I write this as I am on a plane on the way home from the amazing country of Haiti. Haiti was in the news a lot a few years ago when a very severe earthquake hit the country and thousands of people lost their lives. Much of the publicity from the media towards the nation of Haiti shows a nation of poverty and hopelessness. It is true that Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world. However there is so much about Haiti to love. I want you to know what I love about Haiti. I spent 5 days with a pastor named Lesly Bertrand who has planted over 30 churches in the last 35 years in Haiti. It grieves him that much of the publicity towards Haiti is negative. Pastor Lesly loves his country and the people of his country and he wants the world to know that Haiti is an amazing place. I agree with him.
On Saturday we flew into Port-a-Prince and found a whole different world from the one we left just two hours earlier in Miami. Once our team exited the airport we found many people wanting to help us with our bags. Many of these were young children with hunger in their eyes just hoping the rich Americans may give them a little bit of money. Port-a-Prince is a very busy city that is packed with people, vendors, dust and smoke. It is a bit overwhelming. The rules of the road seem to be chaotic while the horns on the cars never stop beeping. The scenery quickly changed as we left the city. We had a beautiful scenic drive to the mountains of Haiti. Most people don’t know that Haiti has some of the most beautiful country imaginable. The mountains are a mix of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mountains of Israel and a tropical island. This is an inspiring hot country that yields an abundance of amazing fruit. While in Haiti we had fresh organic bananas, mangos, watermelon, avocado, pineapple and a variety of other fruits. The people of the mountains were all warm and friendly. They live a quite and peaceful agricultural life. They live off of the land and off the farm animals they raise. The farming they do is 100% by hand. Each morning in Haiti you need no alarm clock as the air is filled with the sounds of roosters crowing everywhere.
What the people of Haiti do not have is part of what makes them so special. In America we live for entertainment. In the mountains of Haiti they have very little in the form of entertainment. Most places do not have power and the people are extremely poor. What they lack in material possessions they make up for in time spent together. The people in the communities of Haiti all know one another. They live in very tight knit neighborhoods that will stop whatever they are doing if someone in the community needs help. Very few of the people of Haiti have transportation other than their feet. Those who do have transportation (usually in the form of a small motorcycle) are more than ready to allow who ever needs a ride to ride with them. It was not uncommon to see 4 people on one of these small motorcycles. Most Haitians do not have a TV so they sit around and actually talk to each other (I know…crazy right?).
The churches in Haiti taught me so much. On Sunday I was blessed to preach in a church that crammed over 100 people in a small tin building that was literally held up with sticks. It was hot and this American was covered in sweat. None of the Haitians were aware that they needed a nice building and air conditioning to worship God. The worship of the people was so strong and pure.
These people have nothing.
They literally need to trust Jesus for everything.
They are totally dependent on Him even for their next meal.
The church did not have a sound system and it didn’t need one. Most songs are sung with only the instruments of the people’s voices. They do not sing with their voices alone but they sing with their hearts and souls. They all sing as loud as they can with their hands lifted in praise to the Lord. The services are long with much prayer and singing. The sermon is on average one hour and if you do not preach that long then you have done the people a disservice. All of the children are in the service with the adults. From newborns to children of all ages they are in the worship service for the duration. I was amazed at the children. Small children did not complain or move during the long and hot service. They were perfectly behaved (Most of them just stared at our team the whole time). Oh and how the church prays! They do not pray with arms folded in silent introspection. They do not ask one person to pray. They all pray…out loud! They attack the throne of God with begging and pleading. They lift their hands. They lift their voices and they beg God to answer them. They seamlessly flow into a song from the prayer time. It was such an encouragement to see these brothers and sisters worship.
I was in Haiti with Pastor David Bridwell and my dad (Tom Hermann). Pastor David and I were commissioned to lead a pastor’s conference of mountain pastors. We taught the book of 1 Timothy and some basics on sermon preparation and planning. My dad taught one night on prayer and served as our prayer warrior and personal bodyguard.
Pastors came from all over to the conference. We ended up with about 40 pastors in attendance. The pastors were so attentive, loving, and encouraging. They loved to talk about the Bible and what God is doing in their churches. Many of the pastors walked for hours to come to the conference. About half of them would sleep on the concrete floor of the mission house during the night because it was too far for them to travel home. The pastors woke up at 5:30AM singing praise to God. It was so sweet to hear these men wake up with praise on their lips.
The pastors in Haiti don’t get paid. They labor, study, give, listen, pray, counsel, visit and 100 other things that pastors do for riches in heaven. They do not complain about this. This is just the way it is and they count it an honor to serve the Lord.
For the two days of the pastors conference there were men and women that prepared meals for the pastors. To me these meals were good but seemed pretty basic, beans and rice and some form of meat and vegetable. It blew my mind when Pastor Lesly told me that this will be the best meal some of these pastors will have all year long.
WHAT I BRING BACK
I want to be thankful. I want to be mindful of all the blessings I have. I don’t want to simply live in comfort but do all I can to help others. I want to remember the face of the little girl who was about 3 years old at the church service I attended. I reached out to shake her hand and she looked at me with wanting eyes and rubbed her belly and communicated, “can you give me something to eat?” I would have taken her home. I would have given her whatever I could, but this was her life. Her existence would be one of struggle. God did not give us riches in America to horde but to invest. I pray I will remember that the church is global and there are millions around the world who do not even have their basic needs met. If I won’t help them, who will?
I want to love my community more. I want to see people in Greensboro come to Christ. I want the members of the church I pastor to have a heart to see their lost neighbors come to faith in Jesus. I want to take more people to foreign countries so they can understand how important it is that we as Americans be involved in what God is doing in the world. We can be such a blessing to these believers if we will take the time to open our eyes to the needs in the community and the needs of the world.
Haiti is full of beauty and wonder. It is a place that has captured my heart. I will pray for my pastor friends. I will continue to invest in their lives. I will be a better pastor to my people.
If you have never left the comfort of your community to go somewhere and share Jesus I pray you would obey the Lord’s commands and take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Save some money, go on mission. When you go to change the world you will find out that it is your world that will be changed.