How would you describe the mission of our partner in Haiti?
The National Council of Spiritual Churches of Haiti (CONASPEH) is a grassroots organization that provides vital services to the Haitian poor through education. CONASPEH understands education as the conduit to eliminate poverty. The doors of CONASPEH are open for every child in spite of their financial status.
After the earthquake of January 2010, the College of St. Andre Classical School (CSC) classes were held outside under tents with old metal chairs and picnic benches for the students and a makeshift chalkboard and chalk for the teachers to use. Students are now attending classes in the new educational building that was dedicated in November 2012. The students have to pass a standardize test before they can be promoted to the next grade level. They have access to school six days a week, with Saturday used for tutoring. College students and former CONASPEH graduates as well as the regular teachers of CONASPEH dedicate their Saturday mornings to tutor students that need to review lessons from the previous week(s). In addition to CSC, CONASPEH has a licensed seminary, a nursing school and plans for a vocational school to help graduates develop skills for job employment.
How do you fit into their mission?
I serve as a teacher in the St. Andre Seminary teaching Theology and English language classes. I also teach English to the nursing students, and to the students in CSC which includes the terminal students (high school seniors), and grades 6 through 11.
I started three Translator Training Groups for students and passed graduates that are interested in using their English language skills to become translators. Being a translator provides opportunity for employment and income which is needed to help support themselves and their families.
Presently, I am writing a proposal called the Continuing Education Scholarship for Graduate Students and Churches of CONASPEH. The purpose of this proposal is to assist graduates of CSC at CONASPEH with persuing their career goals by continuing their education at the university level. When education is completed, students will be expected to help CONASPEH, their church and their community by giving of their time and by using their educationl talent.
What led you to engage in this calling?
During my seminary years, I often heard the call to do overseas ministry but did not think it was a possibility for me. The opportunity became clear when I read the need for a seminary instructor in Haiti at CONASPEH. Like CONASPEH, I also believe that all children and adults have a right to an education and that education is the conduit to eliminate social and economic poverty. I am proud and blessed to serve where there is a need and desire for education despite economic disadvantages.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
John 6:1-21 (especially the Message translation) This scripture helps me to realize the importance of being present.
Specifically, verses 5-9 put the spotlight on the little boy. The presence of the child is phenomenal in this story. Philip and Andrew are so caught up in the number of people Jesus wants to feed they cannot see the possibility of a solution in the presence of the boy with the basket of food. So they’re focusing on and trying to convince Jesus that the solution to His question is impossible. They were overwhelmed by the situation. They were blinded spiritually and relationally because they lost sight of who they were following – Jesus and the experiences they had while following Him. His presence is of the utmost importance to this story because the boy, by being present, was the catalyst to a feeding program and also the catalyst that stretched and strengthened the disciple’s faith.
Sometimes it’s hard to see what is possible when you’re focused on the impossible view of a situation. The child did not know the part he would play in feeding 5,000, but he was present. For me, this scripture helps me to fully understand that the ministry of “presence” is powerful.
What are some of the challenges facing the people of Haiti and CONASPEH?
One of the many challenges that our partner is facing is with providing a way for students to continue their education. The terminal students (high school graduating class) are excited about graduating this spring, but are also struggling with the reality that this might be the end of their education. It is not because of their academic record, it is because most of their families cannot afford to send them to college. It will be a bitter-sweet experience for most of the graduates.
Not only do they experience a strong academic program at CONASPEH, they also have a firm faith foundation of recognizing that they are children of God and they understand the power of prayer.
For the coming graduation season, please remember to pray along with our young Haitian students. That in spite of their circumstances, a door will open so they will be able to continue their education.
What lesson have you learned working alongside the staff and students of CONASPEH that you would like to share with churches in the U.S.?
Although you may not have or know the latest technique or process to handle life’s adversities, keep your eyes on God through Jesus—the perfect model of resurrection. Despite the tragedies of life, get up!
What is a common phrase used in the local churches?
Beniswa Letinel! - Praise the Lord!
Lape Bondye ak nou - Peace of God be with you
Are there books that have shaped your understanding of your work in Haiti?
Which movies have shaped your understanding of your work in Haiti?
Jeanette also shared a wonderful recipe for Poul Fri, Haitian fried chicken.