It was March of 2014 and a medical team from Iowa had returned to Haiti for their second trip in 5 months with World Wide Village. A great partnership was growing between WWV and this team and both sides felt God moving leading up to the trip. The team had brought a collection of medical personnel as well as pastoral support and laypeople with a heart to share Jesus through verbal testimony alongside the doctors and nurses on the team.
In working with the WWV staff, the team had made connections with a number of community members the previous October and were excited to renew friendships that had begun to develop previously. Some of these relationships were with new believers who accepted Christ a few months prior, some with people who were still seeking spiritually, and others with local pastors and church members. As the team went through the second week in Haiti, several things became apparent:
1) Many Haitians they were interacting with were not only open to the gospel but were excited to hear more about Christ and eager to discuss the Bible.
2) Many of those individuals were lacking a venue to continue to grow in their faith or be mentored by another believer similar to how Paul had mentored Timothy in his walk in the New Testament
3) The local Haitian pastors were exhausted. They were spending so much time meeting the innumerable physical needs of those in their community and in their congregations that they had little energy or time leftover to build into and disciple other men or women in their congregations.
4) There was a historical lack of cooperation between pastors in the communities of Williamson and Luly. Although all of the pastors desired to serve God in their ministry there were perceived barriers to working together to advance the Kingdom.
By the middle of the week Pastor Dave Kirk from Grace Community Church in North Liberty, Iowa and Pat Mortensen from World Wide Village teamed up with a plan. They would meet with three of the local pastors that WWV worked most closely with the last day the team was in Haiti. The purpose of the meeting was threefold: 1) discuss how the Grace pastoral staff and WWV could further assist them in their ministries, 2) challenge the pastors to take on a renewed focus on building up and making disciples within their churches, and 3) to build greater unity within the churches in the community to work together to glorify God’s name in their communities.
The meeting was a HUGE success! Not only did the three pastors attend but a fourth heard about the meeting and showed up asking to be a part. Each pastor agreed to engage twelve men in their churches to meet with them regularly and build them up. This would bring new leaders to those churches while also giving the pastors other men and women that could fulfill tasks that had previously only been done by the pastors. WWV arranged to set up monthly Skype calls between the pastors in Iowa and those in Haiti for ongoing training and encouragement. Both groups left encouraged but unsure of how it would all work out.
As time has passed the monthly Skype calls have continued and the number of local pastors involved has grown to seven. Subsequent trips have resulted in conferences being given for the pastors as well as the men in their discipleship groups. Over 50 men have been able to attend these conferences each time and over 80 Creole Bibles were given to equip them. Additionally, women’s conferences have been initiated and 25 women attended our last conference in March 2015. Recently, the American and Haitian pastors have engaged with STEP Seminary in Port-au-Prince. STEP has begun to provide discipling and training materials in Creole for the pastors to use which has helped to overcome previous difficulties with language translations.
The results have been encouraging. Over this time we have seen greater unity amongst the pastors as they work and pray together for their community. There has also been mutual encouragement and growth and the WWV staff have noted demonstrable changes in the hearts and actions of some of the individuals involved. Although there is still much work to be done it is readily apparent to all involved that the foundation is being laid for a strengthened local church in Williamson and Luly that will serve as a sustainable force for the efforts of WWV to more seamlessly support new believers while challenging and building up current believers.
This is how we believe Haiti will change- by winning hearts to Jesus and building people up in their knowledge of God and love for Him, within the local church, so that they can go out and make disciples of their own and grow the Kingdom! May it be so!