bertin

Pastor BertinPastor Bertin was called to the area of La Hatte through a non-existent local church in the community. It was a love for the Lord, and to see others love the Lord, that brought him to La Hatte going house by house and talking about Jesus.

“I was not a pastor before I started the church, when I met the 4 people that wanted a church in the community I started that church and started going to seminary at the same time. I did think about becoming a pastor, it was not part of my dream. When God calls you, he will make you do what he asks you to do however he wants you to do it. You cannot refuse God. When I went there to talk to people about the Gospel, it was the first time I had ever been there. The sign for me was meeting the 4 people that were refusing to go to church because they did not have a local church to worship,” said Pastor.

He had been given the land by a man in the community that felt led to give a piece of land to a pastor for a new church. A school quickly followed the start of the church after Pastor Bertin noticed several of the children in the area had never had the possibility to go to school. It was through the school that he says God showed him that there was a need to care for kids in the community in one location as he saw kids showed up hungry, without clothes and shoes.

“The reason why I think it is important to care for kids, when they don’t go to school and don’t have anyone to care for them, is it is bad for society,” Pastor said.

In Haiti, and most in rural areas, pastors are confronted with the realities of voodoo practices within their communities. Typically, pastors and the voodoo priests find themselves on opposite sides of many issues within the community, however, pastor reflects on a conversation that surprised him, “The voodoo priest shook my hand and said, ‘Pastor, if I had money, I would pay you for what you do. Our lives are in danger, because of kids who are growing up without school and they are a danger for society. Some of them will be beaten up because of stealing people’s stuff, and some of them could go to Port-au-Prince to be gangsters.’ The reason the voodoo priest said that is not because we had a good relationship with him, but because he knew I was doing something good for the community.”

That good in the community continues to be done as Pastor leads the kids in his care to love the Lord so deeply that they are drawn into leadership of their local church, as well as outside of their own community to minister in other towns as a type of mission trip.

“Because the kids are part of the church, they participate in every activity of the church. In the same way other church members have access to go on mission trips, the kids have access to mission trips. Mission trips are important within the church to share the Gospel. When I go on a mission trip with the kids, they are doing the same thing the other church members are. We give responsibility to each person to do something on the trip, and they kids all share in that responsibility. Secondly, it is good to include the kids in the whole society so they know that what everyone else does, they can do it as well,” pastor shared.

Once you step onto the village property at La Hatte, an overwhelming sense of God’s presence is immediately electric. When I pointed out this observation to pastor while we were talking, he gently smiled and responded with, “The kids all get along at the village. They do not fight. God makes it peaceful here for us. We pray a lot. I ask God in my prayers to protect the kids in the village. I want you to pray for me so God can give me more wisdom and knowledge so I can continue to lead the people I am leading.”

His dedication to prayer extends to specific prayers for the ministry of GO Project as well, “When we pray we always pray for Global. I always pray for God to give Global more vision, and more love for the kids. Global loves kids and God will bless them for what they are doing. I always pray for Global, because they are doing something positive. The way the Global team reacts is really positive, and I am asking God to help them to remain the same.”

The Lord has led GO Project to support the leadership of Pastor Bertin as he cares for economic and social orphans at his village in La Hatte outside the city of Cayes. At GO Project, individuals or communities can contribute to life care and education costs of the orphans on a monthly basis or through long-term support of the pastors.

elysée

Pastor Elysee & MoiseMany times in Haiti, pastors set aside their ideal of safe areas when they embrace the courage to follow God wherever he may lead them. God led Pastor Elysée to Biggarouse while many of the local community was rapidly leaving the area due to an increased level of crime, voodoo and lack of good that comes with a community of people who love Jesus.

“It is a miracle how God made me start the village. It was a really difficult community. People didn’t want to live there anymore. But when God put on my heart to start the church here, I started with a crusade in the community. During the crusade in February 2002, many people came to Jesus. When people saw that the Gospel was being preached again, they came back to the community because they believed there would be some changes. The first thing we had was the church and we started in a tent, then we started a school. After the school, we started the orphanage,” Pastor shared.

When it came to finding the land for the village after Pastor started preaching to the community, it was a dream from long ago that materialized in front of him while walking down the road outside what would become his village to house kids and where many come to school.

“I can say that I was sent by God to this community. I had a dream. When I had the dream, I saw that I began a ministry in a place like where we are now. I kept looking, but all the other places I looked they were not right. What I saw in my dream is exactly the same, there is a corner then a divide in the road right where the place was in my dream, and that corner and divide in the road is the one right outside where the village is now. That is how I knew God wanted me to start the ministry here. I always live by faith, and I knew that God was going to make my dream come to pass,” Pastor said.

One of the difficulties while leading in a community in need of help is when parents need jobs. Pastor shared with me the story of a family in the community, “After the boy’s mom talked to me and explained the situation, I was really sad about her story. I said, what I can do for you is I can give you a job here and you can have a possibility to help your son. Then the boys’ mom came back with her son to talk about the job I wanted to give her. I was sitting with her under that avocado tree there, and she said, ‘I forgot my bag in the road.’ I said, ‘How could that happen that you forgot your bag? Go get it!’ She walked out the gate to get her bag, and after that I never saw her again, and she has not come back for her son. I have called her many times and she never picks up the phone. The boy is 4 years old and in preschool now. He has been living here for 2 years, and the mamas love him and all the other kids like him and help take care of him. He is a very good boy. Because of this, we call him Moise [Moses in English], because he shares his story with Moise from the Bible.”

Pastor’s leadership is deeply rooted in prayer. As he shares with those willing to listen while sitting under a larger than life mango tree, prayers of several women are heard in the church simultaneously mixed with the voices of teachers in nearby classrooms. Just as this chorus floats into the air, pastor shares, “Everything is done by faith. I pray to God and God shows us the way. This church changes kids’ lives. They didn’t know anything about school or God, and because of our presence in the community, they learn about Jesus and are educated. As an example, some of the young girls, if we didn’t have the village to help them they would have a really bad life, maybe they would have babies without fathers or be in prostitution or other things. In the same way, if it was not for the village, the boys would have a bad life and be stealers or other things to have money to survive. But because of the village, they have a new life.”

This new life is nurtured by a local church community that is active in the lives of the kids. Though unable to financially support the village due to the poverty in the community, whenever the village needs to do something, the members of the congregation are always available to help them do it. It is that investment in the kids and village that will benefit the kids’ future. According to Pastor, “The kids that we see today in a bad situation, tomorrow they will be someone that can help society move forward. If we don’t help them they will be bad for society, and if we do help them it will be a benefit for society. They will develop the community. The kids we see today are the ones that will be adults tomorrow. They could be president, prime minister, deputies, doctors and economists. This generation is the one that will help society move forward.”

Inspired by moving the next generation into a capable and sustainable adulthood is where Pastor points to the one that draws them together, “God never changes. He is the same one yesterday, the same one today and will be the same one tomorrow.”

The Lord has led GO Project to support the leadership of Pastor Elysée as he cares for economic and social orphans at his village in Biggarouse outside the city of Cayes. At GO Project, individuals or communities can contribute to life care and education costs of the orphans on a monthly basis or through long-term support of the pastors.

claude

Pastor Claude 2Pastor Claude’s passion for caring for orphans is apparent from the first moment you meet him, and it is fundamentally impossible to not see his passion stems from his redeemed life through Christ, and having been an orphan himself who was brought to Christ by a pastor helping orphans. Pastor is always transparent with what his life was like before Jesus, “Sometimes when I think about my past, I cry, and I remember God is helping me to move forward. When I am crying, I say, God you needed me and you know you are going to use me for your own good. Why did you let me do those bad things when I was young? Not everyone has the chance I have. Some people die when they are doing the bad things they are doing.”

That surrender to the life God has called him to brought Pastor back to Haiti in 1997 for the first time since leaving Haiti many years before with a mission to help those that had no one to provide for them. In each face taken in and he sees the reflection of his own face as a child living in extreme poverty near Cap Haitian. Every impulse Pastor has is to champion children just as he was championed by a pastor that came into his life and led him to the cross.

Walking with him at one of the villages he cares for kids, it is hard to miss the chorus of “Papi Claude” that ring out, or the kids that come and follow him, most of the time receiving a hand on the head or reminder of doing their homework or preparing for church in some way. Once when Pastor was returning from walking the countryside for several days, as he walked back into the village at Latremblay, the kids ran to his side, his absence having been a palpable void in their days.

Love runs deep in Pastor’s ministry, and that deepness is drawing his kids into a transformed life calling some to be pastors, others to music, and as Pastor prays, some to care for orphans just as he has dedicated his life. According to Pastor, “In Haiti, kids who don’t have parents, other orphans or people who don’t have money, people don’t want to marry these kinds of people. You are not considered as people. They think they are superior to them.” It is equality in God’s realm that unifies the villages of Pastor Claude and invites his congregations to be a part of something bigger than cultural norms of this world.

Armed with God’s word, Pastor consistently points back to the Bible to anyone around him. “In Psalm 41, it says, ‘blessed is anyone who cares for the weak.’ The first and the second verses say, blessed are people who take care of people who don’t have anyone to take care of anyone. It’s not only in Haiti, but Africa, everywhere, if you can help people who don’t have anyone to help them you should help them.”

The Lord has led GO Project to support the leadership of Pastor Claude as he cares for economic and social orphans at his villages of Latremblay, on the east side of Port-au-Prince and Leogane, west of Port-au-Prince. At GO Project, individuals or communities can contribute to life care and education costs of the orphans on a monthly basis or through long-term support of the pastors.

pastors

Today marks a distinctive day in Haiti. It is 12 Janvier. Six years have passed since the earthquake rocked this ground and the lives of so many. It is an emotional day in Haiti, but at the same time, God is doing so much within these borders and the lives of the people here. In that spirit, I chose today to start a series of blog posts centering on the pastors I have come to know and love as our lives have intersected for this time in Haiti.

I have spent a lot of time around pastors in the states. Some are incredible, Spirit-led leaders, some I greatly respect through their flaws, some I definitely do not respect and others have made me evaluate my role in stateside church based on their leadership and how I have been gifted. Pastors in Haiti have infinitely more responsibility and I am grateful God has used them to heal some of my experiences with stateside pastors. 

When it comes to partnering with the local church in Haiti, there is also an element of encouraging, supporting and praying for the pastors in a unique way that would not be considered in stateside culture. Haitian pastors bear the weight of not only the kids in their care, but also their own families, congregation, school support and the surrounding community. As many pastors have said, life in Haiti is hard, but life as a pastor in Haiti is even harder. Imagine the multitude of requests for food, money, medical help and caring for kids in an economy where for every Haitian who is employed, they are supporting eight other Haitians.

Over the months of September and October, I had the incredible honor of sitting and listening to eleven of the pastors partnered with Global Orphan Project in Haiti. We laughed. We shared stories. We encouraged each other. Still, months later, I am enamored by the stories of these men and their willingness to take time from their insanely busy schedules to simply be present with me and allow me toss questions at them. After living for 22 months in Haiti, I am grateful to call many of them friends and even more so, for their sacrifices in caring for orphans in their communities, many of whom have forever marked my soul and continue to do so on a weekly basis while I have the on-going privilege of living here.

It is important to know for each of these incredible pastors that they were all caring for kids in their communities long before GO Project knew them. We get the honor of praying, encouraging and financially supporting them where they needed a partner to come alongside them in education or life care costs for their kids. We have no ownership over their ministries or the children in their care. Many of the pastors are businessmen, some are builders, and others have gone back to school to earn degrees for higher paying jobs to offset the cost of their ministry to orphans in their care. Some have congregations that are very small, while others have hundreds of people in their churches on Sundays.

Their callings and how God has directed their lives are unique to each pastor. Every single one of them told me they never intended to become a pastor, and their obedience in answering that calling is inspiring. Most never intended to care for kids in their communities, but their leadership and placement within that community led them to build children’s homes.

I share these stories to not only bust open your worldview and offer a different perspective, but also to lead you to pray for them. I carry a heavy burden for the pastors who do not have active partnerships and for them to have churches, organizations or groups of people that are loyal to a partnership with their village. That loyalty could look like several different things, but let me offer some Biblical perspective on loyalty in relationships.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6:8 NIV]

The word ‘MERCY’ from Micah 6:8 in Hebrew means, ‘unfailing love, loyal love, kindness, often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship.’ Mercy makes it personal, emotional and genuine. It makes partnerships between cultures a part of your heart and asks you to look beyond yourself. Mercy is not easy. Mercy is not ‘surface.’ Mercy is messy, because it can be ugly at times. Real, loyal relationships are not always pretty. Yet, God uses mercy to not only be in relationship with us, but also invite us to take our relationships with others deeper.

Haiti needs others that are willing to be loyal through the mess. Those who will be curious, learn and ask questions, gain hard answers and be willing to wade through the muck of the mess of relationship. I carry a burden for these pastors to have others that choose to walk with them. The pastors have a deep desire to have dedicated partners to visit, spend time with them, play with their kids, get to know the mamas and pray with them. And not simply one time, but to do so yearly or even multiple times a year.

So…I pray and discern for those conversations and opportunities to tell stories that might bring someone face-to-face with where God is calling them to invest. My hope in these posts is that you pray, discern and be willing to see through a different set of eyes. Life in Haiti is not easy, but in these next several posts, I want to provide you with a look at leaders in local church communities who are on the frontlines of a physical, emotional and spiritual battlefield. May what God does with that always move us toward his Kingdom on earth.

 

joy

God’s glory saturated yesterday.

And it was spectacular.
  

Friends, it was lovely and packed with memories I will not soon forget. And in a time where memories are made every day the fact that my smile is still plastered across my face, and probably making everyone think I am making fun of them in the deep recesses of my mind, says a lot. I am still overflowing with joy from everywhere God’s glory exploded bright yesterday. I kind of feel like when Moses’ face kept reflecting the glory of God after being in his presence and no one could look at him when he carried the Ten Commandments down from Mt. Sinai. They were afraid to approach him because his face shone from talking to God. But it isn’t creepy. It isn’t scary. It is holy.

Oh, friends, that this joy would continually be reflected out of Haitian lives.

Yesterday marked the first graduating class of the Pathways program through Global Orphan Project in Haiti. Two years of hard work for students who have not passed school grades anywhere from 4th to 10th grade in Haiti and had to leave a Pastor’s care at age 18. Two years of living as a community. Two years of budgeting, language and life learning. Two years of true friendship and maturing. Two years of discipleship and growth as local church leaders. Two years of learning trade skills to earn a job within a country that has an unemployment rate of 70%. Two well fought years to reach yesterday.

I’ve seen grief in these students. I’ve seen their confidence grow. I’ve seen passionate prayer and worship. I’ve seen struggles. I’ve seen them walk with kindness and respect for others as they learn to navigate life beyond a Pastor’s care. I’ve seen them empowered and proud of themselves as they gain job skills and feel they have something to impart on younger students. I’ve seen them investing in other young lives still living in a Pastor’s care.

And yesterday, I saw them exploding with joy in their accomplishment. They were so, so happy. I kept telling them, ‘I am so happy for you!’ And one by one their eyes would shine bright and smiles would sparkle as they replied with, ‘Me too!’

As I reflect on yesterday while I journey to Kansas City for my brother’s celebrations leading him into a new married life…I am breathing deep breathes of gratitude.

Today I am praising true life, because it is a gift to live and count so, so many people as dear friends across so many different cultures and languages.

Today I am grateful for patience in Haitian culture, because through the craziness of traffic and no disgust in long lines, Haiti has taught me to slow down and treasure what is in front of me…to take the moments we are given for what they are meant to be.

I am inspired while living within a culture that lives the example of respectfully greeting colleagues and friends when you first see them in the day with a hand shake and kiss to the cheek. It is intentional. It is meaningful. It shows they are present with you and we are known by one another.

Today I am thankful for the examples of overflowing love of Jesus in the Haitian lives surrounding me, because it has taught me to not be ashamed of who I follow and easily sigh with ‘Seigneur Jésus.’ It has taught me that worship is passionate, with your whole existence crying out for the Savior.

Today I smile with overflowing love for a culture of extremes and being chosen to grow within this place. It is not easy living within the extremes of Haiti. This place is no where near perfect, but there is loads of beauty…even in dirt and trash. There are many things that ignite my sense of justice and many things that force me to rely on faith when I do not understand. But they hone my vision to God’s Kingdom restored and renewed, and fuel my fight for that Kingdom to be known.

Today I am refreshed by young lives filled with pride and confidence through empowerment.

As I sit and soak in the last year and a half, and look forward to the next year in Haiti, I see it as the incredible gift it is in my life. I am grateful for my calling, and this time of being placed perfectly within who God created me to be for his Kingdom. God’s glory is evident and present everywhere, but somehow Haiti purifies it and allows us to look through a clear lens. I will forever crave the presence of the Holy Spirit in this place and Haiti will forever make my heart explode.