September 23, 2014

The Wise Man Built His House upon the Rock

By Brittany Tedesco

“The wise man built his house upon the rock. And the rains came tumbling down!” sing the children every year at the church where I help with Vacation Bible School.

Our Africa Director just returned from the land of high mountains. Haiti, to be exact.

He brought back photos of the people, the landscape, and the gospel work that Christian Aid Mission is supporting there. In one of his photos, a group of children stared blankly ahead. No smiles. “They´ve grown up with cameras in their faces,” he told us, “and they´re weary of it.”

The poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, Haiti has experienced a slew of natural disasters, including devastating hurricanes and earthquakes. Each time, foreign aid workers flood the region, snapping pictures as they work to rebuild. Plenty of foreign aid dollars accompany them.

Billions have been sent to that little island nation throughout the years. Has anything improved? Is there any evidence of lasting change? Why does it feel like history repeats itself there?

From far away, Haiti´s mountains look like they´re draped in patchwork quilts. Up close, we see the quilts are blankets of brightly colored houses, tightly packed, covering the peaks.

On one mountain, a large colorful swath of houses butt against an ashy gray section—the ruins of the 2010 earthquake, still inhabited by people with nowhere else to go. A well-funded NGO is bankrolling the rebuilding of an entire community, but hasn´t finished yet.

I was shocked to learn that the new homes were built on dirt and limestone, just like before. History repeats itself. Without a solid foundation, these houses will cascade down the mountain, one right after the other, when the next disaster happens, whether earthquake, hurricane, or even just an unusually heavy rain.

“Many sources cite that Haiti is mostly reached,” our director said. He raised his shoulders as he spoke. His facial expression indicated the statement needed unpacking. Indeed, some websites purport that Haiti is approximately 94% Christian. But upon further investigation, I discovered the Protestant population is 16%, and the number of evangelical believers is much lower.

The majority practice a mixture of Catholicism and Voodoo. Haitians are descendants of former slaves from West Africa, whose captors forced them to convert to Catholicism. Unwilling to give up their traditional voodoo practices, they merged the two into the dark, syncretistic religion prevalent on the island today.

Others subscribe to the Rastafari religion. Our director showed us a photo he´d taken while riding in a car with ministry leader, Benjamin Pierre. The backside of a bus had been plastered with a picture of Bob Marley and the words “Only God.”

Perhaps Haiti isn´t as “reached” as we think it is.

A radio program played as Benjamin took our director to see several of the 46 churches and 11 schools he´d planted during his 30 years of ministry. He expressed his concern that the man on the program was a pastor, with a rather large congregation, who didn´t know the Bible. He was illiterate. His sermons were nothing more than a series of stories.

Illiteracy plagues the nation. Our director told us that anywhere there´s illiteracy, especially among the female population, health and social problems follow. In addition, a nation has difficulty developing economically. When people can´t read, they don´t know their rights ... don´t know when they´re being exploited, don´t fight against poor governance.

And where biblical illiteracy hides under the guise of Christianity, spiritual problems follow. Without a solid foundation, how can lasting change occur?

“The rains came down and the floods came up. And the house on the sand went splat!” sing the children at VBS. Simple song, simple message. Profound meaning.

Benjamin understands this simple message. He started with Haiti´s children. Before he had a single dollar of outside support, he and his wife began educating children in their home. Noticing the changes in their children, the parents have followed. Churches formed, built on the solid foundation of God´s Word.

Benjamin also trains groups of Haitian men to become pastors. To enroll in his Bible school, they must be literate. The ability to read and learn God´s Word is essential.

Slowly, but surely, he is working to build a secure foundation in Haiti. The children he began educating 30 years ago are now serving their communities as teachers, police officers, doctors, lawyers, and pastors.

When the truth of the gospel bursts into a community and takes hold, positive change occurs. God´s principles, when followed, bring life.

“So build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessings will come down!”

Diane - posted September 29, 2014
Thank you for a truthful, and heartening article.