February 17, 2017
It has been 200 years since Methodism first came to Haiti, at the request of Francis Reynalds, captain of the ship Hebe. You can read about that, and how Methodism has developed since, in Leslie Griffith’s book, a History of Methodism in Haiti. Griffith was in Haiti to commemorate the bicentennial in the first week of February with many others, as they celebrated the past and looked toward the future.
On Sunday, February 5, there was a special church service at En L’Eglise Methodiste de Port-Au-Prince, a large Methodist Church of Haiti (EMH) church in the center of the capital city. Representatives were present from North America and Europe.
Speaking before the offering, Rev. George Mulrain of the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and Americas (MCAA) cited the verse, “When he saw him, his heart was moved with pity.”
“My grandfather used to like to cite this verse, and note how in Haitian Creole, in all its simplicity, conveys the truth of this scripture very well,” he said. “How beautiful those words from Luke’s Gospel sound in our Mother’s tongue, calling us to love one another in the way of the good Samaritan.”
Dr. Olusimbo Ige, executive director of the Global Health Unit of the General Board of Global Ministries, said she prays that people continue to follow the call to serve as the hands and feet of Christ in Haiti.
“May 200 years from now, Methodists gain inspiration from the ministry we are doing today,” she said.
Knowing his audience, Bishop Paul Gesner quoted John Wesley prominently in his sermon, highlighting Wesley phrase: “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”
Gesner referred to the success the Methodist Church in Haiti has had in establishing schools. The Methodist Church of Haiti is largely involved in education. It operates 102 schools with about 18,000 students.
“With the public and private partnerships with the government in education, the task has not been easy. The church has been persecuted. But when you are with Jesus Christ, the mission will be fulfilled in spite of what others try to do,” he said.
“We are celebrating our unity and asking you to continue to keep us in your prayers. We are out to accomplish the mission set by God himself. We want those in power to know that integrity raises up a nation. May God bless you as we continue on this mission.”
For three days prior to the 200-year celebration, the Methodists had a partners meeting in Port-Au-Prince. The meetings have been a regular occurrence since the earthquake in 2010 and are a time of review and accountability of ongoing projects and planning for future ministry. This year’s meeting involved the Methodist Church in Haiti (EMH), the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the United Church of Canada, the Methodist Church of the United Kingdom and the Methodist Church of Ireland.
Some of the partners have been involved in Haiti 30 to 40 years. After the earthquake in 2010, most of these partners were focused on disaster response. They are now looking at taking a longer view, as is the case with the Missouri Conference.
On the last day of the Partners Conference, 115 pastors were certified through the Methodist Church of the Americas. The training for the certification was conducted largely by the Michigan Area Haiti Task Force of the United Methodist Church in partnership with the EMH. The seminars were conducted in four locations, and the total attendance at each of the sessions averaged 362.
There were 19 pastors from Michigan who served as trainers. The men outnumbered the women in the training about nine to one. The ages ranged from the 20s to the 70s. There were 15 recognized who had 40 years of service. These fully credentialed pastors can now serve communion if they are authorized to do so by an elder, and they can start new congregations.
“They are trying to double their number of pastors, churches and members by 2022,” said Rev. Karl Zeigler, Detroit Conference pastor.
In the EMH there are currently 15 ordained pastors, 225 congregations and 9,000 members.
The seminars cost about $25,000 per weekend for all three sites. All of the lectures were video recorded so they can be used in future training sessions. The Michigan area was in for $75,000 and the General Board of Global Ministries put in $25,000.