Diaspora

Former Haiti missionaries placed faith over fear | News | messenger-inquirer.com – messenger-inquirer

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While the world waits for updates of the 17 Christian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti by the 400 Mawazo gang, local residents David and Judy Heady and Rachel Bell recall their experiences serving as missionaries in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
According to the Associated Press, the group of kidnapped missionaries is made up of 16 Americans and one Canadian, including five children between 8 months and 15 years old. They are a part of the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries and were kidnapped Oct. 16. The gang is now demanding a ransom of $17 million, or $1 million for each person.
The gang is responsible for up to 80% of the reported kidnappings in Haiti, and reportedly target groups traveling in buses or vans, according to the Port-Au Prince based Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights.
David and Judy Heady began serving together as missionaries in Haiti in 1983 through the Tupelo, Mississippi-based Global Outreach International, and have witnessed how the third-world country has changed throughout the years.
“There has always been dangers there, but there has always been an ebb and a flow to it,” David Heady said. “There is not an ebb and a flow to it now.”
With Haitian Voodoo being practiced by a significant portion of the country’s population and its relatively close proximity to the United States, Haiti has long been a place where U.S. based missionaries lived and worked.
However, Judy Heady said it is the “overwhelming poverty” that makes many people want to serve the Lord in Haiti.
“It is poverty like most Americans have never seen,” she said.
The couple recalled being stopped multiple times while driving by soldiers of former Haitian President Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, and having to pay $5 to be allowed to pass through.
“You didn’t want to mess with them,” David Heady said. “If it took $5 to get you on down the road, you were glad to give the $5 and go on.”
Judy Heady recalled having to carry her passport with her at all times to be ready to show it on demand.
For Rachel Bell and her husband Brad Bell, it is the Haitian people who keep them wanting to go back and do missions work in Haiti.
Bell said she was first called to go to Haiti during a church service in 2008, shortly after her marriage. During the service, the couple were told of an upcoming missions trip to build a new church in Haiti.
“They said if anybody is interested in this trip meet in the library afterwards,” Bell said. “That one day is the first day of my life that God spoke and said, ‘you are going to Haiti.’ ”
Bell recalled immediately after the service she and her husband looked at each other and he said, “We’re going to library to go to Haiti, Right?”
The couple has returned to the nation multiple times since then, most recently during the fall of 2020.
“We have 11-year-old girls and the four of us were able to go last fall for five weeks,” she said.
Despite the apparent dangers, Christian missionaries continue to do work in Haiti, building houses and churches as well as hosting crusades to bring Haitians to Christianity.
And it has taken missionaries like the Headys and the Bells putting their faith over their fears. Both families are members of Walnut Memorial Baptist Church, which has supported the Headys along with other missionaries serving in various countries for years.
David Heady said he learned to trust in “Godly wisdom and prayer” while he was in Haiti.
“If I had to go to town tomorrow, if I had got to go drill a well 50 miles from our compound, I had to have the piece of God to do that,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in prayer, listening to the Lord, having piece about what I did and that is the way we lived our 34 years.”
Bell said that despite the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and challenges getting passports, it seemed as if God made it possible so they could go and serve the Lord as a family in Haiti.
David Heady said that he has been to 24 different countries throughout the world while serving as a regional director for Global Outreach International, and he has never seen anything that comes close to comparing to Haiti.
Its complete lack of industry and self-serving dictatorships have completely stagnated the country’s development, Heady said.
“Here is what I have always said, what Haiti needs is a benevolent, progressive ruler, not a dictator, but an official that has a vision for the country and a heart for the people and then they could move forward,” he said.
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