Presentation at the Wider Church Ministries luncheon, July 1, 2013
General Synod 29, Long Beach, CA
Beniswa Letinel! Praise the Lord!
I know that in 1806, the Haystack Prayer Group could not imagine how that meeting would evolve into a most powerful mission movement. In 2013, we are witnesses to the power of their prayer.
According to the history of the Haystack meeting, the formation of the ABCFM (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions) gave students an opportunity to go abroad and spread the teachings of Christianity.
Well before I begin my mission to Haiti, I had to reflect on what does that mean, what does that look like for an African American single women in 2013, accepting a spiritual call to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere?
Like the Missionary Herald, the newsletter that printed reports from the missionaries, long before the modern communication of today, I will be your window to what it looks like in our time to spread the teachings of Christianity in Ayiti / Haiti.
Economically, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere but …
Spiritually, it is extremely rich! Like Marcus Borg,“I met Jesus again for the first time” in Haiti.
Politically and socially challenging but …
Culturally in tune with life; a living productive life despite the horrific circumstances.The elders in the church where I grew up would say, They know how to “keep on keeping on.”
They live out the phrase…. “This is the day that the Lord has made” because
When the sun rises, the Haitian rise and take full advantage of the day, doing whatever is needed to survive. Survival in Haiti can looks like:
Vendors on the streets selling food, material goods, and services needed for others to survive.
Since school and church are most important to Haitians, survival can look like parents “making a way out of NO way” so their children can attend school.
Survival looks like our Haitian sisters and brothers worshipping God almighty with their heart, mind and soul… And that, they know how to do. Beniswa Letinel!
I served in Haiti with our partner organization called CONASPEH – The Council of Spiritual Churches of Haiti.
CONASPEH believes that all children have the right to an education and that “education means liberation.” They run a K-12 school, seminary and a nursing school in Port-au-Prince.
And so my service, through Global Ministries, to our Haitian sisters and brothers was to meet a critical need that answered their critical need for education. Therefore, for me, spreading the teachings of Christianity in Haiti looked like this:
- In the CONASPEH seminary, I taught a variety of Biblical and Theological topics
- Responding to the students request to learn the English language, I taught English
- I also taught a class on the Introduction to the Greek language
- I taught English to the nursing students and to students in grades 5 through 12.
Since there are so many mission groups and individuals that come to Haiti needing translators, I started a Translator’s Group with post graduates of CONASPEH and students from other schools that wanted to learn and/or improve their English. Learning English makes them more marketable and gives better access to employment.
And I also initiate a project to help graduating students receive scholarships to continue their education at the university level.
Outside of CONASPEH, spreading the teachings of Christianity also looked like getting water from a well to mix cement to pour between rebar to prepare a structure for building a church. Getting water from a well is not an easy job!
Climbing a mountain to a church with walls made of curtains and a roof made of tarp held together with bricks and nails, to worship our God. It was a hard climb, but it was worth it!
It is not how we define a critical need, it is how our partners define it. To be present with our Haitian sisters and brothers six and sometimes seven days a week meeting a critical need is what it looks like today to spread the teachings of Christianity.
So I ask that you continue pray, so that what the Haystack Prayer Group started will continue to evolve because…
We (I) ain’t gon let nobody turn us (me) around, turn us (me) around, turn us (me) around
We (I) ain’t gon let nobody turn us (me) around,
We (I) goin’ to keep on talking, keep on walking, marching with our sisters and brothers all over the world up to freedom land.
Jeanette Salley, a member of St. John’s United Church of Christ, Richmond, Virginia, serves with the National Spiritual Council of Churches in Haiti (CONASPEH) as an assistant for disaster preparation and response, as well as a teacher at St. Andrew Seminary.