While in Haiti, I learned some things that made a big impression on me, some of them I want to share with you. But before I do that, I want to mention that I am giving a 2-part report to my church on my experience in Haiti. The report has three parts: (1) summary/overview, (2) evaluation/assessment, and (3) recommendations. The first part was simply a city-by-city walk through of our trip. The second part was our assessment of (a) the man (Joseph), (b) the message, (c) the mission, and (d) the methods for accomplishing that mission. Based on the evaluation and assessment, I along with my travel partner, are making several recommendations. Included in this report was numerous photos and videos taken from my iPhone & camera, some of them you can see in this photo set I’ve created on Flickr.
Part of the recommendations I will be making includes a philosophy of mission for third-world countries like Haiti where poverty is so rampant. There are so many ways how, as one excellent book puts it, our helping can actually be hurting Haiti. For instance, one of the unintended consequences of so much outside money coming into Haiti has caused the cost of building materials and produce to increase, making life even harder for Haitians. So I believe it is vitally important that we think creatively and critically in not only what we do in places like Haiti, but also how we do it.
But back to Haiti. I told you about Joseph in my last post, but I want to mention a few people who work with him on his leadership team. First, there’s Jouns Innocent. He is a young pastor my age leading the church in Saint-Marc. He is a tiny, skinny man whose meekness and humility almost makes him invisible. Joseph invested in him shortly after the start of the church in Saint-Marc and has been with him for a long time. Not long after they forged this partnership in the gospel, Jouns told Joseph,
“Brother, you have so many responsibilities in our churches and providing for these children, and our country is such a desperate need for God, I am going to commit my time in prayer for you, for these children, and for revival in our country.”
So every morning with the exception of Sunday, Jouns hikes to the top of the mountain in Saint-Marc at 4:00 a.m. to pray for Joseph, the ministry, the children, and revival. Six hours later (10:00 a.m.), he comes back down after having met with God. If you do the math, Jouns spends on average 36 hours a week in intercessory prayer for God to answer, heal, provide, and save. Their confidence and dependence upon God is unlike anything I have ever seen.
Then there is Chantel and her daughter Myrlande. For most of her life, Chantel was a voodoo priestess. Through her demonic practice, she made a lot of money working for the devil. However, a couple of years ago Jesus wrecked her voodoo practice and changed her life. Shortly thereafter, Chantel took her wealth and bought an orphanage on the coastline of Haiti just outside Saint-Marc where for the past two years has single-handedly housed, clothed, and fed 150 children–several of them mentally and physically handicapped. Together with her daughter, they have put smiles on the faces of children who have had the burden on survival on their shoulders from the time they could walk.
In La Chapelle, we had the opportunity to talk with 260 orphans during their orphan school. It was our desire to encourage them and fill them with hope in Jesus. After words of exhortation, we opened it up for Q&A, assuming they would have questions of life in the United States, what our schools were like, or what kind of food we eat. Instead, every question we received was hunger related. Every question. Basically, then went like this:
“Thank you for coming to my country. I love my teachers and what they are doing for me. But I am unable to concentrate on the things they are teaching me because my mind stops thinking. What can I do?”
Those who have fasted perhaps for an extended period of time know what these children are talking about. After days without food, the mind begins to not function properly, sometimes leading to hallucinations. These children sincerely want to learn and grow up, but the only thing preventing them at this time is the hunger pains and struggle with starvation. Heart breaking.
And a call for action.
In L’Estere, the church does not have a building at this time but meets in a metal shack (literally) in one of the poorer areas (if you could imagine) of the city. They only have a couple wooden benches, so the majority of the congregation during worship stands up during the entire service. My guess is that with adequate seating, this metal building could hold 100-110 people; however, this is a congregation who has over 250 people in attendance on a weekly basis. Jam packed, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with no air conditioning, they worship Jesus.
In Port-au-Prince, 80 orphans are cared for by one single lady, Cyprien. The children currently live in tents on the rented property, and Cyprien is training the children in art and pottery where all proceeds go to providing meals for the children. In spite of not having such means, she prepared a fantastic lunch for us.
Speaking of lunch, Joseph told his pastors and orphanage directors to have meals prepared for us in each city and church we visited ahead of time. For us, that can simply be a quick 10 minute trip to Publix where everything is nicely packaged, organized, and prepared to eat. In Haiti, not so much. Joseph told them that we had made great sacrifices to come to visit them (I would hardly call it sacrifice), and they should sacrifice for us. The hardest thing for me to do all week was to eat this food which I knew they did not have the money to pay for, and to do so in the presence of so many orphans who needed this food a million times more than me.
But Joseph made it clear to them (and to me later). Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. He wanted his churches to be blessed in sacrificial giving, not in receiving from us. Not even once did anyone in these churches extend their hand asking for money or help. They did not extend their hands out, as though American money was their answer because they had extended their hands up with confident trust in God who promised to meet their every need. They literally had nothing to give, so that had to make something in order to make that possible. We give out the abundance of our prosperity because we’re supposed to; I saw them give out their abject poverty because they were pleased to.
There’s so much more that I share about this trip, but these reflections are intended to convey to you that indeed, God is at work in Haiti. I entered the country nervous and apprehensive. I left the country convicted and brokenhearted. In the coming days, I will proceed with recommendations and explain opportunities for my church to partner with the churches of Haiti to plant churches, train pastors, feed orphans, and invest in the upcoming generation of Haitians. If you and/or your church would be interested in ministering in Haiti, holla.