New Hope Community Church, an evangelical body of believers who meet near the intersection of Cypress Creek Road and 31st Street in Fort Lauderdale, has a heart for missions and lends a hand in outreach to our neighboring country of Haiti, much larger than their numbers, which average 150 to 170 on a given Sunday. Pastor Kirby Williams shared what New Hope has been doing in missions outreach to Haiti, since long before the 2010 earthquake and continuing to the present time.
New Hope Community Church was founded in 1957 as a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church. They have been involved in sending groups and teams to Haiti since 1998 and have focused their efforts on the North Central plateau, in small rural villages such as Pignon near the city of Hinche, which are worlds removed from the bustling streets of Port-au-Prince and the teeming squalor there, especially since the 2010 earthquake which killed an estimated 230,000 people, mostly in and around Port-au-Prince.
On a typical missions trip to Haiti, 12 to 15 Christians from New Hope and similar churches will go to the rural mountains in the Artibonite Region for one week, involving a short flight into Port-au-Prince or Cap-Haitian on American Airlines, then a four hour car ride, sometimes followed by another hour or two of walking or travelling by horseback or mule into the truly unreached areas of Haiti. Many of these tiny villages do in fact have a small Protestant church, which typically meets in a makeshift shelter of poles and palm fronds, offering little protection from the torrential rains during the rainy season, and sometimes 150 or 200 people will crowd into the tiny structure, trying to hear a word of hope as their day-to-day lives offer no opportunity to escape from the economic, political and spiritual bondage and oppression in this land of darkness.
In light of the fact that over the years the developed nations such as the United States, Canada and France have poured billions of dollars of financial aid and assistance into Haiti, many believe that we have seen little or no return on the investment as the nation continues to rely on outside assistance as they have been devastated by major hurricanes and flooding, a cholera epidemic and more recently the January 2010 earthquake which leveled most of the buildings in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The Haitian government attempts to hold a presidential election every five years, and each election is rife with apparent corruption and the government is usually unstable and not able to provide the leadership the nation needs to combat the real and pressing issues of poverty, unemployment, depressed economy and lack of infrastructure.
We asked Pastor Kirby, who has led more than two dozen short-term mission trips into the Plateau Centrale, what the most pressing need was for Haiti to make real progress, in spite of the fact that economic and political assistance have failed to bring real change. He responded quickly, “The most important need is Christ in the hearts of the Haitians.” He believes that once the people have a real change of heart, as we see prophesied in Ezekiel 36:26 and Jeremiah 31:31-34, only then will we see the country able to rise above the problems that continually hold them back. Beyond that, Kirby believes that we need to continue to build up awareness in the Church in America of the needs in Haiti and other similar countries, so we can come alongside our brothers and sisters and lend them a hand, as they are the ones who can really impact their own country for Christ, as opposed to believers from developed countries coming in and trying to minister cross-culturally. The Haitian Diasporas, scattered worldwide, are educated, intelligent and fluent in their own Creole language and need to see the vision of what God is doing in the country. Once they see that progress is being made, they will be motivated to possibly return for longer terms of two or three years or more.
There needs to be accountability, as there are more than 30,000 independent and denominational Protestant churches in Haiti, each with one or two pastors, and there is at times a reluctance to work together as small churches are competing for the faithful instead of trying to evangelize the lost. New Hope has been conducting pastors’ seminars in the Plateau Centrale area of Haiti, encouraging the pastors to work for unity in the faith and develop strong Christian leadership in their churches. One recent seminar had over 400 pastors attend.
New Hope has been directly or indirectly responsible for building no fewer than 17 churches with a solid concrete block structure, a strong roof, and doors and windows, so that the building is something in which they can take pride and not have to rebuild every time a tropical storm goes through. In addition to the 17 churches built, New Hope has helped to establish about 110 church plants, which initially meet for a few years in a basic structure of poles and palm fronds, until funds are available for a more substantial structure.
Prayerfully consider how you can help, whether getting involved in a short-term mission trip with New Hope, Calvary Chapel in Jacmel, or another local church, as it can be an experience that will change your life forever. For those who cannot go, you may be able to financially support and pray for those who are going, as well as the Christians in Pignon, Haiti and other locations in this beautiful but desperately impoverished land.
More information is available at www.nhcrc.org.
Bob Woods is a senior project manager at AECOM Technical Services, as well as a published Christian author. He can be reached at [email protected]