I’ve had a good first week back – thanks be to God. Rena and I have had good time to talk, walk, pray and spend time with family and friends this week. I’m still spilling over with our time in Haiti. Rena says I talk fast and nonstop when I first get back, but I can’t help it. The Lord is giving us fruit that remains for His glory, and that’s exciting to me! I also have been in touch with our Haitian team this week to look forward to our next three training conferences in July and to work on some of the details.
Before I share more news on that, I thought you may like to read two more faith stories from Haiti, both showing how believers wrestle with everyday life there.
Hebert and Nandjie’s Unselfish Decision
Hebert Elien Johnson is a young pastor, just getting started in ministry. He knows English quite well and has served as one of our translators for 3-4 years. Hebert loves the Lord and is in love with Nandjie (pronounced Non-jee), a wonderful Christian girl, who lives in Port au Paix. Hebert now lives and works in Gonaives, a 3-4 hour drive away over rough roads. They talk on the phone every morning and evening (at least). Cell phone reception isn’t good in Haiti, and Hebert often says “Koman?” (What?) and has to call back. But the young couple presses on despite weak cell service so they can be together via phone.
Hebert and Nandjie are looking forward to getting married, but Hebert told me that he plans to wait at least two years. I didn’t understand. Hebert is 26 and now has a steady job in Gonaives making $350 a month – a handsome sum in a country where a “good job” pays between $150 and $200 a month. So I asked him, “Why wait? Why not get married sooner?”
Hebert explained to me that he wants to help his family first. He regularly sends money to his parents to cover the cost of school for his two younger siblings. Nandjie understands and supports this unselfish decision. I know the Lord is pleased.
Ulrick’s Haunting Question
After our last day of training in Cap Haitien, our team returned to the Heberson Paradis Hotel to unwind. The training went well, and we were rejoicing in the Lord. We had worked hard, and it was time to relax.
Later that evening we gathered in Michel and Ulrick’s room to hang out and talk. Haitians love to tease and laugh, and the team was in fine form when I walked in the room. Aided by Esau’s translation, I couldn’t help joining in the fun. We teased Pastor Michel about retiring from his church (he’s 68). After sharing our ages and birthdays, I couldn’t help ribbing Hebert about his bebe face. We had a good laugh.
And we discussed the Bible, church concerns and life. Haitian pastors read the Bible a lot, and they know the content of Scripture well, including chapter and verse. God has blessed believers in Haiti with more freedom from distractions like TV, internet and stuff – thorns that, if we’re not careful, can choke out good fruit in our lives as American believers (Luke 8:14).
By nature Haitians are passionate and expressive people, pastors more so as they discuss the things of God. I wasn’t surprised when our discussion grew louder and more animated. You know Haitians are engaged when everyone talks at once – and loudly! I was trying to keep up with my limited grasp of Creole.
The pastors discussed the meaning and application of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” What does it mean to “seek” God’s kingdom? What are “these things” that Jesus’ promises will be added to us? What about people who don’t seek God’s kingdom yet have “these things” added to them? How do we explain that? We talked about all this, pointing to many Scriptures, for nearly an hour. I loved it and added my input when appropriate.
I learned long ago that these discussions aren’t just theoretical or theological in Haiti. They address the harsh realities of everyday life there.
Near the end of our conversation, Pastor Ulrick looked across the room at me and said, “Pastor Ken, I have a question for you?” The other pastors stopped talking as Esau translated. “Do you think Haitian Christians are not seeking God’s Kingdom well enough because many of us do not have what we need?” His question broke my heart. I teared up and stammered, “No, not at all, brother. The larger political and economic problems in your country affect you and everyone in Haiti. You are seeking God’s Kingdom very well.” We sat in silence for several minutes before our conversation continued in quiet tones. Ulrick’s question has haunted my thoughts and prayers since.