Being Nimble Is a Good Thing! How One BGC Scholar Is Impacting Countless Lives in Haiti
“The smoke in the air from garbage being burned in the streets gave the appearance that the city was smoldering. I felt like I was on another planet.” This is how Matt McCormick first remembers Port-au-Prince. It was 1999 and this was the moment when he knew God’s specific call on his life. “At that point, I knew Haiti needed help unlike anywhere else I had been. I couldn’t justify going anywhere else,” he says. Since 2007, he and his wife, Pam, have been “nimble” workers in Haiti, taking on projects as varied as discipleship and sustainable development to creating fuel supply lines after the January 2010 7.0-magnitude earthquake to translating scripture.
McCormick offers a reason for his passion:
On any given day at the international airport in Port-au-Prince, scores of foreigners arrive with their offerings for the poor. The recurring theme is: build buildings, sponsor children, teach VBS, solve problems, and give away stuff. Pastors, missionaries, and humanitarians bring teams here so frequently, it is as if the revolving door of workers constantly reminds the poor, “You can’t do anything yourself.” Short-term mission groups claim their efforts empower and relate to people even when history, and our neighbors, tell a different story. Yet after decades of this, Haiti is still one of the most impoverished places on earth.
Ironically, he grew up having no interest in overseas work. However, a high school mission trip to Costa Rica changed that. “I didn’t understand why people would want to be missionaries; however, when I went, what I saw in the families we worked with was a dynamic lifestyle that I couldn’t get out of my mind,” he recalls. He was so enamored with this new idea that he asked if he could return to live with one of the families for six months.
God’s confirmation that McCormick was to become a missionary got stronger and stronger as the years passed. With his eyes set on overseas missions, he attended Moody Bible Institute, where he loaded up on Bible and theology classes. When Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras in 1998, McCormick felt a further calling toward working on the poverty side of missions. Ready to step into action, a good missionary friend and mentor stopped him and instead suggested he get additional schooling before heading to the field. “The world is becoming more and more educated,” his friend said. “You need to be as well.”
The Turning Point
In 2001, McCormick began attending Wheaton College Graduate School as a Billy Graham Center scholar. “Academically, it was a turning point,” he recalls. “The seriousness of what I was committing to had ratcheted up a notch. I began reading and studying in greater depth what I was passionate about.” During this time, he also began thinking about Haiti in particular. Shortly after he graduated in 2003, he and his now wife, Pam, received an offer to serve with a pastor in Haiti. Several years later, the couple moved to Haiti and began language classes.
“Early on we were asking ourselves the fundamental question, ‘What needs to happen so that one day things here will be different?’ You need to be nimble enough to seize opportunities, but grounded enough to make a difference,” he says.
For the past five years, the couple (who now have four children) has been doing just that. Having gone to Haiti with the desire to listen and learn from the community and see where they could step in, God has thrown them into a number of critical ministries. One of these was helping to create a fuel supply line from the Dominican Republic after the 2010 earthquake, which impacted over three million people. This kept hospitals, utilities, and local government services online in Haiti. “We found our niche living near the border, and we established a lot of relationships on the ground with the people during this time,” McCormick says. “Most organizations, employing contract workers, simply aren’t in a position to do this. Although the financial resources are in place, the human resources aren’t willing to dig in for the long-haul, where the greatest needs still remain.”
Enter the Paulos Group >>, the ministry of McCormick and fellow BGC scholar, Shane Gauthier. Paulos Group is committed to transformation in under-resourced communities, integrating discipleship and sustainable development. Paulos Group is in the process of developing affordable prototype housing engineered to withstand seismic and wind loads, also including water, electric, and sewage hook-ups.
“Some people have questioned the ‘spiritual value’ of building houses,” McCormick says. “It’s all interconnected—housing, healthcare, education, discipleship—it works together to improve the quality of life and there’s no way to measure what can result from that. Lives are being transformed throughout the process.”
However, for those focused on the “spiritual” element, Matt points to his wife’s recent completion of the Creole translation of The Jesus Storybook Bible. The Bible, which will be available in October 2012, was the result of Pam’s desire for personal language enrichment and the apparent need for Haitian children to better understand the person of Jesus. “Haitians know the Bible,” McCormick says, “But the struggle is in the application, it’s mostly memorization.”
The Hand of God
Looking back over the past five years, McCormick sighs. He has learned much.
Ecclesiastes 1:18 says, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” We have seen so much suffering and corruption and abuse. We now know things and have experienced structural evils firsthand that weigh heavy on us—things we would never had known or dealt with had we not been on the front-lines. However, God is at work. We see his fingerprints in all areas of life—it is all perfectly knitted together. In the moment, something that we are doing may not seem like God’s leading, but as we move forward, we see how God provides and opens doors.
So is it worth it? Is walking with the Haitian people through overwhelming pain and need worth the physical and emotional toll? Without hesitation, McCormick answers yes and continues, “Proverbs 25:2 says, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.’ As we cultivate proven and innovative solutions to poverty, what else is out there that God has concealed that one day might become a resource, improvement, or solution? Searching this out is left to us.”