Posted Sep 25, 2010 by 4 Comments

The other day I had the chance to visit a massive tent camp on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. 

The camp had been set up out in the middle of nowhere by international aid organizations with great intentions:  get people out of the collapsing city, centralize the tents to make it easier to bring in clean water and food, dig deep latrines in the empty farmland…  In short: bring relief.

But now that many aid organizations have pulled out of Haiti, conditions in the tent village have deteriorated.  Poverty is rampant, unemployment is pervasive and I heard many disturbing things about the living conditions there, including the fact that women have begun selling their bodies for as little as $0.63 to buy a meal or two for their families.

What happened?  What went wrong?  Why did an initiative with such a well-intentioned beginning end up in such tragedy?

The massive tent camp I visited at the end of my stay in Haiti. With tents stretching to the horizon, it’s no surprise that few people have been able to find jobs here.

Well, in interacting with Nehemiah Vision Ministries in Haiti, I’ve begun to find some answers to these questions…

The dust has settled

As Americans, we like numbers.  We like to see the return on our investment.  So when the earthquake shook Haiti, we all jumped at the opportunity to help out in ways that would produce clear, measurable results.

We distributed lots of food, we built lots of shelters and we provided lots of free medical care.  We came back home with success stories of using X amount of dollars to help X amount of people with X amount of volunteers.

It was all good.  America, along with the international community, rose up as one to bring relief to Haiti.

But now that the dust has (literally and metaphorically) settled, a difficult truth has emerged.  Yes, Haiti needs relief.  And lots of it.  But until we begin to focus on development, the country will remain perched on the edge of crisis.

Unfortunately, development is not very attractive to Americans like me.  It’s not simple.  It’s not easy.  And it takes a long time to establish measurable results. 

This, frankly, is why organizations like Nehemiah Vision Ministries are so important.  They have a completely different perspective on the issues at hand.  And now, seeing what the Western, relief-oriented perspective has done to a community of Haitian IDPs, I’m beginning to sit up and listen.

The Long Haul

Pastor Pierre, director of Nehemiah Vision Ministries, his staff and his volunteers are not motivated by the short-term outcomes that come from relief work. Instead, they are driven by a relentless pursuit of development.  

If you didn’t see this in an earlier article, please click on this image to see the full-size version. The extent of this tent community takes my breath away!

This is not to say that relief work is not important.  Yes, they distribute food as they are able.  Yes, they provide urgent medical care to earthquake victims who need it.  But NVM is not flailing around randomly, trying to bring relief to all of Haiti.

Instead, they are laser focused on continuing the mission they began over four years ago:  to transform the life of their community, to bring hope to the people of Chambrun and to steadily pull an entire village out of poverty.


But what about the IDP camps?  What about the people living in tents?  Shouldn’t Nehemiah Vision Ministries change its focus now that the earthquake has taken its toll?

Pastor Esperandieu Pierre, a visionary who sees the value in long-term development.

Well, I recently sat in on a meeting between Pastor Pierre and some of his volunteer staff (including several long-term American volunteers) where he addressed some of these concerns.  In the meeting, he encouraged the team to stay focused on the big-picture vision of NVM.

He reminded the team of the biblical story of David, who spent years caring for sheep before ever living in to his ultimate purpose as king of Israel.  If NVM stays faithful “in the dusty clinic…” he said, “we too will someday fulfill our ultimate purpose: to help transform the life of this community.”

“It’s a hard thing for me.  I like to move,” he said. “But I want to be a living sacrifice that stays put.”  

Listening to Pastor Pierre talk, I got a sense of just how unique his perspective is.  Esperandieu carries within his heart a profound vision for the restoration of Haiti.  He envisions his country alive and thriving, beating back generations of poverty and emerging into a new era of life and hope…

Small houses being built by an international aid organization in the tent community. Sure, they’ll bring relief from the rain and heat, but where will the new residents work?

By staying faithful to the vision God has given them, he believes, NVM will become more and more of a model for other organizations in Haiti to replicate, creating a cycle of development that will sweep across the nation.  This movement will help IDPs as well as the millions of Haitians who have been living on the brink of destitution for years.

But for Pastor Pierre, this grand vision begins not with helicopters and tents.  It begins not in the office of the president or on the stage of a massive rally.  It begins in the dust of Chambrun.


As I left the meeting that day, I was reminded yet again how important it is to invest in the work being done by indigenous leaders around the world.  Sure they may not all have our specialized training or our resources or our obsessive drive to constantly grown and expand, but they do have something that Americans like me often lack:  patience.

When I walk among the IDP camps of Port-au-Prince, my gut reaction is to do something.  I want to fix it… to change the situation now.  

But leaders like Pastor Pierre recognize that even if they were to distribute 10,000 meals today, there would be 10,000 hungry people to feed tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next…

Pastor Pierre unloading a large container full of food. NVM continues to distribute food to IDPs in need, even while focusing on the development of Chambrun.

They understand that for long-term, sustainable development, their focus must be much more holistic.  

That’s why Nehemiah Vision Ministries is located in Chambrun.  They don’t just help with a single issue… they help with all of them: providing a school for children in the village, running a well-stocked medical clinic, drilling wells for clean drinking water, teaching agriculture techniques, running a children’s home for orphans and other kids in need, building new homes and providing wheelchairs for disabled villagers…

And lest I forget, on Sundays NVM is a church for over 700 people.  Beyond material needs, they are helping to empower villagers with the hope, life and joy that come through the kingdom of God!


As I left the meeting with Pastor Pierre and his team, I was filled with a sense of hope.  And not just for the people of Chambrun.  I was filled with hope for Haiti.

Nehemiah Vision Ministry’s church on Sunday morning. For the impoverished and beaten-down people of this community, there is now a beacon of hope…

Nehemiah Vision Ministries is having a profound effect on the thousands of people in their community, including many of the IDPs who now live nearby.  Their elementary school is about to re-open and construction has begun on a new, fully functioning hospital.

And with such incredible stories of growth emerging from Chambrun, other national organizations have begun to notice.  Within the next few years, I would not be surprised to see other local and international organizations modeled on the work of NVM springing up all across the country.

Communities being pulled back from the brink… Poverty beginning to decline… IDPs finding jobs and homes and healthcare…

It may not look very glamorous on a not-for-profit fund-raising proposal, but the tireless development work of the “long-haulers” like Pastor Pierre will be what finally brings relief to Haiti.

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Next Steps
    • Are you interested in seeing the new construction going on at Nehemiah Vision Ministries? Check out our brief walking tour of the campus.
    • Follow Pastor Pierre on Twitter!
    • Nehemiah Vision Ministries needs your help to accomplish their mission. Would you consider contributing your time, energy and money to their cause? Click here for more information…
    • NVM has a fantastic child sponsorship program. For just $40 a month, you can invest in the future of a Haitian child in need. Check it out!
    Next Steps

About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. Dave Rod said... 


    September 25th, 2010 at 8:09 am  

    You’re right about the lack of patience most of us feel. Maybe that’s why Haiti is so “yesterday” to many of us.

    I’m looking forward to seeing NVM with my own eyes soon but thanks for the video walking tour in your Next Steps section to help us get a handle on what they are doing.

    I hope World Next Door can give us occasional updates on NVM to remind us of their persistence and faith.

    Well done.

  2. Jenny Fitzgerald said... 


    September 25th, 2010 at 10:10 am  

    Barry ~ THANK YOU for that story! I have so much to learn and I appreciate you being my “eyes” in Haiti! I do pray, Barry, that the Lord continues to use you and WND to bring us His perspective on the world’s suffering and needs…

    Bless you!

  3. Angela Lounsbury said... 


    September 25th, 2010 at 11:55 am  

    I read about Pastor Pierre’s example of David being a faithful shepherd for all those years before becoming king and I just stopped and mulled on that for awhile. My heart like so many desires to see immediate results in my life and and lives of others, especially in ministry. This article was such a strong reminder to me and i’m sure will stick with me. Thank you.

  4. Jim M said... 


    September 25th, 2010 at 10:32 pm  


    This story reminds us that poverty is complicated, and it is not simply the lack of “things”.

    Relief and Resolution are light years apart in terms of intent, approach, and outcome.

    The story also points to one of the things this web site does well, that is to shine a light on “injustice”. Injustice is typically the underlying social element that enables poverty to be perpetuated on a group of people.

    It has taken me years to embrace this truth, and even now it is sometimes hard to acknowledge within our own “anything is possible” culture.

    But this truth can not be denied. And, it will be organizations like NVM and others who take the long-suffering approach to poverty that will ultimately facilitate change. The simple provision of “things”, and “money” will not by themselves have enduring effect.

    The cultural change that comes when we “love our neighbor” is Divine. To witness it, or participate in it is to find oneself in that thin space where the Kingdom is very near.

    A good resource for your readers that explains “injustice” and how it relates to poverty is the 11th chapter (the whole book actually) of Richard Stearns book “The Hole in Our Gospel”.

    Also opening that chapter, there is a quote from Helen Keller which I enjoy, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it”.

    Thank you for your hard work bringing this too us, I pray your readers will be moved to action and prayer, not necessarily in that order.


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