Haiti: Welcome to Wellness

A group of Haitian children lines up behind an adult worker at a wellness clinic held recently at Source de la Grace Church in Carrefour, Haiti, right outside Port au Prince.

The clinic was run by Haitian staff of ReachGlobal’s Global Fingerprints child sponsorship program, plus 11 American workers.

Staff at the clinic cared for children who are being sponsored through GlobalFingerprints, as well as many children from the surrounding community.

Haiti Summit seeks better approaches to aid, ministry

By Laura-Jean Watson

Three years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, a grim situation festers there as Haitian and American church leaders work to rethink how and why help is exchanged.

Dr. Jean Dorlus
Dr. Jean Dorlus

Dr. Jean Dorlus, speaking at a recent Haiti Summit organized by ReachGlobal Crisis Response, described a foreign-aid process that he said prevents Haiti from achieving much progress. Part of foreign aid is when a government simply cancels debt owed by Haiti, and it counts as aid. Another part, often as high as 60 percent, goes toward paying salaries for foreign administrators. Donors often dictate the projects and objectives they will support, never asking the Haitians what is most needed.  There is also often a lack of coordination between non-profit groups.

“How has the church done similar things?” says Dorlus, president of Séminaire de Théologie Evangélique de Port-au-Prince (STEP). “How can we correct it and be very helpful?  How can we do differently?”

Ministry leaders from Haiti and the United States spoke at the May 13-15 summit at the Hershey (Pa.) Evangelical Free Church. About 50 people attended the event, organized by ReachGlobal Crisis Response (formerly TouchGlobal) and the Hershey church.

The Jan. 12, 2010, quake killed 316,000 people; it was the eighth-worst natural disaster in recorded history. The desperately poor nation hoped that the world spotlight might begin a new chapter, one that would at last find solutions to material and spiritual poverty.

For a time, the people of Haiti thought the world’s outpouring of help following the 2010 earthquake was a sign that things finally might change here. But optimism has dimmed, to a point where a familiar sentiment is on people’s lips: “The world has forgotten about Haiti once again.” That was the assessment of Bruce McMartin, a teacher at the Séminaire de Théologie Evangélique de Port-au-Prince (STEP), which trains national church leaders.

Mark Lewis, ReachGlobal Crisis Response Director, elaborated.

“More of the ministry I observed was focused on fixing perceived problems – doing that versus coming alongside indigenously developed ministry plans or even focusing on long-term development for Gospel transformation,” he said. “Further, I gained the perception that so much of the ministry effort that was occurring was disjointed or uncoordinated in Haiti – in some cases, occurring in an unhealthy, disempowering, or even dependency approach.”

As he met Haitian leaders in recent months, he found that some had similar observations. Lewis began thinking about organizing the summit, “convening a conversation that would allow the leaders of the church in Haiti to share clearly and openly and honestly with the leaders of the North American church about the ministry North Americans do in Haiti,” he said. “It is hard for us to really listen and then be self-reflective and transparent enough to consider maybe changing our approach to ministry, not only in Haiti, but maybe even in our own community.  It would be a conversation that allowed us to hear from our Haitian brothers about the blind spots we have in our own version of North American Christianity.”

As a result of the Summit, a Haiti Consortium was formed to connect American churches and Haitian partners to work together and make a lasting difference in both countries and beyond.

“The vision for Haiti is to see an indigenous, disciple making, and multiplying church within walking distance of every Haitian, which demonstrates and engages in proclaiming the transforming power of the Gospel,” Lewis told the group.

Sessions addressed how to help others without hurting them, micro solutions to macro problems, and short-term missions opportunities in Haiti. One session looked at Global Fingerprints, ReachGlobal’s child sponsorship program. Global Fingerprints works through the local churches while helping families remain intact and helping children.

During the summit, Dorlus outlined the history of the Protestant church in Haiti to help understand the strengths, weaknesses and challenges faced today. Some strengths in the Haitian church today, he said, are prayer, evangelism and Bible knowledge. Weaknesses included discipleship, legalism, untrained leadership and missions. Challenges, he said, include a lack of vision and unity, limited human and financial resources, stewardship, theological understanding, pastoral ministry and church planting.

Jean Baptiste Wadestrant, aka "Wawa"
Jean Baptiste Wadestrant, aka “Wawa”

Another speaker from STEP, Jean Baptiste Wadestrant (known as Wawa), talked about voodoo’s influence on the Haitian church’s culture. The son of a voodoo priest, Wawa said many Haitians try to combine Christianity with voodoo instead of changing their worldview. That hinders hearing and understanding the Word of God.

That, he said, lies at the core of Haiti’s problems.

“NGOs cannot change Haiti,” he said. “The core is spiritual, and the solution must be spiritual.”

Lewis, on the other hand, talked about ways Americans’ worldview can be spiritually limiting as well. Most Haitians believe discipleship should focus on relationships, he said. They do life together with another person to teach and show them how to live. Americans, he added, are more likely to focus on programs, projects and acquiring knowledge. They like to have a list they can check off.

More conversations centered on a desire not to just fix old problems, but how to develop new patterns of transformation. Questions included:

  • What would a transformational ministry look like?
  •  Are we working empowered by the Holy Spirit?
  • How much are we investing in prayer?
  • And, simply, are the two cultures understanding each other?

“We need to study the culture before we try to engage there,” Wawa said.

1,000 Words: Finding New Horizons in Haiti

Kayla Spellman, daughter of ReachGlobal missionaries Steve and Liz Spellman, helps a group of Haitian children pick out coloring book pages to color at New Horizon Orphanage, a ReachGlobal partner ministry. The visit to Haiti was the first for Kayla, whose health problems had for years prevented her from fulfilling her dream of doing ministry there.

Training Pastors in Haiti

For the first time that day, Don Smith, a retired EFCA pastor, was met with silence from the young Haitian pastors and leaders he was teaching.

“I asked them, ‘Why do you think Jesus taught in parables?’” Don says. “They didn’t offer any answers. It was quiet. I didn’t understand their silence. Then I asked, ‘What is a parable?’ They didn’t know.”

When Don went to train pastors in Haiti with ReachGlobal for a week in January, he quickly discovered how great the need for solid biblical training is in a country where evangelicalism is growing.

The young men — most in their early 20s — who attended the training at Jesus in Haiti Ministries (a ReachGlobal partner ministry in Haiti) eagerly devoured the teaching. Their discussions often grew lively. Their attention stayed directed towards Don and his co-trainer, Steve Spellman (interim leader of ReachGlobal’s ministry in Haiti).

“They asked great questions that demonstrated a sincere, honest desire to learn and understand who Jesus is,” Don says. While the questions were good, they were also surprising — questions such as:

  • Is Jesus fully God and fully man?
  • Why are Jesus’ sayings so hard to understand?
  • Was Jesus tempted to have sex with Mary?

“I wondered how they could be pastors, or be this far in training, and yet know so little about basic essential doctrine,” Don says. “Many Haitian pastors have not enjoyed the same opportunities to learn that pastors in the U.S. have had.”

“Few schools give spiritual education,” one of the Haitian pastors shared. “And most families don’t take responsibility for the spiritual education of their children.”

Once Don realized their need for a basic biblical foundation, he changed his training tactic.

“I decided to address their questions without presuming anything. I began with the most basic truth and then expanded from there,” Don says. “They do learn quickly if taught clearly, biblically, systematically and patiently.

“The biggest challenge is to know where to begin teaching a concept and then build from there. The challenge will be to teach and encourage them with a long-term, intentional, systematic, consistent, progressive curriculum so they have a firm foundation of faith.”

The pastors’ need for training wasn’t the only apparent thing — they also have a passion to learn so that they can better pastor, shepherd and disciple their fellow Haitians.

They also want to learn how to meet the challenge of voodoo, which permeates the culture of Haiti and keeps many Haitians from receiving Christ.

“The greatest need of the Haitian is Jesus,” Derson, a 20-year-old pastor in training, explains. “To be a pastor… that wasn’t my plan, because being a pastor is really hard. But I really care about people following God and Jesus. I really care about people’s souls. I don’t want anyone to burn in hell. That’s why I want to be a pastor — to preach the gospel to the world, to make disciples who make more disciples.”

One of the other young pastors approached Don after the two-day training.

“He told me, ‘Thanks for teaching me so I can love Christ more. I want to grow in faith,’” Don says. Then the young man added, “Don’t forget me. Please help us!”

What motivates Don to go back to Haiti is the need of the pastors coupled with their passion.

“This is the greatest opportunity to present Jesus as more amazing than they’ve ever been taught,” he explains. “I will not forget what I have been blessed to receive [in terms of my biblical education], and neither will I forget those who cry out for help. I owe these men the opportunity to learn about their faith as I did.”

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haitiresponse@efca.org or haititeams@efca.org


ReachGlobal is praying for more workers for the harvest in Haiti. Join Don, Steve, and others to provide ongoing training and teaching for Haitian pastors seeking a solid biblical foundation. Email haititeams@efca.org for more information.

  • For the Haitian pastors who hunger for the Word of God — that they would be fed, receiving the training needed to shepherd and lead their people.
  • That God would raise up additional workers to go and serve in Haiti. The harvest is plentiful.

Make an online donation to Haiti earthquake relief efforts.


Video: Latin America: “Ministry at Street Level”

What’s your perspective on the Latin world? It may depend on how close you are to it. ReachGlobal Latin America/Caribbean has the privilege to work on the street level — to see the vibrance, beauty and hope as well as the great needs. We have the opportunity to show the love of Jesus to the Latin and Caribbean people.

Cross-cultural missions will change your perspective and your heart as you experience the people and the ministry on the street level. How will you engage in God’s work among all people?

Having trouble viewing the video? See it on YouTube or Vimeo.

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“Ministry at Street Level” is part of the Moving Latin America Pictures project. It is the fifth of five videos produced by a short-term mission team of videographers to capture the essence of the ministry and the needs on the field. Please take the time to check out the other four videos featuring our ministry in Brazil, Costa Rica, Haiti and Mexico.

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View a few of our service opportunities online. However, the needs are much greater, and God can use YOUR gifting and passions to serve the nations. Contact us to inquire about serving in Latin America or the Caribbean.

  • For the millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  • For the leaders in the Church, that they would receive the equipping and training needed to help impact their people with the transformational power of the gospel.
  • That God would raise up workers for the harvest in Latin America and the Caribbean. Pray to see how He might be calling you.

Make an online donation to the ministry in Latin America.


Video: Haiti: ‘Beauty from Ashes’

Within days of the earthquake in January 2010, God called ReachGlobal Latin America and TouchGlobal (the crisis response arm of the EFCA) to Haiti. The initial crisis may be over, but we remain in Haiti because of the overwhelming spiritual, physical and relational needs.

Find out more about our growing ministry in Haiti and accept the call: Pray. Give. Serve.

Having trouble viewing the video? See it on YouTube or Vimeo.

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“Beauty from Ashes” is part of the Moving Latin America Pictures project. It is the third of five videos produced by a short-term mission team of videographers to capture the essence of the ministry and the needs on the field. Please stay tuned as we post a new video each week for the next two weeks.

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haitiresponse@efca.org or haititeams@efca.org


Find out about bringing a short-term team to Haiti or serving as an intern. Or contact us to discuss opportunities to serve long-term as ReachGlobal staff in Haiti.

  • For the Haitian people — that they would know Christ and His saving grace in their lives.
  • That God would raise up workers for the harvest in Haiti. Pray to see how He might be calling you.

Make an online donation to the ministry in Haiti.