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.

knowledge

“That night, God appeared to Solomon. God said, ‘What do you want from me? Ask.’” [2 Chronicles 1:8, MSG]

Wow. Anything? What would you ask for if God gave you freedom to request something from him?

World peace? A million dollars? A friend to finally seek God’s grace and love? Discernment? To be the most famous person ever?

There are a lot of Haitians looking for the letter ‘T’ on Prestige beer bottles right in a contest to get a free car. Would you ask for a car?

“Solomon answered, ‘You were extravagantly generous with David my father, and now you have made me king in his place. Establish, God, the words you spoke to my father, for you’ve given me a staggering task, ruling this mob of people. Yes, give me wisdom and knowledge as I come and go among this people – for who on his own is capable of leading these, your glorious people?’ God answered Solomon, ‘This is what has come out of your heart: You didn’t grasp for money, wealth, fame, and the doom of your enemies; you didn’t even ask for a long life. You asked for wisdom and knowledge so you could govern well my people over whom I’ve made you king. Because of this, you get what you asked for – wisdom and knowledge. And I’m presenting you the rest as a bonus – money, wealth and fame beyond anything the kings before you or after you had or will have.’” [2 Chronicles 1:11-12, MSG]

Solomon could have asked for anything. But God recognized Solomon’s heart when he didn’t ask for something frivolous. He wanted to honor God.

There is something here we can learn from when Solomon asks for wisdom and knowledge. How many times today have you, sometimes subconsciously, asked God for something?

Perhaps, help me not strangle this co-worker, or maybe your kids? How about for a car to get out of your way because you are in a hurry? What about asking for more time in your day with a loved one who doesn’t have much longer to be in this world, or even that you find yourself too ‘busy’ to be with those you love? Maybe it is patience you ask for? Careful on that one, God tends to give you situations to grow your patience instead of actually just bestowing it on you.

I ask a lot for God’s voice to be clear and discernment to be what God needs me to be for those around me. I’ve also asked for wisdom, because who has enough really? We can always use more wisdom, but never once have I asked for knowledge. I’d never really thought about it until I read Solomon’s request a few months ago. Possibly, it is because I have a significant amount of faith in the Lord I serve, coupled with a relative easiness at the mysterious parts of God.

Solomon wanted wisdom and knowledge to lead well. I wonder at those who lead around me, if they frequently ask for wisdom and knowledge. In the areas I lead, I know I haven’t…and I cannot possibly be the only one who hasn’t asked.

Solomon didn’t lead perfectly, but he started out with his heart in the right place. None of us could ever lead perfectly, we all sin after all, but what characteristics of leadership could we commit to improving ourselves? Maybe it is wisdom and knowledge, but maybe it is in hearing the voice of God and discerning where the Holy Spirit would have you lead people.

Let today be a day you commit to having your heart in the right place…and if I end up failing today, in the uncanny tradition of David and Solomon…God will still love me tomorrow.

 

prayer

I know one thing, when something bad happens to me I hope that I have a crowd of Haitians storming the gates of heaven on my behalf, because in the moments I’ve been a part of their raw prayer…I know they are intervening and being heard by our Savior.

Several months ago we were sitting at dinner when we learned that two Pathways boys had been hit while on the side of the road by a drunk driver. The flurry of action that followed was led by some very passionate and angry Haitians who care about these kids. Honestly, it was amazing to see them come together for these boys. The Pathways director was on the side of the road arguing with the driver of the car for quite some time, and then when the police did not come, charged another of our staff with watching him and drove to the police station to get help. All while another staff member was driving the boys to the hospital in Port-au-Prince, and another was leaving his home to meet them at the hospital.

This began a long waiting period where we felt it had been hours since the last update…yet it had been 30 minutes.

When the Pathway girls came back to Jumecourt, we pulled all information they had out of them to understand what was happening better. They hung out a bit…then argued over each person’s perspective…then wanted us to open the upstairs classroom to pray.

Here is where I am unable to have the right words to express what that time was like with the girls. Friends, you have not prayed until you have prayed with Haitians in pain with many questions surrounding a situation. The amount of grief, pain and pleading that poured out of these girls was substantial. And it poured out…

Prayer in Haiti is a very deep action. Prayer comes from the depths of who God has created us to be. It is a soul cry to the One who hears, sees and is all. The emotion involved that night was overwhelming for me as someone who absorbs the spiritual cry of others. Yet, at the same time the Holy Spirit presence in that room was not only tangible, but electric.

When a young woman groans ‘Mesi Seigneur’ something rips in your soul as tears are falling down her face, and suddenly you feel wetness dripping down your own. Somehow, even in the midst of pain and confusion, these young women were still yelling, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ There were moments within this time of prayer I legitimately thought Jesus was going to walk in the room and give an update on the boys’ conditions. The veil between heaven and earth was that thin.

What I wanted to tell the girls was God hears you. God knows your hearts. God knows every hair on the boys’ heads. God knows you are pounding at his figurative front door. You are heard. But words would have been completely inadequate compared to the rawness of the prayer we’d experienced together. Who needs words when you have literally left everything at the feet of the One who knows?

For that night that is what prayer was for us, to draw near to God in every tangible way. To lift our voices to him in song, and raise a chorus of simultaneous prayer in groans and fervor. To connect not only with one another, but with the one who created all of us. To be a united front for these boys that we know, we care about and want to see live into the calling God has placed on their lives.

Now months later, the boys are healthy and strong. They both only had to stay in the hospital one night, and when we saw them a few days later looked much better than we had expected. You never know what will happen in Haiti…but I do know that I’m a part of not only a strong prayer support in the States, but one in Haiti that will not hesitate to storm God’s front door.

*I actually wrote this the night of the accident and couldn’t bring myself to post it with all of the varying emotions, and then I forgot about it…better late than never!*

surreal

Surreal moments. Those places in time and space where you can honestly not believe you are where you are and observing what you are observing.

Acts 1:8…come on, quote it with me, you should know by now…

My obsession with this verse is old news. Very old news. I remember a couple years ago when I had the random God thought that the verse got complete turned on its head when you heard it while living in a different area of the world. That thought busted open a new worldview for me. What was my Judea as the United States would be Europe for someone living in Europe, while Europe was actually my ‘ends of the earth.’

Imagine my utter astonishment to find myself sitting in church on Sunday as a Haitian Pastor preached Acts 1:8 to a congregation filled with Americans, Canadians, Haitians, Europeans…all living in Haiti.

It was such a surreal moment for me that I am certain I chuckled under my breath.

As his comments unfolded, it became very apparent that God has worked this verse over on this Pastor in very similar ways that he merged it into my vernacular.

I sat in awe as he asked the congregation, ‘Where is your Jerusalem?’ Your city, he stressed.

‘Where is your Judea? In all the departments of Haiti!’

‘Where is your Samaria? Friends, how do you feel about Dominican Republic? God is calling us to be witnesses even in Dominican Republic.’

His reference to Samaria’s place that makes Haitians uncomfortable should enlighten you on how Haitians feel about Dominicans.

And then…then he spread both hands wide and shared with the congregation that he knows ‘God is calling Haitians to the end of the earth. For hundreds of years, Haiti has been receiving missionaries. It has become normal for us to believe that someone will help us and that people will come. We have become too ready to receive help from others. Who here is God calling out of Haiti and into the world to be a witness for Jesus?’

I got goose bumps at those words. I have said them myself in a post I wrote last summer called ‘dare.’ As the pastor continued, I heard my own words ironically echoing in my head, ‘Americans will not save Haiti. Instead, I firmly believe that Haiti will save America. And if the world chooses to pay attention…God will use Haiti to change the world.’

Friends, God is doing something spectacular in Haiti and he is intentionally placing Haitians where he needs them to be his witness.

I hear Haitian pastors preach on excellent topics quite often. In most recent months it has been a lot of calling people out on their sin, imploring couples to get married after years of living together, confronting voodoo social practices and church planting around Haiti. It was inspiring to hear a Haitian pastor preaching for his people to seek God’s calling on their life, and to be open to the possibilities that it may be beyond Haiti.

Haitians are typically not dreamers. Americans are raised to dream big, the sky is the limit. However, when most Haitians are concerned daily about how to pay for school or where food will come from tomorrow, dreaming is not a reality.

Inspiring Haitians to seek their calling from God is monumental. It’s exciting, and it opens a new Kingdom door to Haitians that has previously been unrealistic. I am honored to join Haitians in prayer to seek their calling. In order to join then, are you willing to set aside any preconceived notions that Haiti is just a country seeped in poverty and dangerous? Are you willing to see differently? Are you willing to see Haiti as a hopeful nation? Are you willing to see how God is working in the lives of Haitians?

I cannot wait to see how God will be speaking to not only individual believers here, but how he will continue to use the Pastors to speak into the lives of the congregations. And a large piece of me breathes a sigh of relief that others are hearing the same thing from God when it comes to scripture.

vivian

‘JESUS!’

What would happen if you screamed the name of our sovereign God at the top of your lungs in your street? Would it be met with equally loud yells to keep it to yourself? Perhaps everyone would just ignore the weird Jesus freak on the street? I know some of us have neighbors who would echo the sentiment of screaming our Savior’s name at the top of our lungs with pure joy. In Haiti, most likely, someone would yell it back, start singing a worship song, pray or yell ‘Amen!’ In Russia, you would get weird looks, but not because someone disagrees, more due to the fact your relationship with Jesus is private and not for everyone to see. However, for many places in the world it would be outright dangerous to yell the name of Jesus in a public place.

Her name was Vivian, and for whatever reason, God brought her to mind this morning in church. We were worshipping and her named popped into my head, soon followed by images of my time sitting in a concrete dorm room in China with her. I had no idea why she was brought to mind, but any confusion about random thoughts was put to rest once the sermon started with 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 where I had written next to it, “Chinese Christian we cannot see…Vivian. 7-29-01”

What are the odds, right? I don’t believe in odds. I believe in a God who serves as a connector among all his people, and for whatever the God reason, I am deep in prayer for her and those like her around the world today.

I met Vivian July 29, 2001 while in China for the summer on a cultural exchange at Ningxia University. I had mistakenly used a toothbrush in the sink water and was down and out for a solid couple of days. [Haiti trip goers will identify this as why I am now hyper crazy about using ‘clean’ water for everything.] I’d gone to cultural classes in the morning and just couldn’t do it quite yet, and had gone back to my dorm room.

Then a knock came on the door.

I’d assumed it was another American checking on me, but instead this beautiful, sweet Chinese face peaked through the door. ‘Can I help you?’ I asked.

‘I am looking for the American Christians,’ she replied softly, almost in a whisper.

My world slowed to a stop in that moment of awe as a Chinese believer stood in front of me. It could have been a trap to get me in trouble for evangelizing or legitimately be a believer looking for another believer. When we’d arrived in China we’d been told any conversation about Jesus that was not invited by a question could get us into trouble with the government. It was drilled into our heads. Live and act out your faith, but don’t use words until you are asked for them. Honestly, I was relieved this was how we were expected to live among the Chinese students. I was a young believer and terrified of saying something wrong or turning someone away from Jesus because I didn’t have the relationship with them to speak into their life.

Factoring all that in a mere split second, I took the leap, and off Vivian and I went into a conversation about Jesus. She had heard there were American believers on campus and wanted to meet them. She wanted to pray with them. She sought encouragement. She wanted to take hope from the freedom we had to believe in Jesus where we came from. She wanted to feel connected in a tangible way to the American church that was not constricted to house churches or by a government that wanted to control beliefs. She wanted to meet those that live in constant security that whatever you chose to believe you would not be punished for by anyone.

God put me in the time and place to be that connection. We prayed together. Broken English, Mandarin and English blended together all in praise and petition of the one who knows. She left with plans to meet at the night market later and I would bring some friends.

I was exuberant…and I was naïve.

I was an American with no clue what repercussions could come on this sweet, young Chinese believer trying to find her place in God’s Kingdom. I had no idea the risks she took simply opening my door to ask for the ‘American believers.’ I had never known a place that believing in the sovereignty of God would put me in danger.

Our university representative heard about what had happened and approached our American staff. It wasn’t safe, for her or us. It could not happen, and we were not allowed to go to the night market that night.

I never saw Vivian again, but as today can attest…it doesn’t take a lot of time for someone to make a mark on your life. Vivian’s bravery, and thirst for the connection to believers who lived in a place where they were free to shout ‘Jesus!’ from the rooftops was contagious and inspiring.

‘All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation! For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in suffering, you will also share God’s comfort.’ [2 Corinthians 1:3-7]

As you journey through wherever God has placed you today, remember that the Gospel is a gift to you and intended for those around you. It is truth. It is life. It is the hope of restoration of all things new. It carries freedom no matter who you are or where you chose to believe in him. It is not to be kept to yourself, and horded for simply one moment…it is meant for many moments. The beauty of the Gospel and a Savior who loves you enough to sacrifice himself is intended for you to demonstrate daily. As believers, separating ourselves from that truth separates us from the heart of God. Sink into that truth today, and allow yourself to acknowledge the majority of believers in the world are demonstrating that truth in places that will get them thrown into jail or sacrificed. That the majority of believers in the world are sacrificing everything when they chose to claim Jesus as their own.

When we live within an easy, friendly Gospel we are not projecting the truth of that Gospel. When we present God as tame, where is the God who fights against the injustices in the world? Where is the God who died on a cross for the sins of ALL of us? Where is the God that fervently, relentlessly pursues us with unstoppable love? Where is the God that tossed the tables in the temple with every aspect of righteous anger he had?

As a good friend reminded me recently, God is not a tame lion. Here’s to finding the risk in our belief of the God who calls us to love deeper as I am burdened to pray for those that choose to believe in places it will cost them everything.

prayer

“Stephanie, where do I go to pray for you today? I’m sitting at my table, coffee in my right hand and my Bible in my left.”

It’s not every day that you get emails that start with those words…so many emotions in those simple words. The reality that someone cares enough to intentionally sit down and pray for me is one. But also someone who cares enough to put some spiritual muscle behind sending me a Bible verse, or three because it couldn’t be narrowed down, that is only for me.

It is all a part of being known. Isn’t that one of our basic human emotional needs? To pray for me is one thing, but to know them well enough to pray for me without a litany of prayer requests to read down requires us to know one another.

20140114-163526.jpg

And very clearly we are friends who know one another, because she knows that I would care that she was also drinkin’ her mornin’ cup, or five, of joe. Birds of a feather and all…I’m writing this while drinking a delicious cup myself.

My precious friend ended up sending me the best Bible verses, and she wasn’t the only one last week.

A group of us participated in an experiment last week. Pray for one person each day, and send them a Bible verse. Simple enough, right? It started with a spreadsheet, because they are cool. Then some of us forgot, which meant others got two verses in one day…but it wasn’t about our crazy lives and forgetting to email, mostly because we were intentionally praying for each other every day for seven days.

Which at this point, I should also mention, that NONE of us like to pray out loud. When we are together and it is ‘time’ to pray. Crickets. Crickets. Crickets. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

Prayer is a lot of things though…a thought, a whisper, a doodle, a word, a song, a painting. We limit our connection to God when we see prayer as something only done at meal time or ‘church’ events. We also limit that connection when we think only Pastors have the ‘right’ prayers. There is no ‘right’ prayer. There are no ‘right’ words. God takes all of them, and more so, knows your heart. It doesn’t matter what comes out of your mouth.

Despite our aversion to praying out loud, this week we found a new way to connect through prayer and it was exhilarating. One day, I got scripture that I had significantly connected to while in China about loving people that are hard to love. For whatever reason, only God knows, it led me to spending a lot of time last week praying for China, the folks I knew and the Americans I traveled with for a summer.

It was also eye opening. Without knowing prayer requests we quickly realized we were left to how well we knew each other and what was happening in our lives, especially with the added piece of giving them a part of God’s word. Prayer is a connector to God first and foremost, but we also found that prayer is a connector to each other as well.

Without our connection to our God and Holy Spirit, and without strong relationships that we can depend on…we are left alone, hopeless and cut off. That, most assuredly, is not a strong community of believers, and definitely not one that the God of the universe will use to restore His Kingdom back to wholeness.

At the start of our week of intentional prayer, I was nervous that some would ‘forget’ or worse…not get into the whole prayer every day thing. For some it pushed on the boundaries of our comfort zones, because Bibles were being opened daily and prayer life was getting a jolt. However, our God is a God of grace, love and mercy – the relationship kind, and he SHOWED up. Big time.

We ended up going above and beyond simply prayer and scripture, and found ourselves encouraging each other. Even finding God encouraging us while spending more time in His word. Some found themselves lending an ear in situations, as well as all of us thinking about each other all week. We were connected, and it was a beautiful picture of community.

Don’t be the person this week that says, “I’m praying for you!” and then make it a side thought. Be intentional. Desire a community. Be connected to God through prayer for the sake of those around you. God will show up. God will work through junk. God will make the relationships around you stronger. God will enhance your discernment. It doesn’t even matter if you know what to pray for, because I guarantee you that God knows what that person needs more than a list of prayer requests would tell you.

God worked in us so much this week that we are going to be working to fill in the holes of relationships with each other that God shed light on last week. The good news is it will involve food, conversation, and of course, coffee.