Starting a new chapter: Founders of ReachHaiti Ministries moving forward into India
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When husband and wife missionaries Mike and Andrea Brewer left Maryville more than three years ago to take up residence in Haiti, they had a dream.
To provide all the love they could for a group of orphans there.
To spread the message of God’s love and salvation for all.
To jump start some others who feel as passionately as they do about the life of a servant.
It’s the end of 2012 and as the two sat at a restaurant in Maryville last week, they looked back and had to agree things have worked out. Those orphans who were tiny and vulnerable are now strong and ready to make their own mark on the world. The couple that knew planting churches across the Haitian landscape is the best way to start a Christian movement in a land used to practicing voodoo, can today count 115 such church plantings. And when it came time for these two to move forward, they met and teamed up with another young couple on fire for the Lord.
That couple is Josh and Amanda Armstrong, residents of Blount County who are members of Maryville Vineyard. They moved to Haiti in July of this year to help the Brewers continue the work needed in this country that has seen its share of devastation — from the earthquake in January 2010 to a cholera outbreak to hurricanes that seem to hit with fury every season.
It hasn’t been, however, a year without struggles, beginning with Andrea’s difficult pregnancy and the birth of the couple’s daughter, six weeks premature. Andrea required heart surgery following the birth of Aubrey and today has a pacemaker. She hasn’t been in Haiti since last January. Mike had his own heart problems recently and had a procedure to correct his irregular heartbeat.
“It’s been the most difficult year ever,” Mike said, “but also the most fruitful. God is still faithful through all of those things.”
All four of these missionaries are back in Blount County. The Armstrongs are expecting their second child any day, a son who will join sister Ellie Grace. The family will be here for a couple of months before returning to Haiti. Andrea and Mike will also be going back sometime after the new year, but they now have a new role to play in this ministry they founded, ReachHaiti Ministries.
“Our role has changed,” Mike explained. “Our new role will be to keep the vision going, to keep the focus on growth. Josh and Amanda will be doing the day-to-day things in Haiti.”
The Brewers are now international church planting coordinators for Restoration International Outreach, a network of several churches in Blount County and beyond. The next destination is India. Mike and Andrea and Aubrey will be making their way there at the end of January.
As the Brewers explained, there has been an explosion of churches being established through ReachHaiti. There were 35 churches in Haiti at the beginning of the year and 115 now. That includes 20 simple churches in Port-au-Prince, along with 44 in Artibonite, six in southern peninsula, one in Mon Kabrit, 15 in Pignon, two in Foret des Pines and two in St. Michelle. There are five community churches in Artibonite, 10 in Forest des Pines, two in Pignon and eight in the Port-au-Prince area.
The team of missionaries has held training for this very goal. Haitian men and Americans have gone through the training and are now full-time church planters, crossing the country.
One of the reasons for the success, the Brewers said, is the focus on the young population of Haiti. “Once we started focusing on that group, it just exploded,” Mike said.
It’s been hard for Andrea to stay stateside and not be near the orphans she has helped nurture. They recently held the annual Christmas party; Andrea had to be content to see the glee through photos. But she knows the children are in good hands.
Josh and Amanda are accomplishing so much and providing a new perspective, Andrea said. “Amanda has been able to provide fresh eyes and she is really making a difference.”
Where two are gathered
The churches these missionaries are planting include some that don’t even have buildings in which to meet. They are referred to as the simple churches and Mike said one 22-year-old Haitian man is responsible for getting more than 80 churches started.
It all started with making connections with the local people and recruiting them into service. Mike said the network has grown so large he hasn’t met some of the members of the church planting teams.
That network includes help from home, places like RIO, Fairview United Methodist, Middlesettlements United Methodist, Maryville Vineyard, Beech Grove Baptist, Monte Vista Baptist and the list keeps growing. Many of these churches have sent teams to Haiti to help with various projects at the orphanage and train disciples. Fifteen teams came to Haiti in 2012 alone.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the connections we’ve made,” Andrea said. “It has been the right timing, too. In the beginning I don’t think we were ready for this many connections, but we are at a point now where we have a place to put people. We didn’t before.”
Mike said the goal is to have a church in every village in Haiti. He has broken down the country into 10 zones and has a church planting team in each.
“Maps are laid out and they know where they are going and how to get there,” Mike said.
Working on a plan
The orphanage they run was deemed inhabitable after the 2010 earthquake so the Brewers started a campaign for a new one. It was completed. Mike said the goal in 2013 for Haiti is to acquire 10 acres where they can build one compound that will include an orphanage, missionary housing, training center and food distribution warehouse.
The Brewers, founders of ReachHaiti Ministries, are confident the groundwork they laid there will supply the Armstrongs with the base they need to continue growing congregations of believers. They are also ready to move ahead in India.
“We have talked about how our best and saddest day will be when we aren’t needed in Haiti anymore,” Andrea said. “It’s already coming to a degree. We aren’t needed every day. We haven’t been there every day and things are going better than ever.”