As I head out to Haiti today I thought I’d give you a history and update concerning our involvement there. It starts with the reality that missions is important to God and therefore it should be important to the church. Our church family should be involved with helping people here in Woodford County, in the United States, and abroad just like the Disciples were called to minister to “Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” Rather than just traveling to random places doing random works, I’ve been inspired by other congregations to “partner” with one mission in one country. Rather than doing a little in lots of places I’ve always believed we can have a larger impact by multiplying efforts in one place. That way we can build relationships and actually SEE how we’ve made a difference. It’s hard to do that when you make a week-long trip and then never see the people again.
So I wanted to find a place that would stretch us and where others had gone and made a difference. I came across Northwest Haiti Christian Mission because my friend, Pastor Randy Nation of WCCC, had been there and his church had gone repeatedly over decades. Haiti is the poorest nation in our hemisphere which confirmed our understanding that this it was a place in need. So we decided to investigate whether this would be an ideal mission partner for us. I had lunch with their Director, Janeil Owen, literally the day after the earthquake in Haiti a few years ago. He was stateside and could barely concentrate on our meeting because he was so anxious to get back to Haiti to help. But at that lunch we dreamed up some potential long-term solutions to Haitian problems; solutions that we could help become a reality.
Twelve of us traveled to NWHCM in the summer of 2011, along with 5 from WCCC. Besides learning what NWHCM did in St. Louis du Nord, it’s base city, we began to explore some of the things we had talked about over lunch the year before. What if we didn’t just help NWHCM “maintain” their mission in St. Louis, but instead formed a partnership with a community that really had no contact with Aid agencies or even Americans? What if we could find a Haitian church and pastor that was not getting the help from the American Church that would want to partner with us? So several people from our church and WCCC traveled to Mayette, a rural village community that is agrarian-based. The group met with Pastor Daniel and did an asset and needs assessment there. Based on that visit we decided we wanted to join this long-term partnership with Mayette but also realized that our church couldn’t do it alone. WCCC wanted to join us too. What the two of our churches could do combined in Mayette would exceed what only one could do!
After returning to the States, we began lining up “sponsors” to help the church and school with direct financial help. Their church was not much more than a shack with dirt floor, no walls, and tin roof. It doubled as their school. Their teachers were unpaid. They had no educational resources. Their pastor was made a modest salary, which in Haiti is next to nothing. So our church found 15 sponsors to help pay for the educational needs and WCCC had 15 more for the church itself. The partnership began.
After finding sponsors step #2 was to help them build a new church/school that would be larger and have cement floors and block walls with a real roof. Through fundraising efforts and donors we raised over $40,000 to pay for this new building that would be built with Haitian labor. That building began this summer and has just been completed.
That leads us to today. We are traveling back to Mayette this weekend (3 from FCC and 10 from WCCC) to dedicate this church building, learn how our partnership has helped them in this short time, AND to help them conduct weddings for 10 couples. I don’t have the space to explain the importance of this last purpose but I can say that marriage is a big deal in Haiti, as it should be. Couples will not get married because of the cost of a license and “proper celebration.” So instead, many live together in sin, even though they may have faith in Jesus Christ. Their finances and cultural mores outweigh the spiritual cost in their minds. Because of that, many are not baptized and are not allowed to take communion. However, we are bringing wedding dresses and men’s clothing to do this right! We are helping to pay for the licenses and will counsel these couples as they get legally and ceremonially married. We believe the family is in essential institution to the foundation of a healthy community and nation. Our participation in these weddings will strengthen that community and church.
When I return I’m sure you’ll hear more about how it went and what future steps we hope to take with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Mayette. We value this church partnership because it strengthens the Haitian church, which gives them more credibility as they evangelize their neighbors and break the bondage of those captured by voodoo and other religions. Thank you again for your support.
Unlike 2 years ago, I will not have my laptop and planned wireless usage. So I won’t be blogging updates but do hope to update my twitter feed and Facebook page.