Well, the 2018 Pastor’s Conference is over! However, the inspiration and hope this annual event brings to the participants has only started. This is my second year to take part in the ICDM Pastor’s Conference and I believe this was a pivotal moment for all the participants. Here are some of my thoughts on the value and benefits of this event.
First is relationships. We often call the church a “community” but in so many congregations this is just a word. At the Pastor’s Conference I witnessed the value and development of real community. Across denominational lines and other common boundaries, pastors and church leaders from all over Haiti gathered in Bayonnais for the 2018 Conference. They came to learn, to be inspired, and to be encouraged. However, for me, one of the greatest things to see were the friendships renewed and new friendships developed. Men and women shared their successes and failures; found new hope in the ideas of others; and shared lessons, meals, and worship. My own friendships with many Haitian leaders were strengthened. Jean-Noel Preval, one of our interpreters, is such an awesome man! Funny and bright, he brings cheer to my heart every time we work together. Abraham Vilsaint is another friend I got to spend time with this year, talking and digging into the details of our Christian calling. Pastor Oriel Sterling, one of the men who pastors and teaches in our pastor training programs and the School of Evangelism. This experienced and gifted leader brought wisdom and insight for all of us. Sister Elicia was shy and embarrassed when I used her name in my teaching, but her smile and her laughter offer hope to all she meets. I mention all these names, because I used to come to Haiti and only knew the people I met before I came. Now I find myself with friends and partners in ministry far beyond the staff of ICDM. These men and women have become part of the community I call the Body of Christ. Even when we are separated by miles most of the year, I hold them in my heart and mind every day. We pray for one another; check up on one another and help each other make it another day!
Second is the sense of purpose and hope I see among the participants. Pastors and leaders in Haiti often face challenges that leaders in the USA can barely comprehend. More than being preachers and teachers, they are often community developers, activists and advocates, and business leaders as well. Yet, in spite of the challenges, they are joyful! Whether it is in our worship together or just conversations in the courtyard, their conversation and communication is permeated with joy! These men and women see the reality of Haiti as it is now, but they also have a vision of change and transformation. This hope, deeply grounded in the Christian gospel or Good News, shapes their work, inspires their efforts, and energizes their creativity. And their joy is also contagious! No matter what is happening in my life and ministry, I always come away from these meetings with a new outlook! Energy renewed, vision expanded, and heart inspired, I come back to the USA stronger and more joyful!
Finally, I think this year’s conference came at a critical time for both the leaders of the sessions and the participants. While the conference was going on, ICDM was working on a home for a family in Bayonnais. Right after the conference a team from New Jersey came and finished up this construction. Construction on ICDM’s new clinic is getting started. A record number of children are enrolled in the school. New leaders are being trained and commissioned. All of these things seem to bring a sense of strength and possibility to everyone’s mind. It is as if the entire mission has reached a point of great momentum. As each new idea becomes a reality it sparks more new ideas, inspires new leaders to take charge of these initiatives, and these in turn spark even more ideas and visions. Such momentum is awesome to observe! It is even more powerful when you are even a small part of such momentum!
The main building where we meet each year is called “The Center for Hope.” I know that it is only a building. However, the people who gather there each year for the Pastor’s Conference are taking hope and spreading it across Haiti! May God continue to bless these men and women with his power, his love, and his joy!
Yours in Christ,