Missonaries have much to do in Haiti

February 02, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

Give them Jesus. Give them work. Feed them.

The rocky streets are dusty from the soil slipping off bare mountains where mahogany forests once grew. People relieve themselves in public whenever they feel the urge. Indoor plumbing is a distant dream. The fluid runs down the street, mixed with gray water from houses, to create small streams everywhere.

Empty containers, fruit and vegetable peels, and plastic bags are strewn everywhere. The poor sift through to find what's useful. The goats and pigs get a second shot at it, and then the rest is set afire. The smell of burning trash hangs in the air.

This is the capital city, Port-Au-Prince, where one would expect to see the best living conditions. It is worse than the poorest portion of any American inner city, and it is the norm for the country.


A plumber from Harrodsburg, a farmer from Perryville, a jailer from Danville and more than two dozen others from Central Kentucky paid $1,304 each to come here.

Willingly, they left their families, homes and took vacation time to clothe, to feed and to preach to these impoverished people.

There are more vendors on the street than people buying. The goods they sell are owned by a few, who steadily grow richer while the vendors stay poor. They must sell food while hunger gnaws on them and their children. The temptation to steal must be overwhelming. If they don't bring back money for the goods, they owe or face a beating. It is a desperate situation.

When they aren't hungry or ravaged by alcoholism in a vain attempt to forget their own harsh lives, many face the fear of Voodoo spirits. Have they pleased the spirits? Has their neighbor cursed them? Will they receive the favors for which they ask?

Joe Mobley, who is there with Crusades for Christ, believes that Jesus can free them from their fears, forgive them and secure their place in heaven. He has been coming to Haiti since 1979. Once the site of one of his first, and now largest church, Big Baptist, a voodoo priest tried to turn him into a dog. Despite jokes from his missionary team, the curse never took.

Thousands have been converted

Crusades missionaries have converted thousands of Haitians. During the first week of a January revival, preachers from Kentucky and Indiana saved 140 souls and witnessed 260 decisions to come back to the Lord.

What isn't counted and what can't be measured is how much the Haitians have brought to the missionaries.

"We come over here and try to be a blessing and we get blessed more than we could possibly bless," Mobley said.

They cry when they see the poverty and are stunned by living conditions. They cuddle handicapped children and give piggy back rides to orphans. They deliver the clothes, medicine and toys they've brought over in their suitcases and trunks.

"We come to give the physical - Bibles, clothes and medicine - but we end up giving self and realize that this is more important than anything else," Mobley said.

The missionaries spend much of their time visiting the churches, schools and orphanages with which Crusades works. When they go home to their churches to talk about Haiti, they will raise money for projects that still need to be done. Most of the labor done by Crusades missionaries is skin deep. The money they've raised at home is used to hire Haitians to complete projects.

Among the projects completed this January were: tile laid in a downtown church; built the walls and foundation on another church in a new neighborhood; taught more than 200 pastors at a college; built a roof on another church; painted a gynecology clinic; rebuilt computer networks; and fixed a foot bridge that thousands of pedestrians use to cross from one neighborhood to another.

All of these projects are suggested by the Haitian pastors, not the missionaries.

"It took me a long time to find out that it's not our country, we're just visitors here. We do it their way," said Jerry Cheatham.

During the two weeks in Port-Au-Prince, Mobley will visit with pastors who come to plead their cases and pitch projects to the missions. He will have missionaries check on the status and then Crusades prays to make the right decision about what projects it will help complete when the mission teams return in July.

"If we had a million dollars, we'd spend it," Cheatham said.

What do the Haitians need most? Asked this question, Johnny Joseph, who became a Christian with the help of an American missionary at 7, said, "Give them Jesus. Give them work. Feed them."

Local Missionaries: James Edward Brammer, Trisha Claunch, Leroy Hagan, James Harley, Loren Kaenzig, Pappy Yocum and Ken Meredith, all of Harrodsburg; Deborah Derringer, of Springfield; Kim Divine of Perryville; Barry Harmon and Tony Hunt of Danville; and John Mark Johnson, Jerry Kays, Judi Kays and Edward Lynn Parr, all of Salvisa.

Central Kentucky News Articles