Florida United Methodists travel to Haiti for district president’s installation

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida United Methodists travel to Haiti for district president’s installation

By Jenna De Marco | Oct. 16, 2009 {1091}

NOTE: A headshot of the Rev. Gesner Paul is available at http://www.flumc.info/photo_gallery2.shtml.

More than 2,000 people gathered in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, recently for a ceremony that may signal a time of change for the Methodist Church there.

Rev. Gesner Paul
The Rev. Gesner Paul was installed Aug. 30 as president of the Haiti District. Several members of the Florida Conference attended.

Paul’s induction is important, said the Rev. Montreuil Milord, because it might herald a “new direction” within the church in Haiti. Milord attended the ceremony and is chairman of the Haiti/Florida Covenant.

“I believe that is one of the reasons that so many people came to support the inauguration,” Milord said. “Some of the people are looking, maybe, for a new way of life and a new way of leadership.”

The Haiti District is one of eight in the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA). The MCCA is an autonomous conference of the Methodist Church and comprises 644 congregations, according to its Web site. The MCCA geographical area includes the Bahamas, Belize, Honduras, Haiti, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, Panama, Costa Rica and South Caribbean. The current connectional president is the Rev. Dr. George Mulrain, who attended Paul’s installation.

The Florida Conference maintains a relationship with the Methodist Church in Haiti through the Haiti/Florida Covenant. The covenant is a partnership established in 2006 that is designed to facilitate sharing resources and building relationships.

By attending the ceremony, covenant team member the Rev. Charline Pierre hoped to show support for Paul’s leadership. Pierre is an administrative assistant in the Florida Conference’s South East District office.

“To me, it was important … because we are trying to really connect with The Methodist Church in Haiti,” she said, and being there was a way of saying “we are really with you.” Pierre’s hometown is the city of Petit Goâve; she still visits family there.

The Florida delegation included (front, left to right) Gregory Stritch, Ed Ritter, Aunel Bellany, (standing) Charline Pierre, Patience Nave and Montreuil Milord (Sally Ritter not pictured). Photo courtesy of the Rev. Charline Pierre. Photo #09-1325.

People from other American states and the Caribbean also attended the installation ceremony, but one striking characteristic, Pierre said, was the presence of several Haitian government officials. Pierre does not recall another time when government representatives were present at such an event. Their attendance, she said, gives her “new hope for the church to be seen as a witness in that section of the world” and “shows the presence of the Methodist church in Haiti and … that God is doing something great through (the) Methodists of Haiti.”

Also of note, Pierre said, was the communion service, which she described as a powerful spiritual experience and “a gathering where the spirit of God united people together.”

At a reception dinner later that day, Milord spoke about the covenant and the need for the Florida Conference and the Methodist Church of Haiti “to come together in order to improve the lives of the Haitian people” in specific ways, such as building schools and medical clinics.

The conference can “really push for education” in Haiti, Pierre said, especially related to training and recruitment of teachers and building improvements. In turn, she said, the church there can help the Florida Conference “be a voice for the people, for the less fortunate.”

Florida churches continue commitment

Ed and Sally Ritter of North Naples United Methodist Church also attended the inauguration. Ed serves as director of congregational development at the church.

In a written account of the trip Sally shared with e-Review, she says one highlight was a chance meeting with Joe and Shirley Edgerton, longtime General Board of Global Ministries Mission Volunteers in La Gonâve, a small island located northwest of Port-au-Prince. The Edgerton’s willingness to share their knowledge of the Methodist churches and schools on the island is “an answer to our prayer,” Sally wrote.

Issues related to infrastructure, education and basic survival on La Gonâve are complex, Shirley Edgerton said in e-mail correspondence with e-Review. They will require the commitment of the local people to resolve, she said, and Paul’s leadership will play a role.
“Pastor Paul indicates an interest in developing the church and schools on the island in a new way, and his history has been active involvement and direction for teams working in his circuit,” Edgerton said.

The Ritters laid the groundwork for expansion of their church’s relationship with Methodist churches in La Gonâve when they returned to the island in September to gather more information about “where the need is greatest,” Sally said. That trip was in preparation for an eight-person mission trip that will take place in November during the week of Thanksgiving. Goals for the visit include developing a list of teams serving that area and facilitating communication among them, Sally said.

Patience Nave and Aunel Bellany wait for the installation ceremony to begin. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Charline Pierre. Photo #09-1326.

Patience Nave also attended the installation and while there visited Carrenage Methodist Church, partly to prepare for her church’s March 2010 mission trip. Nave is a member of First United Methodist Church in Homosassa. That congregation and the Carrenage church have functioned as sister churches for several years.

During the March mission volunteers will provide vaccinations for 160 children who attend the Carrenage church school, as well as complete repairs to the cistern, outdoor kitchen and church roof. People in the community will “be the primary workers and we are going to assist them,” Nave said. She estimates the repairs will cost $10,000, which she hopes to raise before March. Several team members will also offer Bible study, English and music lessons, and arts and crafts for the schoolchildren.

“We have the potential for a very good team,” Nave said. “Their talents are so varied.”

At least one physician and two nurses will be among them. In total, 18 people want to participate in the mission trip, although space may not be available for all of them, Nave said. Several of those who are interested do not attend Nave’s church or live in other states.

“It’s one of those things that I didn’t do,” Nave said. “God has just put this together.”

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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