The sun had not yet reached its full Haitian potential as 18 Americans along with Pastor Diogene and Starfish Ministries’ School Director, Norius, poured out of four 4-wheel drive Toyotas and Mitsubishis. Our goal was to show the children’s version of the “Jesus” film to 455 students in the village of Corail, but that was another three miles up the mountain, and our vehicles had taken us as far as the conditions would allow. The team was eager for the hike, but the equipment we had to carry presented a challenge.
Rhys Temple, a stocky young Western Washington University student, volunteered to pack the heavy amplifier/speaker, Ryan Shay hoisted the projector, and Norius carried the generator, and we began our trek deeper into remote northern Haiti. We picked our way across uneven ground strewn with gravel and rocks and crisscrossed a small river several times. The first time we waded through the water, Davielle Shelman remarked, “Now I feel like a real missionary.” Occasionally the path took us away from the river to climb higher up the mountain before rejoining the flowing water that would eventually lead us to a church and a school in that secluded village. And as the sun rose higher, Rhys, Ryan, and Norius plodded steadily along, bearing their load for the team and ultimately for the children of Corail.
An hour later, we assembled the audio-visual equipment in the church in Corail and hung a portable screen in front of the pulpit. The students were then called from the classrooms next door, and we began it show the movie. It is unlikely that a single one of these children had ever seen any kind of video. They were transfixed by the moving images and were as caught up in the story as any audience I have ever been part of. They laughed and cheered as Jesus performed miracles and were visibly upset when he was arrested, tried, beaten, and crucified. But the greatest response came after the film was over, when Pastor Diogene had reiterated the gospel and issued an invitation: 20 Haitian students answered the call to repent of their sin and trust Jesus as their savior.
As we packed up the equipment after the children had returned to their studies, Ryan shared with me how profound the experience had been for him. “I’ve never been part of something like this,” he said. “I played a role in it – I carried the projector.” And it was an important role, a necessary support. Pastor Diogene was the evangelist, gifted for this work. The “Jesus” film producers had created the tool that prepared the children to hear Diogene’s words. And others had been granted various roles to play as the Holy Spirit did His work in these children’s hearts. But without the projector or the sound equipment and generator Rhys and Norius had carried, this particular presentation of the gospel would not have happened. The load Ryan carried up a mountain on his back was one important piece of a work God did that day in Haiti.
This is how I see the entirety of Starfish Ministries. Our ultimate desire for the people of Haiti is to see them come to faith in Jesus and to grow in their knowledge and understanding of Him. God has given the primary roles in this to Haitians. The evangelism is done by Pastor Diogene and his ministry team, and God has raised up many others across the country to this important work. The Church in Haiti becomes stronger every day, and God has prepared pastors and teachers to equip believers to build up the body of Christ. But there is a role we have been called to play, a load we have been given to carry in support of this work.
With your help we support Pastor Diogene’s evangelistic crusades, and we have built church buildings where Diogene has planted churches. We support nine additional pastors as they shepherd their flocks. We show the love of Christ in the variety of ways we meet physical needs for food, clean water, shelter, clothing, and medical care. And we help to prepare the next generation of Haitians through education. Every one of these ministries is the equivalent of carrying a projector through a river and up a mountain in the hope that a Haitian child will come to Jesus.
When the Apostle Paul admonished the Galatians to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), it was in the context of helping to restore a fellow believer who had fallen into sin (verse 1). The idea was to do whatever was possible to help the brother cope with the burden or trouble that had become a stumbling block to him. The principle we apply in Haiti is similar to this. Our goal is to do everything possible to pave the way for the gospel, to facilitate the growth of the Church, both in number and in maturity, and to do everything we can to remove any hindrance to both of these ends. We desire to meet the needs of our Haitian brothers and sisters, to encourage them, to help them grow in faith, and to see them reach their country with the gospel of Christ.
Thank you for your help. In everything you do to support this ministry – through your prayers, your encouragement, and your financial support – you are on the ground with us and with our Haitian partners in ministry, carrying the good news of Jesus further up the mountain into Haiti. We count it a privilege to have been given this role in God’s work in Haiti, and we thank Him for you and all that you do to help make it possible.
Serving the Lord together,
Bernie, Sheryl & Philip Bovenkamp