SERIES ON MINISTERING IN HAITI

Recently, someone did a post on our All About Haitian Culture Facebook group about trying to work with people who are manipulative, and/or who may have characteristic traits that makes it difficult to work with them. When I saw this post I had great difficulty responding, but I feel the post was valid and merited answers. 

I attended an IF Gathering and wrote some important things to help me learn what partnership and discipling someone who is in financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual need should look like to be both true, effective, and lasting.  

I am aware that not everyone is doing ministry in Haiti, however some of these are going to be applicable. And remember, God never promised this would be easy, but He did promise to be with us…to the end. 

TAFFY-

Train/Disciple people who are:

Teachable
Available
Faithful
Full of faith
Younger (so they can train others and take over your job).

Social Media is Not Your Friend

Social media makes us shut down and checkout. It’s not real. It’s an escape, people use it for venting their frustrations or worse. Instead of venting there about all the negative experiences, go to God with them. That way, others aren’t negatively affected in their day by our venting. 

Again, having a group of people who are a mixture of Haitian, fellow missionaries/foreigners, and people who have NEVER been to Haiti helps to give you counsel that can help you through what you’re going through. Facebook can’t. It becomes a place to complain. But…we must love others without murmuring or complaining. 

It will also help you to heal faster if words, which last forever, aren’t just put out there on cyberspace.

Go Small Not Big

You don’t want to give the impression that you are an “everything” bank. God is the provider, sustainer, equipper. This way you ensure that you are not developing a dependent relationship with the people you are serving, which is almost irreversible. 

So, if all you’re doing is sitting in a circle doing a Bible study with some young men instead of holding a three day conference, to God that’s big. If you’re giving donated clothes to a Haitian woman to sell instead of paying for her eight children to go to school, that’s still very good…maybe better.

Die Daily

Prepare to die daily. It’s gonna hurt. You’re gonna cry. It’s hot. Mosquitoes seem to like you more than everyone else. You’re serving hurting people. Well, hurting people hurt people so make sure God is a resource you’re tapping into everyday for strength, discernment, and guidance. Make sure you have a source of friends who speak truth to you in love and listen to them. Don’t have lengthy pity parties. Die daily.

No Fear

Do not be governed by fear and intimidation. Whether there are riots, uneasiness between you and someone you’re ministering to, or spiritual attacks, keep your mind on God who is able to keep you in perfect peace. 

Again, networking helps so much. Not social media primarily but with real people, flesh and blood, even via video chat. I don’t know what I’d do without the people God has put in my life! Have a friend or two fast and pray for you regularly. Make sure you use your advisory board not only to make program decisions but to lift you up. 

Get Refreshed

Quit trading out spending time with Jesus for doing works for Jesus. In other words take time off to get refreshed. 

When you’re refreshed you remember your compassion is not greater than God’s compassion. You won’t keep giving everything because you’re feeling sorry for people. In this way you won’t get frustrated when someone comes knocking on your door asking for money. You’ll already have discernment to know if you should help them, give them skills/other options, or redefine the relationship. When someone is trying to manipulate you, you’ll surprise them with how quickly you picked up on it. They will check themselves and you can give correction in love no matter what reaction you receive. 

I’m not condoning the behavior. Believe me. I’m just using what I learned this weekend to hopefully encourage someone.

Less Is More

Invest in the few lives placed before you to disciple/train. Truth is, Haitians can be more effective ministers to Haitians because there are less barriers, language being a huge one but just also an understanding of the culture and way of life.

So choose a small group of honest, reliable, teachable, and humble people who can someday form disciples of their own. Your work will multiply more than you can imagine. And, one day you’ll be able to leave Haiti without questioning your ministry’s effectiveness.

Get Help

Don’t think you know everything because you’ve been to or lived in Haiti more/longer than others. Haiti is full of surprises, unexpected joys and heartaches. Listen, advise, learn, and be pliable. Haiti will bend, break, and shake you but God can put broken pieces back together again. 

Connect. Connect. Connect. Connect on here with others. Video chat a lot before meeting in person to see if you have a lot in common. Pray. Connect. Be all the things you’re looking for in others to others: teachable, available, faithful, full of faith, and young at heart. 

Missions should be a selfless, risk-taking adventure and we’re in this together. A lot of people have given up because they isolated themselves. Don’t do that.

Embrace Tension

This is incredibly difficult for me. 

We are not all the same, and because of this there can be tension. Expose what is causing tension. Pray about it. Discuss ways to bring healing. Tension doesn’t go away because we shrink from it. It gets worse. 

If you sense something is wrong, address it. If you address it and it doesn’t get better, give solutions or suggestions to help it get better. All people involved in a tense situation are called to ease it, not just you, otherwise the relationship is unhealthy. This is a perfect opportunity to teach very much needed conflict resolution skills. If no matter what you do there seems to be tension and no desire for the other party to help solve it, get a third party involved. 

Tension is only bad when ignored, you cave, or the other party doesn’t take responsibility. Face it. Embrace it. Give suggestions for solution. Attempt to solve it together. Get help when all else fails. Reassess relationship if nothing eases. Again, it’s dying to self, trusting in God, and building community.

Why???

This is short but I have failed at this. It’s so simple: ask yourself daily: 

“Why am I doing this?” The answer will help you stay focused.

Connect with Locals

Work with the local churches, guesthouses, schools, orphanages before or instead of building your own. First develop a relationship with the Haitians in the community to see if there is even a need for you to add on. There truly is no lack of schools, churches, or orphanages in Haiti. Some of them need plenty of help. Partner with Haitian-ran ones but have full financial disclosure to make sure they are operating with financial integrity. Or, instead of money give supplies, your time, or a team to train staff. 

Listen, you may find one hundred corrupted programs before you find THE one so pray, be patient, look, then pray again. Also, ask other missionaries in the community. 

Connect with local missionaries with godly character. Even the Lone Ranger had Tanto. We cannot do this alone!

NGOs and the Importance of Learning Creole

Learning Creole has made a big impact on my relationships and ministry in Haiti. Languages have never come easily to me and it is even harder now in my 50s! Two years ago, in an orphanage where I served, I learned a song from the little boys called “Tout Bagay Deja Byen” – Everything is already good {because Jesus is on the throne}. To my great delight, I found it was a common song all over Haiti and I would sing it with anyone! Eventually, even some workers seeing me come down the road would burst into song and I would always join in. I learned new words that I could use in context, but more importantly, it gave me a springboard for “broken” Creole communication. I still speak in themes rather than proper sentences, but I try hard. My sweet friends refer to it as “Creole-ish while laughing heartily at my hideous mispronunciations! I am able to get around ok, but more importantly, the language bridge allows me to share mutual love, respect and hope with our Brothers and Sisters. On my most recent trip, I was crying and crying about a some of our people who had died, and one of the workers (who do not like to see me cry…) came over to me and put his arm around me. Unable to speak English, he started singing Tout Bagay gently in my ear. It was such an emotional and healing moment. I felt as understood and comforted as if he had spoken an elegant paragraph. God uses every little thing to grow His Kingdom and to encourage the Believers, even our most feeble attempts. I am looking forward to being more fluent, but for now I am grateful for the beautiful glimpses a shared language of the heart bridges two cultures through song and improves the spoken language as well.

Pam Harpst, 

River Flow Ministries, panoulae@hotmail.com

The first time I felt like learning Creole was making a huge difference in my ministry is hard to describe because I don’t have a specific instance. What happened was that all of a sudden I realized that I could talk to those in my ministry without a translator. It has opened up my ministry in a way that I could not have anticipated. My Haitian employees were excited because we could start to develop a deeper relationships without the hinderance of a third party translator. Those who participate in our ministry love that I have put the time and effort into learning their language so that I can communicate and begin to build those relationships. 

The Haitian Culture also is much more complex than I originally thought. There have been so many instances where my American mind thought I knew exactly what was going on, only to find out that I misunderstood the situation. This has taught me that to succeed in Haiti, I must ask a lot of questions! Although sometimes my immediate thought is they need to change,  I have found that they usually have a very logical reason for their system and changing it may not be the best solution. We run a micro-loan program to help those living in deep poverty start small businesses. The most difficult lesson I have learned about helping in this way in Haiti is that, oftentimes, when someone starts to get ahead, those around them pull them back down to the same level as the others in their community. This makes it incredibly difficult for people to advance.

Jennifer Imsland

Elevate Micro-Loan Ministry

http://www.elevate-haiti.com

I am all about relationships.  And I realized early on in traveling to Haiti that I wouldn’t really know people if I was always having to speak through an interpreter.

I think the first time I really saw the benefit was when I asked a non-English speaking Haitian acquaintance to help me with a English-Creole vocabulary list I was working through on my own.   The look on his face . . .  it showed that he felt confirmed . . . valuable . . . important.

Today this man and I are dear friends . . . and he recently made the decision to change his lifestyle and become a Christian.

Our relationship started the day I asked him to teach me how to say my colors in Creole.

I am a type-A, go-get-it kind of person.  The biggest thing Haitian culture has taught me is to “poze” and see the beauty that’s around me.  

“People are more important than projects.”  You can hear that.  You can say that.  You can even believe that.  But it’s another thing to actually live it.

One day a co-worker was late to work.  I got so impatient in waiting.  This man is usually prompt, and he understands that it’s important to do everything well.  He showed up to work 15 minutes after we were supposed to leave, and he did not offer any explanation.

At the end of the work day, I asked to speak with him privately.  I started counseling him on the importance of professionalism, promptness, modeling good behavior for those under him…and he looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Do you really want to know why I was late this morning?”

“Sure!” I said, not thinking the reason for being late was actually important.

“I was late because my neighbor came to my house this morning and asked me to pray with him,” he replied.  Talk about a gentle answer turning away wrath!  I was rebuked to the core of my spirit.

The question is “what have you learned?” (past tense).  I fail in this area so often, but I can say I am “learning” (present progressive) to have patience. I know the people I work with . . . there’s always something to learn . . . and laugh about!  

Most recently . . . two of our male co-workers came to the United States for Christmas.    Walking out of the airport, they joyfully announced to me, “You’ve gained weight!”   Needless to say, I explained to them that most American women wouldn’t take that as the compliment they intended!  And they were shocked because they said most Haitian women would be so happy to hear that.

We laughed and laughed and laughed at this throughout their visit, telling the story over and over and over. . . 

They definitely won’t be telling another American woman this any time soon.  

Becky Graves

Haiti Awake

Haitiawake.org

Learning kreyòl has greatly impacted my ability to connect more deeply with the Haitian people. No longer am I limited to greetings and simple conversation. The first time I realized that my knowledge had surpassed the beginner level was when I met a woman with a massive growth in her armpit. I was able to understand her as she expressed her fears about going to the hospital and about having surgery. I could then articulate to her the importance of seeking medical care and to encourage her to consider the options available to her.  I was able to pray for her and ask her to pray for me. It was a very difficult situation but the words came to me when I most needed them. I have since visited different hospitals with her and consulted with different doctors for her. Sadly there is nothing that can be done medically for this woman who is now a dear friend.  But through my ability to speak kreyòl I believe she knows not only the love I have for her but also the love the Lord has for her.

I have been living in Haiti for seven months now. I believe that many Haitians are blessed with the ability to sleep through anything! The silly roosters crow all night long, there are nights when loud music plays into the wee hours of the morning, the sound of rebar being dragged through the streets starts before dawn as does the bleating of the donkeys. I know that many sleep through all of this because I witness how incredibly hard they work during the day. For example, the manual laborers work tirelessly in 90 degree heat, teachers are up at dawn to get their families ready for the day, head off to teach their students and often they themselves attend school in the evenings. So they must be sleeping well! I pray that one day I will too! 

I have come to know firsthand how patient and loving the Haitian people can be. I have not yet met anyone who gets frustrated with my inability to carry on a full conversation without needing to occasionally check Google translate for a word. Nor have I met anyone who gets upset when I ask them to speak more slowly or to repeat themselves … sometimes several times! On the contrary, I am always encouraged and congratulated on my efforts to speak kreyòl.  It really means so much to the people I have encountered and shows them how much I love their country.

Gail Grady

Quest Volunteer, Religious of Jesus and Mary, https://www.rjmusa.org/our-mission/join/quest

Country Director, Mercy Beyond Borders, http://www.mercybeyondborders.org

From the moment I learned even a handful of words in Creole it began to open doors for me, whether it be the warmth received just by saying bonjou, or the joy that comes from the simplest of games made from calling out verbs (kouri, kanpe, chita…). As I’ve become more deeply involved in the life of one particular village there have at times been awkward moments, like the time they prepared a “shower” for me which consisted of a bucket sitting in the middle of an open field with the headlamp of a moto shining directly at it so I’d be able to see (my facial expressions needed no translation to communicate that some cultural compromises were going to be needed in regards to privacy). But one of the most rewarding moments came once I had advanced enough in Creole to have had many heartfelt conversations with my Haitian friend who one day called me up very early in the morning to let me hear the first cries of my baby goddaughter – whom he gave me the honor of being able to name! Some moments are just far too precious to have to pass through an interpreter and that was certainly one of those moments where I was so glad we could speak heart to heart!

David Way

Fort Collins, Colorado

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