I am sitting in a bus…well, bouncing in a bus is more accurate, en route from Kaliko to Port-au-Prince, and my heart is trying to articulate the week I’ve just experienced. I have been part of the PastorServe staff that has just completed a conference for Haitian pastors and their wives. We had the great joy of serving 57 couples for a week of teaching, coaching, and counseling. For those who’ve ministered here in Haiti or similarly you understand that there are so many experiences packed in a short trip like this that it’s difficult to digest them all. However, a few stories in particular I feel compelled to share.
As a counselor, my role at PastorServe is a counselor to pastors. In my first counseling session at the Haitian Pastors Conference I met Pastor Lamite and his wife Fransette. They minister in one of Haiti’s poorest and dirtiest communities. It wasn’t long before they shared the struggle that they were enduring with their 4-year-old daughter who has sickle cell disease. Because of the disease, their little girl endures great pain to the point that she often cannot eat. As well, Lamite and his wife also bear the burdens of their congregation and community who look to them to help them find food, work, medical attention, and safety. The needs are so many and so endless that they are always overwhelmed by need. They shared how Lamite often walks for one hour to meet for church business. I asked them when it was that they might receive a true rest from the weight of these incessant burdens. He smiled a large, white smile and said, “Here, at the conference.”
“Yes, I pray this is a restful time for you here” I said. But not satisfied with his answer I pressed a little further. “But when was the last time you really rested?” I asked.
Looking at one another, then showing me half smiles that spoke kindly yet soberly to me they replied, “Here, at the conference…last year.”
My heart aching for the amount of weight upon their hearts, we went on to talk about how that stress impacts their marriage. We ended our time together with a heavenward time of prayer, and my heart was flooded with deep respect. With ample possibilities to cheat, blur the ethical lines, or skim off the top, these dear saints persevere and endure trials most of us know nothing of to continue to serve the Father and the people within their care.
I encountered dozens of couples with similar stories to that which I had heard from Pastor Lamite and Fransette. Stories of giving, sacrificing, serving, protecting, leading, grieving, and caring for those in their community. I heard how most of these shepherds have real jobs which supply the means to be able to pastor their people. I heard of dead unwanted babies and brutal mistreatments of people. I heard of the ravaging effects of extreme poverty and a corrupt government.
Yet in the midst of this kind of hardship and suffering I saw joy. A deep joy for a God who has chosen them to His Kingdom and has promised to always take care of them. I watched their joy break into marvelous song and dance, I heard this joy spontaneously applaud as the truths of their God were shared, and I received the beauty of their joy shared through words of deep gratitude for the small fish and loaves we brought.
On more than one occasion the power went out, the heat felt unbearable, the rooms went dark, or the water turned off (all the usual suspects in Haiti) but their gratitude didn’t seem to waver.
We came to Haiti following a calling to love, encourage, teach, counsel, pray with, fellowship with, and listen to these servants of God…we came with a mission to bless. And I believe we did just that. But after we’ve said our goodbyes and our team is driving away, my heart is struck by how much they have given to me.
PastorServe had the joy of presenting our Haitian brothers and sisters with many different kinds of gifts. We presented them with hygiene items, snacks, flashlights, pocket knives, scarfs, ties, towels, sunglasses, necklaces, figurines, and books – a huge stack of books in French, Creole, and English. And that’s the way it should be. After all, we have donors who have glad, giving hearts and the means to give. But on the final morning, our Haitian brothers and sisters took the microphone and surprised us.
Unbeknownst to us, they had commissioned a group to rise very early that morning and drive the hour+ drive back to the city to spend a very generous amount to buy gifts to express their gratitude to us.
So with the whole group of our new and old friends standing on their feet, hands outstretched in unity over our team, they blessed us. They soaked us in their gratitude to the Father, they washed us with their worship of the Son, and empowered us to continue on in the strength of the Spirit. And our hearts are full from these rich brothers and sisters in Haiti. We will not forget you in all your labors for our King. Grace and peace.
Rick Pierce, LPC NCC
Rick serves at PastorServe as a counselor to pastors. His private counseling practice is at Hope Counseling Center in Overland Park, KS. He holds a BA from Moody Bible Institute and a Masters in Counseling from MidAmerica Nazarene University. He has also completed significant graduate work at Covenant Theological Seminary. He and his wife have been married for 20 years, and together they have six children ranging from 4 to 16 years old.