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

Chapter 5: The deaf are hearing

Ears are important to Kingdom people. I remember watching Bill Dawson poke something into a little boy's ear. It looked like a flashlight with a tiny funnel on one end. Bill, a Nazarene medical missionary, told me it was an otoscope. He said he could even look up my nose with it.

He peered intently through the little funnel into the boy's ear. Turning to me, he rattled off some impressive-sounding medical terms. Seeing that I looked puzzled, he hugged the little Haitian while he explained to me that a fungus was growing in the boy's ear. That sounded awful. Bill, however, assured me it wasn't serious. He told the parents how to use vinegar to clear up the problem.

Ears. Scripture talks a lot about them and our sense of hearing. The Bible says that God has revealed himself to human beings by speaking to them. We have five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. In revealing himself to us, He often uses that last one, our sense of hearing. The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 all end with the stringent demand: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

In the Old Testament priestly consecration ceremony, the priests had sacrificial blood smeared on their ears, a sign of obedience in spiritual hearing (Exodus 29:20). The ears of cleansed lepers were also to be touched with blood. Jesus called the ears of the disciples "blessed" because they heard "the secrets of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 13:16, 11). Against this background, it should not be surprising to discover Messianic prophecies dealing with ears and hearing.

Isaiah prophesied: "In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll" (Isaiah 29:18). The last of Job's "comforters," Elihu, tells him that God uses affliction to open a humble person's ears so that he will listen to God's inward voice (Isaiah 36:15). When John's disciples came asking about Jesus' Messiahship, it naturally followed that Jesus would point out to them that deaf ears were being unstopped.

As God works through the Church of the Nazarene in places like Haiti, deaf people regain their hearing. Believers testify occasionally to miraculous healings coming as the result of prayer. These have come without any human instrumentality. There are also those healings coming as God guides the hands of skilled Nazarene medical personnel.

In at least one instance God has used a talented Nazarene construction contractor to thwart the disabling effects of physical deafness. Evidence of that lies on the main highway going north out of Port-au-Prince. There, on the east side of the highway, are several one-story white buildings. There's no sign out front. Everyone knows, however, that it's an evangelical school for deaf children.

For a few years, Freddy Williams supervised Nazarene construction projects in Haiti. While there he built a lot of Nazarene churches. He also gave his expertise to build most of the buildings at the deaf school. Because of his help, deaf children are becoming functioning members of Haitian society. Few of these children will experience a miraculous, immediate opening of their ears. Few of them will benefit from high-tech medical and surgical advances used in developed countries. Yet, because of caring Christians -- including a Nazarene builder -- the devastating results of their deafness are being blunted. To me, that's another clear sign of the Kingdom's inauguration.

"How can they hear without someone preaching to them?"

Among all the parts of the human body, the ear may be the most important as we contemplate fulfilling the Great Commission. The "foolishness of preaching" (as many English Bible translations render 1 Corinthians 1:21) is the way the gospel message reaches most people. That's true even in our day of the printed page, the Internet, video images, and social media. Even the written Word often reaches our hearts as other people read it aloud to us.

Interwoven into sermons and testimonies, the written Word comes alive as the spoken Word. Day and night, around the globe, the gospel of the Kingdom continues to be proclaimed by human voices and received by human ears.

One inescapable conclusion is that there must be someone to proclaim it. Restoring hearing to a physically deaf person is a marvelous thing. Even then, the good news of the Kingdom will not be good news for him unless messengers proclaim that message in his hearing. In Romans 10:14 Paul comes to this same conclusion. He asks: "How can they hear without someone preaching to them?". One must hear the gospel before he can either receive it or reject it. One of the ways the Church of the Nazarene helps spiritually deaf Haitians is by training Spirit-filled leaders to preach and teach the good news of the Kingdom. (more on Romans 10:14

Nazarenes began work in Haiti in the middle of the twentieth centry. Right from the start, we poured World Evangelism Fund dollars into training Haitian pastors and evangelists. When Dr. Paul Orjala arrived in Haiti in 1950, one of his top priorities was training national leaders. Not many months after stepping off the airplane, he had begun an evening school for prospective pastors. As I mentioned earlier, as soon as the Lord provided money, he bought land near the capital city and began the construction of Bible school classrooms and dormitories. Through the years, graduates of this school have helped fill that void for preachers that the apostle Paul lamented.

Men trained in the Bible school and its related extension programs not only are today leading Nazarene congregations in Haiti but also are pastoring churches of Haitian immigrants in the United States, Canada, the Bahamas, and France.

Today, Nazarene World Evangelism Fund money finances three different types of training programs for Haitian pastors and evangelists. The most visible of these is a traditional Bible college near Port-au-Prince. It has dormitories, classrooms, and a dining hall. In this campus setting, young Haitian men spend four years studying for the ministry. On the weekends they get practical ministry experience. Under Dr. Jeanine Van Beek's guidance, entrance requirements for this school were gradually raised. Today they include the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma.

The second type of program is called Pastoral Extension Training. This decentralized theological education has men studying in several locations throughout Haiti. Most of these men are married and have children. All are already pastoring churches. A recent study showed that men entering the extension programs have pastored for an average of seven years when they begin their studies. All are bi-vocational. That means the local church is not their only source of income. On alternate weeks they meet in a central location for two days of classes. Thus they continue pastoring their churches and providing for their families while studying toward ordination.

Besides these two programs receiving World Evangelism Fund subsidies, there is a third type of church leadership training. It is even more decentralized. Furthermore, it requires no outside funding. This is the training given to local leaders by pastors themselves. Often informal and unstructured, it is, nonetheless, effective training.

Many churches hold Saturday afternoon classes for Sunday School teachers. There they go over the lesson for Sunday, discussing the main points of the lesson and ways to teach that particular lesson. Some churches will not allow a teacher who misses a Saturday training session to teach the next morning.

Most local churches have several local preachers. These men and women preach or exhort in open-air meetings and in weekly services at preaching points. Often they are the evangelists in revival meetings in the home church. All this is done under the watchful eye of the veteran pastors.

This on-the-job training produces leaders for the church planting efforts we call "stations." Most of our rural pastors come from this large pool of experienced preachers. Once a person is name to lead an organized local church, they can enter our extension study program. There he will get the formal training required for ordination. The church in Haiti has had tremendous growth. Allowing leaders to emerge in the local church and make their way into the pastorate has assured us a surplus of good preachers.

Three types of training: college campus, extension centers, and local church. Their graduates provide ample evidence that the Messiah has come. Through these trained leaders those who once seemed deaf to the Good News are beginning to hear it clearly.

A cross, a Bible, and a dove

Visitors to the campus of Haiti Nazarene Theological College usually park in front of a stylized cross, dove, and open Bible. These symbols are part of a wrought-iron grillwork enclosing an open area of the student lounge. Craig Zickefoose spent two years in Haiti on a specialized assignment. While there, he made that grillwork. He used the three symbols to represent the college's goals: to ground students in the Word (the open Bible) as they prepare to preach the crucified and resurrected Christ (the cross) in the power of the Holy Spirit (the dove).

Nazarene Theological College sits on a 29-acre campus above Port-au-Prince. Approximately 45 students follow a study program similar to that at Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs. Each year, about three times more young men apply than the school can handle. Those wishing to enter must take an entrance exam and have an interview with one of the college professors. The most qualified are accepted as students.

The students are all Haitian. The school, however, has a distinct global flavor. Jeanine Van Beek, a long-time director of the school, was Dutch and spoke at least five languages. There are Haitian professors like Remy Cherenfant, Marcel Sainvilus, and DeMerzier Charles (who is currently a Nazarene missionary in Africa). Nazarene missionaries teaching on the staff have come from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Together, this international team assures that the message preached to listening ears is clear and uncompromising. The Church of the Nazarene is a global church. Haiti Nazarene Theological College makes that clear!

Nazarene Theological College has one of the best French-language theological libraries in Haiti. It seeks to maintain studies on a high academic level. Of primary concern, however, is the spiritual tone of the students. For four years we lived on the edge of the campus. On many mornings we were awakened at 6 A.M. by music from the school chapel as students began their day with singing and a prayer meeting. There are also twice-weekly chapel services. Thursday morning is a prayer and fasting time. No breakfast is served. Classes start an hour later than usual.

From time to time revival tides sweep across the campus. I remember Trevor Johnston telling of a doctrine of holiness class that turned into an altar service.

The Messiah has come. The deaf are hearing.

An army without weapons

"We were pastoring churches. We were, however, like soldiers trying to fight a war without any guns. Now we've got the weapons we needed."

With this little flourish, Louis Florestin finished his speech. A chorus of nine loud "Amens" followed. The speech marked the end of four years of extension studies for 10 veteran pastors. On their final day of classes, they asked me to be present. They wanted to say "thank you" to the church for providing training for them.

They were waiting for me in the classroom when I arrived. The other nine pushed Louis Florestin forward. He delivered his impromptu speech to an audience of one (me) as the rest of the pastors stood behind him, beaming.

Louis' story began a few years earlier in the large Gonaives church. He was converted there as a young man. Soon some leadership potential began showing through. His formal education ended in elementary school. It became clear rather early, however, that the Holy Spirit had endowed him with the gift of preaching.

Louis' pastor, who was also a district superintendent, urged him to listen carefully to the Lord. In Louis, Rev. Duroc Placide thought he saw signs of God's call to the pastoral ministry. Not long afterward, Rev. Placide asked Louis to become pastor of the Chevreau Lombard church.

Chevreau Lombard lies in the fertile Artibonite Valley, surrounded by rice paddies. Our church there is fairly new. At that time it was muddling along, leaderless. Seeking a better financial future for himself and his family, the previous pastor had left abruptly for France.

Louis' only training for the ministry was some on-the-job training in preaching and group leadership dynamics. Still, he prayed through, accepted the challenge, and moved with his family to Chevreau Lombard. Very soon he came to feel he had gone to war without any weapons. What was he to do? He had only an elementary school education, so he could not get into Haiti's Nazarene Theological College. Even if he had been qualified, he wasn't sure he wanted to leave the active ministry for four years.

Then came the announcement that an extension program for untrained pastors was being started. Louis elbowed his way to the front of the line to enroll. He was accepted and began making trips to Port-au-Prince every two weeks to meet with fellow pastors for classes.

Now, four years later, he had finished the course of study. At the next district assembly, he would be eligible for ordination. More importantly for him, he felt that now he had those weapons he needed. The other pastors in that group asked him to be their spokesperson in expressing their thanks.

Louis and his nine fellow workers were in our Pastoral Extension Training program. PET is nontraditional ministerial training. It's more commonly called Theological Education by Extension. Aimed at students who already have families and jobs, TEE offers education in a non-disruptive format. TEE allows a student to continue a productive relationship with society. It does not uproot a person, forcing a move to a campus.

Such ministerial training parallels John Wesley's training program for lay preachers. We also have something similar in the U.S. From our beginning days under Bresee, we've had a home Course of Study. Men unable to go to a college or seminary use the home Course of Study method under the direction of veteran pastors on their district. Our PET program in Haiti can be viewed as a development of that concept.

Since we entered Haiti, we've tried several kinds of nonresident study programs for pastors. None of them, however, were designed to fulfill Manual requirements for ordination. As a result, until recently a person being considered for ordination in Haiti had to have graduated from the resident Bible college. Thus we had a lot of successful pastors like Louis Florestin who were locked out of ordination.

Requiring Bible college training can be a formidable barrier to ordination in countries like Haiti. It doesn't really square with what Nazarenes believe about the call to the ministry and the church's recognition of that call. We don't believe God looks for a diploma before He calls a man to preach. That's why Dr. Jeanine Van Beek and Dr. Steve Weber launched a program to bring the Haitian districts more in line with Nazarene beliefs and practices regarding the ministry.

Their Pastoral Extension Training was modeled on programs successfully used elsewhere bearing the label Theological Education by Extension. The design, however, that Dr. Van Beek and Dr. Weber came up with has some unique things about it. First, before a person can apply for entrance, he must already be pastoring. Feeling a call to the ministry is not enough to get in; the students in this program must be in the active pastoral ministry.

One of the reasons for this rule was the large number of veteran pastors without formal training. When our PET program began, we had 150 unordained pastors in Haiti. We wanted to train these people first, since they were already pastoring.

Such a rule also ensures that the students share a common characteristic. Our extension students vary widely in their ages. Some have only a third-grade education; a few have university training. Their ability to do individualized study varies. All, however, face similar problems each week as they pastor churches. Whatever their other differences, this shared characteristic bonds them together.

A second unique characteristic of our program is that once a group starts classes, it stays together for the entire four years of the program. After the first year, no new students are allowed to join a group. Therefore, although these men do not live together on a campus, they still spend two days together twice a month over a four-year period. Thus group dynamics get a chance to form and develop.

This extension program is making a difference in the ministries of the Haitian Nazarene pastors. At any one time, we have about 65 people in various groups. This program is helping the church respond to the question: "How shall they hear without a preacher?" The Kingdom is striking back. Those pastors are being trained and sent out.

Some time ago I was out on the island of La Gonave, checking the progress of our extension group there. In the evening I sat talking with the district superintendent. He began telling me about the positive impact the program was having on the lives of some of the pastors. Sometimes the changes in ministry have been dramatic.

He mentioned one pastor who had been around for several years. Unfortunately, his church had stagnated. It was not growing. It didn't even have very many signs of spiritual life.

The district superintendent enrolled that pastor in the extension study program. There he began to study the Bible, theology, and church history. He was taught how to conduct a worship service and how to lead a congregation. After some months the district superintendent visited his church. He could hardly believe his eyes. Those extension studies were revolutionizing that man's preaching and pastoral leadership. His church was responding. It had come alive and begun to grow.

Not long ago a handwritten note arrived from the Michaud church board. Members of this church, located on the road from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic, was seeing some positive changes in their pastor since he entered our extension study program. Under their pastor's revitalized guidance they were finding new spiritual strength and seeing progress in their church. So they wrote a note expressing their appreciation to the global church for sponsoring the extension study program.

How shall they hear without a preacher? They won't. That's why ministerial training programs are so important. Because of such programs, previously deaf Haitian ears now hear.

Again and again, I have been awed by the Haitian pastors' appetite for learning. Every two weeks some walk as much as six hours one way to get to their study center. One man on La Gonave has to start walking the day before classes. He sleeps under a tree beside the path and gets up early the next morning to finish walking. When these pastors are at the center, they may have to sleep on a rough church pew. Amazingly, I rarely heard complaints about the physical discomforts and sacrifices they made to participate in the extension program.

As we started our first group on La Gonave, I tried to hold enrollment to a maximum of 12 students. A smaller class size enables the professor to give students personalized attention. It also allows for more class participation by each individual. I also knew it would be easier to find sleeping places for a limited group of pastors.

At that time we only had 3 ordained pastors among the 30 serving on La Gonave. All 27 of the others wanted to be in that first group. District Superintendent Lorius Dessources helped narrow down the list of applicants to 12 men. We sent word to those 12 that they had been accepted.

On the first day of classes, those 12 men showed up. So did 6 other pastors. I patiently explained that only those officially enrolled could participate in the program. I explained why we wanted to limit class size. I tried to explain our problems with feeding and housing more than a dozen. Solemnly they all nodded. I thought they understood.

Two weeks later the class met again. This time eight extra men showed up. Again I tried to convince them that there would eventually be a place in a class for everyone. They needed to be patient, to wait their turn.

I finally got through to everyone -- except Fils Garilomme. He kept coming. He knew he wasn't in the class. He couldn't sit with those that were enrolled. So, he would wait outside until the class session got underway in the back corner of the sanctuary. Then he would slip in the side door opening off the platform. Sitting up on one of the front pews, Fils would strain intently, trying to hear what was said in the back of the church. He even brought along a notebook and painstakingly took notes.

I talked to him in private. I told him we did not have enough food to feed him. "No problem," he said.

I told him I wasn't sure we could find a place for him to sleep. "No problem," he said. Sure enough, in the evenings he just disappeared. To this day I have no idea where he slept. Before long, at mealtimes, I noticed that everyone in the group was taking a little less. They had apparently convinced the cooks to slip a plate out back to pastor Garilomme.

I marveled at this young man. Every two weeks he was willing to walk several hours even though I held out no hope of him getting credit for the classes. "No problem," he said. He just wanted to learn how to be a better pastor. After nearly a year, the Lord started talking to me about Garilomme. I relented and let him enroll in the class.

When I started going to La Gonave for this extension group, I thought I would be the teacher. I became a student instead. Fils Garilomme taught me a lot of things. An unwavering determination to fulfill his divine calling drove him to turn obstacles into stepping stones. He cared deeply for his people. His love for them drove him to learn how to pastor. Men like him are clear evidence that the Kingdom has come. Their willingness to pay any price, to make any sacrifice to preach the gospel, guarantees that the deaf world will hear the Good News.

Sanctified, Spirit-filled Haitians like Rev. Garilomme are being prepared to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom to those newly unstopped ears. Fils Garilomme is a sign that the Messiah is at work.

Missionary training ground

While we've been training pastors and evangelists in Haiti, another kind of school has also been operating. Haiti has been a school for many Nazarene missionaries filling key positions in our global outreach. Among these was pioneer missionary Paul Orjala. After three five-year terms in Haiti, Paul Orjala left to become Nazarene Theological Seminary's first professor of missions. Dr. Orjala accomplished a lot during his 14 years in Haiti. He also learned a lot of things. The lessons he learned in Haiti were used to train young people now serving as Nazarene missionaries.

Walter and Linda Crow got their start in Haiti. From there they went to open the work in France. After getting that work started, Walt spent five years as president of European Nazarene Bible College.

Harry Rich, who went on to become district superintendent in French-speaking Quebec, began his cross-cultural career in Haiti.

Terry Read was one of Dr. Paul Orjala's students at seminary. Terry began his missionary career in Haiti. After two terms there he transferred to Brazil. He spent some years teaching missions at Nazarene seminary in Kansas City before, returning to missionary service in French-speaking Africa.

For several years Steve Weber was director of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. Working out of the World Mission Division office in Kansas City, he oversaw Nazarene involvement with primary and secondary education, medical work, disaster relief, and economic development. He helped channel Nazarene responses to needs in countries where we didn't yet have churches. Before going to Kansas City, Steve and Linda Weber were missionaries to Haiti. Before that he, too, had studied at seminary under Paul Orjala.

Gene Smith heads French publications at Headquarters. He spent most of his missionary career in Haiti before helping launch the new work in Martinique. Serving with him in Martinique was Brenda Gould, who had begun her missionary career in Haiti.

There are others whose missionary service in Haiti enriched their ministries. These include Bob Brown, who left Haiti for Nicaragua. From there he went to the Philippines. Michelene Collins started her missionary career in Haiti. She's now married and serving in Malawi. Craig and Gail Zickefoose spent part of a term in Haiti. They now head up Work and Witness in Venezuela.

Through the years, lots of Nazarene young people have gone to Haiti on short mission trips. They've been touched in special ways by Haiti and the Haitian Nazarenes. The list of those young people includes John Seaman, pioneer missionary in French-speaking Africa, as well as myself. In 1970, John and I went to Haiti on a missions field trip for seminary students. Those three weeks in a group led by Dr. Paul Orjala made deep impressions on both of us.

Orjala. Crow. Rich. Read. Weber. Morrow. Smith. And all the others. They went to Haiti to serve. While there they were also served. They went to impart, but they also took in. They went to teach, but they were also taught. The Kingdom is striking back. Its assault force grows stronger as mission fields like Haiti become missionary training and recruiting centers.

The signs of the Messiah are clear. He has come. He is at work. . . . [ continue reading

  Page:  ←Prev   |   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 poor are hearing the Good News

arrow pointing rightThe response of Jesus to John's followers finds an echo today on a Caribbean island. The prairie fire is out of control. The gospel is being preached to the poor. The Kingdom is striking back! . . . [ more ]

    -- Howard Culbertson,

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

More for you on Haiti

You might also like these