Island nation of Haiti a 'special country,' says pastor
By MARGARET DEMPSEY Florida Baptist Convention
Published August 16, 2007
In 2006, Haitian Baptists reached 39,148 new believers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
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PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI (FBC)—"Haiti is a special country. It is very poor spiritually, morally and financially," said pastor Etienne Pierre, director of ministry for the Confraternite Missionannaire Baptiste d'Haiti (CMBH).
In this role, Pastor Pierre leads Haitian Baptist congregations to spread the hope found in Jesus Christ to eight million persons who call the tiny, impoverished island nation home.
"God is at work in all of Haiti," Pastor Pierre said confidently.
Reaching Haiti for Christ is difficult for many reasons, Pierre explained, including its deprived economy, poorly maintained roads and lack of transportation. The worship of voodoo and the occult by the majority of people, lack of education and resources and political instability also are barriers to the Gospel in the country.
Despite their circumstances, these Haitian pastors find joy in the Lord as they gather to worship in Port-au-Prince.
In spite of such challenges—or, some may think, because of them—inroads with the Gospel are being made. In 2006, Haitian Baptists reached 39,148 new believers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In 1995 Florida Baptists began a missions partnership with 88 Haitian Baptist congregations. The partnership is funded largely by the Maguire State Mission Offering, which provides $120,000 annually to Haitian Baptists' mission and ministry efforts.
Florida Baptists, through the missions partnership, help provide leadership to the Haitian churches focusing on evangelism, starting new churches and developing churches and leaders.
"The partnership with Florida Baptists has made a big difference in my ministry in Haiti," the sincere and soft-spoken pastor continued. "Without this partnership, nothing would be possible! The partnership with Florida Baptists is extremely important!"
Today, the 662 congregations affiliated with the CMBH have grown exponentially since its humble beginnings just over a decade ago. Many of those congregations are small, housed in a variety of settings, and led by laypersons.
Yet, their very existence is a testimony to the determination and perseverance of the Christians in this country where voodoo is an accepted practice.
One Haitian man, once a voodoo priest and murderer, accepted the salvation message, according to Pastor Pierre. He is now a "great preacher" who has "brought to the Lord more than 10,000 souls by his testimonies and preaching," said Pierre.
Pastors are being trained in theological education. Just this past year, more than 50 Haitian pastors received pastoral certification through the joint efforts of Florida Baptists and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The graduation ceremony, held in late 2006, was the culmination of a three-year commitment these Haitian church leaders had made to attend theological education classes, even if it meant walking miles, sometimes days, in dangerous areas to reach their classrooms.
The partnership is consistent with Florida Baptists' Great Commission commitment, said John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer. "I have never been to a riper or more rewarding mission field. The people are responsive to the love of Jesus Christ. They are among the most appreciative people I have ever met. They are worthy of our investment as Florida Baptists."
Florida Baptists have endowed 12 years' worth of prayer, financial resources and direct personal involvement in its partnership with Haiti. It is an investment with eternal dividends, according to Pastor Pierre.
"Only the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus can change and transform this nation," Pierre said.