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A Change of Focus, Not of Call

After years of fruitful ministry in the U.S., Diomedes Franco and his wife Victoria are now back in their home country, following the call to care for those in crisis.

By Diomedes Franco

Ever since I can remember, I have been very inclined to serve others. This conviction was reinforced after I gave my life to Christ. Early on, my pastor nurtured my desire to serve by inviting me to preach, teach and serve in different contexts in the church. Later, he encouraged me to go to seminary.

At the time, I sensed that something was missing in the church. I admired Billy Graham as a great evangelist but also Martin Luther King as a great social advocate. Was it possible to do both things? So, while attending seminary during the week, I studied clinical psychology and family therapy on the weekends. I believe that if you don’t have the knowledge you can’t offer proposals for solutions. In 1990, I graduated from both seminary and college. My wife Victoria finished her medical studies and we were married. We started serving together and planted our first church in the Dominican Republic.

In 1993, God opened doors for us to move to the US to continue my studies. We had the privilege of planting a number of churches in Northern Illinois. These were urban and multicultural churches, with members from many different Spanish speaking countries. We learned that people from Central America were different from people from South America, or North America or the Caribbean. This helped us to grow in our sensitivity to the different subcultures within our society.

This was a time of intense work and sacrifice, because we generally started a church on our own, as a family, without a team or a mentor behind us. We felt the demand of reaching certain goals but didn’t have anyone to walk alongside us through this journey, and that was not healthy. But God was faithful and sustained us and made the churches thrive.

Diomedes Franco (foreground) meets with men in the community of La Vega. Photo courtesy of Diomedes Franco
Diomedes Franco (foreground) meets with men in the community of La Vega. Photo courtesy of Diomedes Franco

In 2010, eighteen years after moving to the U.S., we felt that we had to return the Dominican Republic. This calling to go back to the D.R. started as a conflict within us. We had everything we needed: a house, a good church, and good jobs. I was a counselor in a hospital and my wife was an elementary school teacher. Our children attended private schools.

Yet such comfort started to make us feel uncomfortable. We felt we were in debt with God’s calling upon us in some way, that we had to go and start a community project that would serve the marginalized people in La Vega. God led us to go with just a few resources and we obeyed. We thought, “If we can do this in a country with such limited resources, then it can be done in other countries.”

In 2011, we started a social project in La Vega, DR, called “Building Healthy Families.” In this ministry we offer service to abused people and abusers. We work with children on the street and have a teenage pregnancy prevention program. We offer outpatient services for addicts and help marriages in crisis.

For nine years, we only focused on serving through this ministry, so when people came to Christ we referred them to the church closest to that person to be nurtured. But we realized that this was not a good plan: churches were not ready to disciple people with such brokenness. Finally, we felt that God was challenging us to refocus on pastoral work, discipling and equipping the people God had given us to care for.

This is not a change of calling but of focus. Through all those years, my pastoral “fire” was never extinguished! We are extremely grateful to God for making us part of VMMissions. We dream that the church planted will be a model from which many more will emerge in the region and the country.

Struggles and deserts haven’t been enough to discourage us. Actually, these are what confirm our calling. There are difficult seasons and lots of suffering, but we’ve seen fruit in the lives of people. We’ve seen our own children embracing our ministry and that gives us hope. God has always provided and has never forsaken us. This keeps us going.

Diomedes Franco serves with his wife Victoria in La Vega, Dominican Republic as a discipler, pastor, and church planter.