The Haiti Advisory Committee for the Church of the Brethren mission in Haiti held its first meeting on Dec. 17, 2005, at L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Haitian Church of the Brethren) in Miami, Fla. While seeking to clarify its role in the new mission effort, the group received a report of a fledgling Church of the Brethren congregation in Haiti.
Those present included Ludovic St. Fleur, pastor of L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens, Volcy Beauplan, Jonathan Cadette, Marc Labranche, Jean Nixon Aubel, Wayne Sutton, Merle Crouse, Renel Exceus, Jeff Boshart, and Merv Keeney, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Boshart provided this report of the meeting.
The committee sought to define its role and clarify how it may support the mission effort. It also began to think about ways to report about the mission, and to connect the effort more widely. The advisory committee model is an effort to support St. Fleur and Haitian leadership who have been assigned the responsibility for guiding the new mission effort under the General Board’s international mission structure, the Global Mission Partnerships office.
The Haiti mission was approved by the General Board in Oct. 2004 as a “Haitian-led” endeavor, a new model for the church according to Keeney. The proposal came to the General Board from the Mission and Ministries Planning Council following lengthy exploration with Brethren districts, congregations, and individuals already at work in Haiti.
St. Fleur shared that a “mother congregation” has been formed in Haiti’s capital of Port au Prince. Over 100 people are attending worship, and leadership development is under way. The church building is located on land leased from the Haitian government, near one of the most dangerous parts of the city. As there is tremendous uncertainty regarding the stability of the government, a new location for worship is being investigated. St. Fleur said the greatest needs of the new congregation at this time are for much prayer, more Brethren printed materials to be translated into Haitian Creole, and the necessity of locating a new place of worship.
Jonathan Cadette of First Church of the Brethren in Miami, Fla., who worked as a lawyer in Haiti before coming to the US, said that to be recognized as a denomination in Haiti the Church of the Brethren will have to meet certain criteria including establishment of a headquarters, formation of at least five congregations, and initiation of a social outreach, for example in education, health, agriculture, etc. Work will be done toward meeting the requirements, but the committee felt that practically speaking they do not have any immediate impact on the fledgling congregation.
Former General Board mission staff Merle Crouse, of New Covenant Church of the Brethren in Gotha, Fla., recounted previous Brethren involvement in Haiti and expressed his hope that some connections will be made with remnants of that earlier work. Committee members will follow up on various contacts both in the US and in Haiti.
The general feeling of the meeting was one of optimism and a desire to see the work in Haiti grow and flourish. “We need to keep God in first place, use our knees, leave room for our faith to act, and remember that the future does not belong to us,” said Cadette. June 3 was selected for the committee’s next meeting.