Haiti Bible Institute, February 26, 2014

It is test day. We enjoyed an hour-and-a-half study session until 9:30 last night. We finished course material, addressed questions about church problems and ate snacks that were lovingly packed by my daughter Rachel.

Most of the students were so tuned in during this class that I expect to see a lot of A's and B's on the written examination. I hope to conserve the red ink in my correcting pen (although I do not think red marks on paper damage their fragile souls).

Since this is my last post from Haiti for this year I am reviewing the highlights of the trip. As much as I am longing for home I still have some great joys here.
  • I like it when I sit in my room with the door open (a lot of the time) and guys stop in just to chat (and I jokingly say "Je ne parle pas Francais!").
  • I like it when engaged students ask such good questions that I know they "get it."
  • I like it when my teaching brings me to re-visit my own sins and weaknesses as I tell the guys that the best disciple-maker is himself a disciple.
  • I like it when men ask to speak with me in private through a translator about personal struggles brought to light by the teaching here.
  • I like it when men who respect me as a teacher can still consider me their friend.
I must visit FLL, ORD and MSP before I get to see my sweetheart and all the little Svendsens. I'm ready.

Haiti Bible Institute, February 25, 2014

How often does a guy get to sit on a porch overlooking a street lined with mango and palm trees set against a backdrop of mountains...and still have WiFi? 

Two hundred years ago the land I am enjoying was a beautiful, productive, economically self-sufficient nation. It was a tropical paradise. Then deceivers came to power and seduced the people back into what could very much be compared to slavery. New leaders promised change that never came. 

Then in January of 2010 an earthquake left much of Port-au-Prince, the nation's largest city, in ruins. The pastors who now attend Haiti Bible Institute saw tragedy that most people in the world will never have to experience.

Four years ago the place where I am sitting did not exist. The neighborhood was rubble. The whole region was in ruins. The world watched on television as the Haitian people lived a nightmare. Billions of dollars in international aid poured in. My visits in 2010 and 2011 left me wondering if the great "price" paid to rescue Haiti was being squandered by corrupt politicians and aid organizations.

When I came to teach in 2011 I observed some change. The road from the airport to the school had new Menard's-like and Walmart-like businesses. Both middle class and poorer people were building homes. Roads with craters that could swallow a Prius were being paved. Ambitious citizens, with government encouragement, started businesses to promote tourism and industry. A Haitian couple from Connecticut moved back home and built LaPepinierre Guest House

Please get my metaphors. I'm not saying that economic prosperity is the hope for Haiti. If I believed that I would not be doing what I am doing. I am saying that what has happened in this nation serves to underscore a much more powerful set of truths.

Creation. Fall. Redemption.

I am writing these words as I teach a Biblical Counseling class. My role is not to help pastors help people to "cope" or rearrange their choices to reduce consequences. My role is to demonstrate that the trouble people experience now was not the original setup. People were created to glorify God and seek their pleasure in Him and in the gifts He gave. We were programmed to be pleasure seekers but our pleasures collapsed when we thought we could find it outside the boundaries God had set. We ran into the arms of a reptilian master who promised better pleasure. My role is to show that the way back comes not through psychological sanctification but through the one Who bore the wrath of God to both pardon and purify His people.

Creation. Fall. Redemption.

Some of us follow that pattern in our worship services. We belt out songs like "I Sing the Mighty Power of God." Then we confess our sins and take communion. We sing again about "The Power of the Cross." We get refreshed as our pastors draw from the deep well of redemption's Book and we find hope.

Creation. Fall. Redemption.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:20-21, NASB

Haiti Bible Institute, February 24, 2014

I am always in my element when I get to teach through books of the Bible, but practical theology has to run a close second. The course I am teaching now (Introduction to Biblical Counseling) takes biblical theology and the analytical content of the Scriptures and answers the question: What does this look like in real time?

To know people is to know heartache and trouble. Either you have trouble or you know someone with trouble or both. Everyone tries to interpret trouble and find solutions. Do you know what that solution-seeking makes you? A counselor. Particularly if you are a follower of Christ, you need not ask if you are a counselor. You should ask if the counsel you give is based on what is timeless and reliable.

A biblical counselor, like any counselor, is going to start from a foundation (epistemology). We all start with certain presuppositions regarding what we believe to be true. For instance, if I believe you are essentially chemical I will look at trouble and solutions very differently than if I believe you are an eternal being created in the image of God and living in a sin-cursed world. 

Essentially Biblical Counseling is Christian Disciple-making. So with a different set of glasses (a biblical worldview) I am seeking to help these men offer their people hope and change. They have been very active learners so far.

Haiti Bible Institute, February 23, 2014

Today was the "relaxed" day on our schedule. The first class began at 6:30 a.m. (not mine this time) and we finish tonight at 9:20 (my class), but the middle of the day was filled with worship, food and rest. The Internet connection is too slow to post a video of the singing to this blog but it was sweet. It worked on Facebook.                                                                                              Some of the men who are looked to as leaders of the group led the worship gathering in the hotel dining area. Doc Bearss brought a solid Bible message from 1 Thessalonians 2 and emphasized what it looks like to be a faithful pastor. This is much needed in a land where the television preachers are either frenzied, screaming Haitians or pretty-teethed American prosperity preachers promising health and wealth to those who learn their secrets. Role models. Grrr.

In addition to the content of our classes, the goal at HBI is to model a careful handling of Scripture. Religious fads and freakish frenzies eventually come up empty. Accuse us of not keeping up with evangelical fads, but there are some things that need not change. Try coming up with a new and exciting way to breathe. Jesus did say that His words are not going anywhere. So we teach these guys to plagiarize Jesus till the cows come home. It pleases Him.

Haiti Bible Institute, February 22, 2014

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Whether curiosity or or shared concern brings you here I'm pleased when anyone is willing to listen to what I have to say.

I decided that today I would give you a brief look at the school that first brought me to Haiti.

Dr. Jim Bearss founded Haiti Bible Institute in 2009 because he saw that the academic preparation for church leaders in Haiti was largely very poor. The pastors themselves agreed heartily with that assessment.

Some pastors here are privileged to come to the US for theological education, but that is not practical for most. Modular classes in this culture are helpful but provide little continuity, accountability or academic standards.

Through scholarships provided to On Target Ministry, a select group of students receive room and board for eight days in the spiring and fall. In the Associate Certificate program each student is required to complete 32 classes. We are in the process of getting accreditation here in Haiti. Of the five instructors on site today I am the only one without an earned doctorate. I get to run with the big dogs.

Today I will finish teaching Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels and begin Introduction to Biblical Counseling. We take a break for worship in the morning tomorrow. I'll plan to feature that pleasant experience here.