I was riding in the back of a pick-up truck on a very rutted, dusty dirt road between Anse a Galets, a rural town in Haiti, and Nouvelle Cite, an even more rural village. As we passed another deforested hillside and another small subsistence family farm with skinny goats and chickens scratching around, suddenly I caught a whiff of freshly baked bread. Fresh-baked bread in the rural countryside in Haiti?
I was on a short-term mission trip to Haiti with 10 faithful members of the congregation of First Presbyterian Church (FPC) of Atlanta. This is my first year as the director of global mission for FPC Atlanta and my first trip to Haiti with this church. I am stepping in to a long and rich history and legacy of involvement of FPC in Haiti.
FPC took its first trip to Haiti in the early 1990s. Bill Rice, who previously had worked for World Mission and had been a mission co-worker for the Presbyterian Church, led the mission trip. Since that first trip, FPC has committed itself to do mission in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti. What that means is that everything we do in Haiti is done at the invitation of the local church. We recognize that the local church leaders in Haiti have a better sense of what their needs are and how U.S. mission teams can come alongside them to assist with those needs. Being partners with the local church in Haiti also means that often our trips are less project-oriented and more focused on being the body of Christ together. We worship together, break bread together, play together and pray together. As North Americans, we are often hard-wired to want to “do” something, but sometimes the greatest call in God’s mission is to just “be” present with one another as we learn where God is at work in a particular place and in our partners’ lives.
Doing mission in partnership is a discipline that requires a great deal of patience, grace and love from both partners. It is rarely the most efficient way to plan and run short-term mission trips, but it always produces the most faithful results.
One facet of our partnership with the church in Haiti is a microfinance program we help support. This program was initiated by our partners to provide a source of capital to budding entrepreneurs, helping to break the cycle of poverty.
One local church member who has embraced this microfinance program is Madame Lisson. Prior to the microfinance program, she was already running a bakery out of her home. With the influx of support from the microfinance program, Madame Lisson was able to expand her bakery operations beyond her local community and provide baked goods to additional surrounding communities. With the revenue that she has generated from her bakery, she has been able to pay the tuition costs for her children to attend secondary school and university. It was her bread that I smelled baking in the rural Haitian countryside from the back of the pickup truck. Madame Lisson is generating hope in Haiti one loaf of bread at a time for herself, her family and her community.
First Presbyterian Church and our members are deeply blessed by our partnership with the church in Haiti and we believe that this is the most faithful way to engage in God’s mission there. Our annual mission trips are an opportunity to see where God is already at work in Haiti and humbly strive to align our efforts and resources with that work through the local church in Haiti. We find ourselves transformed through this experience, and through God’s grace we are able to help the local church in Haiti be an agent of transformation and hope in their community.
GREG ALLEN-PICKETT serves as the director of global mission at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. Prior to coming to FPC, Greg was the general manager for Presbyterian World Mission of the PC(USA). Greg has an amazing partner in ministry in his wife, Jessica, and a gregarious and compassionate daughter in elementary school, along with a ridiculous lab-beagle mix dog named Luna.