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Haitian church gives 2 years’ wages for relief
Margaret Dempsey-Colson, Baptist Press
June 25, 2010
6 MIN READ TIME

Haitian church gives 2 years’ wages for relief

Haitian church gives 2 years’ wages for relief
Margaret Dempsey-Colson, Baptist Press
June 25, 2010

PORT-DE-PAIX, Haiti — A

Baptist church in northern Haiti has made an unprecedented gift of 20,000

gourdes ($506) to aid in the recovery from the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The gift, though small by some standards, is the equivalent of about two years’

wages in the Haitian economy.

Photo by Steven S. Nelson

Pierre Cenervil, left, pastor of Nazarite Baptist Church on northern Haiti’s Atlantic coast, led the congregation of 130 to give two years’ wages for earthquake relief work. Visiting the church are Jean Louis Otanieu, center, director of missions in Haiti’s Northwest Baptist Association, and Dennis Wilbanks, associate director of partnership missions for the Florida Baptist Convention.

“Too often we look at the size of the gift, not the size of the sacrifice,”

said Dennis Wilbanks, Florida Baptists’ associate director of partnership

missions. “I was so moved that I could not believe this was actually happening.”

The gift from members of Nazarite Baptist Church in Port-de-Paix on northern

Haiti’s Atlantic coast is the first time a Haitian congregation has given funds

“to distribute as we see fit,” said Wilbanks, who is accustomed to receiving

numerous requests for financial aid from the impoverished Haitians and was

surprised by the unexpected no-strings-attached gift.

On a recent trip to Haiti, Wilbanks, along with Tennessee pastor Steve Nelson

and Jean Louis Otandieu, director of missions in Haiti’s Northwest Baptist

Association, visited the church to thank leaders personally for the sacrificial

gift.

“After crossing five rivers and the roughest road I have ever traversed, we

finally arrived at the church site,” Wilbanks said. “When I saw the building, I

was completely at a loss. I could not believe that the congregation that meets

in this building could ever raise those kinds of funds, much less even consider

giving them.”

With a dirt floor, walls of white mud packed onto rough-hewn wooden slats and a

metal roof, the church building belies its members’ spirit of selflessness and

generosity.

On a typical Sunday, pastor Pierre Cenervil, a father of 10, preaches to about

130 Haitians, many of whom walk long distances for worship. Cenervil explained

to Wilbanks that the church has been praying for a “stronger facility, with

chalkboards and benches, so that they could have a school,” a desperate need in

the area.

Still, having seen what the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti

convention (CMBH) and Florida Baptists have done for Haiti during the past 15

years and saying that Florida Baptists “have been there when no one else seemed

to care,” the pastor led his church to look beyond its own need, Wilbanks said.

Cenervil said he wanted the financial gift to “help the poor people of

Port-au-Prince who lost everything in the earthquake.”

Although his own church

has dire need, he said his congregants needed “to be obedient to God and that

this was the right thing to do to give the money to CMBH for the disaster

relief effort.”

The gift, Wilbanks believes, signifies the maturing of the church in Haiti “from

a people who are only recipients to a people who are givers.”

He believes the

church has set an example and standard for other churches in Haiti “to mature

to the place of giving without expectations of receiving something in return.”

Photo by Steven S. Nelson

The building of Nazarite Baptist Church in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, belies the 130-member congregation’s sacrificial giving for earthquake relief.

“This church is an example of a small, impoverished church partnering with

others to increase its impact through a collective gift,” said Wilbanks, who

emphasized that “faithfulness and obedience are more important than a token

gift given out of abundance.”

After receiving the gift, Wilbanks, Nelson and Otandieu shared soft drinks and

prayer with a few Haitians who had gathered.

“As we prayed at the end of our

time together, we are trusting the Lord that He will make a provision for this

church to build a structure that is safe and can be used not only for worship

but for a school in this community where there is no school,” Wilbanks said.

“As this church has been a blessing, I expect God to bless this pastor and this

church by making provision for the influence to expand its outreach to its

community, Haiti and the world,” he added.

Even as the trio headed back toward home, marveling at the growing spiritual

maturity of Haitian believers, the surprises were not over.

Originally,

Wilbanks had been told the financial gift was 10,000 gourdes, and that was the

amount written on the outside of the envelope presented to him on behalf of the

church. Opening the envelope, Wilbanks counted and then recounted.

The gift

equaled twice the expected amount: 20,000 gourdes.

“How did the other 10,000 gourdes get in the envelope? I do not know!” Wilbanks

exclaimed. “Some might try to explain it away rationally, but I am convinced it

was another of God’s miracles.”

The responsiveness of Haitians to the Gospel message in the aftermath of the

earthquake continues to be a miracle, both in the number of new converts won to

Christ and the start of new churches across the nation, said John Sullivan,

Florida Baptist executive director and treasurer.

In a broadcast e-mail sent to Florida Baptist pastors May 20, Sullivan returned

to a phrase he coined in April: “Hallelujah time in Haiti.”

After a third series of evangelistic campaigns held in Jacmel, Cayes and

Jeremie, Haitian pastors affiliated with the CMBH have reported another 49,912

persons have made professions of faith, bringing the total to 135,330 since

that Jan. 12 earthquake; and another 71 new churches were started, increasing

the number of new churches in the past four months to 135.

This brings the

total number of churches affiliated with the Florida Baptist State Convention

to 1,026.

“This is one of the most amazing displays of the grace of God in redemption

that we know,” Sullivan said. “This is the most amazing display of redemption

with which the Florida Baptist Convention has been involved.”

Sullivan credited Southern Baptist state conventions for their role in the

evangelistic harvest, saying it was “the most amazing display of cooperation

among state conventions that I have been a part of in my years in Florida.

Their churches share in the victories because of their financial support,

mission teams, prayers and encouragement.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Dempsey-Colson is a freelance writer for the Florida Baptist

Convention.)