A Heart for Haiti & God’s Glory: Interview with a Missionary
This week marks two years since a massive 7.0 earthquake surged through Haiti, leaving millions homeless and tens of thousands dead. Survivors could hardly breathe a sigh of relief as they faced disease, debris and aftershocks. The streets were soon lined with bodies. Refugees scrambled for clean water—a rarity even before the quake. Newly leveled ground gave way to tent cities, replete with shacks made of mere sheets and scraps from the aftermath. Many of these “temporary” homes still stand today, despite crime and other dangers. By all means, it’s a place from which many would rather flee.
Enter God’s people.
In the days following January 12, 2010, Christians instead flowed into the country, armed with medical expertise, relief supplies, and most importantly, the gospel of Jesus Christ. They joined fellow Christians who had been serving quietly in Haiti for years prior to the quake, long before the news crews showed up. Stateside believers opened hearts, homes and wallets. Those who couldn’t contribute with finances contributed with faith, committing to prayer and fasting. Now, two years later, the need for the gospel—the need for missionaries—is just as great.
Meet Carter Smith, deacon in charge of church planting and missions at Refuge Church in Riverdale, Utah. Carter, 22, has served two short-term missions to Haiti in the past six months alone, and hopes to one day devote himself to missions full time. I recently talked to Carter about his experience in Haiti and how it relates to the big picture of missions and the good news of Jesus Christ.
How did you become interested in missions, and what gave you a heart for Haiti?
God really allowed some interesting things to happen to get a hold of me. Throughout junior high and high school my youth group took yearly trips to places like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Mexico. I went on those, although mostly with the mentality of going on vacation or hanging with my friends. But on my first trip to Haiti, God developed a genuine passion for bringing His gospel to the nations and called me to a future of full-time mission work. Through prayer and reading God’s Word, God has just been mapping it out for me. I absolutely fell in love with Haiti and its people.
You’ve been to Haiti twice. In your experience, what are the nation’s greatest needs?
There are obvious physical needs in Haiti. It’s the poorest country in the western hemisphere, so the spectrum of physical needs includes anything you can think of in a third-world country, like food, clothes, shelter and healthcare. But God has shown me a great need of the gospel—the real, biblical gospel. In a lot of areas, unfortunately, there is a lot of health, wealth and prosperity gospel tossed around, perhaps unintentionally due to the physical needs. Jesus is viewed as more of a lucky rabbit’s foot. There is also a lot of demonic voodoo still present in the country, which can even get masked as Christianity.
One thing we did was simply go around and talk to people about Jesus. We also talked to local Christian pastors, gauging how we can continue to get the real gospel to the communities, and how we can assist their local ministries. While we were there, we also worked with an orphanage to meet some of their physical needs—new beds, clothes, and things like that. But it was important for us to really emphasize the gospel in our giving, to protect the Haitian people, and ourselves, from presenting a prosperity gospel.
What images of Haiti have really stuck with you?
It’s been two years since the earthquake, and in some areas it still looks as if it happened yesterday. There are still buildings in rubble. There is garbage, sewage and stray animals everywhere, and fires in the streets from when the garbage builds up and they just burn it. It’s extremely crowded with people and pollution. Some people are well off, with money and a home, while others look like they really need help. It depends on what area you’re in. There are areas within Port-au-Prince and Carrefour that are miles and miles of tent cities, full of displaced people.
How do you see God working in Haiti?
From what I’ve experienced, God is using the desperation of the country to be open to Him. I’m confident He is molding hearts to see the deep need there and that He will continue to reveal Himself to the country, breaking down the prosperity gospel, destroying Satan’s use of voodoo, and bringing people in to do His work, ultimately to glorify His name.
In your missions work, what truths have you walked away with?
Mostly that God is faithful. He will reveal Himself to you and work in your circumstances. He will lead you to need. It is Him who does the work, and it is always for His glory!
How do you pray for Haiti?
I pray for God’s name to be known and glorified by the people of Haiti, that people would know the true gospel, and even in bad circumstances, know that He is all satisfying. I pray that Haiti would be a country known for people boasting in the Lord and singing His praises, because He is worthy. Also for spiritual and physical restoration.
Many Christians are interested in missions, but don’t know where to start. What’s your advice?
The fact is, as Christians, we are all missionaries. Some people are gifted for overseas missions, and some for local. I would encourage anyone interested in missions to truly seek God’s direction, pray for confirmation, and maybe even just get your feet wet by going on a trip. Get plugged in with your church’s missions ministry. If your church doesn’t have one, lobby for one, or check out other organizations. God is faithful and steadfast, and He will take you where He will have you.
How do you keep the gospel central to missions?
Identify needs and pray that God will communicate through you that the gospel meets every need. Also, understand and focus on the goal behind missions: to magnify God’s glory. We help physically for God’s glory. We help spiritually for God’s glory. We help emotionally for God’s glory. Missions work has to be for God’s glory.
While he seeks God’s will regarding future ministry, Carter continues his college education in emergency care and rescue, and serves on his church worship team as a drummer. He enjoys music, drawing, reading, and playing and watching basketball, especially the Utah Jazz.
Let’s commit to pray for Carter and other Christian missionaries around the world as they carry God’s good news to the ends of the earth.