By Timmy Brister
This past week, I had the privilege of taking a team from Bowling Green, KY to Haiti to partner with a church in Saint-Marc, Haiti (here’s a satellite image of the mountain village where the church gathers). This was my third trip to Haiti in the past 9 months since we started our mission work under the direction of Pastor Joseph. This trip was particularly significant because (1) it was the first trip where all the efforts were directly invested in one local church and (2) it was the first trip involving another church from the United States partnering with us (Grace Baptist Church).
God continues to bless and open doors for us in Haiti. A year ago, I would not believed you had you told me I would be in Haiti three times. Nine months ago, I did not know Christ Fellowship Bowling Green and only had brief correspondence with one of their pastors (Lance Parrott). Since then, they have not only joined us in Haiti, but I feel like we have become genuine partners and co-laborers in gospel ministry in ways that only God could make possible. I believe this is just the beginning of the kind of things God is doing to take the gospel in word and deed to this needy country.
Outside the pastors, everyone who went on the trip last week had their first cross-cultural missions experience, and they all did a wonderful job representing Christ in a rather challenging context and climate. The church in Saint-Marc has amazing leadership, and their hospitality demonstrated towards us was truly humbling. Every time I’m among the believers in these churches I feel like they have so much to teach me (and they always do!).
The daily schedule was broken down in morning, afternoon, and evening blocks. The morning period was dedicated to teaching orphans which included Bible lesson, singing, and activities. The afternoon block had two tracks: three teams were sent into the village to share the gospel, and one pastor stayed behind to teach and train the leaders in our 6-session mini-conference on biblical ecclesiology (here’s a pic of me teaching Wednesday afternoon on the nature of the church). The evening block was an evangelistic service that lasted ~2 hours long and concluded with dinner and briefing back at the hotel. Pastors Lance Parrott and Jody Sledge gave excellent teaching on the church as well as solid, Christ-centered preaching in the evening. It felt so good to be so generous with the gospel.
There were several little moments that stuck out in my mind on this trip. While evangelizing the community, I met a 26 yr old man named Miguel who is within months (if not weeks) of dying of starvation. He said voodoo priests had pronounced curses on his health, and he could not walk because he was so weak. As I prayed over him, he sat up and it looked as if you could see right through him because he was so skinny. We got him connected with church leaders who are now seeking to minister to him physically as well as spiritually.
Another moment was watching a six year old take care of an infant like she was her mother. Kids at the earliest ages are deprived of childhood because neither they nor their fellow orphans have a mother or father to take care of them. These children don’t know television or computers or video games. They know how to play futbol with an empty coke bottle and make a bowl of rice last for several days. And yet they smile, laugh, and play innocent of entitlement and any sense of deservedness that plagues the prosperity we are so privileged to enjoy.
Most of the leaders of the church are unemployed, several of them losing their business due to the earthquake. When asked how much it would cost to provide a sustainable income for their pastor, we were told $300 month or $3600 a year. What would normally cost for two Americans going to Haiti on a short-term mission trip could provide the financial livelihood of a Haitian pastor for one year! That’s one reason why our commitment to indigenous church planting is so important to the mission.
One final reflection has to do with the final day of our mission when we arrived in Desarmes, the city where our last mission took place. In January, I led a team of men from our church to rebuild a church building where Pastor Joseph’s father died when the earthquake hit exactly one year earlier. It was my first time to see the church (the members) in Desarmes worship as a gathered people, and I could not hold back the tears. Pastor Lance had the opportunity to preach the gospel in a voodoo temple, and I shared the gospel with Pastor Joseph’s great uncle who is over 120 years of age. A massive storm hit right when we began our service, and I had to yell into the mic as I preached so that folks could hear me over the thunder and rain. It was a dramatic conclusion to an incredible week of ministry.
In the coming days, I will be updating The Haiti Collective with several things, including ways other churches can partner with us in the work being done in Haiti. I could not be more encouraged and hopeful about what lies ahead. I pray that God will raise up more laborers to this particular harvest field!