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Trips

Haiti Aug 2016 A

Croix Du Boquet, Haiti August 6-13, 2016

TLI has established a partnership with the Institut Biblique de la Croix-des-Bouquets (IBC). The Bible Institute of Croix-des-Bouquets (IBC) admits a new cohort of about 30 students each year for their one year certificate and two year diploma program. TLI’s non-formal curriculum will be adapted for use in IBC’s certificate and diploma programs. This is week 1 of the August term. Curriculum to be taught: Attributes of God

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Field Notes   Haiti Aug 2016 A

Aug  14th,  2016Attributes, Sovereignty, and the Earthquake

I have learned an immense amount this week about the people and culture of Haiti. On Friday TLI completed Attributes of God, our first course with Institut Biblique des Croix-des-Bouquets. I am encouraged that all involved seemed to consider it a great success. We had seven students in the post-bachelor’s level course and thirteen students in the diploma level course. We wrestled with some tough questions, taught long hours, and all learned a lot from each other. I want to especially recognize Gami Ortiz and Brian McKanna for teaching with us this week. These guys complained about nothing and did a brilliant job teaching, translating, and pushing students. As a team leader, I am sure I learned more from them than they did from me. I am equally thankful to Pastor Garry, our national partner, and to the students for their openness to share with me about their experiences—everything from Voudu to poverty to the earthquake. The Haitian people, as it is often said, are strong, for they have born with much.

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The IBC students from Attributes of God with Brian and Gami.

Perhaps the most rewarding session for me came near the very end of class. It had been a long week. After lunch on Friday we had about an hour left to go and just a couple more attributes to cover. Having looked at so many biblical texts and communicated so much information, I was growing weary. Moreover, I feared the students were saturated and exhausted. Next up—God’s sovereignty. Always a controversial topic in America, I had observed that in the fatalistic culture of Haiti, it was just accepted with little discussion of the implications or applications of the doctrine. How can I take these students further in their understanding of such a difficult doctrine at the end of a long week? As Gami finished his teaching I drafted some notes, definitions, and texts and basically just resolved to give it my best shot—if the students don’t hit the ball back to me on this one we’ll just have to pray and close.

We started in Psalm 135 by speaking about God’s freedom to do whatever he wants. We talked about his choosing Jacob (i.e., Israel), destroying pagan nations like Egypt, and sending both rain and lightning. I asked if it was fair to choose Israel and destroy Egypt? Of course, they said. They said that all Egyptians were implicated in the national evil. OK. Well, what about all the texts (e.g., Deut 7) that say God did not choose Israel because they were bigger or better, or because of anything about themselves at all? Then we turned to Romans 9—before the twins were even born God said, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” They asked if the Hebrew actually said “hated.” They decided that God knew in advance the good things that Jacob would do and the bad things that Esau would do and so picked them that way, but we soon realized that the text won’t allow for that. Moreover, they realized this theory broke down in their own lives because they could not in good conscience suggest that God chose them because he knew them to be better than anyone else. Finally, we were left with nothing but the inexplicable electing love of God. We talked about how this love humbles us, motivates us to evangelism, and comforts us.

At this point, I decided to do what I had been scared to do all week—bring up the earthquake. How do you guys process God’s sovereignty in light of such a thing, I asked? Several of the students could not hold back tears during the discussion. Statistically speaking, almost everybody in the room would have lost a loved one or a friend if not many. Their honesty was bracing. There were no easy answers, but there was much faith. I really can’t understand it—but it moved me. Including the earthquake in God’s sovereign plan seemed awful, but the alternative was hopelessness. Best to leave the secret things to God and trust the LORD who chose us because he loved us and for no other reason.

— Alex Kirk, International Trainer

 

 

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Aug  10th,  2016Learning about Scripture with the Haitian Church

Day two of teaching and day four in country here in Haiti has drawn to a close. We have had to adjust to island life in many ways. Almost everything happens on a relaxed time frame—I’ll pick you up at 7:15 means something more like 7:45. Class starts at 8:00 means something more like 8:30. Yesterday, “lunch will be here at 12:00” turned into us eating at 2:00. No one seems particularly worried by these hold ups—in a country that is so low on resources and so chaotic there is little cause to get stressed out about the things that we cannot control (like the lunch delivery!). A more surprising distinctive of Haitian culture (given the heat and island mentality) is the formality. Shirts and ties are a requirement for teachers and students. These small cultural adjustments aside, our time so far has been very encouraging.

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On Sunday we were able to attend Pastor Garry’s church—there were five baptisms and a special female choir so we showed up on a good week for a couple of guys who don’t speak Creole. The joy and symbolism of the baptisms translated beautifully. The two women who were being baptized wore elegant white dresses with white turbans that were both beautiful and powerful statements at the same time. The singing was heavenly—a stirring chorus of voices in layers of harmonies echoing off cement floors and metal rafters—it more than once brought tears to my eyes as I recognized the melodies even though I couldn’t understand the words. Every class likewise begins with an à cappella hymn before a session of impassioned simultaneous prayer. I am learning that Haitians know how to express themselves.

I should say that this is TLI’s first time teaching in Haiti. We have partnered with Pastor Jean Garry Auguste and Insitut Biblique des Croix-des-Bouquets to offer a two-year course of studies for Haitian pastors and church leaders at both the graduate and the diploma level. The graduate course consists of students who have already earned their bachelor’s degrees, while the diploma course consists of students who lack the formal education to enroll at the graduate level. Thus TLI is helping to realize Pastor Garry’s vision to start a Bible school that will train biblically sound and theologically rigorous leaders for the Haitian church.

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The first day of teaching had us all finding our bearings. We covered important material, but I personally did not find myself connecting with the students as much as I hoped. Many of the questions I asked did not seem to make sense like I thought they would and my efforts to ask them about their cultural context did not yield the kind of discussions I wanted. By today, however, all that had changed. We are teaching Attributes of God, and thus we have spent a lot of time discussing the ways the we can know God. How does God reveal himself to us? One of the students asked a great pastoral question: What do you say when someone claims that God spoke to them with a new revelation? As we discussed this question, I learned that some of the students were open to dreams and visions as ways that God speaks to us today, but other students as a reaction against Voudu and certain types of Pentecostalism took a hardline cessationist view. To try to clear up this discussion we spent several hours walking through the doctrine of Scripture and asking how we can know God today. How does God reveal himself? We concluded that the Spirit can speak to people today, but that he only does this in accord with God’s Word. Therefore, the promises of the prophets and the testimonies of the Apostles (who actually touched and saw the risen Christ!) take precedence over any purported revelation. As Paul says in Gal 1:8–9, if anyone—even I or an angel in heaven—preaches any other gospel, let him be cursed! Thus we can test the sprits to see if they are from God (John 4). At the end of the day, genuine “revelations” that we receive are not “new” but conform to the wisdom that God has already given us in his Word.

As we ended the students were all smiles and each shook my hand on the way out. “It was a good class,” one student beamed—“I didn’t even fall asleep!” Considering that we teach in shirts and ties from 8:00–4:00 in 95 degrees with no AC or fans—that’s an accomplishment. Pray that the rest of our time here the teaching continues to connect with the challenges of these students’ ministries like it did today. 

— Alex Kirk, International Trainer

 

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