3. Regional Directors, Demons, and the Dominican Republic
In this ebook, Howard Culbertson answers questions that were asked in
church services across the United States during a home assignment year. Originally published by
what is now The Foundry for the Nazarene Missions International mission book series, this
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, the Church of the Nazarene has had some years of rapid 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
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. [ more on voodoo
and demonic possession ]
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
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 facilitated
by the World Mission office in the Global Ministry Center of the Church of the Nazarene.
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 Missions International office at the Global Ministry Center in
Lenexa, KS. 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
their 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 surgery 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 in London, halfway around the globe. In the Church of the
Nazarene, we have been experimenting for several years with the regional director idea. Today
the Church of the Nazarene operates six regional offices in the six
world mission areas. These are: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eurasia, Mesoamerica, South America, and
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 Mesoamerica
region has employed a Spanish-language literature representative
who will see that Spanish-language needs are addressed in district gatherings all across that
region. The Foundry (formerly 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 Global Ministry Center in the Kansas City area 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
assist all Nazarenes everywhere with things like Sunday School, youth activities ad NMI
Rather than fragmenting our church, the regional offices are helping to draw our global church
together. . . . [ more ]