Craig church’s love transcends religious differences, prepping for Haiti hurricane relief | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig church’s love transcends religious differences, prepping for Haiti hurricane relief

The Journey at First Baptist offering aid to Caribbean nation following natural disaster

— Faith and the desire to serve others have motivated a group of 10 missionaries, from The Journey at First Baptist church, in Craig, to travel to Haiti to minister as they give aid to those impacted by disaster.

Haiti is located on the second largest Caribbean Island situated 77 kilometers southeast of Cuba and occupies the western third of the island that it shares with the Dominican Republic, according to the website of the Haitian Ambassador to the U.S., Paul Altidor.

Similar to an extended family, the small group of Craig church elders, parishioners and their children gathered together last Friday evening to make final preparations to travel.

They will leave on Sunday to the small mountain community of Fermanthe, Haiti where they will serve until Nov. 13.

"We go as a family. Our church family is being transported to Haiti," said Gisela Garrison.

They will spend time on the campus of the Baptist Haiti Mission working on electrical, light construction and cleanup work as well as some relief work stated Terry Calvert in a news release.

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In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus calls on the Christian community to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Hurricane Matthew, a category four storm landed in Haiti on Oct. 4 "dumping rain and scouring the land with maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour," according to a statement by Altidor.

Most, as high as 97 percent of people, in Haiti are religious so there is some irony that the devastating storm was named after one of the Twelve Apostles, an evangelist credited with writing the gospel that carries his name.

Planning for the trip by the Journey team started five months prior to the storm but has taken on new significance as Haitians seek help from the devastation.

Latest disaster to strike the island

In 2010 Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale that resulted in "an estimated 300,000 deaths, displaced more than a million people, and damaged nearly half of all structures in the epicentral area," reported the U.S. Geological Society responsible for tracking earthquakes across the globe.

That same year, cholera, an acute diarrhoel infection caused by bacteria ingested with contaminated food or water, broke out in the country as aid workers are alleged to have contaminated a major water supplies during 2010 earthquake recovery efforts according the World Health Organization.

The United Nations estimated that 780,000 people have been affected and more than 9,000 people have died of the disease.

In contrast, the death toll from Hurricane Matthew is difficult to calculate with the Associated Press on Oct. 7 reporting 470 dead and Reuter's news service on Oct. 8 reporting over 900 dead.

The death toll might be uncertain, but there is little doubt that thousands of Haitians are in need of assistance.

"The trip was planned six months prior to the hurricane," said Courtney Jenison, whose husband and three children are also part of the team. "We were not sure if we should go, but we have been told that we should."

The natural disaster has strengthened the resolve of many group members.

"We had a desire to help before it (Hurricane Matthew) happened, but now I have a deep desire to be there and be a part of that, and to see these people and to uplift them is a huge honor," said Alyssa Tague.

The team will start with small projects, but are already considering how to increase their impact on a return trip.

"We are going to do a handful of projects, electrical and light construction and minor relief work as well as scoping out larger projects," said The Journey's Pastor Len Browning.

The team is prepared for the risks of a foreign mission.

"We have medicine, shots and bug spray so we don't get bit by mosquitos," said Jae Paisely Jenison, one of the younger members of the group.

There is still a danger from water contaminated by cholera and other waterborne diseases.

"We are getting special water bottles to fight off water diseases," said Jonah Jenison, Jae Paisley's older brother.

The group will also carry chlorine tablets.

Mosquitos are carriers of many bloodborne diseases found in the tropics.

The team has had their flue shots and many are taking pills to prevent malaria and typhoid.

It also doesn't hurt to have a community health doctor, Garrison, on the team.

Vodou

• A common saying is that Haiti is 80 percent Roman Catholic and 100 percent Vodou.

• Called Sèvis Gine or African Service in Haiti, a Creolized form of Vodou is the primary culture and religion of more than 8 million people in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora.

• Called the most historically important Vodou ceremony in Haitian history, the Bwa Kayiman ceremony of August 1791 began the Haitian Revolution against the French.

• The ceremony ultimately resulted in the liberation of the Haitian people from their French masters in 1804 and the establishment of the first black people’s republic in the history of the world.

• Haitian Vodouisants believe that there is one God who is the creator of all, referred to as Bondyè from the French “Bon Dieu” or “Good God.”

• Haitian Vodou service begins with a series of Catholic prayers continues with singing, dancing and the possession of spiritual leaders by spirits.

• Vodou is associated with such phenomena as zombies and voodoo dolls.

• There is ethnobotanical evidence relating to zombie creation, but it is not a part of the Vodou religion as practiced in Haiti.

• Using voodoo dolls is part of the New Orleans hoodoo practice and are not a feature of Haitian religion.

• Capitalizing on horror show notions of voodoo, voodoo dolls are sold to tourists in the Haitian capitol of Port au Prince.

— Source: The Haitian Consulate. A complete description is available online at haitianconsulate.org.

A history of help to Haiti

The connection between the congregation of the Journey and the Baptist Haiti Mission is about 70 years old.

"We've been involved with the Baptist Haiti Mission since its inception," Browning said. "I met the founders of the mission when I was a little kid so it's exciting for me to go and see them. They were instrumental in bringing terraces to the area and a holistic ministry."

The Baptist Haiti Mission "ministry is to strengthen the local church in Haiti," according to the organization's website.

They work with 350 churches to "disciple" the Gospel of Jesus Christ through pastoral training, youth ministries and leadership development and construction projects.

The work is supported by donations from churches in the United States including the Journey.

"We like to visit our work and workers," Browning said.

Sharing their faith is a balance between Christian convictions and respect for freedom of religion.

"We are going to learn and not because we are superior," Browning said.

Moving Haitians to develop a relationship with Christ and away from the religious practice of Vodou, also spelled as Vudoo or Voodoo, is a goal of the Baptist Haiti Mission.

"Voodoo offers illusions of power and is used to control the masses by mistrust and fear," the Baptist Haiti Mission website states.

With reports as high as 70 percent of Haitians practicing Vodou, the Haitian government in 2003 officially recognized it, states the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor International Religious Freedom Report for 2015 available at Humanrights.gov.

"Practitioners continue to experience some social stigmatization for their beliefs and practices," the report continues "in Catholic and Protestant schools, teachers and administrators at times openly rejected and condemned Vodou culture and customs as contrary to the teachings of the Bible."

Muslims also face religious discrimination according to the report.

The Baptist Haiti Mission strives to minister without creating harm.

"We believe that cross-cultural interaction, engagement, and exchange can be highly beneficial to all who are involved," the mission website states. "We also acknowledge the potential harm that can be done by these exchanges that can result in an unintentional cultural offense, financial or material dependency, paternalism, and/or a falsified view of self."

Their philosophy is to alleviate "material and relation poverty" in Haiti and in so doing to ultimately "bring glory to Jesus Christ," the website states.

Political storm gathers

Months before Hurricane Matthew ripped across the county, a political storm was brewing in Haiti as the temporary government of Provisional President Jocelerme Privert prepared for elections.

The storm delayed the election and then the short-term President allowed troops from neighboring Dominican Republic and other nations into the county to deliver disaster aid in the days following the hurricane.

This action resulted in censure from the Haitian high court. The online version of the Haiti Libre news service published a resolution on Oct. 19 written by the country's high court judges demanding the immediate resignation of Privert "to protect national sovereignty."

In a further letter published the same day on-line the court called Haitian society to action.

"We call on all forces of Haitian society to come together and unite in order to demand the return to constitutional legality to be able to carry out elections to the dimension of our aspirations,” the letter of the Court of Cassation stated.

There is no way to determine if this social storm or another natural disaster will hit the tumultuous county while the team from the Journey are on their mission.

The Craig Daily Press plans to follow with additional reports from the group during their trip and when they return.

Those wishing to support the mission may make donations to The Journey.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

Religion in Haiti

• 55 percent of the population is Roman Catholic.

• 16 percent are Protestant, mostly Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopalian/Anglican.

• Three percent practice other religions that include: Mormons of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Rastafarians, Scientologists and atheists.

• One percent do not subscribe to any religion.

• Muslim leaders estimate their community at approximately 8,000 to 10,000.

• There are fewer than 100 Jews.

• 10 percent exclusively practice Vodou.

• An estimated 50 percent of the population practice Vodou along side another religion.

The Haitian government in 2003 legalized Vodou.

Source: U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor’s 2015 International Religious Freedom Report available at humanrights.gov

Vodou

• A common saying is that Haiti is 80 percent Roman Catholic and 100 percent Vodou.

• Called Sèvis Gine or African Service in Haiti, a Creolized form of Vodou is the primary culture and religion of more than 8 million people in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora.

• Called the most historically important Vodou ceremony in Haitian history, the Bwa Kayiman ceremony of August 1791 began the Haitian Revolution against the French.

• The ceremony ultimately resulted in the liberation of the Haitian people from their French masters in 1804 and the establishment of the first black people’s republic in the history of the world.

• Haitian Vodouisants believe that there is one God who is the creator of all, referred to as Bondyè from the French “Bon Dieu” or “Good God.”

• Haitian Vodou service begins with a series of Catholic prayers continues with singing, dancing and the possession of spiritual leaders by spirits.

• Vodou is associated with such phenomena as zombies and voodoo dolls.

• There is ethnobotanical evidence relating to zombie creation, but it is not a part of the Vodou religion as practiced in Haiti.

• Using voodoo dolls is part of the New Orleans hoodoo practice and are not a feature of Haitian religion.

• Capitalizing on horror show notions of voodoo, voodoo dolls are sold to tourists in the Haitian capitol of Port au Prince.

— Source: The Haitian Consulate. A complete description is available online at haitianconsulate.org.