Creole and English mix at Haitian church plant

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By Joe Conway 

MIAMI – It is the decided opinion of John Voltaire that church planting is not for the faint of heart.

“You have to make sure you are truly called to plant a church,” says Voltaire, “because there are rough times ahead.”

The Miami church planter doesn’t want to discourage any potential planters. It is his nature to deal with issues in a straightforward manner, as most engineers will do. Voltaire was a bivocational pastor, known as one of the Iron Men of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I was an electrical engineer for a company that builds black boxes for airplanes,” says Voltaire. “But the call to plant a church was strong.” Working as an engineer is what Voltaire did, but his passion, his desire is to be a church planter. “Because I feel like I’m called to be a church planter.”

And the need is great. In South Florida as many as 96 percent of the population is unchurched. Voltaire sensed a strong call to the Haitian community. Approximately 185,000 Haitians live in the area.

“I felt like there was a harvest,” says Voltaire. “So this is where God called us to plant a church in the community, a Haitian church. There was the need for a church, for a congregation in Kendall—a Haitian congregation in particular.”

In February 2010, Voltaire, his wife and family began a time of focused prayer and started talking to people. And about a month later they hosted the first public service for Grace Community Baptist Church of Kendall. Voltaire was encouraged by the reception.

“It’s hard work but I believe it’s worth it,” says Voltaire. “As of now, we see many families who are coming out. And this alone makes us feel like, you know what—God is pleased with what we’re doing.”

Voltaire says he believes Grace Community Baptist will be successful because the community is an open field. Because of the make up of the community, Voltaire made the commitment to present worship in Creole and English. He encountered people who spoke one language or the other, but not many who were bi-lingual.

“We have people who don’t know English,” says Voltaire. “And we have people who don’t know Creole. So we kind of intertwine—we mix things together. And it’s tough.”

Another challenge for Voltaire is the transition from an engineer’s salary to that of a church planter’s.

“I had always been working as an engineer but I chose to walk away from all this to plant a church,” says Voltaire. “To a lot of people it was not a smart move to start living on about less than 10 percent of what I was making. But God made provision and we trusted God.”

Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. 

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Published April 15, 2013