A mission was funded in Haiti by my pioneering missionary parents in 1947. Oran and Arshallos Bell went to Haiti with a son, age 4 and a daughter, age 2. Three years later, I was born. I consider myself privileged to be an American of Armenian and Scottish decent, born in Haiti. The Haitian people consider me one of them, being born and raised among them, speaking their native language fluently. My parents founded this work on the Word of God. Although they went out as missionaries independent of a denomination, some years later, they joined a Baptist Mission. Therefore, the church doctrine is Baptist, although they no longer belong to that Baptist Mission.
My parents' dream during their 40 years of the field was to establish an indigenous, self supporting church that would evangelize the entire area. God granted them their desire and today our four churches, in the Northern part of the Island, stand firmly on the principles of God. There are elementary schools to teach the children how to read and write. When my parents first went to Haiti, most of the people were illiterate with no Creole Bible (French only).
My mother translated the entire Bible in story form for the Sunday school classes. This was a feat that was accomplished over several years with the use of an old fashioned manual typewriter. By the early 1960's a Creole New Testament was printed and by the 1980s, Creole was declared to official language of Haiti and the entire Bible became available in Creole. The Creole language is a mixture of French and the particular African dialect of those that were brought there by the French for the purpose of slavery. This dialect is indigenous to only Haiti and one other small island in the Caribbean.
There are several outstations in the rural parts of Pignon, Haiti. These stations have a lay preacher who conducts weekly Bible Studies with the people of the area. Some stations also have a small school. On Sundays they walk to the church in Pignon. There are also three sister churches within a 10-mile radius. One has become financially independent, supporting their pastors and staff. The other two are still being supported by the church in Pignon. Countless young leaders who grew up under my parents' teachings have moved on to other areas of the island and started their own churches.
Oran and Arshaloos Bell are so well known to the people of Northern Haiti for their selfless years of dedication to serving and teaching. The name “Bell” is known for being one of the first in that region to bring the Gospel of Christ to a dark world of voodoo worshipers. Even after they retired and left the mission field, for over a course of 25 years, they continued to return for visits of encouragement. The three Bell children have remained very connected with the ministry through these 60 years.
After my parents passed away in 2003 and 2004, I had to return to Haiti to celebrate their lives and grieve the loss of such spiritual giants. While I was there I was so pleased to see how well the church was doing. Even the medical clinic is now self supporting. However, the schools were in great need of outside help. After much prayer and planning with the Haiti church board members, I agreed to start a program of connecting resources from America with Haiti, especially in the field of education. The non-profit corporation of Christian Friendship Ministries was started in June of 2005. We started with only three of us on the board and we kept it very simple so that 100% of the funds go directly to the educational needs of these schools run by the local church.
Ericlee Gilmore is the director and Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the Communications Director. Both of them regularly visit the ministry and have seen the need to help educate the children. I have heard it said that we are only one generation away from illiteracy. How true that is in Haiti. We want Christian Friendship Ministries to be a bridge of resources for additional help to keep these schools, churches, clinics and now an orphanage thriving in Haiti.
--By Christene Karlyn