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It's a Love Haiti Relationship

It's a Love Haiti Relationship

First Baptist Church of Long Beach, Miss. left their hearts in Haiti.

Sara Marie Moore | Jan 15, 2016

Pastor LaRue Stephens believes in long-term partnerships. In July of 2014 FBC Long Beach was looking for a long-term international missions partnership and found Praying Pelican Missions. The church was drawn to minister in Haiti to continue to meet needs still prevalent from the 2010 earthquake. When they arrived they met Pastor Jean Robert Clement of Bertin Evangelical Baptist, just outside Port-au-Prince. A pastor, principal and seminary teacher rolled into one, FBC found Pastor Clement to be a man of vision with a heart for his community. FBC assisted Pastor Clement’s church and school through children’s ministry and tree planting. “We used the tree as a segway to share our story with them,” said Pastor Stephens. The team told those they gave trees to: “We are not only here to share with you these fruit trees to help provide food for your family. Just like this tree helps supply our needs for life, God has provided our need for spiritual life through Jesus Christ.” Throughout the week the team from FBC also heard Pastor Clement’s vision for further ministry and what he would need to accomplish that vision. “We realized that this is something we have the resources to assist with,” said Pastor Stephens. His church members concurred. “Several shared with me after we returned home that they felt like they had left their heart in Haiti. Within three weeks we had a follow-up trip scheduled for December.” DSC00516 On this trip the two churches, under the leadership of Pastor Clement, hashed out a plan as to how FBC could help Pastor Clement reach his extended community with the gospel. FBC asked, “How can we partner with you to meet the ministry needs for your church?” Pastor Clement in turn asked for help with school supplies for the children who attend his school, flushing toilets and showers and a water well. “We listened and my team came back home and shared with me what they had learned,” said Stephens. After looking at a blueprint from Pastor Clement for the sanitation project with flushing toilets and showers, FBC took action to raise the $27,000 it would cost. “Within three months our church had raised $29,000 to pay that project,” said Pastor Stephens. When he started recruiting for two trips scheduled for July of 2015, one for medical ministry and one for construction and children’s ministry, so many church members and their friends signed up that he opened a third trip. The teams went to assist in the physical construction of the sanitation project and brought 175 backpacks filled with school supplies for Pastor Clement’s school. 125 more were delivered on a December trip. The July medical team saw 126 people their first day in Haiti. Tickets were given on a first come, first served basis. Three children were referred to the hospital for surgeries, and the team was able to cover the costs. FBC is now looking to the future with Pastor Clement. Currently the church meets under an open air pavilion. FBC is in the process of helping construct a concrete church building. FBC raises funds and Pastor Clement oversees the construction with a local foreman and construction crew. Jobs are being created for locals. FBC also plans to help build a new schoolhouse with attached medical clinic, which is another one of Pastor Clement’s dreams. FBC hopes to assist with funds for a school library, desks and blackboards and medical equipment for the clinic. But Pastor Clement’s vision doesn’t stop there. FBC’s goal is to do a geological study to try to tap into a deep water well. “Our dream is to be able to provide not only water for the church, schoolhouse and medical clinic, but also run a pipe out to the street where the people of the city can come get water at certain times of the day,” said Pastor Stephens. “These are all part of the pastor’s dream. We were looking for something that is bigger than what we are, something that if God doesn’t intervene it won’t happen.” FBC is a church of 500 and is reaching out to other churches in their area to partner with them to reach this goal in Haiti. Pastor Stephens has seen his congregation’s involvement in missions skyrocket since partnering with Pastor Clement. Several years ago about 5 percent of his congregation would go on mission trips. In 2015 about 120 of his church members (25 percent) went on an international mission trip to Haiti or another country. “The impact of the work in Haiti is significant within our congregation and their commitment to go with their personal involvement to do the work and share the gospel,” said Stephens. His church will head to Haiti, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico and India in 2016.FBC believes in long-term partnerships and encourages other churches to develop that value into their missions program. “If you can send teams at least once a year, they become part of your family,” said Pastor Stephens. “The impact of your ministry is so much greater and it is more fulfilling. To me gospel ministry is about making disciples and ministering to the needs of other people. It is not a show trip, it is not a feel good trip and it is not something you do to check off your list. It is more about serving others than your own self.” Pastor Stephens has found Praying Pelican missions to be a vital link to effective and efficient missions partnerships. “PPM has the connections and the ability to take care of all of your in-country logistics and needs: food, transportation, lodging, translators. Everything is take care of,” said Pastor Stephens. “It takes the burden of all of that planning and working out of details off my shoulders. They have everything in place. It is so efficient and so much more affordable to work with PPM. It makes doing ministry the main focus of our effort as opposed to working out details, logistics and lodging.” Going Further: First Baptist Church of Long Beach, Miss. left their hearts in Haiti. The church will be heading back to Haiti in 2016. And they have already signed up to return in 2017 and 2018.      

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