Haiti has been much in the news in recent years, but not for the best of reasons. It has, for many years, experienced severe political instability following the overthrow of the Duvalier dynasty. At the moment the country is experiencing relative tranquillity, thanks to UN and American troops who occupy strategic points throughout the country. Visitors to the island are warned at the airport, before leaving the USA, that their safety going through the airport at Port-au-Prince, the only international airport in the country, cannot be assured.
Geographically, Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. It is considered by many to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Life expectancy is less than 50 years and infant mortality is running at over 10%. The languages spoken are French and Creole. The latter is a French-based dialect.
Religion is in evidence everywhere. The traveller can see verses of Scripture (usually from the Psalms) and religious slogans painted on the backs and sides of many vehicles. However, there are few churches where the true gospel of grace is clearly preached. The majority of the population (80%) would claim to be Roman Catholic, although many of them also practise voodoo, an indigenous cult and satanic religion.
Amongst the churches which claim to be ‘evangelical’, the charismatic movement is rampant, and the ‘gospel’ preached is unreservedly man-centred. ‘Decisionism’ is the order of the day, and the gospel of God’s sovereign grace in Christ is seldom heard. There is, however, one region in particular where there appears to be some interest in the gospel. This is in the north, around the town of Jean-Rabel. Access to the town of some 100,000 people is along a bumpy dirt road, which passes through dangerous bandit-ridden territory. There is no electricity, and only two telephones (both in the local post office) for the entire population.
Because of the poverty of the people, most of the preachers have secular jobs, through which they support their families. In Jean-Rabel one man gave up his job as a high school teacher in order to devote all his time to preaching the true gospel. The Lord has blessed his ministry and there are now several churches in the region where the gospel is clearly preached.
For a number of years, the French-language Christian broadcast, Echos de la Vérité, has been beamed towards the French-speaking countries of the Caribbean (Haiti, Guadeloupe and Martinique) from the FEBA station in Florida. Through this broadcast the gospel has been clearly preached for many years, yet there did not appear to be much interest on the part of the Haitian people. On a previous visit to the island the author did not discern any real understanding or desire for the gospel of grace.
A growing interest
However, over the past couple of years things seem to have changed. Many letters have been received from Haitian pastors, showing great interest in what they had heard on the radio. Although no publicity was given to this, some of them enquired about the possibility of doing a biblical training course for preachers. Such a course does exist in the French language and can in fact be accessed through Echos de la Vérité. Around thirty Haitian pastors have now begun the course.
As a result of the interest shown by the Haitian students, a conference was organized this summer for a number of them, in the capital, Port-au-Prince. All those who had been invited came to the conference, some of them travelling many hours along very rough roads to get there. It was a great privilege to spend several days with men whose hearts are open to the true gospel. Three of the preachers, who have been doing the course for over a year, were invited to preach at the conference. There is little doubt that they have understood the gospel of God’s sovereign grace in saving guilty sinners, and are faithfully preaching it in their churches. Others, who have not advanced very far in the course, still have a lot to learn, but they are eager to study the Scriptures and their hearts are open to the truth.
Their expressed desire was that we should organize another conference for them very soon. In the will of the Lord we hope to do so. Many told the sad story that they know of no one in the areas from where they come who is preaching the true gospel. There is plenty of religion, ‘evangelical’ and otherwise, but no message of grace. They need our prayers and help.