“A Christian community is therefore a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for new vision.”
– Henri Nouwen
In April, leaders from four BWA member bodies in Haiti – the Haiti Baptist Convention, the Association of Conservative Baptist Churches of Haiti, the Convention of Haitian Baptist Churches for Integral Mission, and the Evangelical Baptist Mission of South Haiti – gathered for a time of sharing, healing, and visioning.
The pastoral retreat, organized by the Baptist World Alliance and American Baptist Churches International Ministries (ABC-IM), was held in the Dominican Republic (DR) due to ongoing safety concerns in Haiti. Participants included four leaders from each of the four Baptist groups in Haiti; Baptist World Aid (BWAid) Director Marsha Scipio; Caribbean Baptist Fellowship Executive Secretary-Treasurer Anslem Warrick; Global Servants from ABC-IM with many years of service in Haiti; and a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionary serving in Haiti. The leadership of two Haitian Baptist Conventions in the Dominican Republic and a representative from the Dominican Baptist Convention joined the group for a special time of fellowship and a service one evening.
Although the Haitian convention leaders did not know each another previously, they were united by common challenges, anxieties, and hopes as they serve in a difficult context.
The country of Haiti is facing numerous crises. With a poverty rate of nearly 60%, Haiti is the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean and is one of the poorest in the world. Most Haitians do not have access to quality education and almost 50% of citizens 15 and older are illiterate.
The country is also plagued with political instability, corruption, and increasing violence and gang activity. In 2021, President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home.
Natural disasters and environmental concerns also greatly impact the lives of Haitians. In 2010, Haiti suffered a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed an estimated 200,000 people, one of the deadliest earthquakes ever recorded. With one-third of the population impacted in some way by the disaster, BWAid was quick to respond with prayer and immediate financial support. In the months following, BWAid partnered with Baptist General Association of Virginia and
Hungarian Baptist Aid to construct the $1.5 million Source of Light Complex in Port-au-Prince. With 90% of the schools in the area damaged or destroyed by the earthquake, the Source of Light facility lived up to its name – providing a school for 200 preschool and primary students and an orphanage for approximately 50 children.
Since then, the nation has sadly endured multiple hurricanes and earthquakes, including a 7.2 magnitude quake in 2021. In addition, Haiti is experiencing the negative consequences of deforestation, pollution, and limited access to safe water and sanitation.
Through the ministry of BWAid and the BWA Forum on Aid and Development (BFAD), the global Baptist family has been working alongside Haitian Baptists to respond to these disasters. Following the 2021 earthquake, BFAD partnered with the local conventions to construct temporary school shelters, distribute school supplies and food, and provide water filtration.
The pastoral retreat grew out of weekly capacity building meetings held via Zoom with the leadership of the conventions. The leaders wanted an opportunity to gather for reflection and pastoral support. ABC-IM, a BFAD partner, had already expressed a desire to sponsor
an activity like this and so the vision was birthed. This aligned with BFAD’s desire to offer further support for leaders in Haiti who are ministering amid these crises and to discuss how the four conventions – comprised of 177,400 members in 1,110 churches – can unify to address the ongoing challenges in their country.