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Ministry Continues Despite Haitian Unrest

December 21, 2022
Photo: World Renew

“The situation in Haiti has been chaotic for the past year and a half already, and recently the situation has turned into a humanitarian crisis as the most powerful gang leader has blockaded the main fuel terminal in the capital, Port-au-Prince,” said Luis Pellecer, regional mission leader for Resonate Global Mission in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Schools and hospitals have been forced to close. The country has been plagued by a cholera outbreak, economic inflation, and protests calling for the prime minister’s resignation. In the wake of unrelenting gang violence, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Volker Türk, has even called the situation in Haiti one of the worst human-rights and humanitarian crises in decades.

“People are being killed by firearms; they are dying because they do not have access to safe drinking water, food, or healthcare; women are being gang raped with impunity. The levels of insecurity and the dire humanitarian situation have been devastating for the people of Haiti,” Türk said. And while the violence reported is most severe in Port-au-Prince, other regions of the country are also deeply affected by their dependence on family and funds in the capital.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America has a long history of working in Haiti. Both World Renew and Resonate Global Mission, who work together in Haiti under the umbrella name Sous Espwa (which means “Source of Hope”), are continuing their ministry despite this time of crisis.

“Living in Haiti, none of us can claim that we are safe; we can only rely upon Jesus’ protection as he is our daily protector,” said Sattoya Metelus, who leads Haiti IMPACT clubs for young people in Haiti on behalf of Resonate Global Mission. “Our prayer to God is the only way we assure our safety for ourselves, our family, and the staff.”

Metelus said that two IMPACT clubs in Port-au-Prince have had to close because of gang violence in the area. She has also been unable to get club leaders together for their regular training, but the majority of clubs are continuing to meet in rural areas, serving nearly 600 young people, and they have created an Instagram page to keep regions and trainers connected.

“All the staff in the program are resilient people who still have hope in Haiti,” she added.

Resonate missionaries Johnny and Kimberly Gryglewicz and their three young daughters were in the United States when the most recent unrest began. Because of the complications of traveling within Haiti; the dangers of kidnapping; shortages in basic supplies like water, food, and fuel; and the closings of schools and hospitals, Resonate made the difficult decision to ask the family to remain in North America.

“After praying through different options, we settled on southwest Florida because of its growing Haitian population, ease of traveling to and from Haiti when possible, connection to our Haitian church that has a campus in the area, and an excellent Christian school for the girls nearby,” said Kim Gryglewicz.

As they transitioned to living in the United States, Johnny traveled briefly to Haiti every 4-6 weeks to check in with staff and partners. Recently, though, as unrest spiked even further, those trips have stopped. Yet God has opened new doors for both Johnny and Kim to serve the people of Haiti.

“While we feel a bit like exiles from the place we love so much, we are thankful for the doors God has opened for us to continue ministry to the Haitian people,” said Kim, who has started working in a local charter school in Florida that was struggling to help several Haitian students who do not speak English.

Johnny continues to lead programs in Haiti from the United States, but he has also begun working with a group of Haitian pastors as part of a partnership between Resonate and Classis Southeast U.S. who hope to plant Haitian churches in Florida.

“God has remained faithful in the midst of chaos,” said Pellecer. “Ministry in Haiti has continued, churches are continuing to evangelize and give witness for Christ, and our IMPACT clubs with 600 young people have remained very active during this volatile period in Haiti’s history. God is still moving in Haiti and with the Haitian people in Florida. His kingdom is moving forward. To God be the glory!”

In a similar way, God has continued to work with and through the ministry of World Renew and its Haitian partners.

“Our activities have been at a standstill since September due to violent conflicts,” said Albert Dizon, country director for World Renew Haiti. “Despite the challenges facing the country, World Renew Haiti continues to make impacts.”

In a video sent out by World Renew, several of their Haitian partners shared stories of self-help groups, improved agriculture, micro-credit, and other programs that have helped people to be resilient even in these difficult times. World Renew has also been working on humanitarian responses since the 2021 earthquake in Haiti – providing resources to help people navigate this emergency and to meet needs that have been further compounded by the recent crisis. One such project provided cash and seeds to families, and while the project had to close early due to the recent increase in unrest, communities were able to restore land and grow food for their families.

“No matter how difficult this situation is now, this Christmas we are reminded to find rest and reassurance in the gift of Immanuel – ‘God with us,’” Dizon said.