Church of the Nazarene Mesoamerica Region JESUS Film Coordinator Bernie Slingerland wrote in his book, Missional Zones, that many counseled him that Haiti could not be involved in evangelism ministries in the aftermath of recent disasters. He added, “However, the church leaders in Haiti said that they were ready to do something for the Kingdom and did not want the crisis in their country to prevent their involvement.”
After the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 2010, more than 216,000 Haitians died and an estimated three million were affected by the chaos caused by the quake. This disaster crippled the infrastructure of Haiti, leaving many without homes, jobs, power, food, clean water, or access to medical care. Within such dire circumstances, a cholera outbreak claimed the lives of another 9,200 people.
In the days following the earthquake, JESUS Film Harvest Partners sent funding for 26 generators, allowing teams to provide relief outside their typical scope of service.
“With the generators, the JESUS Film teams set their film equipment aside, allowing us to put compassion in front of evangelism,” said Rusty Robbins, JFHP field services coordinator. “Sometimes in the middle of a crisis, the best thing you can do is come alongside others with the truth that we love you and God loves you.”
The generators provided valuable power and warmth, but also did so much more. The generators and other compassion efforts met Haitians’ physical needs, allowing local leaders to focus on the eternal needs of the people.
“I have no doubt those generators allowed [the teams] to take care of humanitarian needs: restoring pastoral connectivity, maintaining churches as places of refuge, providing medical relief, lodging, and ultimately a house of worship,” Robbins said. “The generators served multiple needs as they were used to care for people.”
Compassion tools, like the generators, “are akin to water to soil, allowing the church to grow roots as local leaders gather to serve and celebrate Christ," Robbins said.
“[JESUS Film teams through compassionate actions] catch the attention of the people because they are in need and teams are able to meet their need,” said Franckel Formétus, national JESUS Film coordinator for Haiti. “This is effective because they are showing them the joy of Christ first.”
Slingerland described how lay leaders jumped at the opportunity to band together and begin evangelism and outreach ministries in Haiti when they learned training and tools were available from JFHP.
From 1998-2010, prior to the disasters, JESUS Film teams planted just 25 preaching points (groups of believers not yet organized as churches). Since 2010, JESUS Film teams have planted 2,981 preaching points.
The many preaching points planted in Haiti arose from the more than 55,000 people who made decisions for Christ after being served by JESUS Film teams and seeing the JESUS film.
Pastor Dieumarc was saved through the JESUS film and now serves on a JESUS Film team. He witnessed the timeliness of the growing evangelism in Haiti after seven people made decisions for Christ in a local village.
“One passed away a few days after he made his decision for Christ,” Dieumarc said. “We are comforted because that person died with Christ in his life. We will see him again someday!”
Alexis Cean felt the effects of the cholera outbreak. He lost everything — his home, his family, and the encouragement of his friends. In his darkest moments, the growing church in Haiti reached him and he discovered hope.
“Last year, everyone thought I would die,” he said. “They did not have any hope because my wife and my two children died from cholera. God has saved me and brought me life again! I gave my life to Him and want to follow Him forever.”
New life, eternal hope
Haiti’s relatively small size has not stopped the church’s rapid growth. In one area of Haiti, the preaching points developed into 70 organized churches, creating a need for a new district to provide a structure of support. The Grand Anse District was approved in January 2016.
“We have a new hope in the district,” said Anathol Garnier, Haiti Northeast district superintendent. “Many new members are being added to the Church of the Nazarene. We have a dynamic team that is generating helpful thoughts about the future of the church. The focus is on a more dynamic and efficient church.”