Religion in Haiti is complicated to understand at times. It is a country that yearns for a better life and freedom from oppression, and Vodou offers them neither. It is a third-world country that depends on others to help them survive and help guide them if they are to become self-sufficient. Thus, this environment provides great mission outreach opportunities to teach Haitians to read, write, farm, employee good business practices and most importantly how to gain an eternal life in heaven.
Vodou has its roots in the 17th century when French colonists brought slaves to Haiti from West Africa. The slaves were forced to practice Catholicism but at the same time did not give up their Vodou. It was declared the official religion in 2003 by then-president Aristide. Both religions now co-exist as Haitian Catholicism which is a blend of Roman Catholic ceremony and Vodou rituals. The Haitians believe in one God as well as many spirits which they try to appease. Roman Catholic symbols and also Bible verses are commonly painted on walls, tap-taps and buildings.
Missionaries from many Christian faiths are bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to this lost, hopeless country, thereby giving them a true Savior. Although missionary work by Lutherans in Haiti started much earlier, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) began work there officially in 1978. Pastor Doris Louis was the first Lutheran pastor in Haiti who studied in the U.S. Later, a state-side society raised money to bring more men, who would become pastors, to the U.S. to study at Concordia-Fort Wayne. In 2001 the LCMS Synod Convention voted to have full pulpit and altar fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH).
From March 2001 till December 2003, Jay Brinkmeyer worked as the Haiti Lutheran Coordinating Committee missionary overseeing the many projects of building schools, churches, and providing continuing education for the pastors throughout Haiti. Jay was the communication liaison between the pastors, district presidents and mission societies in North America and Haiti. Currently, he is a member of Trinity/HOPE’s board of directors and provides outreach through a daily blog on our website (www.trinityhope.org).
Trinity/HOPE works with the Lutheran Haitian District Presidents to find schools in need and Feeding Program Directors (FPD) to oversee our feeding programs. Currently we have thirteen FPDs and seven are Lutheran pastors. Many of the others are teachers and leaders in their church and delegates to their conventions. Trinity/HOPE’s goal is that at some point in the future the feeding programs will become self-sufficient as the local economy improves and the country breaks the cycle of its abject poverty. We are truly blessed by the amazing work of all our FPDs and Lutheran pastors and God’s guiding hand. It is their efforts and those of all of our supporters who are bringing HOPE to a country that was hopeless.