Methodist Church in Haiti:
A Small Church with a Big Heart
by Mary Beth Coudal
Although the Methodist Church in Haiti is small, its heart is large. Haiti is a country of nine million people, 80 percent of whom are Roman Catholic, and 15 percent Protestant. The Methodist Church in Haiti, the Eglise Méthodiste d'Haiti, numbers a little more than 9,000 members, 21,000 probationary members and constituents, nine ordained and two probationary clergy members, and 450 local preachers.
Despite its size, after the devastating January 12th earthquake, the Methodist Church in Haiti served its neighbors. The small Methodist community grew larger, reaching out, distributing food and water, and searching for people missing and trapped in the rubble. All of these tasks were undertaken even as the Methodist Church leaders themselves were recovering from their own loss and grief. Many church leaders were sleeping in their cars or on their roofs to protect against the aftershocks.
"To me, if there is one thing that the people need now is courage. Because if something like that happens and you are discouraged, that means you're not going anywhere. After the earthquake, life continues," said the Rev. Gesner Paul, President, Methodist Church in Haiti. Rev. Paul prayed with and briefed international visitors, while assessing the needs of the church and community since the earthquake hit.
"In the midst of the chaos, do you know who it was who engaged in helping the Haitians in the streets? The Haitians! Folks from rural areas are the ones who started bringing products to sustain those who were affected by the quake. Street vendors, mostly women, started appearing. They would squat on the ground with their bananas, potatoes, yucca," said Rev. Edgar Avitia, executive for the Mission Relationships in Latin America and the Caribbean of Global Ministries.
Rev. Avitia returned last month from Port-au-Prince with UMCOR colleagues, Sharad Aggarwal and Melissa Crutchfield. While Christian international brothers and sisters have helped in the recovery, Rev. Avitia was most impressed with the help of the people already on the ground.
"They (the Methodist Church) know who the most vulnerable people are.…I can just imagine how powerful those ministries are going to be as Haiti recovers," Rev. Avitia said.
While the Methodist Church of Haiti is small in size and membership, the recovery from the disaster has helped the Haitian Methodist partnership grow. Methodist Church members and partners from around the world have joined with the Methodist Church of Haiti through the connectionalism of the global Methodist Church.
Many international Methodists have connected to Haiti through Global Ministries and UMCOR. Methodist church members in Latin America and the Caribbean have volunteered and donated through CIEMAL, the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as through the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA), the United Church of Canada, the Dominican Evangelical Church, and the Methodist Church of Great Britain. The Haitian Methodist Church has historic connections to British Methodism but is autonomous.
For the last 15 years, United Methodists of the United States have joined Haitian Methodists for disaster relief efforts and through volunteerism. The connection between Haitians and US citizens is strengthened by the growing number of Haitian families who worship in and lead the United Methodist churches of Southern Florida, New York, New Jersey, and other parts of the connection.
Learn about the projects in Haiti through The Advance, which ensures that 100 percent of your gift goes to the project of your choosing. Log on to advancinghope.org for more information about The Advance.
Give to Advance number 00483A; your gift will support mission work where the need is greatest.
You can find out more about Haiti and UMCOR at umcor.org.
* Mary Beth Coudal is the staff writer for the Board of Global Ministries. This story was written with Linda Unger, UMCOR staff writer.
Date posted: Mar 25, 2010