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Haiti's Political Chaos Disrupts a Fruitful Ministry

By Andrew Shaughnessy, May 19, 2020

Haiti has always had more than its fair share of economic struggles, political corruption, and violence. But in the last few years, the Caribbean nation’s fragile peace has crumbled to the brink of collapse, creating unprecedented challenges for MTW ministries in Haiti.

The descent into chaos began in the summer of 2018, when people took to the streets by the thousands to protest a sharp spike in fuel prices. Since then, that initial unrest evolved into a larger movement against government corruption. As the economy struggled and the cost of living rose, demonstrators faced off with the police in increasingly violent confrontations. In the summer and fall of 2019, the turmoil reached new heights—much of the country’s electrical grid failed, plunging Haiti into darkness. Protestors blocked roads and well-armed gangs took advantage of the chaos to expand their territory.

“Haiti is … unpredictable,” explained MTW missionary Esaie Etienne.

Esaie and his wife, Natasha—both native Haitians—have been doing ministry with MTW in Haiti since 2008. After a series of natural disasters in 2009 and 2010 forced them to leave, the Etiennes relocated to the U.S. and travel back and forth to Haiti throughout the year to lead and develop their ministry—Living Stone Reformed Mission.

“The main focus of our ministry is church planting,” said Esaie. “We have planted three churches since 2008, and we are working on a fourth one now.”

Esaie was also instrumental in starting a small seminary to train pastors and church planters from across the island. There’s an active mercy ministry component too: disaster response when there’s a hurricane or earthquake, and medical mission teams that come several times per year. These open doors in the communities in invaluable ways.

One particularly exciting part of the Etienne’s ministry is Dociné Christian Academy—a school that provides a good Christian education, basic medical care, and free meal to more than 500 children in the impoverished Haitian village of Dociné.

“It’s an educational ministry … but it’s also an evangelistic ministry,” Esaie said. “It’s a way for us to preach the gospel to the kids, and through the kids to reach the parents and eventually the community. The school provides hope.”

Over the years, many of the students at Dociné Christian Academy have come to Christ. In 2017 alone, 28 kids made a profession of faith. The Spirit is clearly at work in and through the Etiennes’ work, transforming hearts and futures. But the country’s ongoing political turmoil is making ministry more and more difficult.

School and Ministry Disrupted

In July 2018, a group of MTW missionaries traveled to Dociné Christian Academy to give an annual teacher training. Midway through their trip, another round of violent riots swept through Haiti’s cities. With the roads blocked, the missionaries were trapped, unable to safely travel to the airport for several days.

Since then, Haiti’s political turmoil has continued, rendering the country too dangerous for many of MTW’s ministries to properly function. Two medical teams were forced to cancel scheduled mission trips, deterred by the threat of violence. The September 2019 launch of a Reformed presbytery in Haiti—a momentous event three years in the making—was also cancelled out of fear for the safety of visiting delegates and leaders.

And it’s not just visiting foreigners and short-term trips that are impacted. Even Esaie has been prevented from traveling there. And Dociné Christian Academy, like many schools all across the country, was shut down for months—from September 2019 to January 2020.

“The country was in lockdown,” Esaie said. “It’s not only schools that can’t function. It’s businesses, banks … We gave checks to pay the teachers and employees of the ministry, but they couldn’t go to the bank to cash them. It’s very difficult. It effects everything and everyone.” 

Keeping Steady Amid the Chaos

As protests waned in in December, the government tried to return things to normal—at least in the capital. In Port au Prince, schools and roads re-opened. But still, according to Esaie, in smaller cities like Gonaives and villages like Dociné, nothing is functioning as it ought.

“The ministry is working,” he said. “The churches are working, but still we need peace. We need stability. … As a minister of the gospel, my conversations with God are prayers of intercession—interceding on behalf of the people, of the country.”

Despite the many challenges faced by the Haitian people, MTW’s ministry there is growing. In the face of violence and poverty and the spiritual forces of darkness, the church fights on with the love of Christ—teaching, healing, feeding, and educating village kids and budding pastors poised to change their country for the better. And despite the unrest and turmoil, Esaie continues to work, to preach, to build, and to hope.

To support Dociné Christian Academy’s life-changing work, visit Haiti LoveOne and sponsor a child’s education for just $35 per month.

Editor's note: As a result of COVID-19, Docine Christian Academy closed yet again. Please pray for God's mercy in Haiti. 

Andrew Shaughnessy

Andrew Shaughnessy is a long-time word slinger who spent nearly six years as MTW’s staff writer, gathering and telling impact stories from missionaries across the globe. These days, he’s off working as an analyst and editor in the publishing industry, writing fiction, and mountaineering. He holds a B.A. in history and English literature from Covenant College, and an M.S. in political science from Portland State University.

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Please pray for Haitians, particularly those in southern Haiti, whose communities were devastated by the recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

Pray for the ministry of the Etiennes in Gonaives, Haiti. Pray for the church, schools, children's homes, and for the raising up of national leaders.

Give thanks for the work God is doing in South Asia in the wake of COVID lockdown relief. Ask God to grow the new believers who came to faith in Christ as a result.

Pray for ongoing ministry in the Suki community during COVID-19. Many day workers cannot work, and the church is having to find creative ways to minister. 

Pray for God's work in Haiti as people are struggling under political turmoil and COVID-19.

Pray for our rebuilding efforts in Haiti and the Bahamas that is a response to Hurricane Matthew. That God will muliply the funds and strengthen the church.

Pray for Ukraine refugees who have had to abandon their homes due to the fighting. Pray for God to use their displacement to draw them to Himself.

Pray for the the Medical Campus Outreach team in Cusco, Peru, and for the medical and students at the clinic who are learning to practice medicine and hearing the gospel.

Pray for churches to send short-term teams to Haiti, and that these trips would make a significant impact. Pray for trip participants and for the Gonaives church they go to serve. 

Pray that a church-planting movement ignite in the Dominican Republic. Over the years, God has given us the opportunity to teach and train both Dominican and Haitian church leaders and we have finally launched a team in the DR.

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