40,000 Haitians profess faith in Christ since Jan. 12 quake
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)--A reported 40,127 Haitians have made professions of faith in Jesus Christ since a major earthquake hit the impoverished nation in January, according to pastors and directors of missions within the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d'Haiti (CMBH).
"Haiti is ripe for a spiritual movement from God," said Craig Culbreth, director of the Florida Baptist Convention's partnership missions department, which coordinates the work of the CMBH, upon his Feb. 22 return from Port-au-Prince.
During a Feb. 16-17 citywide holiday observance in Cap Haitien, Haiti's second largest city, Culbreth saw "thousands upon thousands filling the streets where people are seeking God and asking Him to spare them from what happened in Port-au-Prince. For me, it was a New Testament expression of what it looks like when the Spirit of God shows up. I have never seen anything like it."
The CMBH is the Florida Baptist Convention-funded partnership of nearly 900 Haitian Baptist churches throughout Haiti. Through the partnership the Florida convention employs seven indigenous missionaries in six regions.
Since the earthquake, the CMBH pastors have distributed 51 tons of rice, which provided 437,750 servings to Haitians in Port-au-Prince and outlying areas where refugees have fled. Additional feedings are expected.
During the week of Feb. 16-22, Culbreth was on his third trip to Haiti since the earthquake to determine how Florida and Southern Baptists could reach beyond Port-au-Prince and meet needs of refugees who left the capital city.
Together, he and Dennis Wilbanks, an associate in partnership missions, have visited five of the six associations, conferring and praying with the directors of missions and Haitian pastors in the associations.
Culbreth compared the window of opportunity where the people are hungry for the Gospel to the United States after 9/11 when hundreds flocked to churches.
He cited recent events in many of the 110 churches in the Port-au-Prince area where throngs of people have been seeking spiritual guidance in church meetings, which have been held outdoors because Haitians feared to enter buildings. Church leaders have reported 28,000 salvations in the Ouest (Port-au-Prince) association.
Many conversions took place during the three days of prayer and fasting called for by the Haitian government Feb. 12-14, Culbreth said.
"People were in the streets, literally begging God for forgiveness and mercy," said Wilbanks, who was in Port-au-Prince at the time.
Professions of faith also have been reported by Florida and Southern Baptist medical and disaster relief teams as volunteers shared the Gospel.
The upsurge in the reported conversions appears to fulfill a pre-earthquake vision by Louis LaBranche, CMBH director of ministry.
"Pastor LaBranche said he had a vision of God telling him that 1.5 million Haitians will be saved in the next five years. He believes it and so do I," Culbreth said.
Culbreth traveled to Leogane, the epicenter of the earthquake which is located 18 miles west of the Haitian capital.
"Reports said that 90 percent of the buildings have been destroyed, but I did not see a house that was not damaged. The roads are buckled and people are pouring out in the streets," he said.
Culbreth was in Port-au-Prince during the 4.7 magnitude aftershock Feb. 22, and he said Haitians continue to live in fear for their lives.
The next three months will be crucial to reaping a spiritual harvest in Haiti, Culbreth said. CMBH leaders are planning 14 area-wide crusades, including two each in five associations and four in Port-au-Prince. The Florida Baptist Convention has authorized $53,000 to purchase Bibles and tracts and to rent sound equipment for the Haitian leaders.
"This is their dream and vision," Culbreth said. "They are making the plans. We are only providing funding to make it happen."
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention. Note: The total for professions of faiths reported by the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d'Haiti is based on written reports by churches/pastors to the seven CMBH regional missionaries, who in turn report them to the convention's director of ministry. The regional missionaries provide numbers of professions of faith and baptisms as part of their reports on disaster relief ministry by CMBH churches.