Though he spent two days in the Great Plains Conference in early August, Rev. Gélin Rosamour’s thoughts weren’t too far from his home in Haiti.
Since the country’s president, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated 13 months ago, the Caribbean country has continued to erupt in chaos, he said.
“Since the president passed, the country has become hell on earth,” he said. “I am getting to be scared all the time, because we have too many things going on. Gangs are coming in many places, and the government we have now still cannot call for elections.”
Rosamour, who has been the circuit leader in Haiti for two years, makes twice-yearly visits to the United States, but his August trip was the first time in Kansas. Escorted by the Rev. Sarah Marsh, mercy and justice coordinator, and Jerry Feese, Lawrence, the conference secretary for global ministries, he visited several churches in Topeka and Lawrence, as well as met with the missions coordinator for Church of the Resurrection in Leawood.
“Every day you can see blocks of fire burning,” Rosamour continued. “The gas price has risen up, but they don’t have the means to buy gas and many have no electricity and cannot buy a generator. Many of them are using the primitive way of getting a light in the house. So many in the middle class started to move out of the country, and they’ve gone to the Dominican Republic or USA or other places.”
Rosamour said the poor class, the majority of the population, “now really have issues with food, medical treatment and unemployment. They see no hope for their lives,” he said. “They are using their guns because they have no money.”
Gangs are running rampant in the country, he said, with new gang members under orders to “bring something new to the group every day,” whether it be money or valuables.
The Great Plains Conference has worked with Rosamour and the Methodist Church of Haiti for the past four years, including providing scholarships to six students from La Gonave – an island in the middle of the C-shaped country of Haiti – to attend the University of Port-au-Prince.
“The university is a main point of contact that has brought us together,” Marsh said.
Of the six scholarship recipients, three are nursing students, with one each majoring in business administration, science education and engineering.
“It’s a miracle,” Rosamour said of the scholarships. “It’s like the heavens opened and sent some kind of deliverance for their children, since they did not have money for the university.”
Rosamour, who oversees 15 churches in a circuit on the island, said he has noticed young people becoming more involved in their churches.
“They want to know what’s going on,” he said. “That’s what we want because we need to let them know the church is their church. Without that, we’d lose them.”
The largest church on the island has about 250 members – though they don’t all attend at once, he said.
While other United Methodists worldwide are bracing for a split over LGBTQ issues, Rosamour said Haitian Methodists are not concerned.
“The only way that we can impact the Methodist church is when we look at the cultural. Where will we be, on which side?” he said. “Our church will welcome everyone. We are all children of God. We have been walking with UMC for so many years, so we have to wait to see how things will end and where we will stand.
“In the Black communities, there have been some resistance up till now,” he said. “We are waiting to see what is going to happen. Our judgement will not change God. His love endures forever.”
The schools in Haiti, which get 20% of their budget from the government, are struggling to pay their teachers, and have asked Rosamour’s churches for financial support.
That, he said, is part of the church reaching out to the community.
“You can preach the Gospel, but preaching the Gospel is not enough,” he said. “You may say ‘Jesus loves you,’ but they may hear with one ear and waiting for you to say something else in the other.”
Rosamour said one of his biggest accomplishments of his churches was establishing a microloan program, giving struggling individuals – many of whom have talents in baking, gardening or making clothes – loans to start or further a business.
“I get less people coming to the church begging for something,” he said. “They can become a businessman or a businesswoman. They can get food for their children. … They can care for their family. To me, it is one of the best things we could do in the church.”
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