January 12, 2010 was a day that changed the country of Haiti. Hundreds of thousands perished in an event that did not take a minute. A massive earthquake shook the foundations of Haiti and left the majority of the country in rubble. As I watched what was taking place through the television broadcasts, I felt helpless. Haiti is basically in our own backyard, being only two hours by plane from Miami. Certainly there was something we could do.
Within one month, we received an email from a Haitian pastor who came to town looking to attend a church. Grace Baptist was the first to respond, and for the next three months Pastor Odanis Joseph would spend every Sunday and Wednesday gathering with our church family. During this time, we came to know and love this brother and learn about the sufferings he has experienced. His house (that took him 8 years to build) was completely destroyed. His wife was trapped and traumatized for hours. Twelve orphan children never made it out of the orphan school in Port-au-Prince, and 34 members perished. Perhaps most painful was the news of the death of his father when the church building collapsed on him in Desarmes. This was the mother church, his hometown, and the biggest influence in Pastor Joseph’s life.
Getting to Know Pastor Odanis Joseph
Since March 2010, I have had the privilege to discover the amazing ways God has worked in Pastor Joseph’s life. Only 32, he has planted ten churches and raised up pastors for each church. He has hosted both radio and television programs proclaiming the gospel across Haiti. As an educated lawyer, he has been privileged to impact many influential leaders in Haiti, including supreme court justices, city deputies, and the chief of police in the country’s capital. He has been kidnapped with the intentions of murder, and yet God has spared his life.
When I met Pastor Joseph, he was incredibly weighed down by the burden of trying to care for 1800+ orphans and the 12 churches who looked to him as their sole provider. Most if not all his financial donors died in the quake, having lived in Port-au-Prince. God put him in our church, and quickly God put Haiti on our heart.
The Start of the Haiti Collective
Pastor Joseph went back to Haiti at the end of May with a love offering from Grace and a promise that we would send a team on a vision trip to visit the churches and orphanages under his care. That trip took place in September 2010 as I traveled throughout the country of Haiti, gaining first-hand knowledge of the need and learning how we could play a role in partnering and investing in the network of churches under Pastor Joseph’s care.
In order to communicate, collaborate, and concentrate our efforts stateside, I started The Haiti Collective. Through this website and blog, interested churches and individuals are able to stay up to date on all that is happening in Haiti, including new projects, partnerships, and mission initiatives. The primary foci of THC are laid out in our menu bar:
Adopt-a-Pastor – our program for investing in gospel-centered pastors by prayer, theological education, and practical training
Partnerships – our stateside network of churches partnering with the network of churches in Haiti for gospel growth and kingdom advance
Mission Trips – summaries of previous and future mission endeavors in Haiti
Orphan Care – explanation of our efforts to minister to orphans in Haiti, currently around 1,800 children
Church Planting – establishing new gospel-centered churches with indigenous leadership and reproducible DNA
Micro Business – a simple strategy for employing mid-term and long-term missionaries with skills and services to equip and empower Haitian men and women for successful and sustainable livelihood
Relief, Development, and Reform
We have adopted the ministry philosophy from When Helping Hurts and Tim Keller’s ministry paradigm of working among the poor. The biggest, and most urgent need has been to care for the 1,600+ orphans who have been without food supply, clean drinking water, and a means of education since the earthquake. In order to address these needs, we created the Libere Orphan Project. Through Libere, we are seeking to provide immediate relief to orphans in our Haitian churches by providing three meals a day, 300+ water filtration systems throughout the network of churches, and educational supplies and stipend for educators investing in them on a regular basis.
On the development front, we invest in local churches through (a) church partnerships with stateside churches (b) theological education/training twice a year for 60+ leaders in the network, and (c) adopt-a-pastor program, where individuals, small groups, or churches can pray and support individual pastors in Haiti.
On the reform front, we confront the pressing needs of Haitian communities, in particular job creation, mercy/justice ministry, and orphan adoption process. Through mid-term missions (3-6 months) we send missionaries who train Haitians with particular skills and business practices to establish micro-businesses that can be franchised in other areas of the country.