E-book: Mr. Missionary, I Have a Question (Part 4)

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3. Regional Directors, Demons, and the Dominican Republic -- Some answers by Howard Culbertson

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 in 1987 for the Nazarene Missions International reading book series, this Nazarene Publishing House publication carried ISBN number 083-411-1519

Have we grown so rapidly in Haiti because it is such a poor country?
     Poverty does not guarantee responsiveness to the gospel. Conversely, prosperous, industrialized nations are not necessarily slow to respond to evangelistic efforts. For example, in recent years the Church of the Nazarene has grown rapidly in the Netherlands. Yet the Netherlands is one of the world's most prosperous nations. By contrast, India has one of the world's lower per capita incomes; yet our church growth there for many years was quite slow.
     Poverty is not the reason for rapid church growth in Haiti. One of the more important factors is voodoo. This mixture of Christian and pagan beliefs produces a fear of the spirit world. Christ's message is one of freedom from the powers of darkness.
     The Haitian church is also a very alive and aggressive church. There is a big emphasis on effective prayer. Lively congregational singing and special music are important parts of the services. A large percentage of church members are very active witnesses for the Lord. Local churches feel a heavy responsibility for planting sister churches in nearby villages.
What is Haiti's predominant religion?
     Seventy-five percent of the Haitians are Roman Catholic, and the same 75 percent of the Haitians practice voodoo. So the predominant religion is a mixture of voodoo and Roman Catholicism. More accurately, the predominant religion is voodoo with a veneer of Roman Catholicism glued onto it. Voodoo is a spirit-worship cult that developed from African ancestral-worship religions.
I thought that cultures with a large percentage of Roman Catholics were hard to evangelize. Why have we had such rapid church growth in Haiti when there are so many Roman Catholics?
     The Roman Catholic church does claim 75 percent of the Haitians. It also enjoys a special relationship with the government that is regulated by a concordat signed in 1860. A governmental subsidy is given to the Roman Catholic church; yet that church is not a determining force in Haitian culture in the same way it is in Italy or other nominally Roman Catholic countries.
     The percentage of baptized Roman Catholics in Haiti has fallen to 75 percent from a high of 90 percent just a few short years ago. Almost all this change is due to the evangelistic successes of Protestant denominations such as the Church of the Nazarene. Actually, when Haitians become Protestant, they think of themselves as having forsaken voodoo. Only a rather small, elite class of Haitians living in the cities could be called practicing Roman Catholics.
Is Haiti so poor because it is a Roman Catholic country?
     I would not blame specifically the Roman Catholic church for Haiti's poverty, but I do believe that the continued growth of the Protestant movement in Haiti will benefit the people economically as well as spiritually. Sociologist Max Weber has asserted that Protestantism is the driving force behind much of the free world's economic progress. He theorizes that it is the Protestant work ethic that has made the free enterprise system function. Other sociologists have talked about "redemption lift" as that almost inevitable gradual improvement in living standards that comes to Protestant converts.
Do we have trouble getting the Haitians to give up their voodoo practices?
     In most cases, new converts make a clean break with voodoo when they become Christians. Bonfires of voodoo paraphernalia are fairly common. People come to Nazarene pastors, seeking help in casting out demons. There is a clear separation between evangelicals and voodoo worshipers.
Isn't the AIDS disease a problem in Haiti?
     Like many countries, Haiti is beset with many health problems, and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is one of them. Haiti is apparently one of the routes the AIDS virus traveled on its trip from Africa to the United States. While the disease has caused great fear among many in the United States, medical people in Haiti usually find themselves fighting such less exotic problems as tuberculosis, malaria, dengue fever, malnutrition, and intestinal parasites.
     Unfortunately, the publicity of naming Haitian immigrants to the United States as a high-risk group for AIDS dealt quite a blow to Haiti's already small tourist industry.
Do we have a hospital or a clinic in Haiti?
     In the beginnings of our work in Haiti, Nazarene missionaries decided to emphasize decentralized primary health care rather than investing in an expensive hospital facility.
     Hospitals, basically, effectively serve only the immediate area in which they are located. In order to provide health care for all Nazarenes in Haiti, we would have needed several hospitals. In Haiti, the Church of the Nazarene successfully uses mobile clinics at camp meetings and other church gatherings. We conduct prenatal clinics for expectant mothers. We provide nutrition centers for families with young children. We give first-aid training to local church leaders and are involved in preventative health care such as mass immunizations. We cooperate with other international organizations in campaigns against malaria and tuberculosis.
     We have two dispensaries staffed by Haitian medical personnel. There are currently two American medical missionaries directing all our medical work, with a medical doctor under appointment who will arrive in Haiti after language study. In addition, doctors and nurses come to Haiti at their own expense to work in our Nazarene mobile clinics for a week or two at a time. This type of volunteer medical assistance is being developed by the World Mission Division office in Kansas City
     In the face of the overwhelming medical needs of this country, we always wish we could do more. We wish we could place a dispensary at every rural church; we cannot do that as yet. Our prayer is that the Lord will give us the necessary wisdom to best use our limited resources.
Can you use rolled bandages?
     Our dispensaries, as well as our mobile clinics, can use bandages rolled by local missionary societies. Before sending any medical supplies, however, you should contact the Nazarene World Mission Society, 6401 The Paseo, Kansas City, MO 64131. This office works directly with us and will have all of the necessary information for sending such supplies.
In taking your family to Haiti, aren't you afraid of disease?
     Many of Haiti's disease problems come from an improperly nourished population using contaminated water and practicing poor sanitation. As best we can, we safeguard our health by eliminating those two negative factors. We try to eat a balanced diet. We are careful to drink only purified water, and we wash our fresh vegetables in vinegar or bleach. Before coming to Haiti, we took precautionary typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis immunizations. We also take malaria medicine on a regular basis.
     Beyond these precautions, we have to place our trust in the Lord. He never promised us a disease-free life even in the United States. He called us to follow Him, promising His presence and His spiritual power. Actually, missionaries to third world countries in this last quarter of the 20th century have it much better than those of a century and a half ago. In the Belgian Congo during the 1800s, only one missionary in four lived to the end of his first term of missionary service.
     In Haiti itself, progress is being made in disease control and prevention. Yaws, a terribly disfiguring disease, was virtually wiped out of the country a few years ago. Concentrated campaigns are being conducted against malaria and tuberculosis. A recent breakthrough in producing an immunization against malaria may someday help eradicate that debilitating disease.
What kind of medical care is available for you? What will you do when you get sick?
     The extremely high costs of health care make it impossible for the Haitian government to supply health services at the same level that local and state governments in the United States can provide. There are, however, some very good clinics and three or four hospitals in the capital city.
     Recently one of our own medical missionaries, Larry Wilson, suffered an attack of appendicitis while working on the Haitian island of La Gonave. He was able to make it to the Wesleyan church's hospital on that island and then back to the Haitian mainland, where an operation was performed a few days later in a private hospital.
     For many minor medical problems, of course, we have our medical missionaries and their Haitian staff. For problems that cannot be treated or diagnosed properly in Haiti, the city of Miami is only a couple of flight hours away.
What about the water? Is it safe to drink?
     Tap water has been treated. It is, however, not considered pure drinking water. We boil our water or buy distilled water. Some Canadian scientists have produced a small, ultraviolet purifying unit that we are installing in our house plumbing system. Unfortunately, most Haitians derive their drinking water from the same contaminated streams in which they do their laundry and from which their animals drink.
Can you take baths in the water?
     Tap water is quite safe for everything but for drinking. We are careful, however, not to even brush our teeth in tap water.
Is there a medical school in Haiti?
     The national university in Port-au-Prince has a medical school. Unfortunately many of its past graduates have emigrated to other countries. The lure of higher salaries and the access to sophisticated medical laboratories in other nations have been too tantalizing. Of the 264 Haitian medical graduates in a recent decade, only 3 of them remained in Haiti. Today, Haiti has 1 medical doctor for every 10,000 people. Most of these, however, are practicing medicine in a few cities. In the rural countryside where 80 percent of the population lives, each doctor must care for 50,000 people. By way of contrast, the United States has 1 medical doctor for every 1,000 citizens.
Do the Haitians have large families?
     Most Haitian families have a lot of children. In fact, nearly one-half the population is under 16 years of age. Tragically, many of these never live to adulthood. When asked about the number of their children, most Haitian mothers will respond by telling you how many living and how many dead children they have.
     In the third world, one of the reasons for having a lot of children is for the parents' "social security." It is important that a Haitian have children who outlive him. In the absence of government programs for the elderly, an aged person must depend totally on his adult children to care for him when he can no longer provide for himself.
Is the birth rate creating a population problem?
     The population of Haiti is not exploding quite as rapidly as one might think. Any increase in population, however, increases the already heavy pressure on available arable land. Farmers find themselves tilling smaller and smaller plots as each new generation divides up their parents' land holdings.
     A more serious problem than total population increase is the growing flow of rural peasants into the already crowded capital city. A newspaper editorial in Port-au-Prince noted that, among other problems, only 30 percent of the population of the capital has access to toilet facilities.
We hear so much about Nazarene work in the Dominican Republic. Isn't the work of our church on that side of the island larger than in Haiti?
     The Church of the Nazarene began work in the Dominican Republic about 20 years after it started in Haiti. The work there is growing rapidly even as it is in Haiti. Today, the Dominican Republic has approximately 4,000 Nazarenes; Haiti has more than 10 times as many. Incidentally, approximately 5 percent of the total membership of the Church of the Nazarene live in Haiti.
Is there much travel between Haiti and the Dominican Republic?
     The borders between the two countries are rather tightly controlled. The only roads between them are gravel; yet over the years an estimated 300,000 Haitians have emigrated to the Dominican Republic to work in their sugarcane fields. While the Dominican Republic has twice the square miles of Haiti, it only has about the same population as Haiti.
     Haitians living in the Dominican Republic have been fertile soil for evangelism. One of the four Nazarene districts in the Dominican Republic is composed largely of Haitian churches.
Will our new system of regional directors cost more money? Isn't this just another layer of bureaucracy that will siphon off mission money?
     Having a regional director living in each world region should make Nazarene world outreach more cost-effective than ever before. It should enable the World Mission Division to have even tighter controls over all our resources-missionaries and money included. It will certainly make us more flexible, better equipped to respond quickly to changing needs and opportunities.
     More importantly, as our denomination's work around the world continues to grow at 10 percent per year, the division office in Kansas City could not be expected to give direction for everything. For instance, the Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean Region (one of the first world mission regions) last year was as large in membership and many other ways as was the entire worldwide ministry of the World Mission Division just 10 short years ago. With over 40 organized districts, that region needed a full-time regional director. More recently, that region has grown to such a size that it has been divided into two regions: Mexico and Central America Region and the Caribbean Region.
     Actually, this idea of on-site direction of mission work was pioneered in the 1860s by J. Hudson Taylor of the China Inland Mission. As he began organizing his work, he decided that his headquarters could be more responsive to the needs of the work if it was located in Asia rather than halfway around the globe in London. In the Church of the Nazarene, we have been experimenting for several years with the regional director idea. Today the World Mission Division of the Church of the Nazarene operates six regional offices in the six world mission areas. These are: Africa Region, Asia-Pacific Region, Caribbean Region, Eurasia Region, Mexico and Central America Region, and South America Region.
But aren't we in danger of fragmenting our denomination into separate regional "kingdoms"?
     One of the goals of the regional directors is to draw the work of their region together. Small groups of Nazarenes working in different countries can sometimes feel isolated, even abandoned. Helping them feel a part of an international church family through the regional structure will help promote that family feeling. We have already profited from this structure as we have learned from each other.
     Each of the regions has already held conferences similar to the multi-district Sunday School conventions, evangelism conferences, and PALCON meetings that have been conducted for years in the United States and Canada. The Mexico and Central America Region (the only world mission region where only one major language is spoken) has employed a Spanish-language literature representative who will see that Spanish-language needs are addressed in district gatherings all across that region. The Nazarene Publishing House has been doing that for years in the United States and Canada. Now the regional structure is attempting to make good holiness literature available to Nazarenes elsewhere. This is just one of the many ways that the regional office is assisting us in our work.
     For many years, much of our International Headquarters in Kansas City functioned as a regional office for the United States and Canada. Many of the departments focused their programming entirely on North America. With the regional offices, our international church can now begin to assist all Nazarenes everywhere with things like Sunday School and youth activities.
     Rather than fragmenting our church, the regional offices are helping to draw our church together. . . . [ read more ]


  Page:  << Prev    |   Preface  |   1. Hawaii, Hoes, and Holiness  |   2. Creole, Christopher Columbus, and the Citadel  |   3. Regional Directors, Demons, and the Dominican Republic  |   4. Mangoes, Malnutrition, and Modernization  |   5. Rice Christians, Churches, and Caravan  |   6. Missionaries, Mail, and Men    |    Epilogue  |   Next >> 


Mangoes, malnutrition, and modernization

Next chapterWhy is Haiti so poor? . . . Can't we teach them to grow more food? . . . If I give to the Nazarene Hunger and Disaster Fund, will my money actually get to the hungry people? . . . . [ read more ]

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