Pastor Pierre Wilnord

Pastor_Pierre_WilnordAdventures in Missions (AIM) has contacts with 650 churches in Haiti.  That’s a lot of contacts!

AIM has a program called “Church to Church” that facilitates churches in the US sponsoring churches in Haiti.  So far they have about 35 American churches signed up to sponsor a Haitian church.

The group I went to Haiti with for a week through AIM visited a pastor named Pierre Wilnord.  His church, Gospel Christian Church of Haiti, was founded through his efforts in 2005, currently has about 60 members, and is located in Carrefour, a bedroom suburb community of Port-au Prince with a population of 400,000.

I went to two services at Gospel Christian Church.  Each time Wilnord gave a very encouraging message, alternating both Creole and English.  At the second service two of our girls shared their testimonies (and he translated) and I shared a brief word as well.  If you’re reading this, thanks Pastor for letting us speak at your church!

The picture below shows our group with Wilnord in the center:

Group Pic

In 1999, Wilnord married and now has six children.  His youngest, Esther, was born 27 days after the earthquake.  He told me how he was praying his wife would not deliver early because everything was crazy after the earthquake!  In fact, for quite awhile they were living in the street as aftershocks were still making the buildings dangerous.  He said the Lord answered his prayer and by the time his wife delivered the situation had calmed.

Wilnord has a large vision.  He told me he wants to see “many people led to Christ.”  He also has a vision regarding education.  I think this too is an important work in Haiti, as only about half the population there is literate.  And among those who are educated, few are beyond the 8th grade.

Several years ago Wilnord started an affordable private Christian school for the children of his church and neighborhood.  Currently there are around 80 students from K-8.  They teach the basic subjects, plus a number of others including a Bible class, and even a computer class.  They don’t have any computers to practice with, but are taught the basics like what a mouse is, what a monitor is, how to turn it on, etc. so someday when they see one, “they’ll know how to work it.”  Of course, there are people I know who have one to practice on who still don’t, “know how to work it.” 

Wilnord told me he wants to start a feeding program at his school, as kids often come to school hungry.  He also explained to me how he was frequently hungry at school himself as a kid and how hard that made it for him to study.  He wants to give these kids a better chance. 

However, money is a problem.  I got the impression that before the earthquake he was able to make ends meet better, but now parents are in more desperate situations and not always able to pay.  It’s not unusual for his six teachers to work with no pay!  I don’t think that would fly here in the States.  Teachers just wouldn’t work, I predict.  Here in Kansas the state was sued when they tried making cuts in the education budget.  I guess it’s unconstitutional to not spend money you don’t have.

Wilnord shares more of his vision for the education ministry on his blog here.  There’s a YouTube video at that link put together by AIM I went ahead and posted below as I found it interesting.  The footage is right from where I visited.

Pierre Wilnord explains his vision for this school in Carrefour, Haiti

Tent City Story–Why So Much Disparity in Wealth?

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I’m learning a short "missions" trip can really spin you around.  One day you’re marching along in everyday life and then – wham, you’re transported to another world.  A world where people don’t have the same privileges I do.  Where water and electricity are sporadic.  Where food and clean water are not a given.  Where medical care is sketchy.  A world that is very uncertain and dangerous.  And a world that is dirty, many places looked more like a dump than home. 

But in this new world one thing was the same: people.  Regular people.  People just like me.  People going through their normal routines.  Routines more raw, more earthy.  In Haiti there is less veneer than the US of an ordered, controlled life.  I think this causes them to think more about spiritual matters.  Life is precarious there.

Then, before you know it, bam, you’re transported back to the "real" world.  Back to never ending miles of smooth blacktop.  Back to Learjet.  Back to standing in a hanger full of high-end business jets.  What, how could this be?  Back to convenient food, clean water, and modern conveniences.  Even simple things look different.  Clean carpet instead of gravel and concrete.  When I walked back in my modest apartment it was like walking into a 5 star hotel.  Then there’s the whole hot shower with pressure thing.  On a campout I once went over a week without a shower.  But that’s a little different than a city of millions where probably very few have experienced a pressurized hot shower in their entire lives.  Not that they don’t stay clean, they do.  I was impressed by everyone’s personal hygiene.  But the method for washing is often more like a bucket poured over the head.  And that water pulled up from a cistern by hand.

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How can such disparate existences coexist in the same world?

After we arrived in Port-au Prince, we were bussed to the location we stayed at in Carrefour, a suburb of 400,000.  Everywhere we went during the week we walked.  Then the last day we were again bussed back. 

But I want to talk about the tent cities.

On the initial drive across Port-au Prince I remember seeing a large tent city.  In fact, there are still hundreds of thousands of people living in tents. 

Tent City Outside the Airport

When I saw this first tent city, it was easy to think maybe it wasn’t that bad living there.  I mean, I like camping, I like tents.  Maybe it’s not really that bad, maybe they’re used to it.

Then, one day we walked to a small tent city.  Perhaps 50 tents.  And I got to see firsthand how they live.

Tent_City_Aerial_in_Carrefour

I walked through it and talked to people.  I asked them what their struggles were.  They invited me into their tents.  Not high-end tents like North Face, Eureka, or even Coleman.  They were just tarps stretched over stick frames that had been lashed together with bits of string and old bungees. 

I saw how they lived.  The dirt floors.  The sweltering heat inside that would cause sweat to start dripping off my face and soak my shirt.  The mattress lying on the floor.  The tarps were aging in the sun, I’m sure they will leak when the rainy season comes.  And everything will turn to mud then too.  The people without good clothes.  One lady told me she couldn’t go to church because she didn’t have good enough clothes. 

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Another lady was sitting in the dirt outside her dwelling.  I asked her if she had any prayer requests, and she told me she was miserable.  She asked if I would pray for her in her misery.  My heart really went out to her, and I wished there was more that I could do besides pray.  But, perhaps that was the greatest thing I could do. My faith is weaker than I would like, I’m afraid.

  So I prayed, and I quoted Matthew 11:28 in my prayer, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  When I finished, she raised her hands and I took one, and she uttered a doxology of sorts.  When she finished my translator told me she was thanking us for being there, and for praying, and that while we prayed she felt a peace come upon her.  Then she stood up with tears in her eyes and gave us each a hug.  Crazy.

Another lady was widowed with three sons.  Her youngest was fifteen, and he was lying on a cot in their tent.  This boy was emaciated, nothing but a skeleton, like you see in National Geographic.  Obviously he was suffering from some type of wasting disease.  His face was like a skull.  His arms like pencils, his legs tiny sticks.  But he was a tall kid; how was he still alive?  I squatted down next to him, put my hand on his shoulder, held his hand.  His other hand spasmodically swatting flies. Prayed for him.  What more could I do?  He needed medical attention, but they didn’t have money.  Was told he had once seen a doctor, received an injection, but got worse instead of better.  The mother was very concerned.  She was not a Christian.

Real people.  No, they do not enjoy the scorching heat in their tents.   They don’t want to be homeless.  They wish something would change.  They feel trapped.  They are squatters, the land owner putting pressure on them to move.  They all asked prayer for a permanent place to stay.

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I talked to a number of women who were widows with young children.  One woman’s husband had died in the earthquake.  Another woman’s husband was in the hospital from a motorbike accident.  Yet another woman had a one-month old baby who was sick.  The mother did not have food and was hungry (and consequently, the baby was too as the mother wasn’t producing milk). It was so sad to see her infant quite ill.  We gave her what we had, a few granola bars.  I felt like a heel for not being able to help her more. Then later, on our walk back I remembered there was a bag of trail mix in my backpack I’d forgot about and felt horrible for not giving her that as well.

Just thinking about all this makes we wonder if it was real, if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me.  But then I remember my translator, Watson, and the concern on his face.  He is a pastor, a local Haitian, has a theology degree, and translates as a side job though he told me he considers translating for Missions Teams a ministry as much as a job (he doesn’t get paid much).  I have a lot of resepct for Watson, he’s a courageous guy.  And Watson was particularly concerned about the woman with the young baby who was sick and hungry.  He told me that surely these people had great need. 

When I expressed a desire to come back with more food he agreed that was a good idea and suggested we come back sooner than later.  He even recommended we come back the next morning, because some of these people were hungry now

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That night I felt guilty eating supper, knowing that a few minutes walk from me people were hungry.

We did get back, but it was two days later.  We came with 10 daypacks full of food.  We were warned to be very discrete in giving the food away and only when we were inside of someone’s tent.  If people got wind we were handing out free stuff a riot could start.  Even our translators were a little uneasy about our how things would turn out.  They warned our group several times how important it was to be secretive.

10 Donated Food Bundles

But all went well, and we were able to distribute the ten packages of food to ten very needy tents.  But it was a drop in the bucket – the need was so overwhelming.  We were only at one small tent city.  And we only helped several there.  But they appreciated it. 

Not all our team went around visiting.  Some played with the kids in the vacant lot next door.  We had several folks on our team who were simply amazing with kids. I envied them.

Tent_City_3_Playing_Soccer

The several tents I gave food to were occupied by believing women.  I told them we were one in Christ, in the same family, and they were my sisters  (the men that did live there in the tent city were mostly out working as we came during midday, but many were widows too). And this small gift was as from the Lord.  I reminded them of how God in His scriptures has revealed the special place He has in his heart for widows and orphans, to provide for them. 

  • "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing." (Deuteronomy 10:18)
  • "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." (Psalm 68:5) 

And while reassuring these believing widows with that hope, I myself was hoping to death God was watching over them, because they needed more than our backpacks of food.  It was pretty moving though how appreciative they were: hugging us, and teary.

Driving by the tent city near the airport was one thing (shocking enough), yet rubbing shoulders with the occupants and seeing their need up close was quite another.  I felt privileged to be, in a very small way, the hands and feet of the Lord that day.  These verses came to mind:

  • "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." (Gal 6:10) 
  • “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)
  • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27)

But my tent city experiences brought up hard questions.  What was going to happen to these people next week?  What about when the rainy season hits and everything turns to mud?  Where would they go when the landowner kicks them out? Where was God in all this?  Why are so many people in Haiti in such intractable poverty?  I don’t know. 

But I was glad God did use us in a small way.  And I felt like being there was somehow important too.  I’ve sent money overseas before, but there’s something profound about looking in a persons eyes who is in a desperate situation and encouraging them to keep trusting God.  It affects you.

  • "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble." (Psalm 9:9)
  • "But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish." (Psalm 9:18)

Haiti–Jumbled Impressions

Wow.  So much has happened in this last week.  The trip to Haiti has really been amazing and eye-opening.  I recommend for everyone go visit Haiti! 

Just arrived back in the U.S.A. a short bit ago and will be in Florida several days longer so can’t give a long update now but wanted to post just a few pictures.  I’m at a McDonalds.

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From the air, coming into Port-Au-Prince

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I snapped this from our bus while driving to our location.  Haiti is pretty much a photographer’s paradise.  You absolutely never know what you’re going to see next.  It’s nuts. I thought it was funny to see this guy walkng down the street carrying a rooster.

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This is also on the drive the first day.  That hour drive was bizarre.  Some of the poverty we saw was abject, I don’t think any of us were prepared for it. 

There’s a lot of hustle and bustle in Haiti.  Everyone is out doing something.  It’s like a massive choreographed dance, everywhere you look is movement.

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This is Wylder, a teacher at a school we visited.  His classroom is split into two halves by this chalkboard.  The classroom on the other side is taught by his brother.  They are both believers and super nice guys. 

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This is another classroom at the same school.  These are the kindergarten students.

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This is Job.  And this is at an orphanage we visited on three separate days.  Many of the kids here were starving for love.  I didn’t realize kids could be that needy.  We played with them, but also just held them a lot.  This guy Job clung to me each time we visited, along with his friend Miel.  Job didn’t smile much.  It took something pretty big to make him smile.  But coloring this one page got him pretty happy.  He tried coloring on my leg, but settled for the concrete floor.  Every time I got up (even to take this picture) he would get up and bring me back to sit next to him.  You should have seen Job when he got an entire box of crayons though, his face just lit like someone had given him a million dollars.  Anyways, I heard there hadn’t been anyone adopted from this orphanage before.  Not sure if that was true.

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This older girl was going around asking people to write things on her paper.  I thought she was pretty cute.  Notice her shoes aren’t the best.  Some of the kids here were naked, and most were wearing tattered rags.

Haiti Orphanage

This posed shot was the last day we visited.  I look happier than the kids, that’s probably because there is not a lot positive going there – it would have been much easier to start crying.  From left to right: Nickelson, Miel, and Job (Job and Nickelson are cousins).  The two little boys basically adopted ME from about the first minute I walked into the orphanage on the first day we visited.  They hardly left my side each time we came back and were happy to just sit on my lap all day long.  When we left, Miel just hugged me and hugged me… then tried to be brave and told me me he was going to, “be missing me.”

Nickelson has been at the orphanage seven years.  He showed me his bunkroom and we had a good talk the last day via an interpreter.  We played soccer together too.  He’s a good kid and watches out for the younger ones.  I prayed with him, and he gave me a bracelet.  In our conversation one thing I asked him was if there was anything he was looking forward to and he said oui (yes).  When I asked him what, he said, “Adoption.”

There was so much that happened, these pictures don’t even scrape the surface.  But more later.