A Struggling Country
Everyday Kim and I are confronted with the profound suffering that permeates Haiti. It is a country where fathers search in vain for work, mothers struggle to feed their hungry children, and education is all too often a luxury that the impoverished masses have little or no access to.
“Many would like the poor to keep on saying that it is God’s will for them to live that way. But it is not God’s will for some to have everything and others to have nothing. That cannot be of God. God’s will is that all his children be happy.”
Archbishop Oscar Romero
Everyday Kim and I are confronted with the profound suffering that permeates Haiti. It is a country where fathers search in vain for work, mothers struggle to feed their hungry children, and education is all too often a luxury that the impoverished masses have little or no access to. It is a country where barefoot children beg in the streets, heaps of fermenting garbage pile up everywhere, and people continue to die of preventable diseases for no other reason than that they are poor. Despite these inhumane living situations it is not uncommon for one of my seminary students or a local church pastor to wonder aloud if the people of Haiti are being punished by God due to their lack of faith or for some sin that they have committed. Others are more confident in their assertions that God has blessed the righteous (aka: rich nations) and is dulling out to the poor nations, including Haiti, exactly what they deserve. Interestingly, much of this type of theology was brought to Haiti and spread throughout the country by evangelical Christians from the United States.
Part of the work that our partner organization CONASPEH does in Haiti is to provide theological education and training for pastors serving in their member churches. Many of these pastors have been leading their churches for several years, but they often do have any formal education and have not had the opportunity to take classes on things such as theology, the Bible, and church history. CONASPEH fills this void by working to provide such courses for these pastors, many of whom serve poor congregations that are unable to pay them a salary. A key component of the theological foundation that CONASPEH teaches can be found in the organization’s symbol, which is an inverted tree. The tree has its roots in heaven, but the fruits of the tree manifest on earth. The message that the inverted tree symbolizes is that the God that Jesus revealed is a God who calls and inspires us to work to produce the fruits of love and justice on earth. Like Jesus, we too are invited to participate in bringing the good news of God’s love and justice to a world where some of God’s children are being denied their right to life and sadly, openly questioning if this is God’s plan for them. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came that they may life and have it abundantly.” As followers of Jesus let us join CONASPEH in preaching the message of abundant life with both words and actions.
Patrick and Kim Bentrott
Patrick and Kimberly Bentrott are assigned to the National Spiritual Council of Churches in Haiti (CONASPEH). Patrick serves as advisor for theological education and diaconal projects and programs. Kimberly serves as an advisor for health care and diaconal projects and programs.