Rev. Gesner Paul, Methodist Church of Haiti president, addresses attendees.
Working Together for Haiti’s Future
By Michelle Scott Okabayashi*
May 24, 2012—“This meeting allowed us to realize that we have a common goal of helping Haiti in this time of crisis,” explained the Rev. Gesner Paul, president of the Methodist Church of Haiti (EMH), about the Haiti Mission Partners Consultation, which took place in Orlando, Florida, May 18-19.
The consultation brought together nearly 100 Methodist and United Methodists from Haiti and the US to collaborate on their work and plan for the future. This was the first meeting that brought together these stakeholders since the January 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti.
“The consultation was vital,” noted the Rev. Donald Gotham of Utica UMC in Sterling Heights, Michigan. “We all needed to set goals for how we will work toward a future which offers long-lasting hope and empowerment to the people of Haiti,” he said.
Rev. Paul shared the Five-Year Vision of EMH’s Mission and Ministry in Haiti with the attendees who later met in groups based on each of the program sectors identified by EMH: education, Christian education and evangelism, health, livelihoods, advocacy, and shelter and reconstruction. Each group was co-led by a representative from EMH, a partner organization, and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) or Global Ministries.
“This meeting provided many who are involved in ministry in Haiti with the opportunity to come together, share experiences and insight from years of work in the country, and come up with concrete plans to move the United Methodist body forward in a coordinated manner for continued and meaningful impact in Haiti,” said Thodleen Dessources, Haiti desk officer for UMCOR NGO.
Each working group left the meeting with plans to reconvene via telephone within the next month to continue what they started during the consultation.
“I was impressed by the number of people who came, by their excitement and commitment to achieve results and especially their willingness not to impose solutions, but to listen to what Haitians have to say and suggest,” said the Rev. Marco Depestre, EMH district secretary.
As an historic place of United Methodist mission, there have always been many relationships between EMH and United Methodists in the United States. After the earthquake, the connections and ministries grew exponentially.
As Haiti’s recovery begins to move towards development, those working there also need to adjust how they work. “The hope of EMH and, I believe all of those in attendance, was that the meeting will result in a church with the increased capacity to minister and serve EMH congregations and communities,” explained Dessources.
“Much of the focus during the meeting was to find ways to move from charity relief to individual capacity building to community development,” commented Paulette West, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission coordinator for the Southeastern Jurisdiction.
Haitian and American participants alike talked about what they learned from each other’s perspective as they work together across national and cultural barriers. The Rev. Dionne Hammond, co-pastor, First UMC Melbourne, Florida, and chair of the Haiti/Florida Committee said it well: “We have so much value to each other.”
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*Michelle Scott Okabayashi is a writer and frequent contributor to www.umcor.org.