Annual conferences of the Haitian FMC will be convened at various times through the months of October, November and December. Pray conference participants will have discernment and business, and conference elections will run smoothly. Pray for both Rick Ireland and Bishop David Roller who will be attending.
As a missionary, one has feet in two different worlds. When I left my world of origin (Western New York) and moved to Haiti, I had a great deal to both learn and to unlearn. I am learning a new language. I have had to learn to drive as driving here in Haiti is a completely different experience than in the US. I could go on but I suspect you don’t have too much trouble coming up with things one might have to learn when one moves to a different country. It didn’t surprise me that I had new things to learn. What has surprised me is how much I have had to unlearn. I have had to unlearn that water is freely available and safe to drink. I have to keep a jug of “safe” water in my bathroom to rinse my toothbrush. I have had to unlearn that electricity is a given. Between learning to use an inverter, checking the water in my battery bank, and maintaining my generator for those frequent times that the municipal electric isn’t working, I spend hours a week just to ensure I have something I never had to think much about in my old world. I have had to unlearn that the safety of my food supply is mostly a given. I have had to unlearn that a quick trip to Walmart will supply me with most anything I might need. There is not a Walmart or even a McDonalds in the entire country of Haiti that I am aware of. A quick trip? Not.
This past summer Cookie and I spent several months in the US visiting our supporting churches. It seemed odd to leave this world (Haiti) and re-enter that one. It sure made me appreciate how blessed we in the US really are. It also made me very aware that I have my feet in two different worlds in a way that I had not really thought of before. Then I thought further and I realized that living with one’s feet in two different worlds was not a new experience after all. I invited Jesus into my world (or perhaps more correctly I entered His) at the ripe old age of 27. I had a lot to learn. Before that “grace” was a quick prayer some people said before they ate. I used to think that was kind of odd. Now grace means something very different. I have learned a lot of new words as a Christian. I learned a new way to spend Sundays. I learned a new way to treat the people in my world. The Bible has become more than a dusty book on my bookshelf. I had some things to unlearn as well. My language could be pretty “salty”. It has been a lifetime struggle to move from being “self centered” to “Christ centered”. I am still working on that one; it’s a lifetime journey.
Hebrews 11 celebrates the lives of heroes of the faith. It makes this observation:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16, NIV)
Did you get that? They were and we are “aliens and strangers”. The point is simple and basic: as Christians we walk with one foot in this world and one foot in His world. As we allow God to reshape us from what we were and are into what He has designed us to be, we have things to learn and things to unlearn. God is watching us with more than a passing interest. How is it going? Rick
Cookie and I are supported in our work in Haiti by people like you. If you would like to be a part of our team and support us financially or prayerfully (both are needed) go to our website at www.servinghaiti.com where you will find links under the “Join Us” tab.
4 a.m., January 12, 2011
I can’t sleep. I have gotten up, dressed, fired up the coffee pot and am sitting here at my computer, well … reflecting. Last night, even Haitians that have repaired and/or rebuilt their homes (there are many) slept outside. A rumor has been going around that a second earthquake will hit on this anniversary of the first one. For Haitians it has been a year of loss. They have lost family members, homes and jobs. It has been a year of putting their lives back together. Today, a holiday has been declared, and churches all over the country will have special services.
In a few hours, I will attend a special service at the site of the collapsed guest house. The spouses of all those who died a year ago will be there. Dale Woods from World Missions will lead a special service. We will remember, and there is a lot to remember.
One year ago, I was the pastor of the Nash Road Free Methodist Church just north of Buffalo, NY. I had begun to prepare for being a missionary to Haiti but didn’t expect to get there for another year. Shortly after the earthquake hit the news, my daughter Kate called. She was engaged to be married to Been Valcin, a Haitian who lived in Port-au-Prince. Somehow he had managed to get a brief phone call out so we knew he and his family had survived. We didn’t hear anything more for ten days. Two weeks later, I was on a plane to the Dominican Republic. From there I drove into Haiti with a small advance team. The stench of death was everywhere. I had been given the task of working alongside the Haitian national leaders in relief and recovery, and in putting the mission operation back together. And over the last year, that is what we have done.
In almost 30 locations, Free Methodist schools and churches were damaged or destroyed. Most people of Port-au-Prince (2.5 million people) were living in tents, at best. The most recent estimates are that a million people are still in tents. We have made substantial progress, but there is still a long way to go. A full recovery is years away. But as I look back, I see a lot has been done. In the early days, we had food distributions in all our earthquake-impacted churches. We had special programming for the children. We organized free medical clinics conducted by Haitian doctors and nurses. We provided for temporary housing for our pastors. One year later, our focus is rebuilding. In those locations where buildings could be repaired, they have been repaired. We have managed to get decent temporary structures in those locations that lost everything. We have provided training for pastors and builders to know how to build earthquake-resistant structures, and they have repaired and rebuilt using what they learned.
As I look at the state of the church here in Haiti, I am filled with hope. The last three Sundays I have been in three different churches. One was a permanent building that survived the quake, and two were temporary structures designed for 1,000 or more to attend. None of them were big enough to contain the people who showed up. God is moving across the face of Haiti, and it is a privilege to be here and watch.
January 12, 2011
I sit at the FOHO complex as I write. Just down the street, the largest Free Methodist church in Haiti began services at 6 a.m. The services will last all day. I can hear the people worship. They are not sad. They are not defeated. They do not mourn. Instead, I hear joyous singing. Shouts of “Hallelujah!” Church overflowing. The church being the church in times of great struggle and great opportunity.
Yes, as I have been in Haiti, I have seen the U.S. headlines on the internet. “Haiti Still in Crisis.” “Haiti Struggles to Rebuild.” Many sound bites, many authors. I can only report what I see in Haiti. I think my headline would be: “Progress and Accomplishment.” The nation has changed and progressed. It is amazing what has happened in the last year. Much, much progress. Personally, I cannot believe how much has been accomplished from one year ago. Yes, much still needs to be done – the task is huge.
Yes, people still live in tents. But, fewer people than a year ago. Rubble is being cleared; houses are being built; people are working; and students are going to school. The nation faces many challenges, but there is great hope.
I am proud of the church. I am proud of the Free Methodist Church and our partner organizations in Haiti. Sunday we worshiped at Puit Blain, a church that was overflowing, as many churches are today in Haiti. I was able to participate in an infant dedication. The pastor told me the stories of the mothers and fathers coming to Christ after the earthquake, and now, a year later bringing their children to be dedicated. Yes, many of our churches are in temporary structures like the one you see here. On Sunday we worshiped under tarps – all 1,500 of us! We worshiped in tarps; however, all of us could look out and see the new church being constructed – again, great hope for the future.
Perhaps you have heard stories of aid organizations not spending relief money. This is not true of the Free Methodist Church. According to missionary Rick Ireland, 95% of the relief money has been distributed. Medicine. Tents. Water. Wells. Schools. Churches. Houses. Thank you for making a difference in Haiti!
In a few minutes, all the families of those who died in the FOHO building will gather at the grave site. Haitians and Americans, united in hope and anticipation of what God will do tomorrow in Haiti. This will not be a service of grief, but of anticipation for what God will do in the future.
Thanks for praying. Thanks for giving. And, thank you for your willingness to continue support of an amazing movement of God in Haiti!
July 12 was the six-month anniversary of what has been described as the greatest natural disaster in recorded history. A major metropolitan area (Port- au-Prince is home to one- fourth of Haiti’s population) was hit by a major earthquake. The response of the Free Methodist Church was immediate and generous. Over $1.6 million has been received from churches in the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic and around the world. To date, more than a mil lion of that has been distributed.
The full report can be reviewed in PDF format HERE.
Funeral services for Haitian Pastor David Charles, who was murdered Wednesday, May 26, will be held Saturday, June 5. As Pastor Charles was leaving a Port-au-Prince bank after cashing a check, two motorcycle robbers accosted him to steal his money (and perhaps kidnap him). While the robbery was taking place, a security guard stepped into view. The robbers panicked, shot the guard and Pastor Charles, killing them both, and then fled. Pastor Charles was the legal representative for the Haiti Annual Conference.
Missionary Rick Ireland Reflects May 29, 2010
Every Thursday at noon, a group of Free Methodist Haitian pastors gathers in the office of the General Superintendent for a time of worship and prayer. I happened be there as they gathered this week. The mood was somber. The day before, a prominent and beloved pastor had been robbed and killed as he left his bank after withdrawing some money to replace his car. The murdered pastor’s son was among those who slowly and quietly filed in. Each greeted the grieving son. Someone handed out hymnals and one of the pastors led out the singing, marking time with the snap of his fingers. The first song was slow and sad. A pastor prayed. The second song was a bit more upbeat. Another pastor prayed. And so the pattern continued. At one point, a pastor opened his Bible and began to preach. I couldn’t understand all the words but the name “Job” figured prominently. More singing and praying followed. And though I did not understand all the words (except the ones I was asked to share), I did watch in wonder as God filled that space, lifting people up in a difficult time. By the end of the meeting, even the grieving son was singing these songs of faith. As the impromptu service wound down, there was still sadness but there was also quiet resolution. These pastors did not face the future alone. They have one another, and they have a God who is bigger than their suffering, and who understands their suffering, sharing the journey.
Our faith doesn’t exempt us from suffering. What I could see first hand is that what faith does do is give us the resources to face the suffering that is part of life in a fallen world. We do not serve a God who is watching a show from a distance. We serve a God who took on the very flesh of man, experienced life in its joy and sorrow, in its victory and its suffering – a God who understands the pain of grieving over a much too early death. There is a strength in that and I saw it in the faces of the men as they left that day.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV) we read:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
I saw that lived out in the in the flesh this week. These pastors are no strangers to suffering. They have lived through floods, political upheaval, and now earthquakes. Everyone of them lost people close to them on January 12. They knew the pain of the grieving son, but they knew the Son who saw them though the suffering of the past would be there in this as well.
I knew the pastor who died. I will miss his quiet gentle spirit and his words of encouragement as I adapt to life in this very different place. I am strong in the reality that this time of separation is not permanent. We will meet again.
Free Methodist World Missions received the following report from Rick Ireland at approximately 6:00 p.m. today, Wed., May 26:
About two hours ago Haitian Pastor David Charles was murdered in Port-au-Prince. He was secretary of the Haiti Annual Conference. This death will have a big impact on the national leadership team. The circumstances, as we currently understand them, are that as Pastor Charles was leaving the bank after cashing a check, two motorcycle robbers accosted him to steal his money (and perhaps kidnap him). While the robbery was taking place, a security guard stepped into view. The robbers panicked, shot the guard and Pastor Charles, killing them both, and then fled.
More details will be released as they are available.
Update from Rick Ireland
Phases 1 and 2 of the recovery plan (which have been completed) included the following:
- More than 1,000 people were vaccinated and more than 2,000 people were seen in free clinics. These clinics were staffed by Haitian medical people volunteering their time to serve their churches and communities.
- We (the steering committee) have worked extensively with the local churches to develop programming for children prior to the restart of school.
- We conducted distributions at every church in the West and South Districts. Some of these churches are hours from Port-au-Prince, and this was the only help these people received. We have also distributed relief supplies to school staffs.
- We have given grants to 29 pastors to provide for provisional shelter and to an additional 19 pastors to assist in repairing their homes.
- We have assisted a number of churches in demolition. The typical pattern is that local church people provide the labor to take down the buildings and we provide money to have the rubble hauled away.
- We have been identifying and funding projects that can be accomplished with Haitian labor.
- We have made major progress in rebuilding the financial system and hope to be done in the next week or so.
- The Bible school has restarted.
- Nearly a dozen sites have lost both their church and school. We are working hard to get at least one usable structure at every site.
- New building materials are being tested: a new (to us) steel frame building structure and a new (to Haiti) type of foam core building.
- We are expecting a major shipment of tents.
- We are looking at the possibility of a second pastors’ retreat. The first retreat was limited to only West and South District pastors. We would like to do something for all pastors and wives. The earthquake has had an impact far beyond Port-au-Prince. Superintendent Charite reports that in his region alone the population has swelled by 156,000 people and the schools are serving 20,000 additional students.
- We are planning major subsidies to all FM schools to assist them in paying for staff.
- We need to continue to rebuild the administrative structure of the mission in Haiti. This begins with finances but there are a number of other things, such as government reports and permits that need to be brought up to date as the government structure gets back to normal.
VISA Need in Haiti:
The FM recovery program in Haiti requires a geotechnical engineer to join a small team of structural engineers departing soon.
DUTIES: Help in the ongoing assessments of selected FM churches and schools which remain standing following the January earthquake. Help prepare a brief report on findings and conclusions.
ELIGIBILITY: A qualified geotechnical engineer experienced in time-efficient field assessments. A team player who understands and is in full sympathy with the Christian basis for this work is needed for this mission.
MISSION DURATION: approximately one week.
TIMING: soon – to be arranged in consultation with the team leader. Interested individuals should e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver
The Free Methodist Church has responded in incredible ways to the crisis of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. From the beginning, God has clearly been at work confirming an action plan that not only provided immediate relief, but is producing long-range impact through rebuilding projects and healthy long-term sustainability.
Two key leadership gatherings in Haiti:
Bishop Roller visited Haiti immediately after the earthquake. A few days later, was on site. The unanimous decision was to submit to the leadership of the Haitian superintendents with the following results:
- They formed a Response Steering Committee: six Haitian superintendents and Pastor Rick Ireland as administrator.
- They determined three priorities for relief and reconstruction – which they have maintained in spite of criticism and pressure to broaden their response:
- Rebuild schools so that the children – including those sponsored through ICCM – can continue their education, and their lives can begin to normalize.
- Rebuild pastor’s houses that were destroyed by the earthquake so they can minister to others.
- Rebuild damaged church buildings.
A month after the earthquake Bishop Roller, Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver, and Dr. Linda Adams, Director of International Child Care Ministries, returned to Haiti for a consultation with Haitian leadership that had been planned before the earthquake.
We observed the following results:
- Free Methodist leadership in Haiti has worked with wisdom to help FMWM avoid an approach that creates unhealthy dependency. Rather than only reacting to immediate relief needs, the leadership is working towards implementing long-term sustainable systems that truly set up the people to continue caring for themselves.
- The level of spiritual maturity and leadership among the Haitian Superintendents was impressive.
- The way the Response Steering Committee is using the relief money is an example of stewardship and of excellent principles of missions for the 21st century.
- There is an encouraging partnership with other mission organizations and aid agencies leveraging Free Methodist resources to go farther and accomplish more.
It is clear to see that forty years of missionary work are bearing fruit.
In the first video immediately after the earthquake, Bishop Roller asked the worldwide church for money and simultaneously made a commitment to walk long term alongside the Haitian Church to help rebuild Haiti. This commitment implies more than just relief, which only lasts short term. Our commitment seeks even farther-reaching results as we continue working on the long-term plan fleshed out by our Haitian leaders: better schools, better homes, better church buildings. This plan that we are privileged to support will empower the Haitian people to rebuild Haiti and walk more boldly into the future God has for them as a people.
Recently the pastors of the West and South Districts impacted by the earthquake met to review progress to date and to look ahead. A lot is going on. Over the past couple of weeks, 6,500 food packs were passed out through the pastors at 27 church locations. Each food pack contained enough food for a person for a week.
Most of the pastors there had benefited from a grant program initiated by the Haitian Relief Steering Committee. Pastors who lost homes they owned were eligible for a grant to assist in taking down the homes and clearing rubble. All pastors with homes in the earthquake were eligible for a grant to assist in building temporary structures until more permanent solutions can be implemented. The temporary homes are already going up. Money has also been authorized to assist Mission staff and Child Care staff. The money not only helps the pastors and other staff, it provides much-needed jobs as people are hired to assist. Following the meeting each pastor received lunch, a bag of food, a case of water and other items.
Another popular program has been a series of health and immunization clinics run by Haitian doctors and nurses volunteering their time. More than 600 have been immunized, and hundreds have been treated in these free clinics.
A major challenge on the horizon is the rebuilding of damaged or destroyed churches and schools. In some locations one or the other building is repairable but in many locations all buildings have been ruined. We are looking for ways to provide temporary structures until buildings can be replaced. So far three damaged churches have been repaired. In two of those locations the schools had minimal damage, but in one, it was totally destroyed. The schools will be able to use the church buildings on a temporary basis.
Keep Haiti in your prayers. The hard work has only just begun. It is going to take years to fully recover.
International Child Care Ministries Director Dr. Linda Adams and Director of Advancement Dr. John Hay, Jr. joined a team of well drillers and Free Methodist missionary Rev. Rick Ireland in a relief and response mission to Haiti last week. Here is Linda’s preliminary report:
1. I am cautiously optimistic that very few of our children have died. School directors hesitate to give reports yet because of the vast scattering of people to refugee camps and to live with relatives in the countryside. So far we have learned of only four deaths among our sponsored children. Of course, four is heartbreaking, but is fewer than I had feared.
2. We have a few school buildings that are total losses–just piles of rubble. Several others will need some fairly major repairs. A few just need debris to be cleared away and a few surface cracks patched. However, with the frequent aftershocks, nobody is interested in “having a roof over their heads,” so we’ll have to see how this develops over time.
3. The Haitian ICCM staff met together for most of a day. It was their first time to be together, their first time to hear the harrowing accounts of each others’ January 12 events and the next 18 days. All have lost housing. All are sleeping outside. Most have relatives who are injured. Some have relatives who have died. But we sang, and prayed, and cried, and ate, and laughed, and began to think about where to go from here. “We are alive,” they said, “and so we have something important to accomplish for God and for the children.” The team is more dedicated than ever to the task of serving Jesus and his children through ICCM. We are providing immediate relief for our 20 employees and their families (a tent, a water filter kit, a solar oven, a locker at the ICCM office, 5 ICCM tee-shirts, some rice and beans and a small amount of cash). Our Haitian ICCM staff is spending this week surveying the 53 Haitian ICCM school directors to guide relief efforts for sponsored children and school employees.
4. All schools in Haiti are suspended until March 12 because of the state of emergency and the loss of the Ministry of Education. This means that even in other parts of the country, school is not in session. Still, where possible, our schools are still serving lunches for children.
5. ICCM has a shipping container with 270,000 meals and 12 solar cookers arriving in Haiti any day now. The first $25,000 of ICCM Special Projects funds have been hand-carried into Haiti and are being used according to approved plans.
6. I will return Feb. 27 for a week. We have a massive task ahead and I want to walk with our Haitian partners into a promising future on behalf of Haiti’s children. I thank God for the privilege of sharing in this ministry with our Haitian brothers and sisters.