Through the Years:
An organization that seeks to serve churches, support schools, care for the sick and proclaim the gospel does not develop overnight. Nor does it develop without the steady hand of the Lord. Wallace and Eleanor Turnbull, founders, began their ministry in the mountains of Haiti together in 1943. Wallace had come to Haiti a few years before with his father, Mr. John Turnbull. At the beginning of the Turnbull’s ministry, the mountain people were highly underdeveloped compared to the rest of Haiti, this is why the mountain area of Kenscoff became the location of Baptist Haiti Mission. Mrs. Bertha Holdeman, known as “granny,” was the mother of Eleanor and had a vital role in the work of BHM. Having the laborers, and choosing a location was just the beginning of the journey and timeline.
The Turnbull family worked closely with the people and learned Creole rapidly. There were a variety of struggles at the start of the ministry such as illiteracy, lack of healthcare, poor farming conditions, and a mistrust of fellow citizens. The goal of the ministry was to “show and tell” of God’s grace and love. Many projects were developed that related to the lives of the mountain people such as the introduction of penicillin and teaching farmers new methods in terracing, plowing, and reforestation. With less than 1% semi-literate people scattered throughout the mountainous area in rural Haiti, it took years for the people to accept the need for the children to learn to read. However, as the influence of Gospel ministry spread, the rural people began to see the need of literacy for the coming generation. Over time things began to improve for the mountain people.
In 1950, an asphalt road was completed, leading from Port-au-Prince up into the mountains above the city. This road opened the area for citizens of Port-au-Prince to build summer vacation homes in Kenscoff. Electric lines began to run to Kenscoff as well. Communication was brought to the mountain people in the mid-1960’s when the transistor radio became popular. As contact with the city improved, the Mission eagerly worked alongside the mountain population for community improvements. Inaccessible areas are now open due to these new roads; water sources are improved, and local primary schools are developed and maintained.
The Mission also began assisting with the development of local churches. The churches taught the truths of God, and heart change began to take place in the people. More than 60 years later, through many years of political, environmental, and social change, the work of Baptist Haiti Mission has continued to expand and deepen.
The Mission Grows:
The work of the Mission is now established in eight of the ten departments of Haiti. With over 350 churches and 354 primary schools, educational projects currently serve over 68,000 Haitian children. A large part of the ministry of Baptist Haiti Mission is carried out by Haitian leaders.
A number of foreign missionaries are a part of this effort to assist and strengthen the Haitian church. The Mission has a central office located in Louisville, KY. The Mission is financed through the support of churches and individuals. Outside organizations also contribute to the support of the Mission for specific projects.
The Work Continues…
The educational influence of the Mission continues to remain strong through building schools, sponsoring children, and training teachers. Agriculture, carpentry, mechanic work, and construction are done at the Mission providing jobs for many Haitians to support their families. The hospital on the Mission property cooperates with the Department of Health and offers a range of preventative care and treatment throughout the mountain area. The above ministries meet many humanitarian needs, but apart from a living and active relationship with Jesus Christ, they are incomplete.
This is why one of the primary focuses of the Mission is to work alongside the local church. It is when the Lord changes the hearts of people that true change and an eternal impact is accomplished. God has blessed and continues to bless the work of Baptist Haiti Mission. It is with humble hearts and eager expectation that we desire to seek His will for the future of Baptist Haiti Mission.