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In Haiti, ‘the solution is development’

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti — Despite the pervasiveness of voodoo in Haiti, “the church is spreading,” says Fonrose Teogene.
The native Haitian is administrator of the Center for Biblical Training in Cap-Haitien, a church-supported ministry school that sends young preachers across the region. At least 150 Churches of Christ exist in northern Haiti, and the center’s graduates actively plant new ones, Teogene says.
However, few congregations can support their ministers. In fact, many church members rely on ministers for assistance.
Teogene and his fellow Haitian ministers have attempted to break the cycle of dependence through micro-loan programs, encouraging church members to become entrepreneurs.
Thus far, they have experienced little success, he said. Yet they remain convinced that, to address their country’s needs, “the solution is development.”
Increasingly, U.S. church members are shifting the focus of their mission trips from relief and handouts to training and life skills.
Recently, Christians from Colorado, Wyoming, Louisiana and Arkansas traveled to Haiti with hand-crank sewing machines. The church members taught sewing classes.
“The class in Cap-Haitien said that the first thing they planned to do was buy fabric and make dresses for girls in an orphanage,” said Barbara Dean, a church member in Colorado and coordinator of the sewing project. “We hoped that they would each start a business to support themselves, but they were thinking first of how they could bless others.”
Other U.S. church members have taught courses on gardening, electrical engineering and diesel engine mechanics.
Haitian churches, meanwhile, are launching their own ministry initiatives, including Bethesda, a retirement home for aging church members.
Two-thirds of Haitians have no formal employment, and the country has no system of social security, explained Michelle Toussant, who oversees the home. The ministry, supported by churches in the U.S., allows Haitian Christians who reach old age to be cared for in a safe environment.
“This place means a lot to us,” said Seladon Ladonis, age 76, speaking through a translator, as a visiting nurse took his blood pressure. “We have food and shelter, and we have worship on the porch. I’m very happy in this place.”
When asked about his dream for his country, his answer was simple — “that it will change.”
For more information on development-based mission trips to Haiti, see www.wfr.org/missions/HCP/Menu.htm .

Filed under: International

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