The ultimate measure of success in missionary work is not total independence. Rather, international relationships should become dynamically and mutually interdependent. The younger, maturing churches can develop a willingness and capacity to lock arms with the international church to carry out the unfinished work of the kingdom of God. Here's an exciting story illustrating this new dynamic in Haiti.
The national superintendent of Ghana, Joe Ocran, posed an unexpected question to Caribe Atlantic Area Director Dan Irvine in 2005. Rev. Ocran simply asked, “When are you [the Haitian church] going to send missionaries to Africa?” Ghana is English-speaking but many of the countries surrounding Ghana are French-speaking, making it more difficult for The Wesleyan Church in Ghana to evangelize across the borders into these more Islamic nations. However, French is the educational language in Haiti and the culture of Haiti is similar in some ways to West Africa. Who better to evangelize French-speaking West Africa than Haitian missionaries?
God was already working out his plan. Bright young Haitian Wesleyans began to express a clear call to the continent of Africa. People in Haiti became more expectant, waiting for God to open a door. In 2011, Rev. Ocran and Africa Area Director Bob Bagley contacted the leaders in Haiti. The Wesleyan Church of Ghana, utilizing a tribal language, had crossed the border into Burkina Faso with the gospel. Now was the time for French-speaking missionaries to help develop and disciple a community of new believers.
Three young Haitian men were chosen and commissioned for a three-month initial experience. Before they left, Rev. Joe Ocran and Global Partners missionaries Carl and Maya Gilles and Dan Irvine provided necessary training in cross-cultural living and also some discipleship materials. The young men visited churches in their home districts to tell their story. They requested prayer, as each young man was required to have 200 prayer partners. And they asked for financial partners. Like North American missionaries, each was required to raise the salary portion of their budgets.
Airfare from Haiti to Africa is no small thing. Africa Area Director Bob Bagley received word from The Wesleyan Church in Papua New Guinea saying the church wanted to give an offering to Africa. Bob immediately thought of airfare for the three new missionaries to Africa. The offering was enough for approximately half the airline tickets for the men. Not long after, Global Partners Executive Director Dr. Dennis Jackson told the story of the Papua New Guinea gift to a group of North American pastors. In a matter of seconds the balance of the funds was raised: a wonderful answer to prayer and an incredible illustration of dynamic interdependence!
The generosity on the part of the Papua New Guinea church on the other side of the world did much to build the faith of three young men who would soon leave their homeland to travel into the unknown.
Imagine the joy, pride, and great sacrifice of The Wesleyan Church in Haiti in sending Windel, Emilio, and Edwidge to share their training and knowledge with the fledgling church plant in Burkina Faso. The Wesleyan Church in Haiti had now joined the sending ranks of The Wesleyan Church in such countries as Peru, the Philippines, Canada, the United States, and Australia, which over the years had sacrificed to send missionaries to establish daughter churches in far away and hard places.
How did the first three months in Burkina Faso impact Windel, Emilio, and Edwidge? It heightened their desire for ministry and mission, they learned to live with culture stress, they taught and discipled, they established lifelong friendships, and they left a part of their hearts in Africa. One of the young men went as an educator and returned with a shepherd’s heart.
The church in Burkina Faso continues to call. What’s the next missionary adventure for The Wesleyan Church in Haiti? There are new chapters to be written in this story, and God will help The Wesleyan Church of Haiti to be ready to fulfill his mandate. Is the goal of sending 20 missionaries from The Wesleyan Church of Haiti by the year 2020 unrealistic? And perhaps The Wesleyan Church of Haiti could also partner with the General Conference of the Caribbean to send missionaries to French speaking islands of the Caribbean! God is doing new things, and he’s only just begun.
And let’s acknowledge God’s new tag line for Haiti: sender of kingdom builders to the far and hard.