Chapter 1. Hawaii, Garden Hoes, and Holiness

Some answers to questions

ebook: Mr. Missionary, I Have a Question (part 2)

In this ebook, 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 by what is now called The Foundry, the book carried ISBN number 083-411-1519

Is Haiti near Hawaii?
Haiti and Hawaii are both tropical islands. Both names begin with the letter H. However, Haiti and Hawaii lie in different oceans on different sides of the continental United States. Hawaii is in the Pacific Ocean west of California. Haiti occupies the western one-third of Hispaniola, a large island located between Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea.

There are, of course, thriving Nazarene congregations in both Hawaii and Haiti.
What country does Haiti belong to?
Haiti is an independent nation. During colonial days, England, Spain, and France all claimed this land. Eventually, the entire western part of the island of Hispaniola became a part of France. This action was legalized in 1697 by the Treaty of Ryswick in which Spain officially ceded the territory to France. In 1800, the half-million African slaves who had been brought to Haiti successfully revolted against French rule. On January 1, 1804, Haiti became the second independent nation in the New World (the United States had been the first about 25 years earlier).

In the early 20th century, however, U.S. Marines landed in Port-au-Prince (the capital city) and occupied Haiti for 20 years. When President Franklin Roosevelt ended the American military occupation in 1934, the Haitians started celebrating this withdrawal as their second Independence Day. Today, despite great adversity and widespread poverty, this island nation works to preserve dignity as an independent nation of the Western Hemisphere.
How far away is Martinique?
Martinique is a department of France in much the same way that Hawaii is one of the 50 states of the United States of America. Martinique is located in the Caribbean Sea, about 600 miles southeast of Haiti.

Once we jokingly reminded our Nazarene missionary colleagues in Martinique that they lived on one of the Lesser Antilles. That is the name of a chain of small islands, including Martinique, on the eastern rim of the Caribbean Sea. Haiti, on the other hand, is located on one of the Greater Antilles. That's the name of the group of larger islands including Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispaniola.

Martinique is considerably smaller in size than Haiti. In fact, Martinique is no larger than La Gonave, a Haitian island in the bay of Port-au-Prince.
Is your message the same overseas?
Nazarene missionaries try to preach and teach salvation and sanctification as clearly in Haitian Creole (or Italian or whatever language) as they try to do in English. In all of the world areas where Nazarene churches have been started, missionaries and local pastors are laying the same biblical foundations of holiness doctrine and holy living.

In what is called the process of contextualization, the way of proclaiming the basic message will, however, vary from culture to culture. Haiti, for example, is an agricultural society. So preachers and teachers will use illustrations that revolve around rural life, even as Jesus did. Illustrations of spiritual truths based on advanced technology are only effective in industrialized countries. They would be, of course, meaningless to most Haitians.

Certain facets of God's revealed truth will be emphasized more in one culture than in another. This does not mean the message has been changed. Rather, missionaries are just following Christ's example of speaking to each person at the point of his need. For example, the fact that Christ has power over demons and can return a possessed person to spiritual health strikes a very responsive chord with the average Haitian. In the United States, on the other hand, effective gospel presentations often center on God's plan for one's life.

Each summer all Nazarene missionaries on home assignment in the United States come together in a retreat and workshop sponsored by the World Mission Division. In one of those retreats we attended Dr. L. Guy Nees, then the World Mission Division director, told those Nazarene missionaries on home assignment: "I believe I hear more preaching on second blessing holiness in other world regions than I hear in the United States."
How is the message of holiness received in Haiti?
Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness in any culture are glad to hear that through Jesus Christ, God has provided a full and free salvation from all sin. That is as true in Haiti as it is anywhere else in the world.

There are several holiness denominations working in Haiti. Most seem quite successful in their evangelism and discipling efforts.
How long does it take a converted Haitian to get on his feet economically?
When people come to Christ, life changes radically. It begins within and expresses itself outwardly. Priorities change. Money is no longer wasted on sinful pleasures. As people in a family come to view themselves as God's stewards, new principles of money management prevail in that family. That is true of Americans. This is also true of Haitians.

When Haitians become saved and sanctified, however, they continue to live in a society that offers few economic opportunities. The changes in a Haitian's spiritual condition cannot alter the fact that he lives in a country where the per capita income is under $350 annually.

God does bless any person who surrenders to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But we must not forget that sin has wrought havoc on the entire globe, and that Satan is "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4). Human depravity and Satan-instigated rebellion against God have had grave consequences for this planet. God's people often suffer along with unbelievers when a tragedy like famine strikes. In 1977, a drought caused a severe famine in Haiti. More than 70 Haitian Nazarenes starved to death that year. They were born-again, sanctified Christians who lived in areas where there simply was not enough food to sustain life.

The gospel is no guarantee of economic success as measured by this world. It does, however, sensitize us to the inequities of our world. Compassion and willingness to help the less fortunate have always been distinctives of those who experience the perfect love the Bible talks about.
Do Haitians use modern farming implements?
A few large farming operations do use tractors and other implements. Most of the 650,000 individual Haitian farm plots, however, contain only a couple of acres of land. Many of these are on steep mountainsides where the soil today is rated poor or bad. These plots are tilled with hoes and machetes. Plows-even the hand-pushed, garden type my grandmother used-are unknown.
Had you ever been to Haiti before?
Barbara and I, along with our two children, arrived as missionaries in August of 1984. However; it was not our first time to be in Haiti. We had previously visited in the summers of 1978 and 1983 on our way back from Europe for home assignment. Even earlier, while a student of Dr. Paul Orjala at Nazarene Theological Seminary, I spent a couple of weeks in Haiti as part of a group of students taking a missions "field experience" course.
Have you ever been to a voodoo ceremony?
Voodoo is a blend of Christian and animistic beliefs. One of the prominent features of voodoo worship is spirit possession. When one of the voodoo spirits takes control of a person, body and facial expressions change with the possession, often culminating in an emotionally charged display of symbolic dance and gestures. Most Haitian evangelical believers say that this spirit possession is exactly the same as the demon possession of biblical times. Therefore, I have trouble trying to think of a voodoo ceremony as just another tourist attraction.

Jesus never went to see demon possession as a tourist. Whenever He went, it was to rebuke the demons. Jesus did not go to watch demons possess people. He always went to free people from demons. While here on earth, He also gave His followers authority and power to cast out demons. Thus, the only legitimate reason for a sanctified believer to go to a voodoo ceremony would be to cast out the demons. [ more on voodoo spirit possession ]
Why did you choose Haiti?
We did not choose to be missionaries to Haiti. General church leadership (including the World Mission Department and the Board of General Superintendents) felt led to offer to send us as missionaries to Haiti. We felt it was in the Lord's will that we accept the assignment.

We spent nearly 10 years as missionaries in Italy. For much of that time, we assumed we would give all of our missionary service in that Mediterranean country. The Church of the Nazarene in Italy, however, matured to the point where the leadership of the district was completely in the hands of Italian Nazarenes. We felt that the Lord wanted us to continue as cross-cultural missionaries, so we asked the church for a reassignment.

In January 1981, a letter from the Nazarene Global Ministry Center arrived at our home in Florence, Italy. It asked us to consider an assignment in Haiti. We immediately felt the confirmation of the Holy Spirit that His hand was guiding this decision. So today we are in the process of adopting a new country as our home. We are learning to love Haiti: its history, its legends; its African, French, and Creole traditions, its colorful taxis, and the artistic creativity of its people as well as their warmth and friendliness.
Why didn't the church send you to some other Italian-speaking country?
If we could have gone to another Italian-speaking country, we would not have needed to learn a new language. Unfortunately, Italy is the only country in the world that speaks Italian. During the years of European exploration and conquest, Italy produced such navigators and explorers as Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci (from whom America got its name). But these Italian explorers always worked for other countries. They established no colonies for Italy. Therefore, no other country shares their language.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Italy did get into the race for colonies. By then it was too late. What few colonies the Mussolini government tried to establish were lost after World War II. As a result, Italian did not have the time necessary for it to become established as a language in use in any other country.

Fortunately for us, the French and Creole languages spoken in Haiti are related to the Italian language. Things would be more difficult for us if we had received an assignment to, for example, the Middle East or Asia.
Did you have any input on your change of mission fields?
The decision to phase out Nazarene missionaries in Italy was made by everyone concerned: global church leaders, the Italian district leadership, and the missionaries serving in Italy. Once that decision was made, we began talking with the World Mission Division and the Board of General Superintendents about a new missionary assignment.

We did not talk much about the "where" of a new assignment. We were more concerned about being able to go to a place where we would be the most useful missionaries possible. Our discussions with general church leaders centered on what we would be doing rather than where we would be doing it. We never openly expressed a preference for the Haiti assignment though it was a place we thought would be a good "fit" for us.
Are you starting a new work in Haiti?
The Church of the Nazarene has spread throughout Haiti like oil on a pond. Since 1950 the Lord has used Nazarenes to plant about 800 churches that today have a membership approaching 150,000. Near the capital city of Port-au-Prince, there is a Nazarene Bible College campus. Our church is also involved in several different compassionate ministries in Haiti.

Barbara and I are being added to a missionary team that has been hard at work for 30 years. We will not be pioneer missionaries in Haiti; rather we are jumping aboard a train that already is moving ahead at full speed.
Will you be pastoring a church?
Since the very beginning days in 1950, all Haitian Nazarene churches have been pastored by Haitians. The Haitian districts are all led by Haitian district superintendents with Haitian District Advisory Boards.

We will be working to develop an extension training program for pastors who have been unable to attend our resident Bible college. This will include establishing several centers throughout the country and recruiting professors for training people while they continue to pastor churches. In some cases, we will need to train the professors for this assignment.
It's not going to be as hard in Haiti as it was in Italy, is it?
The Lord's work should not be classified as "hard" or "easy." When you work for the Lord Jesus, you are judged on your faithfulness. If you have to have an additional measurement, perhaps we can talk in terms of how rapidly or how slowly church growth occurs.

In this sense, growth in Haiti has been more rapid than it has been in Italy. The Church of the Nazarene has been organized in both countries since about 1950. Today, after those three and a half decades of mission investment, Italy has half a dozen Nazarene churches with about 200 or so members. Those figures are dwarfed by Haiti's 800 churches and a membership of more than 100,000. That means there are more than 100 Haitian Nazarenes for every Italian Nazarene.

Rapid growth does not mean "easy." Explosive growth brings its own particular problems. In Haiti, it is difficult to train pastors and other leaders fast. enough. Less than one-fourth of all Haitian Nazarene pastors are ordained elders. Building projects lag behind the churches' needs for facilities. Certain ministries, such as literature, can sometimes be set aside. We do not have a Nazarene hymnal in Haiti. Italy, on the other hand, has for years had a Nazarene hymnal full of holiness hymns and gospel songs.
I see that missionaries in Haiti have Florida mailing addresses. Does that mean your family will be in the United States and that you will be commuting back and forth?
Our Florida address is only a post office box in a Miami suburb. We do not live there. A missionary aviation group rents the post office box and allows over 100 missionaries in Haiti to use it. They gather the mail at least once a week and fly it into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for us. Using this system gives us cheaper and faster service than international mail.

We are career global missionaries for the Lord serving under the World Mission Division of the Church of the Nazarene. This is a long-term assignment. So we live in Haiti and are fully involved as a family in a life of service to Haitian people.
How do your children adjust to living in a foreign country?
For Matthew and Rachele, the United States is the foreign country. They both have had some trouble adjusting to life in that "foreign country" during the times we have been on home assignment. Rachele is now 8 years old. She has lived in the United States just two of those 8 years. Matthew is 11. He's lived in the United States for only three years.

Italy was never a foreign country for our children. Matthew was a year old when we first went to Italy. Rachele was born there. So Italy was "home" in the fullest sense of that word. Their adjustment now is not from America to Haiti but from Italy to Haiti. We are praying that soon Matthew and Rachele will come to think of Haiti as "home."
What have you done to prepare your children for the change to Haiti? Were they excited about it?
Upon being assigned to Haiti, we tried to find everything we could that related to Haiti. We got out all of the pictures we had taken during previous visits to Haiti. We read aloud old missionary reading books by former Haitian missionaries Paul Orjala and Linda Crow. We looked at encyclopedia articles together. We also began exchanging letters and pictures with the Nazarene missionary families who were currently serving in Haiti.

We have always thought of ourselves as a missionary family. Matthew and Rachele have come to think of themselves as part of a missionary team that includes our whole family. To our kids, missionaries are very important people. They think we have the most exciting and fulfilled lives of anyone on earth. For example, not long ago we were playing the Ungame with another missionary family. Matthew had to answer the question: "What would you like to do to become famous?" His immediate response was: "Be a missionary."

Matthew and Rachele were excited about coming to Haiti as missionaries. But they were also sad to leave Italy.
What are you doing for their schooling?
In Italy, our two children attended Italian public schools, and then my wife tutored them in English and American history. In Haiti, the children attend a private Christian school called Quisqueya. This school, which is about three or four miles from our home, has approximately 300 students in its 12 grades. It was started about 10 years ago to serve American missionary children, but it is open to other expatriate families as well as Haitians. Classes are conducted in English, and a United States curriculum is used.

Nazarene missionaries are supported by the Nazarene World Evangelism Fund. When missionary children attend private school -- as they do in Haiti -- the Nazarene World Evangelism Fund pays most of the bills. . . . [ more ]

  Page:   ←Prev    |   Preface  |   1. Hawaii, Garden Hoes, and Holiness  |    2. Creole, Christopher Columbus, and the&nb sp;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→ 

Creole, Christopher Columbus and the Citadel

arrow pointing rightDon't they speak Portuguese in Haiti? . . . Are the Haitians a musical people? . . . Have you ever been to the Citadel? . . . . [ read more ]
-- Howard Culbertson,

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