In Haiti for the Long Haul
By Kami L. Rice
September 22, 2010
Pastor Edouard Clerhomme and Pastor Ed Noble likely never would have met if an earthquake hadn’t filled Haiti’s streets with rubble. But now the relationship between them and the churches they lead is growing into something that has life beyond the tragedy.
Clerhomme pastors the Church of God Mission by Faith church in Carrefour, Haiti, a very poor community southwest of downtown Port-au-Prince. He was walking home from downtown when the earthquake struck. He was OK but saw people buried in the pancaked buildings. He said he was filled by the Holy Spirit then and began preaching the Gospel as people in the streets with him cried and prayed.
“Since the earthquake, God has done mighty acts. A lot of people came to Christ and were saved right after the earthquake,” he says. Even now, eight months later, his church holds revival services and meets together to pray all the time: each morning and night at the church with additional afternoon services, plus praying with people in their homes.
In late May, Noble, the pastor of Journey Community Church in La Mesa, Calif., traveled to Haiti with a group of ministry bloggers to help kick off the Church-to-Church Program through which interdenominational missions organization Adventures in Missions (AIM) is facilitating direct partnerships between churches in Haiti and churches in America.
As they met Haitian pastors already in AIM’s network of trustworthy, Spirit-filled pastors and churches, Noble and Mark Oestreicher, a speaker, author and consultant from his congregation, were hoping to find the church that Journey Church could partner with.
By the last day of the visit, they still hadn’t met a pastor who felt like the right fit. Yet they had a sense about Clerhomme and were hopeful as they headed to their meeting with him. “Our meeting was stunning,” Ostreicher says. “It was one of those rare moment where God’s presence was obvious.”
At 59 years old, Clerhomme has been a believer for a long time now, since he was 11. He’s full of wisdom and passion for the people of his community. As Noble talked with Clerhomme about wanting to serve Clerhomme’s vision through the partnership rather than imposing a vision on the Haitian church and about wanting to learn and receive from Clerhomme and his church, Clerhomme listened intently, responded graciously, and stood firm in describing what would actually be helpful and what would not.
This first meeting concluded with a time of rich prayer. “Edouard’s prayer for us and the people of Journey Community Church had my heart in my throat,” Ostreicher wrote on his blog.
Since this meeting, Journey and Mission by Faith have formalized their new partnership. Journey sent a five-person team to visit in early July to continue assessing needs and ways they can support Mission by Faith church and to continue deepening relationships between the new partner churches. As Journey covers their activities in prayer while providing small business loans to church members and restocking the medical clinic Clerhomme had been running in his community, Mission by Faith prays for their American partner church.
“One of the things we have to offer to Journey is that we can pray that God will keep blessing Journey Church in everything they do,” Clerhomme says. “Nothing can be done without prayer, and we want to pray for Journey Church as much as we can. [Beyond that] there might be something else God wants us to do for Journey Church. We can preach the Gospel and then one never knows.”
Jason Denison, worship pastor at Journey and a member of the July visit team, said his church needs their Mission by Faith partners because of the Haitian believers’ faith. “If we need something, we go to the drugstore and buy it. If they need something, they ask God for it. I think you have a different connection with God when you have to rely on Him like that.”
Both churches are entering this partnership for the long haul—and not only for the more immediate earthquake recovery season. “When you go down there and begin to form relationships like we did, high-fiving and saying, ‘We’ll see you in heaven!’ doesn’t feel right,” Denison says. “This is an until-kingdom-come kind of deal. We need them just as much as they need us, and that will be more realized in the future.”
AIM’s vision for the partnerships they’re facilitating through their team of Port-au-Prince-based Haitian and American staff grows from recognizing that the Haitian church is presently providing some of the only infrastructure in the country, outside of what’s being offered by non-Haitian NGOs (aid organizations) and governmental groups. Haitian pastors provide significant local leadership and partnering with them is a key element in any long-term strategy for seeing Haiti flourish.
“The world thinks it is coming to bless Haiti,” says AIM founder and executive director Seth Barnes, “yet our staff in Haiti expects to see gifted leaders rise from the church in Haiti. We sense that God is equipping them to model lives abandoned to obedience in the way all Christians are called to live but often struggle to do.”
So far, nearly 30 U.S. congregations have been partnered with Haitian churches. AIM is seeking at least 170 more American churches to be paired with partner congregations in Haiti.
As Denison notes: “The local church in Carrefour and in Santa Monica is the hope of the world. When [these churches] get united [in Haiti], it’s going to be off the hook. It’s really simple arithmetic. That’s why we love this plan.”
Kami Rice is a Nashville-based freelance writer who has spent months abroad covering stories across Africa, in India, in London, and for a month in pre-earthquake Haiti.