Outreach in Haiti
- Dieumeme Noelliste
- Jun 14, 2012
It was January 2010 that Haiti suffered one of the most devastating earthquakes in it's history. Dr. Dieumeme Noelliste, Director of the Vernon Grounds Institute, grew up in Haiti and founded Role Prophetique after this devastating event. In May, the Grounds Institute and Dr. Noelliste took a group from the Seminary to Haiti to learn more about the area and the ministry of Role Prophetique. Below is an account of the trip from Dr. Noelliste.
This year, Vernon Ground Institute of Ethics’ Salt and Light Seminar had a second component that was held in Haiti in partnership with the movement the Role Prophetique of the Church, which was founded in the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 devastating earthquake. The Role Prophetique is a Haitian-led movement that seeks to mobilize and challenge the Haitian church to exercise a more robust witness in a country beset of social ills of all sorts.
Just like the Grounds Institute, the Role Prophetique was focusing on the issue of environmental care and had devoted the better part of a week (May 25-31) to hammer out that theme. Three of us from the Denver Seminary community took the long trip to Haiti to participate in a mammoth effort to heal the devastated Haitian landscape. The three member delegation consisted of Pastor Felix Gilbert, D. Min student and pastor of Restoration Christian Fellowship, Elizabeth Boeve, M.A. student in Justice and Mission, and myself, Dieumeme Noelliste, Director of Vernon Grounds Institute of Ethics.
Our trip began with the boarding of a midnight flight at DIA on May 25, which took us to Port au Prince very early the next day. After a few hours of recuperation from the virtually sleepless night, at the Compassion Village it was time to get down to business. Our six day stay was consumed by three main activities, which are highlighted below.
Church Ministry (May 27)
As part of the effort to raise awareness of Haiti’s severe environmental crisis, the Role Prophetique had decided to deploy preachers to churches throughout Port au Prince to speak on the theme of creation care. Our team was assigned three churches: a Methodist, a Baptist and a Pentecostal. Pastor Gilbert went to the first, and Dr. Noelliste to the latter two, accompanied by Elizabeth. Haitians tend to hold very early worship services so this meant a very early rise to make the first service planned for 6:00 a.m. Following that service, the driver rushed us across town to the Baptist church for the 9:00 a.m. worship. At both services Elizabeth shared a testimony on the effort of Denver Seminary on behalf of the environment, while Dieumeme delivered a message which challenged the Christians to show their appreciation for God’s gift by caring for the earth. Back at the Compassion Village at about 2:00 p.m., we were exhausted, but glad to hear that, just like us, the other preachers had a fruitful ministry in their respective churches.
Seminar at Titanyen (May 28-29)
The preaching spree over, our attention was turned to the two-day seminar where the bulk of the work would be done. The venue for the seminar was at Titanyen, a rural community located at some 20 miles from Port au Prince. Although the distance is short, it took almost two hours to get there due to bad roads and heavy traffic. This meant another early rise on Monday.
When we arrived at Titanyen at about 9:00 a.m. most of the 120 pastors and Christian leaders who came from all over Haiti were already there. We got to a slightly late start, but the participants received with great eagerness the information that was shared on this first day. Ed Brown presented the Biblical teaching on the environment as well as the global dimension of the environmental crisis. Elizabeth shared with a group of seminary administrators and students the work of the Grounds Institute, including a power point presentation on this year’s Salt and Light excursion to the Upper South Platte and Waterstone Church. Pastor Felix Gilbert concluded the day with a soul-stirring message from Gen. 1 on the mandate to care for creation. Pastor Gilbert’s message took us to a spiritual high, but as we left the meeting hall, some of us were wondering how we would spend the night.
The venue at Titanyen where the conference was held was actually a camp. The living quarters were very tight (10 x 10) with two sets of bunk beds. There were modern bathrooms, but they were located in separate buildings. The temperature was in the 90’s, and there were fears that the Titanyen mosquitoes would notice our presence and help themselves with the fresh blood that had invaded their habitat. But as it turned out, that first night was not as miserable as we had feared. This was mainly due to the cool breeze that blew from the nearby Caribbean sea. It not only tampered the heat and oppressive humidity that we experienced during the daylight hours, it also kept the mosquitoes at bay.
The second day of the seminar can rightly be called media day. Right after the devotion led by pastor Robert Bilda, president of the Evangelical Association, we plunged into a panel discussion that was broadcast live on Haiti’s main Christian radio station: Radio Lumiere. Ed Brown and Dieumeme joined several key Haitian leaders on the lively discussion that lasted two full hours. Following this radio blast, a busload of journalists showed up in midafternoon for a news conference at which the formal declaration of the seminar was read and distributed to the press for subsequent coverage. The day ended with a service of commitment at which Dieumeme delivered the final message of the colloquium, charging the participants to begin the task of restoring the distressed Haitian environment without delay.
Tree Planting (May 30)
Several of the participants at the seminar heeded the call to immediate action by joining the tree planting exercise that was planned for the next day in the vicinity of Titanyen. On that day, we left the camp at 6:00 a.m. for two sites to join groups of children and adults for a day of tree planting. The first site was a school and the second was a village, both part of the ministry of Compassion International Haiti. The half day exercise resulted in the planting and distribution of some 500 plants.
The plants were not just put into the ground and left to struggle on their own. No, they were each assigned caretakers from the villagers in house yards they planted and from the school children. At the school, members of our team prayed with each student by their trees and encouraged them to do their best to ensure that their tree survives. As I wrap up this report, a week has passed since the experiment has taken place. Reports from the school indicate that the students have so far taken their responsibilities toward the trees very seriously. Let’s hope and pray that they and the villagers will continue to do so until the trees can make it on their own.
There is no doubt that what was done during that week received an enthusiastic response from the churches, the participants at the colloquium, and those who take part in the tree planting exercise. However, while encouraging, that response in itself will not result in the transformation of Haiti’s depleted landscape unless the enthusiasm we witnessed at Titanyen is translated into a tidal wave that sweeps Haiti in its entirety. But for this to happen, there must be visionary leadership which is prepared to step forward and embrace the challenge to fan the flame that has been lit. Pray for the Role Prophetique movement in its effort to identify such a leadership.
Dr. Dieumeme Noelliste
Professor Theological Ethics
Director Grounds Institute of Public Ethics
Founding Member, Groupe de Travail
Role Prophetique Movement