The 2016 Haiti International Scripture Blitz
Weeks before traveling to Haiti, Tim McCormick was standing in the middle of New York City’s Times Square hoping for a personal witnessing opportunity to share the Gospel with someone who did not know Jesus. Even with thousands of people all around, the 58-year-old poultry breeder from Blackville, South Carolina, was still challenged to find anyone there who would stop long enough to talk.
Jesus told his disciples the world’s distractions would keep people from the Word:
“…but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” – Mark 4:19
Few places in the world offer more distractions than Times Square with its giant digital billboards, flashing neon lights, costumed characters, Broadway theaters, and souvenir gift shops.
A few weeks later, Tim traveled to Haiti to serve with other members of The Gideons International in the 2016 Haiti International Scripture Blitz. They hoped to share 80,000 New Testaments over the course of five days. The reception Tim would receive in the poverty-stricken coastal community of Saint-Marc would be very different from that of Times Square.
Haiti’s Pastors Work Side By Side With Gideons
The fervent prayers of Gideons, their wives who serve in the Auxiliary, and others around the world opens doors for a blitz team. Those prayers opened the doors of Haiti’s pastors.
The event brought Gideons to Saint-Marc just a few days after Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti. The hurricane was the largest catastrophic event to hit Haiti since an earthquake back in 2010.
If you are accustomed to modern telecommunications, it’s hard to imagine how slowly news can travel in Haiti. In Saint-Marc, Gideons met people who were not even aware a hurricane had struck.
Though Saint-Marc did not experience the full force of Hurricane Matthew, lives were lost, homes were destroyed, families were displaced, and roads, schools, and churches were badly damaged.
“If it had not been for the pastors we would have been lost.”
When a few pastors in Saint-Marc heard Gideons were coming to share God’s Word, they spread the word to other pastors in the district. By the time Gideons arrived, the pastors were ready for them.
Gideons had to rely on the pastors to get them to all the schools, hospitals, prisons, and other distribution locations. Tim says he has never seen pastors and Gideons work side by side like they did during the week in Haiti.
“If it had not been for the pastors we would have been lost,” says Tim.
Roughly 80% of Haiti’s population lives below poverty level. Unlike many other countries, people in Haiti cannot depend on their government for assistance. For many Haitians, the struggle to survive is a day-to-day challenge.
Haitian Gideons coming from several miles away to help with the distributions traveled to Saint-Marc by public transportation. If staying overnight, they would stay with someone they knew in Saint-Marc, as the expense of staying in a motel was out of reach.
Hidalgo Delbeau is a Gideon in the Port Au Prince Camp, Haiti, who served during the blitz. “We had Gideons come from Jacmel, Thiotte, Carrefour, Diquini, Delmas, Pétion-Ville, and Croix des Bouquets,” says Hidalgo. “It was a real blessing for them.” He says that getting to serve alongside pastors and Gideons who came from the USA was a great encouragement for Haiti’s Gideons.
The event’s team leader, David Beaty, is a member of the Sante Fe Camp, New Mexico. He is a member at Legacy Church in Albuquerque and owns a small business. He joined the Gideons in 1987 and has served as team leader on prior International Scripture Blitzes in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and the Philippines.
David says the pastors volunteered their cars and served as interpreters. “One of the pastors served with me all day long, every day of the week,” he says. Pastors even brought members from their own congregations to help translate, hoping they might be inspired to join The Gideons International someday.
A Real Hunger For God’s Word
“Anyone who realized we had Scriptures was desperate to get a copy.”
In Scripture, you can read of instances where crowds not only followed after Jesus, but actually “pressed in” on Him to hear the Word of God. In Haiti, Gideons got a close up view of what that experience was like.
“I found a hunger for God’s Word like I had never seen before,” says Tim. “Anyone who realized we had Scriptures was desperate to get a copy.”
On Monday, a hospital administrator led one team of Gideons through wards filled with patients, many who were dying. The team was able to place a Scripture at every bedside. Up and down the hospital corridors, benches were packed with patients’ family members and friends. Those copies of God’s Word beside the beds can offer comfort and hope to the patients as well as to their family and friends visiting them.
As with most International Scripture Blitzes, the majority of the Scriptures were distributed at the schools. Throughout the week, Gideons were welcomed with great joy by thousands of students and their teachers, excited to receive copies of God’s Word.
Late in the week, Gideons began to see the Lord had a much grander vision for His Word going forth in Haiti. Because of the poverty in Haiti, most dwellings are occupied by multiple generations of family members. So as children returned home from their schools with a copy of God’s Word that week, they were returning to share the Good News in a house filled with brothers, sisters, parents, and in many cases, grandparents, as well as other relatives.
Gideons know a single copy of God’s Word can touch multiple lives. That is exactly how God was using the New Testaments they were distributing that week in Haiti.
Lives Changed, In Haiti And Beyond
By the end of the five-day event, Gideons had distributed over 125,000 Scriptures to the people of Saint-Marc, far surpassing their original distribution goal by more than 45,000 Scriptures. Copies of God’s Word are now in the hands of Haiti’s students, teachers, hotel employees, police officers, hospital employees, and prison inmates. Gideons experienced the blessing of seeing students and others pray to receive Christ.
Hidalgo says an official of Saint-Marc and his colleagues met with Gideons to express their thanks for Gideons coming to share God’s Word with their citizens, and he asked the Gideons to never give up in what they were doing.
Haiti’s pastors were overjoyed as they witnessed people in their own communities receive Scriptures and make public decisions to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
“Since the blitz, we’ve been keeping close contact with the people we met in Saint-Marc,” says Hidalgo. He has already made a return trip to Saint-Marc to continue building relationships there which could lead to more open doors for Scripture distributions in the future.
Julius Grubbs, Jr. is a Gideon from New Iberia, Louisiana, who participated in the Haiti blitz. The sights of Haiti left an impression on him. “As always, a trip like this makes you thankful for what we have in the United States, and it increases our prayers for our brothers and sisters in those countries,” says Julius.
Tim is back home in South Carolina. However, fond memories of the Haiti blitz live on. He recalls finishing a distribution at one of the schools and being surrounded by smiling, laughing children who just wanted to touch him. “I felt loved beyond what you can imagine,” he says of the experience.
A few days after returning back home, Tim shared his Haiti experience at a meeting with members of The Gideons in his own community. He told them how he saw Gideons and pastors working together in Haiti toward one common goal – sharing God’s Word. “I tried to challenge our Gideons to work at building stronger relationships with pastors,” he says.
Although the 2016 Haiti International Scripture Blitz is over, Gideons who served in the blitz are not finished sharing God’s Word. They will continue to witness and share Scriptures back in their hometowns. While they may not all experience crowds of people as desperate for God’s Word as those encountered during this blitz, they can trust the Lord to bring the right people to them at the right time.