CEF in Haiti: Two Years of Joys and Trials after the 2010 Earthquake
Adline Caméus does not have a typical Christian conversion story. Like John Wesley, the famous 18th century preacher, she came to faith after she started sharing the gospel. As a young Haitian woman, she was eager to take classes wherever she could in hopes that somehow it would help her advance economically. When an evangelistic training class was offered by Child Evangelism Fellowship in her neighborhood she took it. The class taught its students how to share the gospel with children using a book of colors called the Wordless Book. One of her first assignments was to share the Wordless Book with a dying boy in a Haitian hospital. In the process, both Adline and the boy came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. That was 20 years ago. Today she is the Director of CEF Haiti, steering the organization through the difficult years since the 2010 earthquake which devastated the island nation.
Asked how the earthquake affected the children’s ministry, Ms. Caméus described a complex picture. “The desire to spread the gospel to children had cooled among our workers,” she said. “The earthquake brought a revival among Christians and the fire to reach the lost ignited.” Many volunteered to help share the gospel with children. In the aftermath of the earthquake, they distributed over 45,000 Do You Wonder Why booklets among children in schools, camps and shelter areas. These booklets address the pressing questions children have in crises, such as “Why did this happen?” and “Does God care?” CEF has distributed the booklet in the wake of crises all over the world from New Orleans after hurricane Katrina in 2005, to Japan after the horrific tsunami of 2011. “We are still receiving phone calls from children requesting prayer or advices as a result of the books. Many children shared how they pray the salvation prayer and adults call to thank us for the support and comfort the Do You Wonder Why booklet brings,” related Ms. Caméus.
At the same time, CEF Haiti experienced some significant struggles after the earthquake, paradoxically resulting from the arrival of charitable organizations which came to help Haiti with meals, lodging, psychological assistance and the like. These organizations needed workers and could pay decent and sustainable salaries. CEF Haiti lost six of its nine full-time workers as a result. Another persistent difficulty often occurs when the ministry tries to start a Bible club, called a Good News Club, in a new area. “When [parents] realize we are not there to provide food and such many accuse us of using the children to raise big money from foreigners that we are not sharing with the children,” said Ms. Caméus. “Foreigners are no longer welcome in the clubs anymore, unless they are bringing food or medical assistance.”
Lack of safety meant an end to the Good News Clubs meeting in neighborhoods where parents feared to send their children. Thankfully, CEF Haiti was able to maintain its presence in the schools. “Fortunately, the school doors are wide open for us to bring the Gospel. Most schools accept the CEF program as part of their curriculum,” explained Ms. Caméus. Others allow the Good News Clubs to meet after school.
After two years, the hard work of CEF Haiti to recover from the devastating earthquake is paying off. It now has eleven full-time workers and ten part-time workers, as well as two-thirds of the number of volunteers it had prior to the earthquake. A few Good News Clubs have timidly started in some neighborhoods bringing the total number of GNCs in Haiti to 78; this is 24 more than existed before the earthquake. Besides the GNCs, the school ministry and a ministry in orphanages, CEF Haiti trains teachers and provides curriculum for Compassion International, World Vision and Word & Action, making the number of children it reaches in the hundred thousands. Since January of this year, Ms. Caméus and her staff have been working diligently to extend their reach well beyond the Port-au-Prince area, north to Arcahaie, Artibonite and Cap-Haitien. Already the 86 teachers they trained to serve these areas have begun 14 Good News Clubs with almost 1,000 children in attendance each week. Given CEF Haiti’s renewed zeal for evangelism many more Haitian children will surely be blessed by their efforts.