With Our Haitian Congregation in Florida

Phil Whipple, Bishop

On January 25-27, Sandy and I visited our Haitian church in Bradenton, Fla. I did three leadership training sessions for them, using the “Habitudes” materials.

About 30 people came on Friday night. My session lasted about two hours. When I finished, one of their guys did a ten-minute recap of the main points in the Creole language, which is used widely among Haitians.

Something similar happened during the Saturday morning and evening sessions on Saturday, though the translation became more detailed as the day wore on. About 20 people attended both of those sessions, but not always the same people; some people came for just one session, depending on their work schedules.

We arrived at the church on Sunday morning during the Sunday school hour. They have three adult classes which meet in the sanctuary at the same time. In our American culture, we think you need a separate walled room for each class, but that wasn’t the case here. One class of about 30 met on one side, a group of 15-20 ladies met a little further back, and clear in the back of the sanctuary was a class of about 15 guys. All three teachers were every animated and engaged with teaching their material, and the people didn’t seem distracted by the noise. They were really focused on their teachers.

At the end of the Sunday school hour, the children and youth came in from their areas. Everybody moved up to the front, and they had a traditional Sunday school closing, complete with awards for the classes that gave the most money and brought the most visitors.

I delivered the morning sermon, with the help of a translator. I estimate that 100-110 people attended that morning. Although the community includes Hispanics and other ethnic groups, this was very much a Haitian congregation.

Pastor Jean Claude Presendieu would like to see them expand to other groups, but as long as they speak Creole, they’ll be a Haitian congregation. He said most people communicate in English at their jobs. But when they come to church, they prefer using Creole, which is their native, heart language.

One lady gave an announcement in English. She’s Haitian, but was more comfortable speaking in English than in Creole. They didn’t translate for her, so I figured enough people could understand what she said.

The Bradenton congregation keeps a strong tie to Haiti, especially in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake. Pastor Presendieu will go to Haiti in April or May to help conduct a crusade. They’ve done some projects, like putting together buckets of supplies to send back to Haiti.

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