On Thursday, February 10, Claude Allen, Grant Layman, Andy Tvardzik, Dr. Phil Perdue, Chris Jesse (of Metro Life Church in Orlando) and I took off from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to travel to Haiti. The purpose of this brief trip was to deepen our relationship with a specific local pastor and explore ways Covenant Life Church (and other Sovereign Grace churches) could partner with and serve him in his vision to reach the Haitian people with the gospel.
(In order to protect and best support the important ministry being done in Haiti, we won’t be referring by name to any of the folks who serve there.)
We were warmly greeted by the pastor and key leaders of his church shortly after 9 a.m. on Friday morning. The first thing I noticed was the heat. (Honestly, the 70-90 degree temperatures were a welcome sensation after leaving behind 20 degrees or so in D.C.!) The most lasting impression of the trip, however, was the stark and seemingly unabated poverty. We encountered it in various forms:
• In the children at the airport coming up to the window of the car to beg for money…
• In the marketplace where items virtually anyone here would consider “junk” are being sold to make a subsistence living…
• In the long stretches of garbage and plastic bottles that litter the shoreline…
• In the ubiquitous display of unfinished and often broken down buildings around the city…
• In the faces of so many people whose everyday lives are harder than we can imagine.
During our first day, the pastor introduced us to six area pastors he knows, some of whom traveled great distances to meet with us. They told us of their families, their ministries and the impoverished conditions of their churches. A consistent refrain was their cry for help, both spiritually and materially. Their hearts ached for their congregations and they acutely felt the constant lack of ability to help them with their needs. All of these pastors have other means of work to support themselves and their families, and out of whatever overflow they may have, seek to meet the needs of the people. It was sobering to hear their stories and an honor to have spent time with them.
Later in the day we visited the orphanage our host pastor sponsors. There are 14 children who live there, ranging from around two into the late teens. Not all of them are orphans. Some have families that can’t care for them. They are fed, cared for, and educated at the orphanage. There is some structural damage to the building due to the January 2010 earthquake. We also took some time in the afternoon to evaluate several potential construction projects that could be done in various locations.
That evening we visited a youth meeting at one of the churches. What a joy to hear the young people worship the Lord in Creole!
We spent much of Saturday traveling to visit another church that meets a little more than two hours away from where we were staying. Once we left the main city, the condition of the road was so bad that for most of the journey we could barely travel 5-10 miles per hour. Several things caught our attention along the way: women washing their clothes in little streams (that could easily be a source of cholera), a residence lined with colored flags (the telltale sign of a witch doctor), the occasional goat or cow tied to a tree, rusty and abandoned vehicles on the side of the road, dilapidated structures used to provide shelter from the heat, all against the backdrop of a countryside that is full of beauty. Once we arrived at the church, we were greeted by a room full of children and adults in a structure where one whole side of the building was gone because of earthquake damage. The children were absolutely precious! They welcomed us with a greeting in English, and we had the privilege of briefly greeting them (through an interpreter!), expressing Christ’s and our love for them, then handing out candy to the kids.
Our final full day in Haiti began with attending our host pastor’s church at six in the morning! Initially we had no power in the building because the generator wasn’t working. But the Lord was gracious, and after only about a 15-minute delay, the service began with power. There was congregational worship, a selection of songs by the choir, a brief greeting by our team to the church, and listening to the pastor as he preached in Creole and periodically translated for us into English. There were over 400 people packed into a building that probably was meant to hold half that much. It was a joyful time of fellowship and singing. Later in the day we traveled to visit another church (via much better road conditions). This church had no structure in which to meet; they met under a large mango tree. Others from a nearby church, through funds generously donated by Sovereign Grace Ministries, have been helping this church by providing food for the kids, practical help against cholera, teaching school two days a week, and digging a latrine. They are currently in the process of helping to dig a well. We spent the final part of the day discussing many things over dinner late into the night.
As I mentioned Sunday morning (February 20) at Covenant Life, thank you for praying for us! The Lord was merciful with our travels, and the only bout with sickness (affecting, of all people, our doctor!), was thankfully not serious.
There are many, many needs to be addressed in Haiti. It’s going to require wisdom and a lot of planning to determine what is most important and how best to help. Please pray for the team that traveled to Haiti, the pastoral team of Covenant Life, and the leadership team of Sovereign Grace as we together seek the Lord on how to serve and support this dear pastor and those that relate to him in Haiti. Thank you for partnering with us through your prayers!