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Ministry in the crossfire

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WORLD Radio - Ministry in the crossfire

A missionary chooses to stay in Haiti, even as the country crumbles


Steeve Derrard Courtesy of Steeve Derrard and Haiti Awake

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 11th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. This week on Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast, cohosts Kelsey Reed and Jonathan Boes tackle a question from a listener on the thorny topic of affirmative action.

BOES: But we shouldn't be surprised that broken sinful people would create broken sinful institutions, I think it'd be very, it'd be much more surprising the other way around. I think, when I look at what scripture says of mankind, it makes perfect sense of the systems we create without problems and would require healing. And then I think the question then is, how do we go about that healing, and that's where things get a lot stickier.

REED: That's good analysis. And it is interesting, as you talk about that, how many philosophers come to mind that will argue that man is inherently broken, and therefore society is the thing that's going to fix him? And I always, there’s this weird bug in my brain of going how if society is made up of broken men, is society going to be the solution? So we've discussed some of the nature of the problem and verified that it is a problem. And that it’s a problem in institutions and that they need repair. But what about this idea, this policy of affirmative action itself? What if we seek to just analyze it?

REICHARD: Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Missionaries staying put in Haiti. The UN estimates that hundreds of thousands of Haitians have tried to leave their homeland since the country’s president was assassinated in 2021.

But even as gangs take over more of the country and violence continues to spread, one Haitian missionary says he and his family are there to stay.

WORLD Reporter Mary Muncy has the story.

SOUND: [HAITI]

MARY MUNCY, REPORTER: Last spring, Steve Derard and his wife got their kids up and ready for school just like any other day. They live in a small neighborhood in Haiti and had gotten used to the gangs controlling the area.

But that morning, as Steve and his six-year-old daughter were leaving, they saw something new: a dead body very close to the house.

STEVE DERARD: She asked me why. You know, I don't want to lie to her. What? I don't know really what to tell her.

So they just kept going on to school.

DERARD: This is the kind of life we are having.

Derard is co-founder and ground director for the ministry Haiti Awake. The ministry started in 2014 to serve the community, and then expanded to the local juvenile prison in 2016. Haiti Awake provides classes in things like English and music, and supplies the prison with some resources. Derard is also the pastor of a small church in a town just outside the capital.

The work was hard before the gangs took over, but now it’s a whole new challenge.

NEWS: The Caribbean nation is in freefall.

NEWS: U.S. authorities warning all Americans still in that country to get out now.

NEWS: This passport office in Port-au-Prince overrun with Haitians desperate to make it to the United States.

Derard has been watching people leave in droves.

DERARD: It's a good thing for each individual, it's a good thing for different families, it's a good thing for people who never got a job before. But at the same time, it's very bad for the country as a whole.

So, despite having a US Visa, Derard has decided to stay. This is his country and these are his people, he will do what he can to help them.

A lot of Derard’s ministry is centered on the juvenile prison near the ministry center. Since the unrest started, the number of boys in the prison has skyrocketed —from 60 in 2016 to over 100 now.

DERARD: There is this little boy at Cermicol, the juvenile facility, he is eight years old.

That eight-year-old boy is there because he was directly involved in gang activity.

DERARD: This little boy is supposed to be in school or with their family. Now he's in prison. So anytime I go there see him want to hold my hand and I said it's worth it to be there.

It’s worth it, even when his family has to face the consequences.

Last spring, two rival gangs began fighting over Derard’s neighborhood and trapped him at the mission base and his family at their home.

DERARD: I wanted to get back. I wanted to be with them. But there was no way I could go. Because they, the gangs, can control the area. They control the situation. They are shooting.

His daughter developed such bad anxiety that she started throwing up. And Derard was trapped at the base away from her for three or four days.

Finally, things calmed down enough that he was able to pick his way through the neighborhood and get back home.

Since then, they have been living in a tenuous peace.

DERARD: I don't know how long that's gonna last, just watching them go into school in the morning and be able to come back that's when there's so much joy.

Even with so much uncertainty, Derard says the mission is thriving.

He sees the fruit of his work in the lives of people like Kelly Volcy.

Volcy left home when he was 12 because his parents couldn’t support him and started working for a tap tap driver. Tap taps are like group taxi services in Haiti.

But one day when he was 19, Volcy asked for his pay for the day, and the driver refused to give it to him.

The two fought and the police came. Volcy was arrested and taken to jail… he couldn’t stop crying.

SOUND: [PRISON]

He first met Derard in prison.

Haiti Awake provided food and other supplies and Volcy attended the church and classes they taught. He says it made him feel connected to something again.

When he was released after two years, Volcy stayed involved with Haiti Awake.

Now, he’s 21 and trying to finish high school. He plans to start a business selling water bottles…and he makes the dangerous trek through Haiti from his home to the mission base every Sunday for church and Thursday for Bible study.

Derard says stories like that encourage him. He keeps holding onto what God is doing through him and the mission.

DERARD: That's my call. It's not everyone's call. You know, it's unfortunate. My family has to suffer with me in that.

Derard says Haiti is both his greatest joy and his greatest sorrow.

He doesn’t blame people who leave—he knows they still love their country, but for now, he and his family will stay.

DERARD: By God's grace we’re still there. We still are doing what we are doing what we can do day by day. And you know, not happy with the way things are, but we are happy to see the way God is moving in the middle of everything.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Mary Muncy.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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