Haiti classroom without lights (Photo courtesy Bright Hope International)
Haiti (MNN) ― When is basic light a luxury?
When it's in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. More than 85% of the population lacks access to electricity.
In the years since the quake of 2010, many are still in the tent cities. Those who fled Port-au-Prince in search of better opportunity have found themselves less crowded but still getting along with very little in rural areas.
For many in Haiti, life stops when the sun sets. Without light, the emerging marketplace can't stay open after dark. Without light, children who go to school can't do their lessons at night. Without light, crime (particularly sexual assaults) runs rampant.
The average family spends a third of its income on kerosene for lanterns. That poses not only a drain financially, but also a safety hazard as the lanterns are a true fire hazard.
Bright Hope International responded directly through a church plant in Pignon, northcentral Haiti. Last month, a Facebook Campaign invited participants to "Like" Bright Hope's page, and in response a donor would set aside a hand-cranked flashlight destined for Haiti.
CH Dyer, President of Bright Hope International, reports that as a result of the "Like for Light"campaign, 1,418 flashlights will be donated to their partner village in Haiti.
Why Haiti, you ask? "It's less expensive for us to ship things there," says Dyer. "I wish we could send these over to Africa, but that takes a lot more money, and frankly, in these days, and times, it's just hard to get things like that overseas. Haiti is a place that definitely had the need."
The flashlights will be distributed later this summer through the local church, whose members will also benefit from the portable, renewable light source. "It's places like that where a flashlight can be a meaningful tool. It can be a safety issue; it can be something to read by when it gets dark earlier. It's a very practical kind of gift."
Dyer says the church mirrors the condition of the village. "It has no electricity, no well. It's basically just sticks and a tarp that they throw over to meet in, and yet they have 50 believers come there every Sunday." However, the distribution will provide a very clear picture of the Gospel in this community, he adds. "They're being light--the light of Christ to the community, and they're handing out physical light."
Even better, it paves the way for future discussions and Gospel opportunities, says Dyer. "People aren't used to receiving something in these communities, so they're not looking at it as something they'll just put away. They say, 'Wow! Thank you for that!' and 'Why are you doing this?'" This opens the door. From there, the Gospel takes over. You can keep praying that hearts would respond. "It's a way to connect with people that aren't involved with any kind of relationship with Christ. Here's an opportunity to give some practical help."
This village is part of a greater outreach effort by Bright Hope. Pastor Jephthe Lucien, Bright Hope's partner, leads the work of the Jerusalem Baptist Mission as its National Director. Since 1996, Pastor Lucien has planted 42 churches with over 4,000 members and 17 Christian schools with over 2,900 students.
The Mission's economic development programs have directly impacted hundreds of families throughout Pignon. The ministry has improved the quality of life for thousands of people. More importantly, it has greatly strengthened the level of Christian witness opportunities in these communities.
Thank you for your advocacy and support through "Like for Light!" Stay tuned for more to come.