Monday, April 29, 2013

Calvary Bible Fellowship meets Vieux Bourg MEBSH Church

IMG_2410Calvary Bible Fellowship, from Sinking Spring, PA, sent a leadership team down last week to get vision, to scout the land, and ultimately to consider a long term partnership with the people of Vieux Bourg MEBSH Church, in Vieux Bourg d’Aquin, Haiti (pronounced Via Bou in Creole).  The team of 8 from Calvary, all Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and Stewards saw and experienced first hand, what a partnership looks like.  They were sent as scouts; I believe they returned as mobilizers for the Gospel. 

Pictures can be seen here.

Both of these churches tested the waters to consider the possibility of a long term partnership.  Unity and harmony of belief, practice and vision are key.  The cultures are certainly different, and both must be strongly considered, respected, and even honored, but mutual love for the same Lord, and the unified desire to extend his kingdom inside and outside the church brings the Church together as one, as God intended it to be.  One body, one purpose.
IMG_2480We worshipped with one another, a lot.  We prayed with one another, a lot.  We laughed with one another, a lot.  We cried with one another.  We danced with one another.  We served the poor and sick with one another.  We held hands with one another.  We shared the Gospel with one another.  We dreamed with one another.  We listened to one another.  We learned from one another. We ate with one another.  We served one another.  We loved one another.  We loved with one another.

We came together for the Gospel.  RMI mobilized people, into a partnership, in order to transform lives in Christ.  As one team member said, “I will never ever be the same person again.   God did some things this week in my life that I never expected, and these things will never allow me to be the same again”.  Not only was that obvious among the whole team from the US, but it was also obvious that many lives here in Haiti will truly never be the same again.  Lives were transformed. 

I myself, will never be the same, because I was a participant, and a recipient, of these reciprocal ministries…   Thank you Calvary Bible Fellowship.  Thank you Vieux Bourg MEBSH Church.  I can’t wait to see what God does in the future…


Friday, April 05, 2013

Picot 2013; More Than Choir Robes

Going to Picot is always like going home.  I wasn’t even in the country two weeks before I headed out to Picot with the team for the first time in 2009.  Then in the fall of 2009 I did a two week language emersion study in Picot.  So I’ve spent a lot of time there and every time I visit, it’s always a special time.  It is no different for the folks from Trinity Bible Church. They’ve been a Sister Church for over 20 years, and Pastor Calixte and his wife have visited Trinity Bible Church as well.  So when the two churches reunite, its always a special time. 
This year was no different.
When the Trinity Bible Team arrived in Picot, there was excitement in the air.  Team members could hardly wait for the trucks to stop rolling so they could get out and go hug their family!  And as the sound of the trucks were heard as they pulled into the yard, the Picot folks poured out of the building also anxious to reunite with their loved ones.  “I’ve been praying for you since last year!”, they exclaimed to one another over and over again.  It was a beautiful sight; especially because I knew it was true.  They HAD been thinking about, longing to see, and praying for one another since last year. 
Once the dust settled and the excitement of the arrival subdued, the team had something special they wanted to present the church.  They had ask Pastor to make sure all the choir choir robesmembers were present, because they had something special to give them.  Excitement buzzed as the team called the choir members up one at a time and presented them with a robe.  Each robe had been measured to fit the individual and had been marked inside with their name (they had gotten measurements from pastor a head of time).  They might as well has just been given gold.  The choir members were beyond excited.  Once all the robes had been distributed the choir gathered at the front of the church and sang for the team.  There were tears in the eyes of many of the team members as they began to realize just what a special gift they had given the Picot Church. Pastor Calixte shared with the team that the Annual MEBSH Convention was coming up in a few weeks and their choir was scheduled to sing at the opening service.  It was important for them to have some kind of robe or uniform and since they didn’t have their own, they would need to rent.  But they really didn’t have money to rent robes for everyone so they weren’t sure what they were going to do.  “But”, Pastor said, “We signed up for singing at the Convention, regardless, and trusted God would provide.”
Indeed he did provide!
The team was a mix of returning members as well as some who had never been.  One of the team members had flown all the way from Liberia to join the team.  He is a member of Trinity Bible but spends much of his time Liberia overseeing a ministry he started to help those in Liberia suffering in some of the same ways he had, himself having grown up in Liberia.  His parents had practiced voodoo.  He had grown up hungry and with no education.  He was a victim of the Civil War, had been captured by the Militia, rescued and put into a Refugee Camp, which is where he met Christ as his savior.  Sunday morning, Eric shared his testimony of suffering and rescue and it resonated in the hearts of many who heard it as it helped them to realize that its not just Haitians who experience suffering, but that it exists all over the world. 
The rest of the week was busy.  Busy with meetings, and church services, and visits to shut-ins among other things.   The ladies on the team met with a representative from the Domestic Center (located in Cayes) along with the Picot Ladies Leadership team to discuss the possibility of a partnership.  Team members (and spouses) Marie and Ralph, both long time educators themselves, met with the teachers at the Picot school to learn more about their needs and to find ways they could come along side the teachers and support them.  There was an open air service, a kids meeting, a men's meeting, a ladies meeting, a deacons meeting, and a satellite church visit.  On Wednesday before leaving the team visited with some of the churches widows and shut-ins where they prayed for the members and left them with a box of food. 
(L: The Ladies of Picot Church meeting with the Ladies from Trinity.  R: Praying with one of the widows the team visited on Wednesday.)
But the highlight of the week just may have been Tuesday night.  The church was full and an excitement filled the air.  Outside the back door of the church a crowd was assembling.  As picot5they gathered, they all had one thing in common.  They were all wearing their new cream colored choir robes.  When the time came for them to sing, they entered the church and the team was thrilled to see them so proudly adorning their new robes.  Each robe was a perfect fit.  They filled the stage and they began to sing and in the same way their bodies filled the stage, their voices filled the church, as though a heavenly choir was present, so said the team.  It was a beautiful, moving moment that I doubt those present will ever forget. 
All in a great visit with every activity encouraging and uplifting both the Haitian and American Churches, strengthening their partnerships and solidifying their lifelong commitment to one another. 

The Ministry of Presence: Second Cape May Baptist and Port a Piment

Last week we had a team from Second Cape May Baptist Church in Marmora, NJ here to visit their sister church in Port a Piment, Haiti.  These two churches have had a  partnership for over 30 years!  I (Becky Thompson) had the privilege of going out with this team along with team leader Benjamin Altema and 3 other Haitian staff.  It’s not often I get a chance to go out with the team while Rob stays home with our kids.  Since our sister-in-law was coming in the team, it was the perfect opportunity for me to go out.  I’m thankful that Rob is willing to give me these opportunities!  For a more personal account of this trip, read The Ministry of Presence: My Personal Testimony over at Rob and Becky’s blog.

IMG_0360During our week in Port a Piment, the idea that kept running through my mind was what RMI President Dan Shoemaker calls “the Ministry of Presence.”  God’s presence, in us, overflowing in ministry to others.  It’s the ministry of celebrating Christ together and our relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ.  It’s a ministry of encouragement. I felt like it was truly manifested that week in everything the US team did.  One thing this church does very well is recruit new members for each team every time they come.  They have seen the impact this makes on their church at home. When more and more church members are exposed to this long term partnership, more and more people are engaged in the ministry of presence, both in Haiti and back home in the US.

Unfortunately for this team, their flight from New York was delayed a long time and they didn’t arrive at our Guest House in Cayes until 10 pm!  They were all very tired from their journey but ready to visit with their brothers and sisters in Port a Piment!  After orientation, packing up and lunch on Saturday, we all gathered for our traditional prayer circle and off we went.  After a 2 hour drive we arrived on the outskirts of Port a Piment.  Waiting for us was the youth brigade and a band, and they welcomed the team with a parade through the town leading to the church.  Saturday afternoon and evening were spent getting settled in and preparing for ministry in the days ahead.

This team didn’t have any big “project” to do.  Their goal was encouragement; to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  They worshipped together during 2 services, and collaborated by having an open-air gospel service in the community.  Praise the Lord for a new brother-in-Christ in the Port a Piment area named Mackenson!  They planned special gatherings for the ladies and men’s groups and had a lot of fun during a gathering with the school kids.  We visited shut-ins and had the opportunity to pray with them.  Twice we visited 2 different churches in the district: Sentiment Church and Bosquette Church.  The goal for all these activities was to build relationships and share the love of Christ.

IMG_1802 One highlight was our visit to Sentiment Church.  We were told we would drive and then get out and have to hike about 30 minutes to get there.  We followed a river bed, had to cross the river by foot 3 times.  We all had squishy shoes when we arrived!  The last 10 minutes we turned from walking along the riverbed to walking up the mountain.  When we arrived a the top of this small mountain, the small, crude church building was decorated beautifully and was full of people waiting to worship with us.   It was very humbling to worship with this body of believers.   Not long ago, the evangelism committee at the church in Port a Piment decided to go to this area and share the gospel.  Many came to Christ and from this, the Sentiment Church was born. This area was the church in Port a Piment’s “Judea” (Acts 1:8.)  It was exciting to see the fruit of the Great Commission in action.IMG_0427

This team was really impacted by how well the Haitian church received them.  They were humbled by the sacrifices made to provide beds and the sacrifice of time in preparing meals.  This wasn’t just a time for the American church to come down and serve the Haitian people.  The Haitian church took joy in serving their brothers and sisters who came to be with them.

Overall it was a very fruitful week for this team, living out the ministry of presence.

Second Cape Port a Piment March 2013