The Kingdom strikes back -- Signs of the Messiah at work in Haiti

Chapter 4: The crippled are walking

"People brought to [Jesus] all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them." -- Matthew 4:24

In Jesus Christ, the Age-to-Come reached into this age. Among the marvelous signs of His kingdom's abrupt intrusion are vivid images of crippled and lame people leaping to their feet. Long held captive by their inability to walk, Jesus set them free.

The gospel of the Kingdom has invaded Haiti. As a result, the maimed, the lame, and the weak in that country are finding healing. Restoration has come to paralyzed and shriveled limbs. Of course, while people can be crippled physically, they can also be crippled in other ways. Newsmen speak of an economy being "crippled" or of "crippling economic blows." Individuals, families, and even whole countries can be maimed and crippled by a wretched economic plight.

Haiti is one of those crippled countries. Its people lie hopelessly handicapped by dire economic straits. With the lowest income per capita in the Western Hemisphere ($350 annually per person), Haiti has been labeled a "basket case" by some economists. It's been far easier to point out Haiti's fiscal problems than it has been to come up with workable solutions to those problems.

That's a tragedy. Once Haiti was among the globe's most productive lands. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was the richest colony in the New World. Haiti was such an economic powerhouse that it provided one-fourth of the income of Napoleon's government.

Those glory days have vanished. Unfettered greed, the ravages of chronic civil strife, and havoc from natural and man-made ecological disasters have forced what used to be the "Pearl of the Antilles" to the brink of economic collapse. In recent decades, many million-dollar aid programs -- American, United Nations, Canadian, and German -- have come to Haiti. Built on a misreading of human nature and blinded by cultural bias, most have been flushed down the drain of human greed.

To many people, the situation in Haiti seems hopeless. Yet, in this forlorn picture, the preaching of the Kingdom has wrought powerful changes. In fact, the Church may be the only institution with enough courage, faith, and hope to face Haiti's appalling needs.

We know that the Kingdom's message is not "health and wealth." That kind of message grows out of materialism and appeals primarily to carnal self-centeredness, breeding smug complacency in the face of our world's crying needs. A "God-wants-you-rich" message cannot transform palsied limbs. What can bring wholeness to financially crippled people in places like Haiti will be compassionate love coupled with inner changes brought about by God's Holy Spirit.

When someone surrenders his life to enter the Kingdom, the Holy Spirit begins to help rearrange priorities. Vices sponging up precious money are abandoned. Gambling at cockfights, drinking rum, and buying and selling sexual favors are not part of Kingdom living. Some of these changes in lifestyle following conversion cause what sociologists call "redemption lift."

Redemption lift is the upward economic and social mobility experienced by many Christians. After turning to Christ, people often become more productive. Born-again believers no longer squander their resources as they did before conversion. As a result, despair can become hope, and people can begin to inch up the economic ladder. Since Haiti's per capita gross national product totals less than $400 annually, that climb may not seem very far to us. It is there, nonetheless, and it is upward.

The unique emphases of holiness groups like the Church of the Nazarene are important aspects here. Hebrews 12:14 is a classic holiness text. We Nazarenes know this verse. We quote it from memory: "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord.."

Recently, I took time to study the context of this well-known verse. The verse immediately before speaks of "the lame [who need] not be disabled, but rather healed." Healing and holiness appear together in the same paragraph!

As holiness people, we are glad to be part of helping make a difference in Haiti. While the gospel makes no ironclad promises of an improved financial picture, a better life is sometimes a positive by-product of changes taking place when men and women yield themselves totally to God.

Funds coming from Nazarenes around the world are helping get economic cripples up and walking. One of the programs run by the office of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries is called Venture Capital Development. This is not Nazarene World Evangelism Fund money. Rather, these are gifts over and above the basic lifeline support of the World Evangelism Fund. Such Venture Capital money funds social transformation projects. These range from organizing hog-raising cooperatives to helping pastors' wives set up small market stalls.

Oink, Oink

Haiti's economic base is primarily agricultural. Most Haitians are subsistence farmers, eking out a living on one rocky acre or less. High population density, poor farming practices, and lack of money have combined to make Haiti a net importer of foodstuffs.

As we have worked to develop mature, self-supporting churches and districts in Haiti, it has only been natural that we would be involved in farming projects. During the 1960s and 1970s, Haiti's missionary force included agronomists Charles Morrow and Elvin DeVore. At present, there are no Nazarene agri-missionaries in Haiti. We are, however, still involved in farming projects.

Some of the most visible and productive of these projects are district-run pig breeding projects. One of the main goals of our pig projects is to provide rural pastors with a pair of pigs: a male and a female. From this start, the pastor will have a supply of meat. He will also get cash income from the sale of piglets. Thus our pig projects help pastors develop a stable economic support base for themselves and their families.

The oldest of these pig projects is at Jacmel, an old pirate haven nestled in a cove on the south coast. Another pig project has been in operation for some time at Les Etroits on the island of La Gonave. Four more projects are in various beginning stages.

The South District pig project began with a grant from Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. The La Gonave pig project began with profits from another economic aid project, a small wholesale/retail business. Earlier, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries had provided start-up capital for this store.

Start-up capital for a pig project builds shelters for the pigs. It constructs cisterns to catch and hold rainwater. It buys initial stocks of food. It builds dry, secure storage areas to hold these feeding supplies. Top-quality sows and boars are bought from the government agriculture ministry.

As little piglets come along, they are given to pastors who also receive training on raising and breeding them. A pastor's responsibility to the district often includes giving back one piglet from his first litter. After it got started, the project near Jacmel expanded to include goats. Recently, district leaders also began raising mules. These are given to pastors to use for traveling in rugged mountain areas.

Economic cripples are rising to their feet. The Messiah has come.

Eggplants in the churchyard

Dismayed, I gazed one day down into a big burlap sack. It was full of eggplants — big, shiny, purple eggplants. I looked up into the face of the pastor who had handed me the sack. He grinned from ear to ear. It was a gift to me, he said, from his church at Mar Joeffrey. My heart sank. I don't like eggplants. But there they were, a whole sack of them.

I couldn't refuse them. To bring me that burlap sack, this pastor had ridden five hours in the back of an old, rickety, gaily painted truck. So I thanked him profusely for his thoughtfulness.

The story began several months earlier. The pastor, Rev. Jenel Gabriel, was a student in one of my extension classes. He invited me to visit his church. It's out near the Dominican Republic border. So one Saturday afternoon I made that dusty, rocky drive to Mar Joeffrey to be a part of the Sunday morning service. After that service, the children of the church took me out to see their farm project. Back of their tin-roofed, pole church building lay several raised vegetable beds. Those neatly made beds were chock full of tiny tomato and eggplant seedlings.

I ooh-ed and ah-ed over the seedbeds. Then I made everyone line up behind one of the beds for a photo like those that sometimes appear in furlough slide shows. Rev. Gabriel explained that the little plants go to families in the rural community. The project was a program of the local Nazarene school. The school kids had gone through that dirt and sifted out all the stones. They'd tilled in organic matter. Every day they carried vessels filled with water on their heads to sprinkle over the seedlings.

They told me that a government agronomist was helping them. Stationed just a few miles away, he came by once a week to check the seedling project. During his visits, he spent time teaching the children how to improve their yields.

After lunch that Sunday afternoon, I returned home to Port-au-Prince. Months went by. In little gardens all over that village those tiny eggplant seedlings grew and blossomed and bore fruit. The people remembered my interest in the project. So they sent me a sack of that purple fruit. I was grateful for their thoughtfulness, but not for the eggplants. If I remember correctly, we gave them to needy families who happened to like eggplants.

Producing more food means that the lame start taking some steps forward. The Kingdom is striking back.

Another Nazarene aid project was sewing cooperatives. We imported about 100 used foot-powered sewing machines and distributed them in several of our churches. An initial stock of cloth went along with each sewing machine. A Nazarene woodcraft shop also operated for several years in Port-au-Prince. Men who learned their craft in this shop now produce things for sale to tourists.

There have been other ventures, like a dry-cleaning business. We financed rural bus transportation and even casket making. Some of our experimental crash projects crashed badly. Others continue to provide needed incomes for pastors and lay people. Even those that failed taught us some things.

Lessons learned from these failures have helped other projects succeed. The result is that economic cripples begin to walk. Outside aid money combined with redemption lift is making a difference in the lives of believers. When enough individuals change, so do their communities.

There's a highway there, and a Way

Local churches sometimes take leadership in organizing the people of a rural village into a force for development. For instance, in several villages, Nazarenes have formed themselves into road-building brigades. Using picks and shovels, they carve out roads to their mountain villages.

Having a road into a village makes it easier to convince the government to provide health and education services to that area. It's also easier for the village to get farm products to market. A happy by-product is that a road makes it easier to bring in building supplies for homes, churches, and schools. Occasionally, Approved Special money arrives to buy picks and shovels. We've used that to help these road-building cooperatives buy shovels and sometimes even a wheelbarrow. Nazarene-led road projects in Boy Roi and Madame Julien have benefited from this kind of Approved Special gifts. [ more on Approved Specials ]

These roads are quite crude. You still need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get over them. However, if the Kingdom had not invaded those villages, these roads would not be there. The Holy Spirit draws men into the Church. There they bond into loving, caring communities. These churches become natural focal points for community action projects. Leadership gifts discovered and developed in the church are put to use for the good of the whole community. Thus, the Kingdom is striking back. The lame are beginning to walk -- and they're getting better roads on which to do it.

Flash Flood!

On October 19, 1986, a flash flood hit parts of the island of La Gonave. Torrents of water went rushing down mountain gullies, smashing into villages on the seashore. The flood ravaged two towns with Nazarene churches, Anse-a-Galets and Trou Jacques. Among the dead and missing were 19 Nazarenes. Some bodies swept out to sea were never recovered.

By the next day, Nazarene relief was on its way. We loaded a truck with sacks of rice and beans from our warehouse near Port-au-Prince and sent it down to our boat dock. There the sacks of food supplies left for La Gonave on little sailboat ferries. Nazarene Hunger and Disaster funds helped resettle families who had lost their homes. In Trou Jacques, the village decided to leave their narrow canyon and move up on a hill. We helped the church purchase a large enough piece of property so that most of the affected Nazarene families would have room to build their new homes.

We were also able to send several boxes of used clothing left earlier by people on Nazarene Mission Teams. Having this clothing on hand was providential. Restrictive tariffs and stiff regulations try to protect jobs in Haiti's small clothing industry. So it is difficult to ship used clothing to Haiti. However, Nazarene visitors to Haiti often empty their suitcases before leaving. The only clothes many work team members take home are what they are wearing. Their generosity gives us supplies of used clothing for emergencies such as this flood.

The food, clothing, and shelter we were able to provide helped those crippled by the flash flood to begin walking again.

One day another flash flood struck the church and parsonage at Goyard. The pastor's garden and his pigs were swept away. He and his family lost all their personal effects. The next day, word of the tragedy reached District Superintendent Rev. Lumanite Costume. He got on his motorcycle to see firsthand what had happened.

Then he headed for Port-au-Prince to enlist the missionaries' help in requesting relief help from Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. By Friday, just two days after the flood, aid from the Nazarene Hunger and Disaster Fund was on its way. Once again, used clothing left by Nazarene Mission Team members helped a family replace what they had lost.

The Kingdom intervened once more. The Messiah has come!

Insurance policies sometimes refer to disasters like flash floods as "acts of God." What a travesty of words!

Visitors to Haiti often remark that its mountains are barren. Their scarred faces lie exposed to the blazing sun and the torrential downpours of the rainy season. In past years greedy men systematically and ruthlessly denuded Haiti's forested mountains. Once-lush mahogany forests were stripped away. No trees were replanted. Today the few trees that survived the logging industry come down to make charcoal for cooking fires. I've even seen people digging up tree roots to make charcoal.

When heavy rains fall on these mountains, devastating flash floods are inevitable. It is man, not God, who bears the final responsibility for such "natural" disasters.

God's kingly rule in the lives of believers works to lessen and relieve the tragic results of such events. Nevertheless, they are painful times, and the church does what it can to ease suffering and pain. Such tragedies do not mean evil is winning. What we see is only evidence of evil's thrashing death agony. In the end, the kingdom of darkness is going to lose. Even today its power is being challenged. The kingdom of God has struck back. People crippled by natural disasters are beginning to walk again.

Want to Plant a Tree?

One predictable result of heavy deforestation is the washing away of topsoil from mountainous slopes. All you can see on many slopes where people have their gardens are rocks and stones. Not a cupful of topsoil can be seen. Still, at planting time people will be there digging holes with machetes to plant corn and beans.

A second tragic result of deforestation is that rainwater runs off the stony slopes. It does not percolate slowly into the ground as it would if there were heavy tree cover. As a result, water tables have dropped. Small spring-fed mountain streams have dried up, further complicating the lives of subsistence farmers.

The Church of the Nazarene is trying to change this by encouraging reforestation. Years ago, when Paul Orjala bought that hill near Port-au-Prince for a Bible college campus, it was barren. Today thousands of trees cover those 29 acres. We bought some of those trees; the government forest service provided others. Many of the newest ones came from our health center custodian. He collects seeds from mature trees on campus. He plants those seeds in little plastic sacks filled with dirt, then he waters them carefully. When they sprout, he cares for them until they can be transplanted somewhere on the campus. We also give away little trees from his nursery to pastors and patients at the health center.

It will, of course, take millions -- probably billions -- of trees to reforest Haiti. Still, regardless of the astronomical numbers involved, those trees must be planted one at a time. So we're trying to do our part. I even like to encourage tourists to plant at least one tree while they are in Haiti.

Madame Artaud called me one day. An elite Haitian who lives next to our campus, she works in all kinds of neighborhood action projects. This time she was calling about a tree-planting project. The government forest service and the Roman Catholic church were cosponsoring a "bless the tree" day. Most of the Roman Catholic churches in Port-au-Prince were going to give out small trees to all worshipers on the following Sunday. She wanted to know if the Church of the Nazarene would like to participate.

I told her we probably would. I said we probably would not "bless" the trees like the Roman Catholic priests would be doing. I told her, however, that Nazarenes liked to plant trees. We would also fervently pray that God would use the efforts to bring healing to the land. She asked how many trees I thought we could use.

"Two hundred," I said.

"Not enough," she responded. "You need to take at least 1,000."

I gulped and said OK. Time was short. It was already the middle of the week. However, all 10 of the area Nazarene churches that I contacted were eager to take part.

On Saturday afternoon, we took a jeep and a pickup to the distribution point. It took us more than one trip to get all 1,000 trees in their little dirt-filled, plastic bags. That evening we were busy until ten o'clock delivering them to the churches. The next morning at the end of church services in and around Port-au-Prince, 1,000 Nazarene families got a free tree. They promised to plant that tree near their house. They agreed to water it and keep animals and people from trampling it.

One of the Nazarene churches receiving trees was Marlique, that mountain church above Port-au-Prince where we had also distributed some Bibles. Late Saturday night up that rocky, gravel road I went. The back of our jeep was crammed with 75 trees.

On Tuesday my telephone rang. It was Pierre Walliere, the pastor from Marlique. His church had planted all 75 of their trees. That had whetted their appetites. Now they wanted to start to work on the whole mountainside. Pierre wanted to know if I could get them 3,000 more seedlings. I gulped a bit and said I'd try.

I went to see Madame Artaud, the lady who'd arranged for us to get the original 1,000. A couple of days later she called me back. The government forest service had agreed to provide Marlique Nazarenes with 3,000 free trees. Moreover, along with ordinary forest-type trees, they agreed to provide some fruit- and nut-bearing trees. They also offered to help oversee the project to ensure a maximum survival rate of the seedlings.

After the trees were planted, government agronomists made an inspection trip to Marlique. Impressed with the way church members were caring for the new little trees, they gave them another 15,000 trees. They also helped organize students from a nearby government high school to go up the mountain to help the Nazarenes plant these 15,000 trees.

Now the Marlique Nazarenes are working with the government forestry people, perfecting a long-range plan for their mountain. They want to plant one million trees. Seventy-five scraggly-looking seedlings in tiny black plastic sacks had started something that would revolutionize a mountain.

Vocational schools

The Church of the Nazarene is helping the lame and crippled to walk again in many ways. Dr. Steve Weber spent two terms as a missionary to Haiti. He went from there to head up the office of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. Steve is fond of quoting the Chinese proverb: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him today. Give him a hook, teach him to fish, and you feed him forever." One of the ways we are helping the lame and crippled walk again is by teaching people new skills they can use to earn a living.

Putting bread in front of hungry people helps them. It keeps them alive. Equipping people with trade skills goes beyond this. It gives them a bakery in which they can make their own bread. Setting up vocational schools seems a wise investment of aid money.

Two of our districts began running vocational schools while we were in Haiti. One was on the south coast in a town named Jacmel. An evening program teaches cooking, sewing, and typing to girls from that area. The school also has intensive courses that go all day, five days a week. Girls from churches all over the district come in for a month at a time to learn trade skills in these intensive courses.

Another Nazarene vocational school opened in Port-de-Paix up on the northern coast. This school offers courses in welding and carpentry besides the home economics and secretarial skills taught at Jacmel. Both schools got started with grants from Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.

There are also many initiatives being taken by local churches. For instance, our Grand Source church runs sewing courses. Our Petionville church in suburban Port-au-Prince has organized courses for hopeful electricians. In downtown Port-au-Prince, the Bel Air Church uses donated treadle sewing machines to train seamstresses. Our Marlique church uses donated manual typewriters to run a typing school. One of our rural pastors on the northwest peninsula, Rev. Delius Ambeau, teaches straw weaving to his members. Scott Hannay first came to Haiti on a specialized assignment contract to teach welding and auto mechanics at the mission garage. Today, one of his first students is the mission mechanic.

The lame are learning to walk. The Kingdom is striking back. . . . [ continue reading ]

  Page:   ←Prev  | &nbs p; Foreword  |   1. The Kingdom strikes back  |  2. The blind are seeing  |   3. The lepers are being cured  |  4. The crippled are walking  |  5. The deaf are hearing  |   6. The poor are hearing the Good News   |  7. Conclusion   |   Next→ 

The deaf are hearing

arrow pointing rightThe response of Jesus to John's followers finds an echo today in a Caribbean island. Among all the parts of the human body, the ear may be the most important as we contemplate fulfilling the Great Commission. . . [ more ]

This ebook is on missions. It shows how the words of Kingdom signs resonate with what's happening in the Caribbean island nation of Haiti. These 6 chapters plus a foreword and a conclusion demonstrate that the Kingdom of God is indeed in our midst.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

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