Bon Bagay! A Missionary Interview

“Haiti is known as a missionary graveyard.  The burnout rate here is high.”  I was talking with a long-term missionary about what he found most discouraging working in Haiti over the years. 

He continued, “When the going gets rough, people often bail.  It’s discouraging to see fellow workers beat down and ‘run out of town.’  That shouldn’t happen.  Why does it?  Perhaps one reason is because people frequently come running from something instead of running to something.” 

“Physically this place isn’t that bad to live in,” he added, “there are nice cafes, beautiful beaches, cell phones, and easy access to internet [perhaps a rosier picture than I would paint] but spiritually the only way one can make it here is to have a personally vibrant relationship with the Lord and be relationally plugged in with fellow believers encouraging each other.”  

“There are a lot of people doing good things in Haiti.  Yet it’s so important for us to not forget this: our ministries are not our message.  An orphanage isn’t the message and a feeding program isn’t the message.  The message is Christ.  When we forget that, we become mere social workers.”

I continued the interview by asking how open he felt Haitians were to the message of Christ. 

“Haiti is a very religious place,” he answered.  “The frequency and fervency of Haitian prayer and worship would put a lot of American Christianity to shame.  But while the openness of Haitians to hear the gospel and be taught from the Bible is high, the openness to seriously respond to Christ and put him first in their lives is very low.” 

He added, “This is one reason small group discipleship is so important here.  There are teams who come, hold a rally, and get professions from hundreds if not thousands of people.  But generally these professions leave no lasting inner change.”

I asked how he came to Haiti originally.  “I was led to Haiti,” he responded.  “I don’t claim to be called to Haiti, but I’ve been led here.  A calling isn’t something I’m sure I understand, because for me God has led one step at a time, never placed a calling on my life to just one place.”

“People do frequently ask if I’m concerned about safety living here.  I believe that’s the wrong question to ask.  The real question is whether I’m doing what God wants me to be doing.  Because that will always be the safest place. 

Daniel was safe in the lion’s den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were safe in the fiery furnace.  Even Stephen was safe in God’s hands while being stoned, and Jesus was safe in God’s hands while hanging on the cross.  So the question isn’t, ‘How safe is it here,’ but, ‘are we doing what God wants us to be doing?’”

I was encouraged by our short visit and glad he got up at 6am to personally meet with me before I headed out to catch my bus to the DR.  That meant a lot!

So I say, “Bon Bagay!”  (literally, “good things,” but they use it here sometimes as emphasis for an ending…)