Revised Haiti/Florida Covenant celebrates partnership

 (L to R) Southeast District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Craig Nelson, Rev. Dionne Hammond, chair of the Haiti/Florida Committee, Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, consultant for Global Mission, and Rev. Fawn Mikel celebrate the Covenant ratification.

The Haiti/Florida Covenant was ratified with a revised portion during the Methodist Church of Haiti Annual Conference Event in January.

Florida Annual Conference representatives attending the event in Haiti included: the Rev. Dionne Hammond, chair of the Haiti/Florida Committee; the Rev. Fawn Mikel, member of the Haiti/Florida Committee; Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, consultant for Global Mission overseeing the Haiti/Florida Covenant, and Southeast District Superintendent Craig Nelson.

Hammond, pastor at First United Methodist Church, Melbourne, said that while the covenant has been in place since 2006, conference members were re-awakened to the needs of Haiti after the devastating earthquake rocked the country on Jan. 12, 2010.

While the earthquake was a horrific event, the tremendous outpouring of care and concern that emerged from that devastating experience led to more Florida Annual Conference churches desiring to be involved with churches within the Methodist Church of Haiti.

Hammond said the revised covenant with Haiti would forge a strong connection between churches in both conferences, with increased communication about ministry taking place in Haiti.

“We really want to create a partnership,” said Hammond, who has been chair of the Haiti/Florida Covenant since 2011. “We want to fully live into what the covenant can become.”

Rankin, who has deep roots with the covenant, was the Florida Conference Secretary for Global Mission when the initial covenant was signed. After his retirement in July 2010, he was retained as a part-time conference consultant with Global Mission Initiatives.

Rankin accompanied Florida Annual Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and members of the Haiti/Florida Covenant team members to Haiti in September 2010. It was during that meeting that Rankin said the seeds of revising the covenant were planted.

Haitian school boys take some time out for fun.

“Primarily, there was the need to move from the good words on the covenant to a definition of mutual ministry and actual programs which would ground the partnership,” Rankin said.

A portion of the revised covenant in part reads, “With this covenant, we recognize that Methodist Church of Haiti is the preferred partner of the Florida Conference for its work in Haiti. The covenant teams established by the Methodist Church of Haiti and the Florida Conference, in the spirit of sharing openly, shall strive to inform each other of the activities of their respective members and churches as they relate to ministry with one another.”

Ideally, the revised covenant will function as an instrument to encourage “sister” church relationships.

Mikel said that since the Methodist Church of Haiti has roughly 166 congregations, it is possible for each of those churches to have a partner or sister church with the Florida Conference.

“It would truly be easy for us to create sister church partnerships,” Mikel said. “I’m very excited about that.”

Rankin is excited about fulfilling the Methodist Church of Haiti’s need to educate its local pastors as part of the covenant. It is not unusual for Haitian clergy to have secular jobs to support themselves and their families.

Rev. Dionne Hammond, chair of the Haiti/Florida Committee, and President Gesner Paul of the Methodist Church of Haiti at the signing of a revision to the Haiti/Florida Covenant.

“The Florida Covenant committee is committed to find the means to help develop a pastor’s school to strengthen and motivate the churches,” Rankin said. “The Haitians realize that in order to generate a level of financial support for such a project, church-to-church partnerships are crucial, so that participating Florida churches can ‘buy in’ to the Haiti/Florida Covenant,” he said.

The relationship between the two conferences will not be one-sided with Florida Conference churches always giving, the participants said.

“During this annual conference, a man was adamant that the Methodist Church also has something to offer us,” Hammond said. “It is encouraging that they want to give to us and they can give to us. We can be inspired by their faith and resilience.”

The covenant will work for both conferences, Rankin said, noting that God will provide His abundance and actions will confirm whether it is working or not.

“Both parties are hopeful that the revised covenant will work,” Rankin said. “The hard work and prayer begins and only time will confirm that the covenant is working.”

Today, Haiti is working to rebuild itself, and Mikel noted that roads are considerably better than pre-earthquake conditions. She said she noticed billboards announcing that 980,000 children are in school.

“There is great hope in Haiti right now,” Mikel said. “There is still hunger and poverty, but progress is being made.”
Future plans include a gathering of representatives of the Methodist Church of Haiti and the Florida Conference Haiti Covenant, task team members and 10 circuit superintendents from the Methodist Church of Haiti.  They will meet to share and create a vision for their partnerships May 18 and 19 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando.



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