Written by Anthony Moujaes
In his first visit to the Latin America region as executive minister of the United Church of Christ Wider Church Ministries, the Rev. Jim Moos spent eight days with global partners in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the two bordering nations that share the island of Hispaniola. While learning about the work the UCC is supporting in the region, he also learned a bit about the differences between the two countries during the trip in late February.
"Both of them are very proud and independent, and have not-so-fond remembrances of the colonial area," said Moos. "They’re very sensitive to people coming in and undermining the decision-making processes. One phrase I heard several times in Haiti, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ And we have a commitment of going together."
Moos traveled to the area with Felix Ortiz-Cotto, the area executive for Latin America and the Caribbean with Global Ministries, the combined ministry of Wider Church Ministries and the Disciples of Christ. Moos and Ortiz-Cotto visited with five partner agencies in the Dominican Republic and two in Haiti, and met with mission personnel in both countries. They spoke with their Caribbean partners about some of the details of each program and its challenges.
Though they share an island, Moos experienced the differences in histories and culture in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. "There’s a French-Creole influence on Haiti, and a Spanish influence in the Dominican Republic," he said.
Differences aside, it was a productive trip.
While in the Dominican Republic, Moos and Ortiz-Cotto met several partner organizations, including the leaders and pastors of the Dominican Evangelical Church and its seminary and a group from Caminante, a youth program for high-risk kids.He also visited a family counseling center and sent some time with representatives of the Dominican equivalent of Church World Service, which CWS established in the country years ago as a relief agency.
Global Ministries intern Ashley Holst recently wrote about her work with Caminante in the Dominican Republic, for the GM website.
In Haiti, Moos and Ortiz-Cotto visited the House of Hope, which Moos said was a "very creative program" that offers education (usually vocational training to teach cooking, hairdressing, masonry or electrical skills) for underprivileged children. "They take poor kids without educations and provide accelerated programs where six years of education is given in four. Most of the kids are older than primary school kids," said Moos, who is hopeful that Global Ministries will work with the House of Hope to offer child sponsorship opportunities in the near future.
Moos and Ortiz also met with three missionaries and partners with CONASPEH, an organization of about 3,500 grassroots churches throughout Haiti, and spoke about microfinancing and how they could work together to move forward the reconstruction effort following 2010 earthquake. The UCC raised $4.5 million to provide relief in the three years since the Haiti earthquake, and WCM plans to continue funding the recovery effort through 2015.
"We consider what we do reconstruction, but it’s more than brick and mortar," Moos said.
There are now 10,000 non-government organizations in Haiti, and Moos said "the overwhelming majority comes in with their own agendas. And I’ve said before, it’s all about partnership. We’re committed to working with our partners in mutual accompaniment."
"The programs come and go, the needs come and go, but the relationships stay the same," Moos added.
Moos hopes to visit with more Global Ministries’ partners in other Latin America countries in the future, and hinted at a possible trip to Colombia next year. He will likely accept an invitation to preach at the General Assembly of the Dominican Church in January 2014.
Learn more about the work of Global Ministries in the Latin America region.