Franz Brinache left his home in Haiti in 1994 to escape the cruelty of the military
coup that overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He left behind his three children,
the oldest of whom was 22.
Brinache settled here and started the process of getting his children out of Haiti. He
waited for five years to hear from the Haitian government, and during that time asked
three immigration assistance agencies for help. He paid almost $300 for their services,
but got no results.
One ministry of the United Methodist Haitian Mission here did get results for Brinache
and is helping many more refugees like him relocate themselves and their families to
Brinache asked the Rev. Luc Dessieux, pastor of the mission, for help last October.
"He comes in here and says, Pastor, can you send a letter to the consulate
in Haiti to see if I can get my children? " Dessieux said. "Three weeks
later he gets a letter back with an appointment for his children to talk to immigration.
In less than three months, he gets his children.
"Someone is talking about what good is done? I did the letter for free and had
success. The guy was so happy, and we have so many stories like that in the church."
With the successes, however, come setbacks for the 300-member, 10-year-old mission
church. Despite having more than 100 children and as many as 80 youth attending each week,
the mission does not have a full-time ministry to either group because it lacks volunteers
and the financial means to hire staff, Dessieux says.
The church is also closing its food and clothes pantries from lack of support and its
day-care center because it cannot find a qualified replacement for the director, who found
another job. It has cut back on its rent and utility support program until it can find
Regardless of the limited funds and support, the need is great. Ft. Pierce is second to
Miami in having the highest concentration of Haitian immigrants in the country, according
to the Rev. Brice Harris, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Pompano Beach, and
chairman of the conferences Refugee Ministry Task Force.
Dessieux said 16,000 Haitians live in Ft. Pierce. The majority of them work in the
areas citrus groves or packinghouses for six months of the year, and 80 percent are
functionally illiterate. Many send money to Haiti to help support family members still
Dessieux said many of the congregations members "try to do the best they can
to pay their tithe." The church also receives support from the Melbourne district and its Board of
Church Extension. Dessieux is also applying for grants.
The mission received a $2,000 grant last November from the Florida Conference Church
and Society Ministry team that was funded by the conferences share of the annual
Peace With Justice Special Sunday offering. It will help the church expand its ministry to
people like Brinache, according to Dessieux, who says his church is helping as many as 150
people deal with their own or a family members immigration challenges.
For many of them the greatest hardships are translating and completing forms and paying
associated fees. The fee to apply for permanent residency is $220 per person, up from $95
a year ago, Dessieux said. The form to petition for a family member to travel to the
United States is $110, up from $80.
The mission is also working to unite the Haitian community and improve its standing in
the larger community, Dessieux says. Currently, there are no Haitians serving in local
government and very few in organizations like the police department, hospitals, banks and
Through the Haitian-American Citizens Club founded by Dessieux in 1995, he and others
are petitioning public and civic offices and major employers to hire Haitians. He said the
police department has recently hired Haitian officers, one of whom is a member of the
Despite its challenges, Dessieux said his church does have a plan. "Our first
responsibility is to preach the gospel and save as many souls as we can," he said.
"And through some difficulties, we try to see how we can do social services to keep
the community moving."