Calvary Chapel Pastors in Haiti

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Open Doors and Open Hearts: Three Calvary Chapel Pastors Experience God’s Hand in Haiti

Story by Jonathan Erdman
Photos by Joel Dover

                  

Please continue to pray for the 17 Christian Aid Ministries missionaries who were recently kidnapped in Haiti. Kidnappers have demanded a $17 million ransom for their release.

                  

 

“We’re still going, right?” Paul asked Lance over the phone in September. “Yep,” Lance replied on the third such call.

Pastor Paul Miller of Calvary Chapel Tri-Cities in Johnson City, TN, had planned to go soon to Haiti with pastors Lance Halseth of CC Smoky Mountains, TN, and Joel Dover of CC Newnan, GA. Despite the recent assassination of the Haitian president, yet another destructive earthquake, and even a strong hurricane, the plan was still to go—every single time.

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A team of three Calvary Chapel pastors and three of their church members traveled in September 2021 to help identify needs in Haiti. In future months, they will be sending teams from their churches to work with a Calvary Chapel ministry, Housetops for Haiti, that is meeting practical and spiritual needs there. In this photo, some of the team meet, by chance, a Haitian pastor who was in Port-au-Prince to start a church.

Sing to the LORD, bless his name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his wonders among all peoples. Psalm 96:2-3

When the three pastors traveled to Haiti in September 2021, they witnessed firsthand how the Lord is working to build His kingdom there—and experienced His provision for all of their needs.

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In a Haitian village, Pastor Paul Miller (left) of Calvary Chapel Tri-Cities in Johnson City, TN, teaches the Bible while Pastor Serafin translates.

Pastor Paul: Overwhelming Peace

Paul met Lance at a church picnic CC Smoky Mountains hosted several years ago. The two not only connected as pastors, but also share a common background in law enforcement. They began carpooling each year to the Deep South Pastor’s Summit in Shocco Springs, AL, where they eventually connected with Pastor Joel.

In spite of all the devastation in Haiti, Pastor Paul reflected, “I had a real peace about going.” Several people in his church had tried to discourage him, but nothing could shake the peace in his heart. “People were coming to me throughout the delays and said they didn’t have a peace about it,” Paul recounted, “but God kept opening the doors and nothing was closing.” He also admitted that it was helpful to be going on the trip with someone who had already spent so much time there.

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Pastor Lance Halseth (center) of CC Smoky Mountains, TN, enjoys a moment between projects to play with the children. Through the ministry he started, Housetops for Haiti, he knows them by name and has invested in their community since they were infants.

Pastor Lance: Pioneer

Lance Halseth and his wife lived in Haiti for several years when they started Housetops for Haiti, a Calvary Chapel organization reaching people for Jesus by providing basic needs, including building and repairing homes. Lance described the reason he returned to the States: “We felt it was more effective to have the staff of Haitians in charge so that we could raise funds for Housetops for Haiti.”

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This Hatian couple smiles because they just learned that Housetops for Haiti had arranged for a new roof to be put on their home, which has been roofless since Hurricane Matthew. Their new roof was completed last week.

He made it his aim to support Housetops by partnering with Calvary Chapels, which led him to set up a table at a pastors’ conference. It was here he connected with Pastor Joel.

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Pastor Joel Dover of CC Newnan, GA, sips Haitian coffee made by a pastor's widow on a campfire behind a house. This child was also drinking the very sweet coffee.

Pastor Joel: Faith in Suffering

“The Newnan community had 1,800-plus families that were either displaced or had severe damage to their homes after the tornadoes came through in March,” Pastor Joel recalled. He stated that the suffering he has seen in his own community, as well as with the spread of COVID-19 around the world, reminds him that “the common need is Jesus.”

In Haiti, “going without resources is the norm,” according to Joel—grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and gas stations aren’t located at every corner. “Although there are stations, gas often runs out by midday and may not be replenished the next day. People buy gas by the jugful and sell it on the side of the road by the cupful. When the gas stations run out, these are the sources that remain,” he explained. Joel continued, “Relying on God for things we normally would have so easily in the states became the norm.”

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This family home in Haiti was leveled as its walls collapsed after the recent earthquake. The family, part of a church started by Housetops for Haiti, is now living in the small shed at the rear of the property.

God the Greatest Resource

The men, along with three other church members, touched down in Haiti to explore ways their churches could join in the mission of Housetops for Haiti. Going into difficult situations was not unfamiliar to them, but as Paul described, it was like a movie scene. “There were people and scooters everywhere. There were people who had nothing, and the smell seemed like it would get into your clothes,” he respectfully said. “It was the smell of the [burning] garbage.” Joel described it as the odor of burning plastic bottles.

Yet, in spite of it all, Paul kept a sense of excitement and fearlessness that he attributed to his law enforcement background. “As long as the Lord is opening the door, He’s got our back,” he shared.

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Pastor Lance (blue shirt, center) speaks with a homeowner and his family who received a Housetops for Haiti blessing. The house behind them was built by Housetops for Haiti.

All three men admitted that serving in Haiti requires a deep reliance on the Lord. “There [are] times when you think, What are we going to do now? and you realize God’s just going to have to come through,” Pastor Joel proclaimed.

Throughout the trip, their faith was tested time and time again. Paul shared an experience when their truck broke down as the team was driving on a remote mountain—there was no AAA or roadside assistance in Haiti, he humorously added. They prayed, and within seconds another vehicle met them on the road; that vehicle just “happened” to be driven by an English-speaking woman who also “happened” to have jumper cables. Both Paul and Joel relayed how this experience, and others, showed them how God shows up with exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

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Thach Winslow, a team member, plays with the Haitian children. The children really enjoyed taking turns wearing his hat.

Building More than Just Homes

God met the needs of the team just as he was using Housetops for Haiti to meet the needs of the country’s rural communities. Pastor Lance shared, “It’s hard to build relationships with people when you don’t meet their basic needs.” Providing for their needs “allows us to build relationships and dive into their lives spiritually.”

The men traveled to check on a family the ministry had built a house for in recent years, and to let them know they would be in the area. As they walked through the village, dozens of children came to them on the road and walked with them. Paul shared that it gave him a sense of what it must have been like for Jesus to see the crowds and have compassion on them, like sheep without a shepherd. Even better, several of the children knew Pastor Lance—the work they had done in that community was making a generational impact for the Gospel.

And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34

Paul and Joel recalled meeting Haitians with deep spiritual needs. Paul encountered a mentally handicapped teenaged girl. Her family paid her little attention, but when Paul asked her to join them as they were seated together, he said, “She just lit up with the most beautiful smile.” It struck him because here was a girl with such little hope among a people who have little hope, smiling because someone acknowledged her and wanted her to be part of what they were doing.

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Pastor Joel (right) shares the Gospel with a group of Haitian children. The gentleman in the striped shirt, who has studied at an English-speaking university, translated for him.

Joel described an encounter with a man, once a Voodoo witch doctor, lying sick in his yard. He lived next door to a church that had been planted through the work of Housetops for Haiti, which is also where he came to faith in Christ. The team prayed over the man, and when they came back a few days later, he was up and walking around, completely healed. Joel observed, “There is a very dark darkness in Haiti, yet there is also a very bright ‘Jesus light’ there as well.”

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Part of the Calvary Chapel team prays with a former Voodoo witch doctor (center) whom they found ill in his yard. When they returned a few days later, they learned that he had been healed. Lance is in the blue t-shirt.

God’s Provision against the Odds

This trip made the Word of God come alive for the men in many ways. “Leaning on Jesus is a moment-by-moment reality in Haiti,” Joel related. “The Haitian believers are very dependent on the Lord, but it’s a different level of dependence.”

As the team was about to leave the country, they ran into hurdles and delays, and God continued to work. They needed COVID-19 tests before boarding the plane, but the nurse responsible for another organization's field hospital kindly shared that they didn’t have any to spare. They would not be able to leave without these tests. So the team prayed, and within a few moments another nurse randomly approached them and was able to get them tested.

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The mission team joined in this Haitian church service on a Sunday morning. Pastors Paul and Joel taught from the Bible, while Serafin, the Haitian church pastor, translated into Creole. There are no benches or pews.

At the airport, preparing for departure, they learned their plane had lost a wheel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, and the flight would not be coming in—there would not be another flight for several days. So again, the team prayed, and again God showed up. Within a few moments someone commented that another plane was about to land. It “happened” to belong to Mission Aviation Fellowship, an organization that helps missionaries travel by air around the world. The pilot was only picking up one passenger but was flying a plane designed to carry eight, meaning their team of six fit comfortably in it.

 

God’s Guiding Hand

These and other events reminded the pastors of God’s providential and guiding hand—no need went unmet. But most importantly, God showed them what He is doing in the hearts of Haitians and that He wants them to be part of His work in the troubled island nation.

Pastor Paul shared 2 Chronicles 16:9a: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” He believes the work they were doing was pleasing to the Lord, who never took His eyes off them the entire trip.

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A team member from CC Tri-Cities plays a game with Haitian children. The game is similar to “London Bridge” but ends with a game of chase.

Joel, pondering the Old Testament book of Job, added, “God is taking the Haitians, and us, to a deeper level of dependence upon the Lord, through the shared experience of human suffering. We all suffer no matter where we live; these experiences, like Job’s, take us to a deeper dependence on, and a richer relationship with, Jesus.”

Groundwork has been laid in the impoverished and once-hopeless country of Haiti—yet there is still much work to be done. The three pastors have taken what they saw firsthand back to their churches and have already made plans to send teams in the months ahead to support the Haitian nationals through Housetops for Haiti, including plans to help build a compound with bunkhouses for traveling teams.

                  

Click to learn more about  Housetops for Haiti

Visit the websites of our featured pastors:
Pastor Joel Dover: calvarynewnan.org
Pastor Lance Halseth: calvarysm.org
Pastor Paul Miller: cctricitiestn.org

                  

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2021 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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