Heroes in Haiti: Harsh Realities, Heavenly Rewards
By Carl Stagner
“We don’t realize what can happen to us in a flash.” Phyllis Newby’s words echo the harsh reality of conducting day-to-day ministry in Haiti. While pastors in the United States spend much of their week casting vision, strategizing mission, and preparing sermons—all important tasks—pastors in Haiti work through multiple uncertainties, and often face dangerous conditions as the hands and feet of Christ. One Haitian hero of the faith, who has learned to overcome unpredictable challenges, is Pastor St. Dieu. After last year’s floodwaters had receded, St. Dieu and his team began working their way across a river to deliver emergency supplies to the needy. What happened next may send chills down your spine.
Due to a lack of bridges, travelers in Haiti often have to cross waterways on foot or on horseback, and only when flooding is not imminent. Following severe flooding in 2014, the river near the community of Saint-Raphaël was a raging torrent. Residents were left with badly damaged homes and property. As the waters receded, Pastor St. Dieu and his team began to drive their truck across to deliver supplies. Suddenly, an unexpected surge of water caught the team off guard and the truck and crew began to wash away. Thirty men reportedly jumped into the water to salvage the truck. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and the truck was pulled from the river. Unfortunately, the truck suffered irreparable damage.
After the incident, Pastor St. Dieu was back at it. He delivered some of the supplies with his personal vehicle, some by animal, and some on foot. “He, like so many pastors in Haiti, literally goes the extra mile to make sure God’s people are cared for,” Mark Fulton, missionary to Haiti, explains. “The ability to reach the more remote churches and people of Haiti is often an extreme challenge. Whether it be to present medical, spiritual, or daily-living assistance, the ability to be present at meetings with individuals is hard. Even in cities where vehicles can pass, the vehicular traffic and foot traffic make travel slow and difficult. The threat of carjacking and robbery is also an ever-present concern.”
Pastor St. Dieu oversees thirty-six church communities, as well as an orphanage of fifty-eight children. It’s no wonder his ministry work week is packed full of responsibilities. There is no time to quibble about the color of the carpet or the style of worship in the Haitian church. “From dawn to dusk and beyond,” Mark explains, “our brothers and sisters in Haiti who serve in Christian leadership positions find themselves with a steady stream of individuals asking for help with sick family members, for an uplifting word when all seems lost, or for assistance in finding food, shelter, and water. Haiti’s unemployment rate exceeds 80 percent, so the needs are overwhelming. Not only are respected Haitian pastors the leaders of their congregation, but they also find themselves to be leaders in the community. These pastors live on just a few dollars a day to help themselves and others.”
Doing the work of the Lord in Haiti may not be easy, but it’s rewarding. Without luxuries, Christians in Haiti tend not to become too attached to their possessions. “Serving in Haiti is frustrating, difficult, and often dangerous, and those who do must have a constant ‘line’ open to Christ,” Mark reflects. “Without him, and without the strong belief that there is hope for eternity beyond this meager existence exemplified in Haiti, nothing could be accomplished.”
For more information about Church of God missions projects (Project Link), contact Erin Rockhill at ERockhill@chog.org or 800-848-2464, ext. 2185. For more information about supporting a Church of God missionary (Living Link), contact Debbie Taylor at DTaylor@chog.org, or 800-848-2464, ext. 2129. Learn more about Church of God missions at www.chogmissions.org.