Living and Serving in Exile from Haiti November 15, 2023

God instructed Joseph to take care of his little family, but the path God set for him was unexpected. It led first to Bethlehem, then to Egypt before finally returning to Nazareth. Even today, the tasks God gives us sometimes take us down unexpected roads, as LHF’s Haitian translator, Rev. Josue Dieudonne, has found.

For 15 years, Rev. Josué Dieudonne (whose last name means “God gives” in French) served as a faithful pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH, an LCMS partner church), never wanting or expecting to do anything different. But God had other plans for him.

“In December 2021, my oldest son, Sebastien, had to have open heart surgery in New York. That surgery brought a lot of complications, needing at least 4 procedures to fix problems,” Rev. Dieudonne recalled. After traveling back and forth to Haiti for several months, torn between his family and his parishioners, Rev. Dieudonne had to make a decision.

NEW DOORS OPEN

“I saw that with my family and our situation, especially my son, my presence was necessary,” he said. “I may not have wanted to be here, and instead to stay in Haiti serving our church. The people miss me. The church, at the national level, they need me. But I know God always works for us, and His plan is always the best.”

While his son has been receiving care at Children’s Hospital in Omaha, God opened doors for Rev. Dieudonne to study at Concordia University Nebraska (getting his master’s degree in education) and to do translation work for the Lutheran Heritage Foundation.

“For many years, a combination of difficult political circumstances there and a lack of connections to good translators have hampered LHF’s work in Haiti,” explained Rev. Dr. Matthew Heise, LHF executive director. “Now, God has led us to Josué – a very skilled translator and Lutheran pastor. Though his location has changed, Rev. Dieudonne is still serving his people in a very meaningful, long-lasting way.”

NATURAL DISASTERS AND GANG VIOLENCE

God’s Word – written in languages the people can read and understand – has never been more needed in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Throughout its recorded history, Haiti has been bombarded with one natural disaster after another. Tropical storms, hurricanes and violent earthquakes – such as the 7.2 quake that struck Haiti in August 2021 – have decimated the island and its people over and over again.

But in recent years, lawless gangs exerting violence against the people for their own gain have plagued Haiti, including Rev. Dieudonne’s own congregation, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Leogane.

“People cannot travel because they don’t know when gangs will come and take control of a community,” Rev. Dieudonne explained. “The gangs choose a chief commander somewhere, and they go to that community and gain control with their guns. They burn, they kill.

“In the middle of all of that, the Church is there, and church members are there.”

“Three weeks ago in Leogane, in the middle of the night, we had 20 people who came to our village because they were attacked by gangs in their community. When they came in with great difficulties, our church received them and helped them to find a way to take care of themselves,” Rev. Dieudonne shared.

“The first thing we did was talk about what happened. Then we had to find a way to feed them for a few weeks. They had lost everything. They had to flee from the gangs and couldn’t take anything! Some of them had their houses burned. We shared with them and showed God’s Word. We spent time sharing hope.”

Thanks to the generous gifts of LHF supporters and Rev. Dieudonne’s work, families in Haiti will soon have a new book that shares this hope of Christ with them: A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories, written in the Haitian-Creole language.

It’s a much-needed resource for the ELCH’s 84 congregations and 30 schools.

“As I was translating A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories, I found all the stories very, very relevant!” Rev. Dieudonne said. “Of course, our families will have them for home devotions. It’s also a book that our churches can use to teach Sunday school and [to teach religion] in our schools, where we have weekly devotions every Friday with all the students. All our schools are spreading Christian education, even if the students aren’t all Lutheran.”

IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, GOD IS THERE

“Based on my experience, in the middle of these situations and difficult times, God is still there. He is still taking care of his people,” Rev. Dieudonne concluded. “That’s one of the reasons I am always eternally grateful for what’s happening in my life and the life of my family. That is the same message for all the families, all the children.

“We may have to face some difficulties in our lives, but we know that our God is alive! He will take care of us. We might be in a situation where we can’t stay in our community; we have to get to a safe place. But being connected to our God, you will never be disappointed. Never!”

To help proclaim this message to the people of Haiti and throughout the world, click here to support LHF’s work.

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