In an effort to help current and future Seventh-day Adventist leaders understand the reality they face as they minister in Haiti, leaders and faculty at Haitian Adventist University (HAU) held a special Bible conference for a group of administrators, district pastors, and theology students.
The March 11-12, 2022, conference was the first held for church workers across Haiti in several years. It took place on the campus of the Adventist school in Diquini, Carrefour, a residential area of Port-au-Prince.
Growing security concerns and conflicts between armed civilians, the closing of places of worship in certain regions, limits on church gatherings, frequent kidnappings, and socio-political unrest have driven church leaders to adjust their ways of reaching the membership and retaining current and new members, HAU School of Theology dean Edgard Étienne said. Étienne was the main organizer of the conference.
“Many of the pastors face insecurity, and that makes their ministry a bit complicated at this level,” Étienne said. “There are many challenges, and this conference was not about targeting all the challenges, but we wanted to tackle some challenges related to leadership to somehow start,” he said.
The 79 attendees heard theologians from the university, the Haitian Union and Inter-American Division (IAD), and the Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary, speak on topics such as pastoral ministry and mission in the 21st century; reaching the marginalized; leading in the midst of crisis; fulfillment of prophecy; technology and modern evangelistic methods; cross-cultural mission; and others.
Parts of the Bible conference were carried online on the church’s Hope Media Haiti channel and the church-owned L’Esperance radio station.
Addressing the subject of the marginalized, Waitland Francois, who is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in the Philippines, challenged leaders on their Christian and civic duty to make houses of worship more accessible and more inclusive to those with special needs. “It is not the marginalized who are unreachable, but it is us who are unreachable,” Francois said. “It is up to us to make ourselves available.”
Francois proposed that leaders and district pastors appoint officers in all ministries to provide accessibility and sign language in congregations.
IAD president Elie Henry addressed the leaders online, thanking them for their commitment and dedication to preaching the gospel. He reminded them of their mission to prepare a people for the second coming of Jesus.
Pierre Caporal, president of the Adventist Church in Haiti, spoke to pastors and theology students on the structure of the church organization and on the importance of networking together among local congregations and well-known institutions like the university, the Adventist hospital, and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Haiti.
Caporal reminded those attending the conference about understanding the context they live in today, and to better prepare ministers to reach others for God’s kingdom. “Since the world is changing with new demands, knowledge, and challenges, it is necessary to revisit the formation that future pastors are getting so they can be more efficient in their service to the church,” Caporal said. He told leaders that the event would be the first of many that the Adventist Church in Haiti wants to support.
Mikneja Jahlleel Marcellus, a second-year student at HAU, said he was happy to participate in the conference, where he was able to witness the unity of message among the speakers toward a strong and united church. “Our church is separated by geographical and cultural differences, but it is not divided,” Marcellus said. “We are a real big family; we preach the same message and have one hope.” The key is to keep the conversation going among many more leaders and pastors across Haiti, he added.
With a membership of nearly 500,000 across more than 1,214 churches and congregations led by more than 200 district pastors throughout Haiti, the church has local leaders who want to motivate their members so they continue engaging in the life of the church, even amid the challenges they face each day.
“We want to have future leaders ready to face, with the Spirit’s help, the challenges present in the church in an ever-changing world,” Étienne said.
Leaders are already planning to hold a Bible conference annually, they said.
HAU has the only theology school among the French-speaking territories in the IAD territory. Established in 1921, the university offers undergraduate degrees in business, education, engineering and new technologies, paramedical sciences, nursing, and theology.