|Evangelistic mission trip to Haiti spawns 3,200 new believers
By Barbara Denman
February 5, 2014
PORT-AU-PRINCE—The armed pickup truck pulled up alongside a congested Port-au-Prince corner and immediately three enormous men descended from its doors, toting baseball bats, steel bars, horse shoes and red rubber water bottles.
The crowd, a little sheepish at first, begins to build, intrigued by the size of the muscular Americans and the booming voices from the portable sound system.
When the first phonebook was torn in half, the energy level drastically increased as onlookers begin to clap and cheer for the physically ripped men standing atop the truck bed sharing feats of strength.
After the steel bars were twisted by hand, bats broken and water bottles exploded, the men, members of the Strength Team, speak about why they are camped along the impoverished Haitian neighborhood, sharing how God transformed their lives and gave hope when they were hopeless.
“There was never a time when many did not respond and give their lives to Jesus,” said David Burton, lead strategist for the Florida Baptist Convention’s Evangelism Group.
“Sometimes shouts of joy erupted—sometime tears of joy.”
The Strength Team, “by their mere size captures attention and draws the crowds,” said Burton who took the group to Haiti Jan 11-17 to lead evangelistic crusades and events in the capitol city.
“The Haitians are awed by these men of strength. Their eyes grow huge as they watch the feats of strengths. They listen intently as the team shared their testimonies and how Jesus can change and save a life forever,” Burton explained.
The weeklong trip encompassed five nightly crusades, visits to four schools where nearly 700 boys and girls heard the Gospel and a stop at the city’s Swat Team facilities for anther presentation. At the end of the effort, 3,258 professions of faith were recorded, with many names collected and assigned to local churches for follow up.
The mission trip is the third annual event for Burton and the Strength Team, a group of evangelistic body builders and former athletes, as they partner with the churches and leaders of the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti, Florida Baptists’ mission partners in that country, who provide translators for the Americans. The group plans to return to Haiti next January.
The nightly outdoor crusades were held in the Clairsine and Delmas areas of Port-au- Prince. Each night before the services, a few hundred Haitians from the churches and the community gathered at the arenas in anticipation of the meeting, many quietly praying.
As the sun began to set, hundreds more appeared, some carrying chairs and stools while others stood, sometimes for several hours at a time, listening to the music, the presentation of the Strength Team and Burton proclaim the gospel.
At the time of the invitation “we knew God was about to touch hundreds of lives—and He did.”
Several times, the crowd pressed up to the platform, leaving little room for people to come forward, Burton recalled.
“Hands were raised everywhere. People by the hundreds prayed aloud, trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord each night. It was an amazing site to behold. God had gone before us preparing the way.”
Strength team member Mark Rodriguez said he felt God’s presence throughout the trip.
“It seemed like in the midst of chaos and poverty and darkness, that God was moving everywhere. Seeing doors open to multitudes of people thirsting for righteousness is only by the hand of God.”
For Rodriguez, visiting the four public schools was the most memorable aspect of the trip.
Demonstrating their feats of strength and inviting the school children on stage to participate allowed the evangelistic team to open the door to spiritual truths, he said.
“We were able to show God's love to them, contrary to what we can do in the United States,” he explained. “Many of the kids were in awe of the Strength Team and the best part is most of the students responded to the message of salvation.
“I felt as if the future of Haiti was right in front of us and we were able to share with them the best message ever told.”
In addition to the crusades and mass evangelism events, Burton and John Holloway, team strategist for the Convention’s Partnership Missions Team, led classes for the CMBH pastors and church leaders. Burton taught 42 church leaders in personal evangelism classes at one of the host churches; and Holloway taught four seminary classes for 35 pastors.
Because it is the third year for the evangelistic mission trip, Burton gave high marks to the CMBH pastors who participated in pre-crusade preparation and were taught how to conduct counseling at the time of invitation and follow up. Decision cards were prepared ahead and plans were developed for distributing these cards to churches.
Those who came forward during the events were taken aside into a nearby church and instructed about the basic needs and principles of prayer, Bible reading, baptism and involvement in church and witnessing to others, said Burton. The CMBH pastors intend to follow up with each new convert.
Coming forward during the altar call is a challenge in the Haitian culture, said Burton, “Many will raise their hands, but not come to the front as we suggest. It’s a cultural thing.”
The evangelistic trip was rewarding and beneficial for the CMBH association of churches, said Holloway, who constantly travels in and out of Haiti. “The Strength Team’s unique ministry opens door for sharing Jesus that are unopened in conventional ways. Their global call combined with David’s passion for evangelism made for a winning ministry event. God blessed these efforts with many of all ages coming to faith in Jesus.”
As he reflected on the week, Burton said he was overwhelmed by the dedication and commitment of the Haitian pastors to learn.
“I have ministered in 11 countries around the world, and have not seen such hunger and desire to be obedient and learn the teaching of God’s work as I see in the CMBH pastors. These are the most responsive leaders with a desire to grow and understand more of the Word and faith that I have ever taught.
“Florida Baptists can be proud of their ministry in Haiti.”
Are you interested in going to Haiti on a mission trip?
Florida Baptists have been in partnership with Haitian Baptists for nearly 20 years, helping to organize a nucleus of 60 churches into the thriving Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti which now includes 1,700 congregations.
Each year, Florida Baptists send between 25 and 40 teams to Haiti on mission trips. Many will stay in the Florida Baptist guest house in Port-au-Prince but accommodations are provided throughout the country, depending on the location of the assignments.
The Partnership Mission Team, led by strategist John Holloway, coordinates all aspects of a mission trip for your congregation or team. This includes ministry opportunity, transportation, security, lodging, food and interpreters.
For more information how you can be on mission in Haiti, contact the Partnership Mission team at email@example.com by email or 800-226-8584, ext. 3133.