Tina O’Kelley, World Relief Communications, serving in Haiti
Christians help people, right? It is our privilege to step in when there is a need and respond with compassion and our abundant resources. Desperate people – we go fix it.
Isn’t that what Jesus called us to do?
Here is a story that might end differently than you would think. Table du Seigneur (The Lord’s Table) is a little church in Bertain, a town just 15 miles outside of Port-au-Prince, up on a steep hillside perched over a river. Pastor Bertrand Lynché has been leading the service here in a building too small to hold his congregation. Every Sunday, churchgoers stood outside, and Pastor Bertrand dreamed of a larger building that could accommodate everyone. Not being on the radar of any foreign aid organizations, Pastor Bertrand felt he would never see his dream come to pass. One day, he was invited to an UMOJA seminar by Romnal Colas of World Relief. It was explained to him that UMOJA is a new approach to development using the Bible as a tool to help communities identify their strengths and use their resources to help themselves and others.
Pastor Bertrand accepted and with two deacons in his church, joined about twenty other pastors and church leaders to hear about overcoming problems by using the resources at hand.
During the week long seminar, Pastor Bertrand got the point – If I can expand the vision of my church members with this new approach, WE can expand our church building. After months of encouragement on the part of their pastor, Table du Seigneur responded. Without waiting for outside aid, they gathered money, materials and community support for the addition. “We are almost finished with the work. We did it ourselves and are very proud,” reports Pastor Bertrand.
Work in Haiti is often accomplished against a backdrop of thoughtful discussion: How can aid be given so that we promote community initiative and avoid fostering dependency? Are we taking over when we should stand at the sidelines and cheer on the Haitian church? How can we encourage local pastors to envision their own solutions and not wait on ours? These questions are not unique to work in Haiti, of course, but are especially important here where so many come, wanting to fix problems and help out.
World Relief Haiti did step in and give a gift to Pastor Bertrand, a way of moving forward that is not dependent and powerless but connects the church directly to the creative power of God. Now, if we visit, we’ll fit inside, but soon, perhaps, Table du Seigneur will need a new addition. Any church with this kind of vision is likely to see God bring an increase, more than they could “ask or imagine.”
*Thank you to Jeff Saintphard, World Relief Haiti Facilitator for the eyewitness account of Table du Seigneur.