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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Haiti Sunrise

By Kristel Ortiz
Feb. 3, 2013

Portrait of Haiti

The squeal is deafening as a pig bursts onto a narrow pathway overlooking the muddy Grise River. A young boy running down the trail is fazed neither by the pig’s daunting size nor by its sudden appearance. He kicks it squarely in the snout and continues on his way, leaving the pig squealing and scrambling back into the brush. The sun is rising, and the boy has places to go.

The boy’s spunk characterizes his entire community. Residents of Shada, Haiti, a community perched precariously on the banks of the Grise, cannot afford to be easily daunted. The devastating earthquake of January 2010 is old news now, and the river has brought them new problems. Last fall, Hurricane Sandy blew through, causing the Grise to flood its banks and sweep away more than 200 homes in Shada. Yet each morning at daybreak, the muddy streets quickly teem with activity as life goes on.

South of Shada, the roar of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, begins long before first light. Decorated buses, called tap-taps, are packed well beyond capacity. They jostle along the crumbling streets, passing fruit vendors squatting on curbs. Immaculately dressed businesspeople rush down sidewalks, dodging trash pickers, nuns, and schoolchildren in colorful uniforms. Goats and dogs wander through heaps of trash while chickens rush across alleys in a desperate bid to outrun motorbikes. Shouts in Creole and French mingle with American hip-hop music, drums and blasting horns. As the sun rises over Haiti’s regal mountains, haze settles upon the city.

Three years have passed since approximately 316,000 Haitians died in a 7.0-magnitude earthquake. Evidence of the tragedy is still visible. Collapsed houses stand abandoned; some still have bodies buried underneath. Dilapidated streets remain broken. On a hill overlooking the sea, three crosses mark the mass grave where quake victims were laid to rest. But a new day is dawning in Haiti — a day that cannot be defined by the past.


Answering the Call

To many people, Haiti is synonymous with crisis, disease, death, violence and poverty. To others, Haiti became irrelevant once the media storm surrounding the quake died away. But to veteran Assemblies of God missionaries Bill and Dorothy Smith, Haiti is a land of beauty. For 22 years they have stood for and with the troubled island and walked with its people through unthinkable circumstances. Around the island, children squeal with delight when they spy “Pastor Bill” and “Madame Pastor Bill” approaching, and race gleefully into the couple’s outstretched arms.

“Look,” Bill says to a local man, “we are almost the same color.” His Creole is flawless, and he smiles as he holds his arm against the man’s to compare.

Bill and Dorothy were in their 30s when they were called to missions. Bill, a speech pathologist, and Dorothy, a computer manager in an accounting firm and former college registrar, were both successful in their careers, but they felt restless.

“We loved to collect antiques,” Bill recalls. “One night we had a choice between going to preview an especially good antique swap and our church’s potluck missions dinner.”

At the last minute, they opted for the missions dinner.

“We were afraid not many people would go, and we wanted to support it,” laughs Dorothy.

The speaker, a missionary to the Philippines, spoke about the need for laborers, specifically in areas of work the Smiths were professionally qualified to fill. Bill and Dorothy knew they had to answer the call. By the end of that year, they went to the Philippines as missionary associates.

One day an application for missionary appointment came in the mail for Bill. He had not requested the packet, and never found out from where it had been sent. The Smiths took this as a confirmation, so after 14 months in the Philippines, they returned to the United States to walk through the process of missionary appointment.

Bill and Dorothy knew in their hearts they were not to return to their previous work in the Philippines, but they felt no specific direction otherwise. Their course of action was decided after a 6 a.m. phone call from Loren Triplett, then AGWM executive director.

“He asked us if we would consider serving in Haiti, and if we wanted to visit there before deciding,” says Bill. “We did not need to visit. We said yes.”

Since moving to Haiti, the Smiths have experienced five hurricanes, a three-year embargo, food riots, multiple political coups, the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, violence, and daily inconveniences, including lack of water and electricity.

“We’ve learned to be without running water and other things, and to be excited when we have them,” Dorothy says.

“When our children were growing up, there were times when they did their homework by kerosene lamps,” Bill says. “One time I literally crawled through the house to check on them while gunfire was zinging past the windows. They never complained.”

Against all odds, the Smiths clung to their purpose in Haiti. The rise and fall of governments, lack of conveniences, and an ever-changing cultural climate have not altered their vision. Today they are helping to usher a new dawn into Haiti.


Spiritual Revolution

When the earthquake shattered Haiti in January 2010, Bill and Dorothy were at home in their Port-au-Prince living room.

“People had never heard of or experienced anything like it,” Bill remembers. “They believed the world was ending.”

Throughout the dark days that followed, remarkable victories occurred.

“People were rescued from under flattened buildings with their hands raised, praising Jesus,” Bill shares.

After the quake, church attendance in Haiti burgeoned. Many congregations are at double their pre-quake attendance. More than 300 Assemblies of God congregations meet across the island, and church growth remains steady.

“The quake put eternity right in front of people and forced them to make their eternal decision,” says Dorothy.

“A 24-hour prayer and praise group assembled right behind our house,” Bill adds. “At all hours of the day and night, we could hear them praying or singing hymns. Our whole area was covered with the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Throughout the aftermath of the quake, Haitians continued turning to Christ. Contrastingly, voodoo — the demonic religion long associated with Haiti — saw a decline. Currently before the Haitian government is an amendment that, if passed, would limit the freedom to practice voodoo.

However, voodooism still lurks in Haitian society. Stories of mountain people disappearing and instantly reappearing in Port-au-Prince still circulate, as do accounts of harassment by various spirits.

“Nonetheless, it is just not acceptable to say, as many people do, that Haiti is totally voodoo,” says Dorothy. “There has been a falling away from that.”

The line between light and darkness is very clear in Haiti. Spiritual warfare is real, and the national church is rising to the challenge.

“We have seen demon-possessed people running from churches with believers in hot pursuit,” Dorothy says. “They drag them back to the church and pray them through to deliverance.”


City of the Sun

Cite Soleil — City of the Sun — is not for the faint of heart. The sprawling slum of Port-au-Prince is home to 300,000 Haitians and has been regarded as one of the poorest, most dangerous slums in the Western Hemisphere. Unemployment, illiteracy, crime and violence are rampant, yet clean water and public services are very limited.

Cite Soleil lies in a sun-baked cul-de-sac, with streams of sewage winding through shanties that seem unfit for human habitation. Gangs control the area. For years few people traveled in or out of its confines.

But Bill did. Inside Cite Soleil, he discovered New Life Church and its founding pastor, La Faille Jean Clement. Pastor Clement has lived in Cite Soleil his entire life, and he and his wife have raised 11 children there. His soft voice and easy, disarming grin contradict the difficulties of his life.

After the 2010 earthquake, Bill and a building team went into Cite Soleil to assess needs and create plans for adding a school to New Life’s facility. As they stood at the site, opposing gang members began firing warning shots.

“Immediately many of the Haitian brothers standing with us pulled out guns,” Bill remembers. “They wanted the church to move forward, so they protected us.”

Within a year and a half, a new compound, including a church, school, and a protective wall around the perimeter, was built.

“The project was made possible by New Life Church in Renton, Washington,” Bill explains. “They took Cite Soleil to heart and in one Sunday raised $137,000 for Haiti.”

Today 217 students with sparkling eyes and enormous smiles scamper through New Life School in their bright yellow uniforms. Pastor Clement’s son Fritz oversees the school. The next addition to the complex will be a facility for vocational training.

“Before, nobody wanted to go into Cite Soleil,” says Bill. “They were afraid. But having the building projects going on there has brought hope and excitement to the community.”

Within the City of the Sun, the light of Christ is shining brightly.


Partnering to Rebuild and Restore

Cite Soleil — City of the Sun — is not for the faint of heart. The sprawling slum of Port-au-Prince is home to 300,000 Haitians and has been regarded as one of the poorest, most dangerous slums in the Western Hemisphere. Unemployment, illiteracy, crime and violence are rampant, yet clean water and public services are very limited.

Cite Soleil lies in a sun-baked cul-de-sac, with streams of sewage winding through shanties that seem unfit for human habitation. Gangs control the area. For years few people traveled in or out of its confines.

But Bill did. Inside Cite Soleil, he discovered New Life Church and its founding pastor, La Faille Jean Clement. Pastor Clement has lived in Cite Soleil his entire life, and he and his wife have raised 11 children there. His soft voice and easy, disarming grin contradict the difficulties of his life.

After the 2010 earthquake, Bill and a building team went into Cite Soleil to assess needs and create plans for adding a school to New Life’s facility. As they stood at the site, opposing gang members began firing warning shots.

“Immediately many of the Haitian brothers standing with us pulled out guns,” Bill remembers. “They wanted the church to move forward, so they protected us.”

Within a year and a half, a new compound, including a church, school, and a protective wall around the perimeter, was built.

“The project was made possible by New Life Church in Renton, Washington,” Bill explains. “They took Cite Soleil to heart and in one Sunday raised $137,000 for Haiti.”

Today 217 students with sparkling eyes and enormous smiles scamper through New Life School in their bright yellow uniforms. Pastor Clement’s son Fritz oversees the school. The next addition to the complex will be a facility for vocational training.

“Before, nobody wanted to go into Cite Soleil,” says Bill. “They were afraid. But having the building projects going on there has brought hope and excitement to the community.”

Within the City of the Sun, the light of Christ is shining brightly.


Dispelling Misconceptions

Cite Soleil — City of the Sun — is not for the faint of heart. The sprawling slum of Port-au-Prince is home to 300,000 Haitians and has been regarded as one of the poorest, most dangerous slums in the Western Hemisphere. Unemployment, illiteracy, crime and violence are rampant, yet clean water and public services are very limited.

Cite Soleil lies in a sun-baked cul-de-sac, with streams of sewage winding through shanties that seem unfit for human habitation. Gangs control the area. For years few people traveled in or out of its confines.

But Bill did. Inside Cite Soleil, he discovered New Life Church and its founding pastor, La Faille Jean Clement. Pastor Clement has lived in Cite Soleil his entire life, and he and his wife have raised 11 children there. His soft voice and easy, disarming grin contradict the difficulties of his life.

After the 2010 earthquake, Bill and a building team went into Cite Soleil to assess needs and create plans for adding a school to New Life’s facility. As they stood at the site, opposing gang members began firing warning shots.

“Immediately many of the Haitian brothers standing with us pulled out guns,” Bill remembers. “They wanted the church to move forward, so they protected us.”

Within a year and a half, a new compound, including a church, school, and a protective wall around the perimeter, was built.

“The project was made possible by New Life Church in Renton, Washington,” Bill explains. “They took Cite Soleil to heart and in one Sunday raised $137,000 for Haiti.”

Today 217 students with sparkling eyes and enormous smiles scamper through New Life School in their bright yellow uniforms. Pastor Clement’s son Fritz oversees the school. The next addition to the complex will be a facility for vocational training.

“Before, nobody wanted to go into Cite Soleil,” says Bill. “They were afraid. But having the building projects going on there has brought hope and excitement to the community.”

Within the City of the Sun, the light of Christ is shining brightly.


Trials and Triumphs

Hurricane Sandy destroyed not only homes and communities, but also farmland. Hundreds of acres of land were washed away, leaving residents with no local food source.

In one town, Vaudreuil, most of the gardens and banana crops were swept away. Pastor Andre, who leads Vaudreuil Assembly of God, was nearly beside himself with joy when Bill arrived with a bag of rice for the community. As Bill pulled the rice from his vehicle and stepped into view, the pastor’s eyes filled with tears and he began to jump and clap for joy. His children would be spared hunger for another day.

“They have a saying here,” Bill says. “‘Behind one mountain stands another mountain.’ Crisis after crisis has confronted them, and survival mode has become their way of life.”

Even in the face of such need, Haitian believers refuse to be defeated or resort to begging.

“Haiti has always had such great need,” says Calixte Fleuridor, general superintendent of the Haiti Assemblies of God. “We know that the world is overwhelmed with our problems. We don’t want to ask again for assistance.”

The Smiths’ hearts break as they see people constantly struggling to cope.

“One of the most difficult things about working in Haiti is seeing the ongoing, traumatic physical needs,” Dorothy says, her eyes filling with tears. “But people do not need a handout. They need a hand up.”

Bill agrees. “Haitians are not lazy,” he says. “They just need jobs. They do not want to be rich; they just want to provide for their families.”

The Smiths are involved in several projects to help provide long-term, self-sustaining solutions for Haitians. Most recently, Dorothy has begun conducting sewing classes for women of the community. They learn to use electric sewing machines to make kitchen linens, backpacks, skirts, blouses and other simple crafts.

“The factory owner who supplies our fabric says that if the women learn to sew well, then he will consider hiring them,” Dorothy says.

Another encouraging trend in Haiti is the rise of education.

“Sometimes people ask us what has changed most during our two decades here,” Dorothy says. “The increase in the education of young people has been one of the biggest changes.”

Bill and Dorothy currently oversee eight Latin America ChildCare schools across Haiti. Classes are taught in Creole, the heart language of Haitians, but textbooks are written in French, the language of the educated.

In addition to elementary schools and preschools, a new Assemblies of God Bible college — Seminaire de Théologie Évangélique des Assemblées de Dieu en Haiti — was dedicated in August 2012. Missionaries Stephen and Cynthia Aldrich oversee the college, which is located on 51/2 acres of land in the Santo 19 area of Port-au-Prince. About 30 students are enrolled.

“This building is a blessing from the Lord,” says Stephen. “We thank Him for His provision.”

On Gelée Beach, just outside Les Cayes in southern Haiti, missionaries James and Rachel Courter have established two ministries —Arise Center and Transformation Center. The Arise Center includes classrooms, guest/intern housing, and the Arise Clinic, which provides medical consultations, laboratory services, physical therapy, counseling, and labor and delivery services. The Transformation Center is home to a school of ministry, a prayer chapel, Arise Church and a weekly children’s outreach called Kidz Kapab Club.

“While the global community searches for a political, social or economic solution, we believe the true hope for Haiti will be found in spiritual transformation,” says James.

Convoy of Hope maintains a strong presence in Haiti. In partnership with another compassion ministry, it occupies a compound that includes a chapel, an orphanage, and a school for 1,200 children. In July 2012, a new 35,000-square-foot warehouse was dedicated. The new facility is now large enough to store more than 6 million meals.

Against staggering odds, the people of Haiti continue to persevere. Standing alongside them are missionaries and volunteers who are committed to do what they can to bring relief from physical suffering and share the message of the gospel. Though dark days have haunted Haiti for decades, there is light on the horizon. Dawn has come, and a new sun is rising.


KRISTEL ORTIZ is a staff writer for AGWM Communications.

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