Steve Spellman has served with EFCA ReachGlobal in Brazil since 1989 and currently is part of the ReachGlobal team in Haiti.
Haitian Christian leaders came together to dream, and to ask a difficult yet pivotal question:
“If it’s true that more than 35-40 percent of Haitians describe themselves as either Protestant or evangelical Christians1, how is it that the church has had no discernible impact on Haitian society and worldview?”
For two days, these leaders gathered at a site overlooking the sprawling city of Port-au-Prince—each born in this island nation, each longing for his homeland to be healed.
Leading the meeting was the president of the largest seminary in Haiti. Joining him were other theologians, regional leaders of missions organizations, denominational directors and a few local pastors. And listening in the background were several members of EFCA’s TouchGlobal team, who have been catalytic in initiating these discussions and making connections between these Christian leaders, most of whom had never before met.
These Haitian leaders spoke of the existence of a strong personal faith among many Haitians. Yet they also acknowledged that because of violence suffered by Christian organizations in the past and a worldview dominated by voodoo, the impact of Christianity in most of the country has never grown into community or societal transformation.
And Haiti’s need for transformation is staggering: Unemployment cripples the economy, with jobless rates ranging from 60 to 75 percent2. Functional illiteracy hovers near 50 percent3. More than 80 percent of the people live below the poverty line4.
The desire for transformation—triggered by a vibrant Church—is why these 14 men came together.
The meetings were hosted and led by Dr. Jean Dorlus, president of the Séminaire de Théologie Evangélique de Port-au-Prince. Dr. Dorlus noted that, historically, the Haitian Church has been fragmented and divided, focusing on individual congregations rather than how the entire body of Christ must work together. He set out the agenda for their time together by positing three questions:
Again, in a country where the church exists largely fragmented and divided, it was not surprising that these Christian leaders had never before been together. Indeed, they came together almost reluctantly, and yet ever so slowly they began to open up and discover common areas of concern and hope.
There were sobering moments as they lamented over some of the deep-seated needs facing Christianity in Haiti: “The Haitian Church is not an indigenous Church. . . . We’re not discipling. . . . The Haitian worldview has not been significantly impacted by the transforming power of the gospel. . . . We’re not preparing our pastors or our people to carry out the mission of the Church.”
At one point someone commented: “I’ve felt these things for years but never addressed them with anyone else because, well, there was no one to address them with.”
But then there were smiles as they praised the evangelistic zeal of the Haitians and their dependence on prayer. They noted the incredible good done by Christian hospitals, orphanages and schools. They highlighted the Haitian spirit, perseverance and hope.
Then came time to dream.
Together, these leaders spent hours dreaming and praying for the future, envisioning a time when the Haitian Church would have a noticeable impact on society, on the country’s prevailing worldview and, yes, even on the world.
This same group will meet again several times this year, and they have committed to bringing other men and women to the table, to hear and learn from them.
They see a stirring need to bring together the best of the Haitian Church to practically address the issues of worldview, societal impact, leadership, multiplication models and dependency. And the goal? A truly healthy, indigenous and multiplying Haitian church.
Together, the dream has begun.