ebook: Mr. Missionary, I Have a Question (Part 5)
4. Mangoes, Malnutrition, and Modernization -- Some answers by Howard
In this electronic book (e-book), Howard Culbertson answers
questions that were asked in church services across the United States during a home assignment
year. Originally published for the Nazarene Missions International mission book series,
this Nazarene Publishing House publication carried ISBN number 083-411-1519
- Why is Haiti so poor?
- To discover the reasons for Haiti's poverty, one needs
to study the troubled history of this little country An Afro-American Episcopal bishop serving in
Haiti during the 1800's called it "the Mary Magdalene of the nations, troubled by seven devils."
Indeed, the Haitians have been victims of revolutions, international discrimination, intervention
and neglect, drought, hurricanes, epidemics, illiteracy, and superstition.
When it began life as an independent nation, Haiti was little
more than half a million unorganized, illiterate people who had been forcibly transplanted from
different parts of Africa to the western end of a Caribbean island. To be sure, the slave revolt was
successful. However, for much of the 19th century, the rest of the world, including the United
States, refused to recognize Haiti. Governments feared that recognizing Haiti as an independent
nation would spark uprisings among their own slave populations. So, the industrial revolution
that brought prosperity to much of Europe and North America bypassed Haiti. For decades after
its independence, the black government in Haiti was a pariah on the international scene.
At times governments in Haiti have risen and fallen with
dizzying quickness. Such instability makes it difficult to carry out long-range programs in
education and health services.
Poor farming practices on mountainous land have also eroded the once rich topsoil, turning most
Haitian farmers into subsistence farmers able to produce barely enough food for their own
All this economic deprivation has contributed to a
population mobility that has made the Haitians the wanderers of the Caribbean. On the other
hand, while there is much poverty in Haiti, there is little violent crime, mugging, or vandalism.
Employers have low absentee rates, and today there is little racial prejudice.
- What are we doing as a church to help the needy in Haiti?
- Our most important contribution to the development of
Haiti is our aggressive evangelistic and church planting strategy. Situations can only be
permanently changed as men are changed permanently. You must begin with the sinful heart of
man to effect meaningful change in society.
Development experts are even studying the phenomenal
church growth taking place in Haiti. They are hoping that an understanding of the
anthropological mechanism by which the Haitian masses are becoming receptive to the gospel
message of conversion will provide clues as to how other kinds of social change may be
In addition to our evangelism and discipleship ministries, our
church is involved in a whole range of development projects. We have medical and nutritional
work. We have been involved in well-drilling projects to provide water for entire villages. We
conduct vocational schools. We have worked in agriculture and have helped several groups of
Nazarenes begin cooperative ventures. A large percentage of our churches run elementary
schools, and we have run adult literacy programs almost from the beginning of our work in
Changes, of course, never come as quickly as we would like.
The needs are often overwhelming in the face of our available resources. Some things are even
beyond our ability to contribute a solution. In a few short years, for example, the population of
the capital city has swelled from 300,000 to over 1 million. Basic services such as housing,
water, and sanitation have not kept pace with the population growth. What may strike some
visitor to our island as a totally hopeless situation is, unfortunately, a way of life for many, many
- What causes malnutrition in Haiti? Is there just not enough food?
- Haiti has two kinds of malnutrition problems: One is chronic malnutrition, and the other is
more sporadic and results from drought and crop failure.
Malnutrition is not always just a lack of food. Sometimes it
is caused by eating the wrong kinds of food. It is the variety, not the quantity of food, that is often
the problem. Some of this is caused by ignorance or even cultural taboos. For instance, in some
rural areas peasants believe that citrus fruit is harmful to nursing mothers. This deprives these
mothers of some very important vitamins. At other times, people will gorge themselves on
whatever tropical fruit is in season, neglecting to balance their diet.
Many Haitians are also malnourished because they do not
eat enough calories each day. The average Haitian villager consumes about 1,400 calories daily.
Medical science says that a person should eat nearly twice that as a minimum each day.
Americans, on the other hand, exceed the minimum daily caloric requirement by at least 500
calories, eating an average of 3,100 calories each day.
Malnutrition does more than weaken the body's defenses against crippling diseases. It does more
than keep a person's energy level very low. Severe malnutrition in young children can cause
permanent brain damage. That's why our church conducts nutrition centers for expectant and
nursing mothers. That is why we continue to seek ways to provide children in our elementary
schools with at least one balanced meal per day.
There is one bright note in all of this. The Haitian Nazarenes can teach us that inner peace (or
shalom) does not depend on caloric intake.
- Can't we teach them to grow more food?
- God supplied Haiti
with all that man could desire in the way of wood, water, and fertile soil. The sum of
accumulated evils and abuses from the beginning (with the arrival of the European explorers),
however, has destroyed all of that. Once the most agriculturally productive land in the world,
Haiti's rich, volcanic soil has been destroyed through terrible farming practices. The lush forests
were stripped away, and much of the topsoil has washed into the sea. Damage to the environment
in Haiti has been so great that some experts say the country has passed the point of no return.
As Christians we do not believe the situation is totally
hopeless. Many of the solutions that Americans would offer, however, are not workable in Haiti.
First of all, much of the American agricultural expertise requires large capital investments.
Money is something the Haitian farmer does not have. A shovel, for example, can cost him at
least two full days' wages. If we were to try to apply mechanization and advanced technology,
things could be worse and not better.
People under severe deprivation are also not free to
experiment and try new methods. In all creative achievement there is a certain recklessness. In a
society that exists on the margin of survival, such recklessness is an unaffordable luxury. It is
unrealistic to assume that subsistence farmers will expose themselves to the risk of crop failure
just to try somebody's latest idea. Low risk-not high yield- is the name of the game in subsistence
Food production must be increased in Haiti. The secret lies
in finding appropriate methods at very little cost, if any, that subsistence farmers will readily
Climate is the second problem in trying to transfer American
agricultural know-how to Haiti. Most of North America's farm belt is in the Temperate Zone.
Haiti, on the other hand, is a tropical country. What works in one climate may fail miserably in
the other. A few years ago, for instance, someone brought some new hybrid seed corn to Haiti.
Instead of the promised abundant harvest, the "miracle" corn refused to grow in Haiti's tropical
Some things being done successfully in Haiti to boost food
production include terracing the mountainsides, rebuilding the soil with composted organic
matter, and the use of wells with hand pumps to provide irrigation water during droughts.
- I've read that the beliefs of pagan religions in India contribute to the hunger problem,
especially due to sacred animals that must be fed and cannot be killed. Is there something like
that in Haiti?
- Voodoo does not believe in reincarnation, nor does it
have any other reason for regarding certain animals as sacred. It does not in this way contribute to
the malnutrition problem. It should be noted, however, that the major reason land changes hands
in rural Haiti is to pay the voodoo priest for certain ceremonies. There is, as well, some animal
sacrifice in voodoo, but it does not seem significant enough to affect Haiti's food supply.
- What kinds of crops do the Haitians grow? What do they eat?
- Haiti's two major cash crops are sugarcane and coffee.
Sugarcane grows in the lowland plains, and coffee .grows in the mountainous interior. Rice fields
abound in a fertile river valley in the central part of the country. Banana trees grow everywhere,
and corn and beans grow fairly well on the rocky mountainsides. Sisal used to be a good cash
crop; however, with the introduction of nylon for ropes, the market for sisal has all but
There are lots of tropical fruit trees. Mangoes, papayas,
breadfruit, avocados, coconuts, oranges, grapefruits, and limes are sold in the markets.
Animals raised for food include chickens, goats, and a few
cows. Pigs used to be common, but an outbreak of disease caused the government to order every
pig in the country to be slaughtered. Now the country is in the process of trying to rebuild the
swine population with healthy stock.
Today, Haiti exports very little food. In fact, it has become a
net importer of foodstuffs-due primarily to inadequate production. Some of this may also be due
to the increasingly sophisticated tastes of the growing number of affluent families in the capital
city. Lots of prepackaged foods from the United States wind up on the tables of these middle-
and upper-class Haitians.
- Do the Haitians eat much seafood?
- Haiti is an island nation and for its size has an
extremely long coastline. Haitians, however, are not oriented toward the sea like the Italians. The
Haitians eat very little seafood as compared to the Italians. One possible explanation may be that
much of the population lives in the interior of the country, away from the sea. They are isolated
from the coast without efficient transportation, and there is little refrigeration available to keep
- What is the Church of the Nazarene doing agriculturally in Haiti?
- In times past, our church has had agronomists as part
of the Haiti Nazarene missionary staff. Elvin DeVore and Charles Morrow served the church as
agricultural missionaries in the 1960s and 1970s. These men worked in all types of programs to
increase food production. They attempted to upgrade animal breeding stock. They experimented
with irrigation systems and cultivation and harvesting techniques. The Nazarene printing press
printed simple agricultural booklets in Haitian Creole. They worked at helping to establish some
Currently we do not have an agricultural missionary
assigned to Haiti. We are, however, actively working with local churches in starting agricultural
As missionaries, we are also doing what we can with the
land near our Bible school. When Dr. Paul Orjala purchased a
barren hill near Port-au-Prince in the 1950s, he began construction of a Bible school, five
missionary homes, and a headquarters building. In addition to building construction, he also
began to plant trees. Through the years the missionaries have cared for those trees and planted
others. That once barren hilltop is now covered with hundreds of trees ranging from mahogany to
mango and including orange and avocado fruit trees. Agricultural specialists working in Haiti
have even come to our property to collect seeds and suckers from the wide variety of trees. The
Bible college has a large vegetable garden area where future Nazarene pastors can practice good
- Can't the U.S. government do something to solve Haiti's food problem? We always seem to
have farm surpluses in America.
- The Agency for International Development (AID), a
United States government-sponsored program, has several projects in Haiti. In the past three
decades, for example, the U.S. government has given over $300 million aid to Haiti. In times of
famine, the U.S. government has intervened with emergency food from surplus stocks.
There are, however, no easy answers to this complex
problem. In recent reviews of the American foreign aid program, U.S. government officials
reluctantly came to the conclusion that money alone will not solve the world's hunger problem.
Imported free food can actually depress food prices in a small third world country. This can make
life even more difficult for the farmers, and as a result, their production may even drop
There is surplus food in the world today. The lack of
wage-earning jobs means people do not have enough money to buy food. So the surplus food
often stays in the warehouses, and people starve. Giving away that food without providing jobs
just moves hunger from one agenda to another. There are no easy solutions.
- Lots of organizations are clamoring for money to finance feeding programs in Haiti. Are
these groups doing anything there?
- Haiti's problems have attracted many who want to
help. There are literally hundreds of secular and religious organizations working in what is often
called "compassionate ministries." There are so many of
these groups in Haiti that the government issues a special car license plate for nonprofit
organizations working in the area of "development."
Some of these groups are doing significant work. Some,
unfortunately, are just wasting their donors' money. The reasons for this range from ineptness to
downright fraud, both in Haiti and in the organization's U.S. headquarters. Unfortunately there
are always those who use pictures of starving children to raise funds and then take a large
percentage of those funds to buy luxury cars and find homes for themselves.
I wish I could convince every Nazarene that the best place to
give to hunger needs is through the Nazarene Hunger and Disaster Fund. We have our faults and
make mistakes, but I've not seen a better program in terms of results attained for dollars given
- Are all the feeding programs in Haiti making a difference there?
- Haiti has serious food supply problems. The Haitian
coins even carry the motto "Let's Increase Food Production." Poverty is such a persistent reality
in Haiti that not long ago an international commission concluded that Haiti was a hopeless basket
case. They suggested that the outside resources being sent to Haiti were like so many ineffectual
drugs against a cancer. This panel argued that the international community should concentrate its
resources in those countries that had a real chance of development.
As part of the people of God, we strongly disagree with that
panel of experts. All things are possible with God. The Church of the Nazarene, along with other
reputable organizations, is making a significant difference in the lives of many Haitians. People
are alive today who would have starved to death had it not been for the Church of the Nazarene.
There is, certainly, a long way to go in bringing the average Haitian to an acceptable standard of
living. But we believe that what we and others are doing will have a cumulative effect for
Missionaries who have worked in Haiti for a long time tell
me that they can see positive changes taking place over the years. We praise the Lord for that
- If I give to the Nazarene Hunger and Disaster Fund, will my money actually get to the
- The World Mission Division of our church administers
the global Nazarene Hunger and Disaster Fund. Funds contributed, while not part of the
denomination's Nazarene World Evangelism Fund, are given credit
in the denomination's 10 Percent program. Contributions can be sent
to the fund and designated for "hunger needs" or to a specific country to help supply food
Your gifts to the Nazarene Hunger and Disaster Fund will
get to those who are suffering. The funds are strictly monitored to assure donors that the moneys
all go to those who are in need and are the most deserving. I know of no better method for funds
to reach those who are hungry and in great need.
- How many grades do the Nazarene schools have in Haiti?
- Almost all of the Haitian Nazarene schools are
elementary schools. Most of the students in these schools are in the first few grades. Only one
Nazarene church-the Bel-Air congregation in Port-au-Prince-conducts a high school. It may be
possible for a few more Nazarene churches to be able to begin high schools in the near future.
Probably the weakest link in the education program is the
lack of a coordinated effort to combat adult illiteracy. Some local churches have occasionally
begun programs to help adults learn to read and write. The result is that a higher percentage of
Nazarenes can read and write than is true of the general population. Still, there are many Haitian
Nazarenes who are illiterate.
- What can Haitian young people do who wish to go to high school and perhaps even college?
- Only three or four cities and towns have high schools. In addition, a university as well as
several technical-vocational schools are located in the capital city.
- Where do you get teachers for your elementary schools?
- From the very beginning, the Nazarene schools
program has been Haitian. All of the teachers in Nazarene schools are Haitian. They vary
considerably in their teaching qualifications. In rural areas, the only credentials some teachers
possess is an ability to read and write and a willingness to try to teach others.
Each local church sponsoring a school works independently. When possible, Work and Witness
teams have provided buildings. Many of the schools, however, meet under brush arbors. The
services of Compassionate Ministries in the World Mission Division have helped to locate
funding for school lunches in the primary schools. There is no organized Nazarene school system
in Haiti. All of these schools are the ministry of local Haitian churches trying to meet local needs
in their communities.
- Is there much industry in Haiti?
- Haiti is not an industrial nation. It is primarily an
agricultural country. During the last 20 years, foreign investment in Haiti has been accelerated.
Several multinational companies now have factories on the island. Ninety percent of the
baseballs used in the United States, for example, are manufactured in Haiti. Some electronics
subassembly plants are operating, as well as some furniture factories. Many of the grocery store
coupons redeemed in the United States are sorted in Haiti.
- What does Haiti export?
- Haiti exports textiles, sporting goods, electronic items
assembled in Haiti from foreign components, and such agricultural products as coffee, cocoa, and
vegetable oils. Due to its small manufacturing base, Haiti unfortunately is importing twice as
much as it exports.
- Could Christian businessmen build factories in Haiti to help Haitians with job
- I believe that such foreign investment would be
welcomed. Anyone working in development areas-such as the Church of the Nazarene-would
like to see that happen. Realistically, however, a factory has to be a profitable operation to
succeed. The factory has to be producing something in demand at a competitive price. Some
crash programs that seemed promising have crashed rather abruptly.
- It seems to me that our church is doing a lot of things in Haiti in addition to evangelism and
church planting. Are we a unique organization?
- We do have an aggressive evangelistic outreach in our
churches. We are trying to develop an authentically Haitian Church of the Nazarene. A part of all
of this has to do with the compassion and love that holiness always brings to bear upon a
sin-ravaged world. Our church is not necessarily unique in what we are doing. Some groups are
perhaps doing even more than we are in development. Some are doing less. I believe that if you
want to help Haitians, there is no better place to invest your money than through the Church of
- Why don't we hear more about what our church is doing in development in Haiti and
elsewhere around the world?
- It should be remembered that our church's program is
not geared to massive fundraising from a central headquarters. Our church relies upon local
churches paying their Nazarene World Evangelism Fund and giving to world mission special
offerings. Thus we do not center our attention on flashy advertising as some groups may do. Our
mission organization focuses on action, not on fundraising. As a result, it may appear that our
story is less impressive than others.
We are also concerned that our primary goal of holiness evangelism not be obscured by our
compassionate ministries. We do feed the hungry and clothe the naked; but we do not try to raise
our mission funds with pictures of starving children.
Probably we could do a better job of informing you of what is happening, but we want to do it
honestly and fairly.. . . [ read more ]
| Page: <<
Prev | Preface |
1. Hawaii, Garden
Hoes, and Holiness |
2. Creole, Christopher Columbus, and the
3. Regional Directors, Demons, and the
Dominican Republic |
4. Mangoes, Malnutrition, and Modernization
5. Rice Christians, Churches, and Caravan
6. Missionaries, Mail, and Men
Next >> |
Rice Christians, Churches, and Caravan
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our Bible school in Haiti? . . . . [ read more
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McGrady: Mr. Evangelism Our balanced
attack: How Nazarenes finance world evangelism Pasta, pizza and pinocchio Jonah, the reluctant missionary Rookie notebook: My First Nine Months as a
Missionary Other books and articles
10/40 Window explanation and map
Seeking God's will? Mission
trip fundraising Nazarene Missions International