Our Haiti Sister Church
This Ministry in Short
Church in the Pines has a sister church relationship with the Evangelical Baptist Church of the Orange Grove (EBO) in Jacmel Haiti since 2007. It was at that time, under the leadership of the mission Partners with Haiti, that we “partnered” with this wonderful church to pray for and serve one another. CIP has made a number of trips to EBO over these years and Pastor Joseph Beliziare, pastor of EBO, has made a number of trips to our church to speak. The members and friends of CIP sponsor over 70 children in the Christian School that EBO runs. These sponsorships are facilitated through the Bethany Project which is an arm of Partners with Haiti. You will see through the following articles the nature and extent of this relationship which is on-going. After a brief history of our relationship you will find other articles and additional information on this relationship.
A Brief History of the CIP and EBO Relationship…
In 2007, the leadership and congregation of Church in the Pines (“CIP”) wanted to take our Missions commitment to a deeper and more personal connection level, so we began the journey of finding a Sister Church. At the time one of our families was in the process of adopting from the country of Haiti and one of our deacons was Haitian American, so this seemed like a natural place for us to start the search. The Treasurer (Robert St. Julien) from Partners with Haiti (“PWH”) came to speak to CIP in December 2007 about the opportunity of a “Vision Trip” under the direction and care of PWH. After much prayer and consideration, the Lord put together the perfect team of representatives from Church in the Pines and in July 2008 they set off for Haiti. PWH arranged for the group to meet with three different churches (in size and geographic settings) and it was a whirlwind week long adventure. The team traveled to Port au Prince (the capital of Haiti), Les Cayes and Jacmel. Upon return to the U.S., it was the unanimous recommendation of the team that L’Eglise Evangelique Baptiste des Oranges (“EBO”) in Jacmel, Haiti was a perfect “sister church” fit! We are about 200 and they are about 200 ~ we are Church in the Pines and they are Church in the Orange Grove ~ at that time our pastor (Knudsen) had been at the helm for 17 years and their pastor (Belizaire) had led EBO the same length of time ~ we were a country church and they were on the outskirts of Jacmel and very much a country setting! Wow God! You are amazing and each plan and detail is in your hands. Thank you for this first step ~ now what is ahead?
As background, Jacmel is a southern coastal town in Haiti founded in 1698 (about 3 ½ hours outside of the airport in Port au Prince). It has an estimated population of 40,000 and the greater municipality had a population of 137,966 in the 2003 census. The buildings there are historic and date from the early nineteenth century and this port town is known for its vibrant art scene. Among the wealth of arts and crafts available in Jacmel are papier-mâché masks done by over 200 artisans and it was also the host (prior to the earthquake) to a large film festival. The coast includes many scenic white sand beaches and attracts many visitors. Jacmel is regarded as one of the safest areas in the country and foreign visitors that enter the country in hopes of tranquility often head to Jacmel. On January 12, 2010, Haiti experienced a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that caused heavy damage and casualties in Jacmel. It was reported that around 70% of the homes were damaged, with most of the heavier damage being suffered in the poorer neighborhoods. Further information on this below and our thankfulness that God had already begun our relationship with EBO!
So after a year of planning, and of fundraising (for replacement of EBO‘s roof), a group of eight CIPer’s headed to Jacmel for our very first relationship building visit in April 2009. The travelers expected to be in the thick of construction, but with safety consideration of being “high in the rafters” for the removal of tin, painting, and screwing in of new material, we were happy to be assigned clean up duty (below). This gave the group unexpected time to get to know our brothers and sisters (sometimes God says yes, sometimes no and sometimes ~ I have something better in mind for you!). Time was spent in the courtyard playing whiffle ball, Frisbee, blowing bubbles, looking at the photo albums of the CIP church (so they could “meet” a greater number of our church members), and conversations with children, teens and adults. What a gift! The week that began with shy glances and quiet “bonjours” turned into hugs and broad smiles. Organized meetings included leadership, a women’s conference and time with the local farmers. During the women’s conference there was a relationship program rolled out called “Prayer Sisters” ~ an EBO and CIP sister were linked together to pray for each other. The bio cards included personal information and pictures so that we could draw closer to each other as sisters. Initially this was a group of approximately 35 gals from each church and as of 2012 there are about 70 from each church. A member of CIP had also requested ahead of time that if baptism was being scheduled, she would also like to be baptized in Jacmel. Since the ceremony was only planned for a few weeks from the visit, the EBO folks were excited to reschedule and join our two churches in this way! The final night of the group’s stay included the baptism of seven ~ six from EBO and one from CIP. What a way to end a trip ~ with the proclamation of our love and commitment to the Lord and what connects us as brother and sisters! We were sad to go, but excited to return to update our CIP family on the wonder of this global connection.
The excitement and love was spreading between the two churches during 2009. Several of the families from CIP already sponsored children through the Bethany Project (PWH) for the EBO school and that number expanded, more CIP sisters wanted to be a part of the prayer initiative, the guys wanted to get in on this too (Prayer Warriors) and we began to connect on the agricultural outreach with a couple of small fundings to assist the EBO farming community with seeds (the last crop to finance self funding was destroyed in a hurricane). Our churches were connecting in a personal and spiritual way. The next trip (February 2010) was expected to build on our relationship with a two-day Vacation Bible School for all of the EBO children and a two-day Teen Retreat to the seashore and more meetings with the sisters, farmers, leaders and a new outreach ~ medical clinic run on weekends at EBO. Five weeks before the next team left for Jacmel the infamous earthquake occurred ~ Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 4:53 p.m. The lives of our friends were changed forever. We were thankful that none of the EBO members perished in this terrible tragedy, but the church sustained slight damage, the parsonage (next door) was destroyed, and many extended family members were lost ~ particularly loved ones in Port au Prince. Communication systems were damaged and the world held its breath. On Thursday morning (1/14/10) we were able to make contact with Pastor Belizaire and learn of the fate of our Sister Church and brothers and sisters. An emergency business meeting of the CIP membership was called that Sunday and the group voted to provide all “free cash” ($40K) to whatever rescue and relief efforts may be necessary to assist our brethren. The CIP women were studying Esther at the time and I will never forget the passage that weekend and know that the Lord was speaking to all of us ~ Esther 4:14b
“And who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this?” An exploration that began two years ago and started in earnest the previous year ~ your timing and plans are always perfect Lord!
Our supporting agency (Partners with Haiti) began a commitment of “Relief, Rebuilding and Reinvestment” and CIP committed themselves to this purpose as well. The devastating time right after the earthquake included food and water in short supply, inability to travel due to blocked roads and continuing death toll counts for the country that included the Pastor’s nephew and the EBO principal’s brother who were both students in Port au Prince. Cash funds were sent through PWH for relief supplies and a connection with GoMinistries helped to organize five flights to the small airport in Jacmel with relief supplies for EBO and their surrounding community. A small assessment team from CIP (4) was finally able to visit Jacmel in April 2010 (about 90 days after the earthquake). A small amount of clothing and over the counter medications were part of the luggage for our EBO family. While camera crews had been broadcasting from Haiti for three months, it was heart breaking and overwhelming to witness personally the destroyed homes, the piles of cement everywhere and the tent cities that are now a part of life in Haiti. With the direction of the EBO leadership, it was determined that two families that had little shelter (one in a tent) were the best candidates to receive the offered rebuilding funds for homes. In August 2010 funds were sent to Haiti for these two properties and an eight person team from CIP set off to assist the contractors with this task. Our Jacmel families were responsible for digging and laying the foundation prior to our arrival and the team worked side-by-side with the local contractors in 100+ degree heat to erect these two homes. Neither were complete, but well underway by the time the team had to depart, and new bonds were cemented ~ both between EBO and CIP and the local community. Since that trip, funds for two additional homes and rebuilding of the parsonage were provided. The 13 person team in February 2011 had the privilege of getting the parsonage started.
This journey through difficulties and incredible moments of friendship have included a women’s connection each trip, a special day of spiritual outreach to the entire EBO school (VBS) on two trips, time at the local beach with several of our friends, leadership connection, construction projects, working with the newly formed Jacmel Farming Cooperative (seeds and a chicken coop for community business revenue), supplies for the EBO Medical Clinic, a time of adult learning (Sunday School teaching and computer skills), support for a new young adult Trade School (Reinvestment) special time with our Bethany Project Children (gifts, snacks and pictures) ~ but most importantly ~ times of worship with our brothers and sisters! What an incredible gift and privilege this is! I cannot fully describe the wonder and intensity of faith, music, and worship these times have included. Our brethren can raise that new roof off of the place! Amen!!!
Our April 2012 trip to Jacmel included an opportunity to paint the completed parsonage, meet with the graduating classes of the Trade School, and spiritual and fun time with our EBO students. Another family reunion took place in April 2013 and included the opportunity for those travelers to enjoy Easter services with our EBO family and to work on the new classrooms being built for the school. Knowing we were about to purchase land back in Massachusetts for a new church, our sister church presented an offering from them to our team to go towards this work of God. We were and are so humbled by their hearts for God and for us!
A trip to Haiti has been held almost every year. Many of the trips have now centered in ministry vs building projects. On a number of occasions EBO has spent nights and mornings in prayer for us at CIP. We thank God for our relationship and we are both the richer for all God has done between us and through us. And in February 2018 we had a wonderful tenth year anniversary in Jacmel with our sister church.
It is our hope that this growing and long term relationship between churches will be enjoyed by as many brothers and sisters as possible. The strength that is in this connection comes from Christ and all things are possible through Him! Won’t you consider what a trip could mean to you personally? You may never be the same again.
May the glory be to you O Lord ~ as we can do nothing without you. Thank you for opening the door to this great journey. May your global family grow stronger with the bonds you create!