About Hope for La Gonave
How We Arrived At This Place
On Thursday, May 4, 2006 Matthew Baugh, missionary to Haiti, was traveling to meet a group of Haitian pastors. As he neared the fishing village of Luly a truck pulled into his lane of traffic and hit his motorcycle head on. Matt died in his wife’s arms before they could reach a medical facility.
It was no real surprise to our family when Matt, after pastoring a small Presbyterian church in Mississippi for seven years felt God’s call to return to Haiti as a missionary pastor. Haiti had been his childhood home. He loved the land and the people with extraordinary affection.
As a young boy, he rode over the hills and mountains on his donkey stopping to visit with every Haitian peasant within a ten-mile radius of our house. He was speaking Haitian Kreyol fluently even then. Almost daily he would rush home to gather food and/or clothing for someone he found in need. His wardrobe soon diminished to almost nothing but underwear as he gave away his shirts, shorts and shoes. Everyone loved him and affectionately called him the “little blond haired Haitian.”
Matt began returning to Haiti to train pastors and church leaders each summer in 2002. He then accepted a call from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to become a fulltime missionary evangelist in 2004. Matt and his wife Shannon with their five children moved to Haiti and began working with the churches there. He was in his element and and the unique gifts the Lord had given him blossomed and flourished in the land and among the people he loved so well. The churches on the island of La Gonave were his main focus.
Typical Road Conditions
Matt and his family encountered many challenges living in the culture of a developing country, but none troubled him more than trying to teach scriptural doctrine to many who could hardly read and often were bound in ignorance and voodoo worship. He wrote in one of his last letters to his denomination:
“As I hike through villages on my way to preach, it weighs heavily on me that so many of them do not have an evangelical witness. I see children playing around decorated tombs and voodoo peristils (worship areas), and thank the Lord for the “bounds of my habitation’ while weeping for these lost hopeless children. Pray that the Lord would send more workers ‘unto the harvest’.”
Charles H. Spurgeon wrote regarding grief. He pointed out how normal and necessary grief is but exhorted believers not to dwell there so long that it becomes self indulgence. He said, (in essence) “Take that grief and walk on with it, persevere to the end knowing your Savior is aware of it. Make it useful as it is intended . Take that energy and redirect it to produce fruit for the kingdom.” I stopped mid-sentence. How often we had asked the Lord what to do with this pain. He had just answered us.
As our family walked through our trial more and more we longed to make our grief more than tears. We were drawn once again to Matt’s words about the children he encountered on the paths of La Gonave , “I thank the Lord for the bounds of my habitation while WEEPING FOR THESE LOST HOPELESS CHILDREN.” After much prayer and discussion we decided to sponsor a school at one of the churches where Matt worked. His desire had long been that each church would have a church- school which would produce literate church leaders who could ably carry on the work of Christ’s church as well as be better equipped to utilize their God given abilities in their homes and communities. We were catching the vision that had once been uniquely his.
Photo by Justin Greiman
Matt’s father, his two brothers, his son, the new OPC missionary and I traveled to La Gonave to visit all the churches and give them a word of encouragement. At this time, we spoke with the leaders of the church where, as a family, we had decided to help start a school. It was a wonderful time of seeing that God’s warriors may fall in the battle but God’s purposes never fail!
After returning from Haiti, we all had so much enthusiasm about this project that others became interested. Several families began to also “catch the vision” and volunteered to sponsor schools on La Gonave. To date, there are four church schools operating where Matt taught and preached and where the OPC missionary continues that work.
Our hope and prayer is that through this ministry children will be taught God’s Word and will become literate individuals who can lead and teach those that come after them from generation to generation and the “hopeless” children whom Matt wept over will no longer be without hope, but rather as promised in the Book of Jeremiah, they will know that the Lord has, “plans for their welfare and not for calamity to give them a future and a hope.” We know there is hope for La Gonave and for Haiti.