By Robert Vezinat
About two years ago last June, Brother Truman Smith and I made a visit to the island country of Haiti to see what, if any, opportunities existed there for the work of the Lord. We were not exactly prepared for what we found. In my estimation this is the poorest country I have ever seen in all my life-not excluding the poverty-ridden people in Viet Nam where I served in the military. The people in Haiti seem to have absolutely nothing by way of material possessions; they are almost literally on a starvation diet. There is no kind of government assistance for them; they survive by their own efforts, or they die. And the death rate there is far higher than one might be ready to believe. I talked (French) to many of them, and more than one of these poor people told me that they ate about once every other day!
Brother Smith and I quickly found a young man who was more than willing to be our guide. We had arrived in Port-Au-Prince, the capital of the country, but decided to try to start a congregation in a small town called Leogane, which is about 25 miles from the capital. Due to the terrible condition of the roads, it takes about two hours to travel these 25 miles. Arriving in Leogane, we went through the town telling the people that at 7:00 o’clock that night we would be showing a religious film at a certain place, and inviting them to come. It would be free. When the time came for the meeting, we had about 250 people who had turned out for the occasion. The showing of the film took a bit longer than would have been the case here at home, since I had to translate it into French.
We went through the entire series of films (the Jule Miller strip) and the crowds increased each night. When I had finished translating the last strip, I asked how many of them felt the need to be baptized. Quite a few raised their hands. However, we could not baptize them that night as we had no body of water available. But the next day we drove to the sea (in the little Honda that we had rented), and I baptized a total of thirteen. We had to make several trips, since the small Honda could not accommodate more than two or three at a time. I am confident we could have baptized several score of these hungering, searching people if we had only had time to remain with them. But we could not. And, worse still, we had no one to leave with these babes in Christ to strengthen and further teach them.
I returned to Haiti alone one year later. Brother Smith did not accompany me on this trip since he did not speak French, and felt that his going along would not be as essential as it was the first time we went. My second trip was also very successful and very fruitful. What I was really looking for this second time was some good man among the converts who could be trained and trusted to be left there to preach and teach.
After much searching I finally found a young man who spoke English very well. He told me he had been baptized for the remission of sins, and he was preaching for a group who called themselves “the church of Christ.” However, I found this group, in spite of the fact that they baptized for the remission of sins, closer to the Baptist teaching than anything else. However, I stayed with this young man a full week, trying to teach him the way of the Lord more perfectly. We established another congregation at a place called Achet (or Archiet, depending on how you pronounce it), and I left this young man to preach and teach. We erected a makeshift building for about $200.00 (my money); and after my return to my home (Cleveland, Texas) I supported this man from my own funds. Then the Cleveland church agreed to take over the support, but desired me to make a quick (and unannounced) visit back to the island to further check on the work. What I found was both encouraging and discouraging. In the four months of my absence the church had grown to about one hundred souls-but due to their ignorance (and perhaps some lack of honesty on the part of the young man I had left there) several false teachings had come into the church, some of the women were leading in public prayers; contributions were being taken up in the various Bible school classes (amounting to practically nothing, however, since the people were so poverty stricken). The young man told me that if I felt the things they were doing were unscriptural, they would change. But I felt they might be doing it for policy’s sake, and not out of any real conviction. So I returned to Cleveland, depressed and discouraged. I stopped my support of the young man, and advised the Cleveland brethren (where I preached) that I felt it would be unwise at that time to make any contribution toward that work.
However, that second trip did uncover one ray of hope. I found another young man (among those whom we had baptized) who was also preaching the gospel. He was a “country boy,” very poor, and very humble. He seemed determined in every way possible to do exactly what the Book said, as nearly as he could understand it. Being from the country, he had not had contact with the more “sophisticated” (and, therefore, probably less sincere) people of the city. I believe this young man holds real promise for the building of a faithful congregation in that area.
However, there is no way at all by which I can contact him without going back to Haiti. There is no mail delivery; there are no telephones; there is no way to contact him except to go there in person. The congregation is about ten miles out in the country, and the last five miles of that journey must be made by foot.
I want to go back to Haiti and make another effort to establish a faithful church there. It is very easy to baptize these simple folk. They are extremely poor, and have very little in this life to look forward to; because of this, they find the gospel, with its promise of a home in heaven, far more inviting than most people here in the States. They are open and receptive. Since I speak French (my native tongue), I can converse with these people without effort. The people are ready; “the fields are white unto the harvest.” I want to go to Haiti for an extended visit within the very near future; and then a bit later I want to move there for a year or two and establish a few congregations. I would like to make Haiti my field of labor from here on out, alternating between periods of work there and periods her in the States.
I make this appeal to see if there are churches or brethren who would be interested in having fellowship in this venture. If you want to make inquiry as to my background and teaching, I refer you to Brother Grover Stevens in Lubbock (who helped me to understand what the problems of the church are when I was a student. in the Lubbock Sunset School of Preaching), to Brother Roy Cogdill who knows me and knows of my work with the church in Cleveland, Texas; and to Brother Yater Tant who has held meetings for the church in Hobbs, New Mexico when I was preaching there, and who knows of my life and work. I am now working with the Highway 9 Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas. If any church, or individual, wants to help me in going to Haiti, please contact me at the address given: 4902 Wexford, Corpus Christi, Texas 78411.
Truth Magazine XXI: 42, pp. 667-668
October 27, 1977