SANTO DOMINGO,Dominican Republic — The island nation of the Dominican Republic is renowned for its natural beauty — a tropical paradise that snagged the attention of Columbus himself centuries ago.
Now members by the thousands from the “D.R.” will be able to enjoy that beauty even as they fortify their gospel testimonies. The LDS Church recently dedicated a 70-acre retreat dubbed “Camp Bonao,” found just 90 minutes outside the bustling capital city of Santo Domingo.
Located in a lush region known as “Bejucal Aplastado,” the camp will serve as a spiritual and recreational retreat for youth, families and congregations from the Dominican Republic.
Elder Wilford W. Andersen, a Seventy and president of the Caribbean Area, presided over the dedication, according to an area news release. He was joined by his second counselor, Elder Claudio D. Zivic of the Seventy.
The dedicatory event was organized by Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Independencia Stake President Quimerio Fernandez.
“The Church camp at Bonao is much more than a summer camp,” Elder Andersen told the Church News. “It’s purpose is to build testimonies and to strengthen the commitment of our members to live the gospel.”
Camp Bonao is already being called a jewel of peace and beauty in the Dominican Republic. The camp features 67 living huts built with the traditional wooden walls and thatched roofs that are still common in rural areas of the country, according to the news release.
The facility can reportedly accommodate about 800 people and includes 40 wash areas, six kitchens, playgrounds, three large dining areas and a huge, open-air covered arena that can facilitate large meetings, sporting events, dances and other recreational activities.
“It was here that Church leaders came to dedicate this spiritual paradise where youth and families will discover a spiritual place of peace and healthy recreation,” the news release noted.
Camp Bonao can truly be called a “green camp.” The new facility includes eight solar panels that will be utilized to generate electrical power. Meanwhile, a reverse osmosis treatment system can turn flows from a mountain stream into water that’s fit to drink.
The camp dedication ceremony included a choir from the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Las Caboas Stake. Elder Solomon Jorge Dominquez, a former Area Seventy and a native of the Dominican Republic, offered the dedicatory prayer. Stake presidents from across the nation also participated in the Camp Bonao dedication.
Priesthood leaders expect Camp Bonao to establish a legacy of faith and LDS Church service.
“We will see more full-time missionaries, more temple marriages and more happy families in the Dominican Republic,” said Elder Andersen. “The camp has been dedicated to these purposes.”
Elder Andersen reported that the camp has already been put to good use. Several multi-stake and young single adult activities have already been hosted at Camp Bonao. Deacons from around the country also recently gathered at the facility for an Aaronic Priesthood retreat.
The camp is expected to grow in the coming years. Plans have been made to build a large natural amphitheatre on the property.
“It truly is a beautiful setting,” said Elder Andersen.