A couple of weeks ago, I sat with three ladies (and a little girl) enjoying the surroundings of Tropical Smoothie, a Caribbean-inspired sandwich & kind-of-healthy fruit smoothies cafe. And as each of them shared why they signed up to join me on my next Haiti mission trip (end of April), I remembered why I LOVE taking people to Haiti.
Because the guys at Men for Missions (the short-term mission teams ministry of One Mission Society) have got it spot on: these trips are part of a life-changing journey, and Storly and I love walking alongside people as their eyes are opened to 'the real world' (the poverty, the daily reality of how most of the world lives), as they allow God to take them way beyond their comfort zones, and as they see God in action in a different context, in ways that blow their minds and break their hearts for the world God loves and came to save.
My next trip at the end of April will be the 8th team from our church here (Community Church of Columbus) since we took up residence in this part of the world. And three of us from CCC (Keri, Karen and me) will be joined by Kelly from Columbus (who was part of last year's trip) and four people (Larry, Debbie, Michael and Amy) from Findlay E-Free church in northern Ohio (who partnered with us with their Christmas offering last year to give to Resounding Hope solar radios).
So, at Tropical Smoothie, I told a story that I want to share with you. Except you get all the background too...
In June 2011, our CCC team visited a small village called Kayemit (Ky-meet), named after a local fruit tree, known in English as Star Apple. I'd been hearing about this village from Medson (our evangelism/radio distribution leader) as a place in need of the Gospel. A pastor from the local town of Quartier-Morin had started to visit this village, saw people's needs there, and felt called by God to start a work there. Our team was happy to be a part.
So, to Kayemit we went. After Luke, Devin, Randy, Tim, and Ken helped fix a flat tire on the van.
We gathered under the shade of a huge tree with Pastor Deusma, Medson and evangelism team, and others from Pastor Deusma's church in Quartier-Morin. We prayed, got instructions on the day's activity (like 'don't randomly give the radios out on the street, only after conversations with people about the Gospel, preferably in their homes or yards', and 'each radio is for the whole family or household, unless you visit with a witch doctor or voodoo priest, then give them one for themselves'). And then we split up, two or three visiting team members, a translator, an evangelism worker and a local guide who knows the community and can direct the group to homes and people most in need of the Gospel.
I usually hover around trying to spend some time with each of the groups, taking pictures, observing, sometimes helping with translation and interpreting some of the cultural stuff that doesn't always get translated effectively. So I started with Ken and Kellie, good friends of ours who had taken a huge step outside their comfort zones to come to Haiti. And there were more steps of faith to come.
I wrote about this day in Men for MissionsActionmagazine, here is an excerpt:
Villagers Hear a New Voice
As we approach the first house, Pastor Joseph Deusma pulls me aside and whispers, “A witch doctor lives here.”
Though we couldn’t see the red and blue flags usually identifying where a witch doctor lives, there were other objects, including a bottle hanging from a tree (used in voodoo ceremonies).
So here we are, on the front lines of the spiritual battles that rage across the earth. This time, in Kayemit village in northern Haiti.
About 800 people call Kayemit home. But in the eyes of Emmanuel Félix (Medson), Radio 4VEH’s Extension Ministries Director, this is ‘virgin territory.’ With no real church presence in the community, the voice of influence belongs to the witchdoctor. Until today.
Visiting missionaries from Community Church of Columbus, Indiana, along with local evangelists first gather under a tree. Emmanuel explains the key to sharing the Gospel in communities where most identify themselves as Christian. ‘Ask about Jesus. What position does Jesus hold in your life?’
(What a great question as we talk with anyone. Not asking how religious you are, how much 'knowledge' you have of God, how often you go to church, how you label yourself, but where is Jesus in your life? Is He Lord?)
At the witch doctor’s house, he’s not home. But we speak with several members of his household, as well as another man visiting. We leave a solar radio for the household, and one for the witch doctor.
Next door, the witchdoctor’s niece combs through her daughter’s hair. When asked about her own faith, she replies she’s a good Catholic, and also dances at the voodoo ceremonies held regularly by her uncle. She wasn’t ready to accept Christ as her personal Savior.
The global prayer resource Operation World explains Haiti’s complex religious context this way: ‘The Roman Catholic Church’s role as the state church ended in 1987…Haitians overwhelmingly identify themselves as “Christian”…An estimated 75 percent of Christians are also actively involved in voodoo, a development of West African Spiritism and witchcraft.’
By the end of the outreach, 51 radios were given out after 70 people heard personal presentations of the Gospel. Three people prayed to receive Christ as their Savior, and 37 people refused Christ.
But now there’s a new voice of influence in Kayemit—Radio 4VEH, The Evangelistic Voice of Haiti—the voice that speaks about Jesus through all kinds of radio programs.
Pastor Deusma says, “Even though people here don’t have a church where they can worship God, they can now hear the Gospel. The radio receivers will help them to hear the Word of God. Listen, you can already hear people listening to the noon prayer program on their little radios!”
“I know it’s a seed that’s been planted today. And God will bring those seeds to fruition. He will produce the fruit. As we leave here, God will do the rest.”
Fast forward two years, to June 2013. We took the Columbus team back to Kayemit, wondering what had happened to those Gospel seeds that had been planted and watered every day through the little radios, and the pastoral care of Pastor Deusma and those working with him.
What a privilege to be standing where a new church has been planted―where the physical space, starting with a few sticks and plastic sheeting, is showing the village that there's a new body of Christ-followers in this place.
Back to the story I was telling at Tropical Smoothie. It was this scene above. One of the highlights of our whole summer in Haiti was this moment when the team prayed for this new church, this pastor ministering in this village, for the new believers here. And the person praying was Kellie, the one who was never comfortable praying out loud. And here she was, praying a prayer of blessing in front of team mates, villagers, friends, and strangers―praying a prayer to her heavenly Father on behalf of these brothers and sisters in Kayemit.
Being alongside people on their life-changing journeys is an absolute honor. What's your life-changing journey look like? And who are you walking alongside of on their stepping-out-in-faith, stretched-by-God journey way beyond their comfort zones?
If you’d like to join us on a life-changing journey, click here for opportunities.