Rev. Gessner Paul, president of Eglise Méthodiste d'Haïti, leads the closing prayer at the Haiti Night celebration during the Global Ministries board of directors meeting. Paul is flanked by Global Ministries General Secretary Thomas Kemper (right) and President of the Board Bishop Hope Ward.
April 19, 2013—The General Board of Global Ministries paused its semiannual board of directors meeting last week to mark—with music, food, and fellowship—the strides it has made in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake and to celebrate its principal partner in recovery there, the Methodist Church of Haiti (Eglise Méthodiste d'Haïti, EMH).
Like the board meeting, “Haiti Night” was held at the mission organization’s headquarters in New York City, in a hall festively decorated with Haitian crafts, fabrics, and art. The Rev. Gesner Paul and the Rev. Marco Depestre, president and secretary, respectively of EMH, were special guests of Global Ministries.
There was poule en sauce (chicken stew) on the menu, and the Haitian roots-music band, Kongo, a family troupe, pounding out traditional music, song, and dance entertainment. A slide show played continuously in the background, depicting moments, encounters, and projects of the past three years.
Global Ministries, principally through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), has been present in Haiti literally since the earthquake occurred on January 12, 2010, when three of its staff were trapped in the rubble, as were tens of thousands of Haitians.
The Rev. Sam Dixon, then head of UMCOR, and the Rev. Clinton Rabb, then head of Mission Volunteers, died of their injuries. The Rev. Jim Gulley, trapped with them, survived and continues to this day to lead UMCOR’s work in the field of agriculture and capacity strengthening in Haiti.
Since the quake, UMCOR and EMH have worked together to restore permanent homes, schools, and churches; rebuild livelihoods; promote health, hygiene, and access to clean water; and bolster EMH’s considerable education system.
Some of that work was depicted for Haiti Night in a series of poster-size reproductions of hand-drawn illustrations located at intervals around the perimeter of the hall. They were originally created to illustrate a report of these activities, which was published last January.
Centerpieces on each of the tables included craft items fashioned by the mostly women participants of HAPI (Haitian Artisans for Peace International), a partner in Haiti devoted to helping rural communities build livelihoods (see related story)
Thomas Kemper, general secretary of Global Ministries, introduced Paul and Depestre, who traveled from Port-au-Prince for the celebration. About the shared work in Haiti he said, “If there is one thing I have learned from my time in Latin America,” where Kemper and his family served as missionaries, “it is that where there’s sorrow, there is also joy.”
By way of acknowledgement, Rev. Paul outlined for the gathering a series of achievements since the earthquake. Among other gains, he underscored:
- Most schools in the Haiti Hot Lunch program now receive three hot meals a week, and teachers and kitchen staff have received nutrition and hygiene trainings.
- Reconstruction of EMH’s flagship school, New College Bird, broke ground in September 2012.
- Rural participants in the Passing on the Gift goat program are passing on a second generation of goats to their neighbors in need.
- Six loan groups across Haiti have received microcredit training.
- EMH health board has been established and will help guide the church’s health-care ministry.
- EMH, along with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, has hosted more than 2,500 volunteers in 280 teams since January 12, 2010.
“We thank God for the past; we thank him for what is to come,” Paul concluded. “Muchas gracias. Merci. Thank you.”
UMCOR’s partnership with EMH and other local and international organizations in Haiti continues. Support this work with your gift to Haiti Response, UMCOR Advance #418325.
*Linda Unger is senior writer for the General Board of Global Ministries.