Jean-Claude Souillot, managing director of Evangelical Press Missionary Trust’s outreach to the French-speaking world, describes his latest visit to Haiti.
The main goals of my visit were first to preach and teach the gospel in various places and second to see how I could best encourage the Christian bookshop in Port-au-Prince.
In preparing for the visit, I also got in touch with as many Haitian students as possible who had been undertaking EP’s correspondence course for preachers. While in Haiti, I was able to meet many of these students, including those who had finished the course.
Generally, the reception of the Word was good and positive. I was kept busy preaching and teaching from morning till evening in a variety of places, from huge meeting halls to little shacks and a couple of Bible institutes.
In some of these, it was clear that the Word was touching many hearts. May this precious seed take root and bear fruit to everlasting life.
I valued fellowship with Moïse, a student on the preachers’ course (though he hasn’t yet got beyond the first module, on Romans). Moïse first caught my attention when he indicated (on Skype) that the message of the book of Romans had impacted him. He is in his late 30s, married and without children.
He and his wife are very involved in his church. He works with the UN and gives evidence of a renewed heart and great love for the Lord, as well as a burning desire to spread the Word.
He insisted on planning the meetings, taking me around everywhere I needed to go (a real plus in Haiti) and talking about the gospel. He is a positive sort of guy and has caught the ‘bug’ of disseminating the gospel through Christian books.
He is thinking already in terms of going outside Port-au-Prince with the gospel and was open to linking up with a church planter who plans to evangelise the northwest and wants Moïse to help with literature.
François is a much younger, single man, who lives in Gonaïves. My initial contact with him was through an e-mail that he sent because he wanted to start a local Christian bookshop. As I had never been in his area before, I planned to meet him in person and speak at some church meetings there.
François arranged things well, motivating people to come to the meetings and looking after the logistics of my visit. He shows a genuine desire to take the gospel to others.
I have encouraged him to start studying the preachers’ course. Rather than opening a bookshop, he will probably start operating as a colporteur. We could certainly have a joint effort between him and Moïse in Gonaïves and its adjoining area.
The Port-au-Prince bookshop has moved to its own premises and there is a plan to extend it in the near future — this will be a real plus. The bookshop now has offices, storeroom and an auditorium that could be useful for holding conferences in future.
The shop is well situated and well known in the city and it attracts more and more customers. Jean Matthieu, the manager, is happy to be involved and thrilled at the prospect of Moïse being able to extend book distribution beyond the limits of the shop.
The scars of the January 2010 earthquake are still to be seen in many places in Haiti, though there is an important rebuilding programme under way, especially for the various infrastructures.
Insecurity and violence are rampant and this is really oppressive. A couple of times, I saw bodies lying in the street. It is virtually impossible for a foreigner to venture out in the streets without courting danger. We heard of murders every day we were there — one more reason to preach the gospel in Haiti.
As can be expected, this lawlessness is accompanied by much ‘Christless Christianity’, but many doors are open to preach the gospel freely.
Most church leaders are open to having the gospel of grace preached and many in the congregations react positively to the message and give evidence of having understood it.
Many invitations were given for future visits. In two or three places, it was obvious that the gospel had impacted the thinking of people and they manifested a desire to embrace the truths of the Reformed faith.
Gonaïves is a fairly large city about 100 miles from Port-au-Prince, in the Artibonite region. This was my first visit. François had arranged for a three-day conference, open to all and held in a local Bible institute.
Many local church leaders came, as well as a large number of people from the local churches (several hundred throughout the day, and more in the evening). We studied ‘the main pillars of grace’, plus a few other themes.
It was obvious that this message was new for most, as the various question times revealed, but in the main the reception given was positive and an invitation for a future visit warmly extended.
Moïse had a book table at the back of the building and in three days sold nearly three times what the shop had sold in the past two months. If we had had more book titles, we would have sold more.
This visit to Gonaïves was the occasion for men to come from Jean Rabel and Port-de-Paix, in the northwest. We have had a number of preachers’ course students from that region, including some of the first to join the course. It was moving to meet them in person for the first time.
About 60 men wanted to come to a meeting, but many were unable to secure the cost of transport. So about 20 were present in the end, among whom were several men who ran local radio stations in that area. The sessions I took were recorded and they are scheduled to be aired on several of these radio stations.
We have much to be thankful for to the Lord for such open doors in Haiti.