Bethlehem Ministry in Haiti
How did First Presbyterian’s long-term relationship with the poor of north Haiti develop? It began in the early 1970s when the then Presbyterian campus minister at the University of Georgia, Alex Williams, traveled to Haiti and by chance heard about the ministry of Pere Jean Monique Bruno, an Episcopal priest in Cap H’aitien on the north coast. Alex decided to visit Pere Bruno and discovered a man deeply committed to issues of social justice, education, health care, and economic development within a community of faith in his native country.
Alex returned to Athens and started spreading the word about Pere Bruno and the work he was doing with almost no resources. He talked with members of FPC’s old Church Extension Commission, and a few of our members began to go to Cap H’aitien to meet Pere Bruno and to see for themselves. Pere Bruno was and is deeply committed to Haiti, and his charismatic personality drew support from all who visited and saw the work first-hand. Soon, support for his ministry was a line item in Church Extension’s annual budget. As the support grew, Pere Bruno expanded his work to churches and schools throughout north Haiti. A group of individuals in Athens founded a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, Bethlehem Ministry, with the sole purpose of supporting Pere Bruno’s work in north Haiti. In recent years, this ministry has centered on the village of Terrier Rouge, near the border with the Dominican Republic, where Ecole St. Barthelemy now has over a thousand K-12 students, the Clinique Esperance et Vie is fully staffed and offering health care to the residents of Terrier Rouge every day, and agricultural initiatives are teaching farmers to grow cash crops and develop herds of goats and other farm animals. Pere Bruno’s ministry is also encouraging the development of low-cost housing and vocational training.
The support given by First Presbyterian, beginning with the drive to provide a new commercial-grade gas range for the vocational school in Cap H’aitien, has made incalculable improvements in the lives of thousands of poor people in north Haiti. We feed, clothe, educate, heal, train, and minister to our brother and sisters in Haiti every day. Our work continues.