Joining the team: Armstrongs moving to Haiti as missionaries with Brewers
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples. ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.’ Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
A ministry that began with a young married couple arriving in Haiti almost three years ago, now has reinforcements on the ground as they continue on the mission of caring for and ministering to a people they love.
Andrea and Mike Brewer moved to Haiti back in the summer of 2009 and started Reach Haiti Ministries. Since moving there from Maryville, the couple, along with much help from their home church, RIO Central, and others in Blount County, have continued to care for about 30 orphans and planted several churches across Haiti. They were there during the devastating earthquake in 2010 and the cholera outbreak later on. Still they haven’t wavered.
Changes are coming
Andrea came back to Maryville last year when she became pregnant and recently delivered a beautiful daughter, Aubrey. She and the baby plan to return to Haiti some time this year. Mike is already there, anticipating and preparing for the arrival of several mission teams.
But back up a little to November 2011 and that’s where a new chapter began for this team of believers. Mike and Andrea went on a Sunday morning to talk to the congregation at Maryville Vineyard, a nondenominational church on William Blount Drive, about Haiti and the need for more outreach. In the congregation that day was husband and wife Josh and Amanda Armstrong, who had already committed themselves to answering God’s call to the mission field — wherever that might be.
When they listened to the Brewers, Josh and Amanda said they instantly connected with these fellow Christians with hearts for Haiti. They became friends and it wasn’t long before the Armstrongs were putting their house up for sale, downsizing their lives and preparing for that permanent move to Haiti. They will be taking with them daughter Ellie Grace, who just turned 2.
A firsthand look
Josh and Amanda made a trip to Haiti in January, where they helped Mike with several projects. Reach Haiti Ministries started a discipleship school in January for four Americans and four Haitian students. These students are learning what it takes to be full-time missionaries on the field. They are learning Creole, how to manage in a culture that’s different from theirs and how to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever they go.
Building churches, caring for the orphans, providing food and medical supplies and preaching throughout Haiti are also ongoing projects for this mission team.
Help is on the way.
“We knew we wanted to move somewhere onto the mission field, but at first we didn’t know where that was going to be,” Josh explained. “We left that in God’s hands.”
There is a mission house, the Brewers’ home and the Armstrongs’ home all located within 200 years of each other. The orphanage is situated about 10 minutes away in the countryside.
Amanda said she knows they are doing the will of God because things have fallen into place since the decision was made to leave Maryville behind. For one thing, their house sold in a relatively short time. The couple has had numerous yard sales to get rid of stuff they won’t need. They are also selling their cars.
“It’s just stuff,” Amanda explained. “It hasn’t been hard at all to let go of things. I can’t even remember now all of the things we let go.”
They will mostly be taking clothes and some of Ellie Grace’s toys. “That will be all we can take,” Amanda explained. Passports and vaccinations are also being taken care of.
Amanda works as in interior designer and Josh teaches school. He will be done in May or early June, while Amanda will work until they leave for Haiti in July. Josh is a 2002 graduate of William Blount High School while Amanda graduated from Heritage High School that same year. They have been married for almost eight years.
Leaving Maryville behind
Family support has been uplifting, this couple said. They admit it will be hard on the grandparents to let Ellie Grace go, but they, too, see the bigger picture. Josh’s dad, Kenny, is the pastor at Beech Grove Baptist Church in Louisville. He and wife Beth will be traveling to Haiti this year as will Amanda’s mom, Amy Hardin.
Andrea said this new union with Josh and Amanda is indeed an answer to prayer. “Mike and I are just two people and can physically only do so much,” she explained. “Having them added to our team will allow us to do more and reach further.”
The work really kicks into high gear this summer. Andrea said there will be 17 teams coming to Haiti this year. Local ones include the RIO network of Central, Revolution and Restoration, Vineyard, Fairview United Methodist, Monte Vista Baptist, and Beech Grove Baptist. There are also teams coming from Chattanooga, Oklahoma City and Lancaster, Ky.
Already in 2012 Reach Haiti Ministries has established a strong presence, assisting in 12 new church plants since January. Most of them, Andrea said, are located in more remote and rural areas, including several deep in the mountains. “Our goal is to plant churches in villages where there are no current churches,” she said.
The Brewers and their ministry have also rented a house in the mountains, located in an area called Foret de Pins. It is 6,000 feet in elevation. You can see both Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the top, Andrea said. The house will be used by mission teams working in the area.
Bonded for life
Andrea fell in love with the people of Haiti years ago. She said they are humble, grateful and hard working. They don’t mind worshipping in a church made from sticks with a mud floor. One evening when she and Mike were at one of these churches, one of its members came during prayer and cleaned the mud from their feet. It was an act of kindness and true humility, Andrea said.
Comfort hasn’t been the norm — for Haitians or the Brewers and their fellow missionaries there. In the years since Andrea and Mike have lived here, they have had only two weeks when someone else wasn’t sharing their house. There are no complaints from the Brewers who depend on visitors to move this ministry along.
Josh and Amanda said they are ready to embrace a culture they are still learning about. Josh preaches on occasion at The Vineyard. One of his sermons is entitled Padded Pews. He talks about how God never promised Christians they would be comfortable or prosperous on life’s journey. We become blessed, he said, in order to be a blessing to others.
The Armstrongs can’t wait to get started. He said it’s been such a wonderful experience to see these churches from different denominations come together to bring Christ’s message to Haiti.
“We were ready to go three months ago,” he said. “We are in this for the long haul.”