Benjamin K. Hopp
You never know who is going to show up at church. The church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Reformed Presbyterian Church in Delmas), has a regular stream of visitors. Back in 2014, I received an e-mail from an Orthodox Presbyterian pastor in Ohio. He wanted to inform me that two Haitian men who were studying in the United States had become members of his local OP congregation. Since they were returning to Haiti after completing their studies, he wanted to connect them with the mission work in Haiti.
One Sunday, not long after this email exchange, our family was worshipping at the Port-au-Prince church. We had arrived early, after the hour-long drive into the city. As people arrived and gathered for Sunday school, we greeted folks and asked about their week. On this particular morning, I greeted a man whom I did not recognize. He introduced himself as Bernard—one of the two men who were members of the OP congregation in Ohio. He had arrived back in his home country and had found the church.
The Scriptures remind us that we, as members of the church of Jesus Christ, are one body. This means that it is important for the church to be connected both internally and externally. We should love our brothers and sisters. We should seek to serve them and love them.
It is also important for the universal, visible church to be connected. This is even more true when the Orthodox Presbyterian Church sends out missionaries to plant churches of like faith and practice in foreign lands. God has providentially worked to connect the churches of the OPC in the United States and Canada with believers in Haiti in significant ways.
Many people come on short-term mission teams to help the OPC Haiti Mission. They forge an important connection between their churches back home and the churches in Haiti. They share their love for Christ while using their talents at vacation Bible school programs, at pastoral training seminars, or on construction projects in Haiti. They bring encouragement to the churches by showing that they are part of a greater body of believers. And when they return home following their time in Haiti, they carry the prayers of the Haitian believers back to their churches and share their experiences of what the Lord is doing in Haiti.
Once in a while, a visitor arrives who can contribute in a particularly special way. This was the case with Daniel. He speaks the language, knows the culture, and has a deep connection to the OPC. Daniel was born in Haiti, but he left for the United States with his parents in 1971. He grew up in a believing home and continued to attend church. Providentially, God brought him in 1998 to an OP church in Manchester, New Hampshire, which he joined in 2000. In 2004, he was ordained as a deacon.
It was following the devastating Haitian earthquake in 2010 that we met Daniel. The church in Manchester, along with family and friends, had collected immediate relief for people, and Daniel, through family connections, was able to travel to Haiti and distribute it. He commented, “I was blessed to serve there.” But God also wanted to use this brother in other ways to help connect the OP churches back home with believers in Haiti.
Language is important in missions. In Haiti, the two official languages are French and Haitian Creole. Much of the official correspondence is in French, and students start learning in French after the first couple of grades. Haitian Creole is their native tongue. This is what you hear spoken on the street, in the market, and among friends chatting about their day. Daniel speaks both languages.
While Haiti has the Bible available in both official languages, there is only a limited amount of Reformed literature available in either French or Haitian Creole. The Mission is hard at work translating and proofing books and pamphlets. We are also in the process of producing training materials for elders and deacons in Haitian Creole. Daniel has agreed to work with us on these materials. His practical experience as an OP deacon and his language skills, along with his cultural understanding, will be a great benefit to this project as we labor to translate and print Reformed materials. It is our prayer that this connection between the OPC back home and the missionaries in Haiti will bear much fruit.
So you might be asking yourself, What else can my church do to connect with the church in Haiti? We pray and we give. These are significant, and the Mission thanks you for your prayer support and for your giving. Another important way to connect is to encourage and facilitate a trip by your pastor or elder to Haiti. Since the OPC began working in Haiti back in 2002, one of our main priorities has been the training of church leaders. This training is currently going on, both at the Port-au-Prince congregation and on the island of La Gonâve.
There is a great need for solid biblical doctrine in Haiti. It is for this reason that we open up our training seminars to men from other churches as well. And they come. It is exciting to see them learn and work hard at applying the doctrine they hear to their own church environment. We are grateful to see them, with their Bibles open, utilizing the break times to discuss the teaching. Your pastor or elder can help us by traveling to Haiti and teaching these church leaders.
So what happened with Bernard? How has the connection between the OP churches in the U.S. and the fledgling church in Haiti been made? Bernard came to us because you welcomed him while he was a stranger in a foreign land. He had left his home country to pursue his education and needed the spiritual encouragement of a body of Christ. And it was you, the church of Jesus, who welcomed him into your presence.
The exciting outcome of your hospitality was that Bernard grew in his knowledge of the Bible and the Reformed faith. Late last year, he made a profession of faith, along with nine others, at the Port-au-Prince church. He is now a member of the Presbyterian and Reformed church in Haiti. He faithfully attends not just the worship services in Port-au-Prince, but also the other times of Bible instruction. Bernard is often one of the first to answer the questions in Sunday school. He acquired this knowledge from the time spent among you, feeding on the same Word and partaking of the same spiritual food.
Maybe one day you will hear about God raising up Bernard as an elder or deacon in this growing congregation. We are praying that God will raise up men whom the missionaries on the ground can train and to whom the church can cheerfully submit as their spiritual leaders. By welcoming Bernard into your midst—and by sending him back to Haiti—you have been instrumental in building the church in Haiti! This is God’s providential work in building connections within the body of Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).
The author is an OP missionary in Haiti. New Horizons, May 2016.