hen my family moved to Omaha almost 13 years ago, we joined a mission oriented church, not only do we support many missionaries, we also send out a few, one of the missionary couples from our church is Dan and Liz, their son Joey is my second son's (Fiyin) best bud, so we are also family friends.
They being in Haiti, afforded the church to send mission teams to Haiti (we send 3-4 mission teams worldwide each year), while I travel a lot for my own itinerant ministry, I do travel with church teams sometimes, in 2011 for instance, I went to Nepal as a CCFI director in January alone, then the church requested I lead a team back in November. This is my 5th trip to Haiti (Ayiti), three with church mission and two (including this) as an itinerant teacher (CCFI Director).
This trip came about after a trip last year to Cayes (also known as Les Cayes - pronounced Kais). Last year I spoke primarily to orphan home parents and missionary couples (expats in Cayes), and the baptist mission MEBCH (very large denomination in Haiti) whose past president (Pastor Loudes) resides in Cayes requested that I come back after folks shared the content of the last conference with him (we have the BHM workbook in French). On one of my trips (in 2007), I had promised Pastor Compere, a leader in the body of Christ in Gonaive that i'll visit, but things just never worked out, so I ask Dan, if we could visit Gonaive this time as well, the answer was, Yes.
Like many of the places I visit, many Haitians and missionaries (expats they are called) have become good friends or even family, I did not realize this, until I got a call from an expat in PAP (Port-au-Prince) before I left the US, requesting that I spend some time with missionary couples (from a particular church), when he heard from Dan that I'll be around.
Dan and I were joined on this trip by Pastor Dominic (he had been an assoc. pastor at our local church), but now runs a bible school and is looking for God's direction regarding his mission curriculum and sending bible students to Haiti for short term missions, so this was a fact finding trip for him, his first to Haiti.
It was fun having Pastor Dom (left Omaha in 06), Dan and myself together again (all three of us are talkers), PD is an evangelist at heart (he seem to have grown in the prophetic as well), Dan has a pastor's heart, while i'm a teacher (always looking to break things down). We stayed in PAP (Port-au-Prince) the first night and we set out to Cayes, early Sunday morning. The trip lasted about 5 hours (we took a young lady with us who is a great interpreter - but folks in Haiti, would rather have a guy interprete - particularly on the subject i'm teaching - weird, they voiced it too), while the ride was bumpy because of the road, we had good conversations. On the ride back on Thursday, I taught my Haitian friends "Osuba re re o, Oba ta ori, ta a ri se owo re" and they converted it to Creole, and the church in Gonaive sang it (they love it).
In Cayes, we were hosted by the daughter and son-in-law of the senior pastor of First Baptist (they have first, second and third baptist churches) - this church, seats about 4000 and they have 3 services on a Sunday. They run what i'm told is the best school (K-12) in Cayes among other resources they provide. Dan later told me, that this was the first time since he has been hosting conferences in Haiti, that a host family would accommodate and feed, without taking any compensation and boy we were treated like royalties. Thank you Ricot and madam Ricot - God would honor you.
The three day conference started on Monday morning (that whole week was a carnival week - huge in Haiti and typically a vacation week, everything slows down), the venue was a beach (really Atlantic Ocean) front property owned by the Assemblies of God mission in southern Haiti province. We started each day at 8.30am and finished around 4.00pm (including questions), the third day was more an informal setting, with more questions and answers rather than teaching (even though I ended up teaching a little), the folks got to swim in the ocean after the Q and A session (not me). I met the AG medical mission couple (James - PT and Rachel - MD) and God sent us through PD to encourage them (would love to take a couple of MDs with me to Cayes some day).
On Thursday, we returned to PAP, were we dropped off PD (pastor Dominic) and we (Dan, Vionel - Haitian and myself) proceeded to Gonaive, what turns out to be a 3-4 hours trip, we got in late (after sunset). Gonaive is in north central Haiti, it has been in the news often because it has had two major floods (2004 and 2008) that killed thousands, in-fact my host Pastor Compere showed me the level of the 2008 flood on the church building, Gonaive is like NOLA, its a city below sea level and sits like a bowl, only that Gonaive is surrounded by mountains.
I was scheduled to speak twice a day, for two days (9-12 and 2-5 each day), but the 2-5 sessions were cancelled, but I was asked to preach at the Friday night prayer service, the cancellation was God sent because I was dog-tired and needed physical strength sourced away from my natural abilities.
Gonaive had hosted the annual "ancestors" festival in Haiti (lots of singing and dancing - like Madi Gras), just days before we arrived, and the churches usually provided alternative to the people during the festival, kind of like churches in the US doing hallowen alternatives. The first speaking session on Friday was tough, perhaps it was the atmosphere or perhaps it was the interpreter, a young kid grappling with my Yoruba/American accent (could be confusing) or the words that I was using that do not exist in Creole? but things got better after the first session.
Our host (house we stayed) in Gonaive is a missionary named Jan, she runs an orphanage among other stuff, and she had an interesting story,which I believe God used to prepare her for what she is doing now in Haiti (very amazing story). We visited the orphanage run by Pastor Compere (lots of orphanages in Gonaive). I also met an older lady, she very much looked (and dressed) like a poor Haitian until she opened her mouth, and out came an American accent, but then she'll switch to Creole also with perfect Ayiti accent, Ms. Prompter told me she's lived in Gonaive for 37 years (she left early, so I did not take any picture with her).
Upon getting to Haiti (the first day), I had asked after a couple who had always been around to assist in my travels, and I was told that they were struggling in their marriage, and had temporarily stepped down from ministry leadership. With the Saturday afternoon session in Gonaive cancelled, we went back to Port-au-Prince, so I can spend time with this couple, who agreed to see me (they honored God) at my request. Both Dan and I were tired, but we spent another 4 hours with them, and we left feeling that the Holy Spirit gave them revelation, it is now up to them to ask Him (the Holy Spirit) for help to do that which they know to do.
I requested that we spend Sunday morning resting (no speaking), and that was exactly what we did, although I could not sleep but I was able to relax, read and veg., and prepare to speak with missionary couples later in the day. We had lunch with our host couple in PAP, an Aussie couple (John and Josie), they've pastored for decades in Australia, John had traveled to many East African nations to speak, and they are wrapping up a three year pastor duty in Haiti. We shared experiences, they of African nations and me of their home city of Melbourne, and my love for their country.
Somehow, I had an unsettling feeling about the meeting I was to have with the expats, so I prayed about my feeling, and I believe the Holy Spirit told me many are wounded. I had agreed with Rich (one of the church elders) that the topic would be "First things First", while I stayed with the topic, I changed the content, it turned out God had a plan all along, many of the missionary couples felt convicted - about Prioritizing, they came and shared with me afterward and I might be going back, just to speak with the expat community in PAP. Lord, you've called these your loved ones, help them order their priorities and most importantly to lean on you, the assignment is yours to start with.
This gathering was the perfect way to finish a fulfilled but tiring 10 days. It is my prayer that the Lamb that was slain would receive the reward of His suffering, as the Holy Spirit bring revelation and His people obey, in Jesus name. Amen