Angel and Clara Castillo live in Santo Domingo, the capitol city of the Dominican Republic. “Angelito” (as his friends know him) is a founder and preaching pastor of his church, Iglesia Fundamento Bíblico, situated in one of the poorest districts in his nation’s capital. Pastor Castillo planted his church almost thirty years ago. His son, Ariel, and his wife and two children also live near the church. Ariel is a seminary graduate and an elder at the church. Another son, Daniel, and his family live in Omaha, Nebraska.
Pastor Castillo has also planted a number of other churches over the last twenty years, in partnership with other pastors who have studied under him. Over thirty years of ministry, Pastor Castillo has developed relationships all over his country with church and seminary leaders, politicians, business leaders, military leaders, and hundreds of people among the poor. If one spends time with pastor Castillo, they quickly learn that his ministry is propelled by a network of relationships that facilitate the ministry of the Gospel. He is personal friends with John MacArthur, and has attended the annual Master’s Conference multiple times. He has also been an international spokesman for the Children’s Hunger Fund, and has been featured at their annual conference.
Pastor Castillo’s History
Pastor Miguel grew up north of Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic. He became a follower of Jesus Christ, and subsequently attended and graduated from a seminary in Santiago (north of Santo Domingo), Bautista de la Gracia. It is a satellite of Southern Theological Seminary of Louisville, Kentucky.
As an adult, Pastor Miguel started his church in Santo Domingo as a Bible study for the poor working-class people, meeting in the backyard of a Christian woman. This group of Christians grew until they began to worship together as a church. After then renting a church building for 16 years, they were finally able to raise resources and build their own church building. They’ve now been in their own building for 13 years, and today this church continues to grow and reach out with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their district and around the Dominican Republic.
The church is near the riverside housing district, one of the poorest areas in all of Santo Domingo. Many people there do not have a means of stable income, and little prospect for improvement. Iglesia Fundamento Bíblico is the only church in the area that works directly with the people there, helping as they can with food, clothing, medicine, and youth evangelism, using everything as an opportunity to share the Gospel.
Pastor Miguel Castillo’s Ministries
Pastor Castillo and the men and women of his church are involved in a number of ministries throughout the Dominican Republic.
- Generations of Change – Franklin Lopez (a public school teacher and deacon in Miguel’s church) founded and runs a weekly after-school program (grade school through high school) at their church that teaches poverty-stricken children reading and English language skills, music and instrument skills, and art. These have been rich avenues to present the Gospel to children every week while teaching them life skills. The program started in 2012. Last year 90 children participated in this program, and this year they hope to double the number of participants if they can acquire the needed supplies and musical instruments. A large number of students have become followers of Christ in the last five years through this ministry.
- Preaching the Gospel in the Public Schools – The Generations of Change program in this area has been so successful in developing a desire to learn in the students, that the schools have invited them to bring the program to the children in the public schools! Franklin Lopez and Pastor Miguel teach Gospel Bible lessons in the schools weekly, while the teachers listen in as well.
- Vacation Bible School – each summer the church hosts a vacation Bible school program for the children of the district. For 5 days, 500 children per day (250 in the morning and 250 in the afternoon) participate in music, games, crafts, and Bible lessons. Each child receives a simple, hot meal each day, and at the end of the week, a pair of shoes! Each summer a church from the U.S. sends a team of workers to help run the VBS. This has become a well-known event in this district. Pastor Angel has said the enrollment for this VBS program would easily exceed 1,000 children if they would leave the registration open, but they don’t have the space or manpower for such numbers.
- Annual Christmas Dinner to the Poor – each Christmas Iglesia Fundamento Bíblico hosts a Christmas dinner for 500 children from the district surrounding the church. They give them a hot meal, present a well done dramatic and musical program for the children which presents the Gospel, give each child Christmas gifts, and a new pair of shoes.
- Women’s Bible Studies – with the contact through the children, members of their church hold neighborhood Bible studies with many single mothers and other women.
Twenty years ago Pastor Castillo started training pastors in Santa Domingo from the southwest area of the country. Most had only a Bible, and little or no training. Pastor Castillo gave these pastors a small library of Matthew Henry Commentaries, a MacArthur Study Bible, and other books.
Today, Pastor Castillo hosts a seminary-level training-day the fourth Saturday of every month at his church, when as many as 150 pastors travel from all over the Dominican Republic. All the pastors receive two hot meals while attending this monthly training.
These pastors learn how to write and structure a sermon and how to glean information from other sources. Besides systematic and Biblical theology, they study subjects such as: The Pastor and his Marriage; The Pastor and the Family; and The Pastor as a Leader. They have recently finished studying The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink.
Pastor Castillo has developed this curriculum from the seminary he graduated from in Santiago, and he brings in other seminary-trained teachers who help him teach the curriculum. He also holds an annual pastor’s marriage conference in May each year for pastors and their wives which is well-attended. Last year he had 170 attend the conference.
Pastor Castillo has a vision to again expand this ministry training to other locations in the DR, and also to Haiti. This ministry is one of his main areas of focus, and of which he is most passionate.
Gospel Mercy Ministries
Pastor Castillo and members of his church Iglesia Fundamento Biblico (IFB) have been working to provide mercy ministries such as food (through Children’s Hunger Fund), shoes and clothing (through a Dallas, Texas foundation), and vitamins (through Orphan’s Heart) to the very poorest peoples of the cities and districts in the Dominican Republic. They have a church member, Dionysius Sussaña, who invests time in meeting people and building relationships in these districts to know their needs, and then organizes the resource distribution.
Evangelistic Gospel Preaching
In all of these mercy ministry efforts, Pastor Angel, his son Ariel, and other pastoral students have shared the Gospel in the district in two stages. First, while church members deliver the food and clothing, Ariel and the pastoral students set up a generator and a speaker system in the town square or neighborhood and preach the Gospel (they have had as many as 300 people gather around them to listen). Then they continue to follow up in these districts with more ongoing evangelism, and as people become interested or saved, they start a weekly Bible study. In several locations, this has resulted in new churches being planted.
New Church Plants
As a result of the Gospel opportunities presented through these mercy ministries, three new churches in Azua Province have been established in the last twenty-four months:
- A new church plant in El Carrizal, led by Pastor Hosea Susaña;
- A second new church plant in Los Toros, led by Pastor Eugenio Reyes,
- A third new church plant in Guanabana, led by Pastor Mariano Céspedes.
The pastors of these new church plants are men who have studied under Pastor Miguel. The pastoral training program makes this possible.
A New Medical Ministry
The poor account for the majority of the population in the Dominican Republic. Most have little medical care their entire life because the cost is so far beyond them. Miguel’s church is situated in one of the poorest areas of Santo Domingo, so they have built a new church wing as a medical clinic. The money for the materials of this one-room addition was donated by someone sympathetic to this mission. The church members built it themselves, and was completed in June of 2015. One of Miguel’s former church members is the owner of a pharmaceutical supply company and is providing prescription drugs to the clinic at a greatly reduced discount. The plan is to share the Gospel with each of the patients while they wait for their treatment.
When Haiti was struck with an earthquake in 2010, an orphanage collapsed near the border. Haitian pastors that knew and trusted “Angelito” contacted him to help. The day after the earthquake, Pastor Castillo traveled to Haiti with a group of his men and led the work to get the children out of that orphanage and moved to a safer area, working in Haiti for several weeks. He arranged the rental of a large house facility and currently oversees it, sends them food, and pays the teachers. They are working with 30 children. He is working with Children’s Hunger Fund to provide food and uniforms for the children.
The Future of Ministry in the Dominican Republic
This is an exciting time of growth and transition for the ministries of Pastor Castillo. He has another pastor in his church, Huascar De Salas, who regularly preaches and is responsible over discipleship and counseling within the church. Pastor Angel has groomed his son Ariel to assume many aspects of his ministries in the future, and Ariel continues to preach at the church. Pastor Castillo also has three other young men in his church who have graduated from Bautista de la Gracia, the seminary in Santiago. Miguel has asked us to pray for these young men being groomed for the pulpit, who he believes are key to the future of his church and his extensive ministries. The network of pastors he has developed relationships with across his country is maturing as they increasingly partner with the evangelistic and pastoral training work he is spearheading. And the current group of pastors attending his monthly pastoral training has currently exceeded 150 each month, with over 200 attending in April of 2016.
With increased resources, some of pastor Angel’s goals are:
- To purchase a small parcel of land next to their small church and expand their facility for training and outreach;
- To build small church buildings for the growing new church plants;
- To work in more areas to plant more churches;
- To increase the frequency of the mercy missions to poor towns and villages while introducing the Gospel to them;
- To involve many more supporters and churches in short-term mission trips for mercy ministries, medical missions, building projects, and children’s ministries (such as the huge VBS event each summer).
- To bring more church leaders from the U.S. to the Dominican Republic for a week-long discovery trip and see these various outreach, training, and church-planting efforts first hand.
- To bring his son Ariel on as a full-time pastor to take over the evangelistic outreaches and organize short-term mission trips;
- To multiply the locations of the pastoral training with more teachers, books, and resources;
- To bring on a full-time church and ministry administrator who will take care of ministry funds, financial records, legal details, and supply inventories, to organize and maintain the increasing ministries;
- To build capabilities in his church to stream live pastoral training seminars to a church center in Haiti with a trusted pastor there who will host the monthly pastor training conferences.
- To mentor and train the young seminary graduates in his church, and increasingly involve them in leadership activities in the church, in pastoral training, and in Gospel outreach.
We hope that you will be moved to step alongside and support what the Holy Spirit is doing in the Dominican Republic, in an opportune time as we see the Gospel moving forward there and churches being raised up. We ask that you partner with Makers and Means International in this great effort for the sake of the Gospel and for the people of God there.