Pastor Chavannes Jeune is the most well-known Protestant pastor in Haiti. He ran for President of Haiti in the last election and plans to run again in the next. Pastor Chavannes was the president of the Baptist Mission of South Haiti when I first started coming to this country in 1983 with the missionaries who work with that denomination. Since that time, he has become well-known throughout the Haitian world as both a spiritual and political leader.
We went to the Radio Lumiere Church this morning to hear Pastor Chavannes preach, and then to interview him after the service. The large church building appeared to be almost untouched by the earthquake, except for one corner of the roof that was damaged. Yet, we found out when we arrived, the people were too afraid to enter the building and so they had moved the benches, sound system, and generator outside to accomodate the 1,000 or more people.
How strong is the Protestant church culture in this country. Just twelve days ago, an earthquake destroyed most of these peoples' homes, killed members of their families, and buried most of their possessions. Yet looking out over the crowd today, we saw many men with pressed shirts and ties, some with suit coats, and women with nice dresses and many with high-heeled shoes. How did they do that?
Some of you who follow my e-messages regularly know of a young man named Rigaud. Rigaud is the worship leader and singer who accompanied us on our last trip, endearing himself to Margie and me, and for whom I now function as a father/mentor. What a miracle it has been to discover that every person who is closely attached to our ministry in Haiti was spared from death in the earthquake. But we had not yet received any word or response from Rigaud, and we were fearing the worst. Rigaud was finally able to get in touch with me last night, and said he would meet us at the church this morning. He also came in wearing an ironed dress shirt, dress pants, and black "Sunday" leather shoes. He said he borrowed everything from friends in order to be properly dressed for worship.
It turns out that Rigaud, his brother and two sisters were on the first floor of the two-story house where they live when the quake came. The whole building collapsed on top of them. Rigaud realized that he was buried under rubble and could move only his hands. A door had kept one of main concrete beams from crushing him flat. His brother was able to free himself from the rubble and then dug Rigaud out using only his hands. Then the two of them worked together and were able to free their sisters. All had no serious injuries, although Rigaud says his whole body is covered with scrapes and bruises. Now he is sleeping in a car and thanking God for letting him live to see the revival of Haiti!
Back to the church service. Pastor Chavannes preached a powerful message, sharing what he believes to be the most important first lessons God wants the Haitians to follow in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. He began with the lessons of the great need for repentance and unity, and the cleansing of all divisions and jealousies from the Church. He shared the spiritual lessons that God wanted the Haitian church and nation to follow from this day forward, and then he went on to speak of solidarity and the steps to building a new nation from the ashes. I was thrilled to hear this man of such widespread influence and political ambitions speak so unreservedly and boldly that all our hope for the future of Haiti depends upon our commitment and obedience to the Lord, and how our relationships with one another can reflect our life with Him.
After the message, the worship leader invited me to come forward to speak to the people and share a couple of songs. I had time to share only the smallest rumblings of the message that has become like an earthquake erupting from my spirit, yet the opportunity given me was a great privilege. I felt the Lord affirming to me that I was placing his healing hand on a thousand souls as I sang to them:
When the mountain is steep, when the valley is deep,
When the body is weary, when we stumble and fall,
When the choices are hard, when we're battled and scarred,
When we've spent our resources, when we've given our all:
In Jesus' name we press on.
In Jesus' name we press on.
Dear Lord, with the prize clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on.
Jim Glynn, Pastor/President
Heart of God Ministries
Freeport, IL USA