LIMBÉ, Haiti – “Morning light” – during spring at the North Haiti Christian University (NHCU), those words are an oxymoron because the morning routine begins long before the sun rises.
“Without electricity at night, it is so dark when one wakes – disoriented, fumbling and fearful of having overslept – that no matter how many times the end cap of the deodorant is pushed – all the while thinking it is a malfunctioning, new, blue pocket flashlight – it will never illuminate,” reminisced Susan Watson, dean of students at Williams Baptist College.
Watson recently traveled to NHCU with a team of students to do mission work.
She recalled how it was still semi-dark at 7 a.m. as NHCU students gathered for English classes.
“It readily became apparent that these packed classrooms of bilingual students – already French and Creole proficient – were very eager to become trilingual,” she said. “They immediately considered us experts, and as a group, we found this very humbling, yet energizing.”
She said they taught in large and small groups, even going back in the evenings to continue unfinished conversations, exchange emails and do things as simple as correctly pronounce the Books of the Bible into a tape recorder that could be replayed after they were gone.
“These diligent students wanted to engage us at all levels, to hear and speak English in hopes of increasing their chances of future employment in their beloved country,” Watson said.
She said the students were eager to learn not only English, but also other subjects, including business and art. Several team members taught university classes as guest lecturers with about 65 business students learning about small- and medium-size enterprises for emerging markets and 15 fine art students embracing the seven elements of art with supplies donated by the members of First Baptist Church, Walnut Ridge.
When not actively teaching in the classroom, the mission team helped with a remodeling project by painting and cleaning an unused office area, as well as grading papers for various classes.
Afternoons were spent traveling to a new church plant, which Watson said was located “in a lush, densely tropical area aptly named ‘Eden.’”
When they went, about 200-300 children would meet the pickup truck full of Americans perched high in the back on wooden pews As the truck jostled along the dirt roads with the team sliding up and down, the children ran alongside, eager for their arrival.
Once there, the team assisted church staff with games, helping them develop relationships with the children.
NHCU and Eden are two areas where the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) is actively beginning work in northern Haiti after sending more than 100 teams during the past several years to the southern area of Haiti so devastated by the 2010 earthquake. Their partner in northern Haiti is Monel Jules, dean of the theology department at NHCU and pastor of Eden Baptist Church where Watson’s team visited, and his wife, Joselie, who is a medical doctor.
Bob Fielding, ABSC missions ministries team leader and Haiti project coordinator, explained that students from NHCU will also be traveling on a mission trip to help at the Arkansas Baptist compound in Leogane, Haiti, where ABSC mission teams are housed throughout the year.
Watson reflected on the similarities between NHCU and her own Williams Baptist College.
“The goal of NHCU is to ‘offer an education that is shaped by Christian faith, thought and practice’ and to ‘send out into the marketplace trained and respected individuals who will lead the people of Haiti out of its socioeconomic, political, cultural and spiritual stagnation,’” said Watson, quoting the university’s website.
She continued, “These goals mirror Williams Baptist College’s new vision statement: ‘To produce exceptional graduates prepared to engage local and global cultures though a Christ-centered worldview.’”
Watson added, “The plan is that these two institutions, by developing meaningful relationships, can help dispel darkness and give future generations illuminating hope by remembering prayerfully Psalms 89:15: ‘Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.’”