricane hit the DR, ripping the roof off the school and devastating Nazaret and Cielo. When Jack came on the first flight in, the destruction seen was overwhelming. One memorable response by a Cielo citizen was “we knew you’d be here to help.” Within a week over $25,000 was donated to rebuild homes in the community and to put a cement roof on the school. One month after the hurricane, a team from First Baptist and First Presbyterian of Winston-Salem came and built a home for Miriam and Jefferson Màtilla. Their home had been completely blown away. While the team was there, God impressed upon Bill Tutt, Tom Eustice and Pastor David Hughes from First Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, that there was no church in Cielo (the Spanish word for heaven). Soon after returning, they raised enough money to buy a piece of land and purchase construction materials for what is now a beautiful 3-story building that has a pre-school on the first floor, elementary school on the second and community church on the third floor.
The Mary Lynch Budd Children’s Clinic
The Cielo Children’s Clinic was built as a memorial to Mary Lynch Budd, wife of Joe Budd, who had helped construct the first children’s clinic back at the school. Before her tragic death, Mary was an enthusiastic supporter of the DR work with children, which she dearly loved.
In 1999, teams worked on the Cielo Church and also added the third floor of the school. As with all our teams, construction has always been a fun but second priority. Our top goal has always been to build relationships with the children, teens, and adults of the Dominican. Those efforts include VBS, clinics, door-to-door visitation, sports, or just generally hanging out in the streets with a crowd of kids around you. God’s love is shared through words, hugs and smiles. This always becomes the most profound memory of every participant. Team members return with a stronger faith in a much “bigger” God because they saw and experienced His work in their own lives and actions.
4th Floor & More
In 2000, a major expansion of the school was begun. We added a 4th floor and the front of the school was moved out 15 feet. Along with the four existing classrooms, the lower floor now includes a cafeteria with a 5000-gallon water cistern built below that. On the second floor, along with four more classrooms, are the new administrative offices for Rosario and Javier. A library was added to the four classrooms on the third floor. This room is dedicated to the memory of Jack’s close friend, Terry Walker. Terry loved kids, missions, and reading. It is a fitting tribute to Terry who pastored a church in Michigan but also spent time ministering in the Dominican Republic. The fourth floor is a huge open multi-purpose meeting room. Now, for the first time, the entire school can be in one place for meetings. With its beautiful tiled floor, cool breezes, and view, the school has become a popular place to be. The kitchen and bathrooms were completed in 2002.
Mission Trips, the “Engine” that runs this ministry
We now have over 600 people each yer participating in our Short-Term Mission trips. These short-term missionaries have enabled us to grow deeper in the communities we serve with some of our most important new ministries being Provisión del Cielo, our new water purification plant that provides pure water “from Heaven” for the communities in Bayona. A Women’s Cooperative were the ladies in the community work together with Bible study and creating arts and craft materials to provide them a much-needed income. We have built over 50 homes in the communities so far, also started spiritual leadership training for the young adults who have gone through our school system.
Dr. Pete Armstrong Dental Clinic
With the school’s new offices and library opening up, this freed space at the clinic to address another great need. In 2000, a complete dental office was donated by a Winston-Salem dentist, transported and then installed in the newly remodeled room all set up for our children’s dental clinic. This new program and facility were outfitted in the memory of Dr. Pete Armstrong who was a beloved friend, sponsor, and former mission project member.
Today’s enrollment is just over 500 students. With the opening of the Cielo preschool, we will add an additional 50-75 students. We presently have many children who need sponsors, both for preschool, elementary school, secondary and high school (through special arrangement a with local Christian high school), special needs; physical and occupational therapy, discipleship classes and English Classes and more are being added all the time.
A special crisis fund was established by one supporter to meet emergency food, medical, or other great needs for the families living in Nazaret and Cielo.
This ministry, Mission Emanuel, is a remarkable partnership of Dominicans and Americans. It is a true testimony of God bringing together people from all walks of life, rich and poor, different churches, different gifts and backgrounds, all to move together in one direction to serve Christ in whatever capacity He calls us to serve. The overwhelming majority of the support work to make all this happen is through dedicated volunteers who have given countless hours behind the scenes and raise awareness of God’s work in the community.