Separated from his church and his family, Pastor Derson remains faithful

Just a month shy of what would have been Victory Bible Church’s 19th anniversary, the gang massacre in Source Matelas last April brought much of the church’s ministries to a sudden halt. 

Within days, the members of the church, who had just begun to return during the peaceful months following November’s attack, once again scattered across Haiti, now without the option to return.

All of the various activities that had marked a week at VBC—Sunday morning worship services, Wednesday afternoon prayer meetings, choir practices, Bible studies, weddings, and more—no longer had a place to happen, much less people to participate in them.

While we continue to pray for the day that Victory Bible Church can reopen its doors and fully resume ministry, we praise God for the work of the three VBC pastors who have remained in the Cabaret area to continue sharing the gospel in various ways.

Today we catch up with senior pastor Derson Louis.

Tell us about your experience on April 19, the day of the attack on Source Matelas.

As was my habit every morning, I was working at the mission. The students at school were taking their exams when I heard gunfire. Director Roger and I thought it was the police exchanging gunfire with the gangs in Titanyen, but after a little time we saw people running like the gangs were already close to us.

We couldn’t go out through the gate so we made the little kids go under the canal grate and myself and Pastor Jean went over the top of the wall.

Right afterwards, I went to my house (just northwest of the mission) because my wife and 4-month-old baby were at home. After that we packed a few bags and went deeper into Cabaret.

Three Sundays before the attack, I had preached from the book of Esther about the providence of God. I wanted people to know that God is directing everything. Even though the gang attack wasn’t a good thing, I always believed that God had control of everything.

What has life been like for your family since the attack?

The last 5 months we haven’t had any stability. After one week in Cabaret with my family, I needed to send them up to Gonaive because my wife didn’t feel at ease still being so close to the gangs. After a month apart, they came back to me because they missed me too much. I felt that the safety of my wife and baby was priority, so I sent them to the Dominican Republic on July 21 and I haven’t seen them since.

Derson with his family in January.

How are you spending your days now?

Because my family is not by my side, I spend a lot of time on the phone so I can always hear them. I read Scripture, do research on the internet, prepare messages, visit members of VBC, and spend time with people where I am living now. I attend a church in Cabaret whose pastor lived in the same village as me. Once each month he has me preach and he has a Bible school where I am teaching church history.

How is the church body of Victory Bible Church able to stay connected?

The easiest way for us to stay connected right now is via a group on WhatsApp. We call each other on the phone. Pastor Jean, Pastor Dieuvert and I visit the members we can and encourage them.

Derson coordinated the Haitian Hustle in Haiti this past August, bringing together many members of VBC.

What gives you hope today?

What gives me hope is that during times of trouble, God has taught me that there are three things to be gained from the problems:

  1. Troubles are there to break our pride.
  2. Troubles are there to draw us closer to God.
  3. God makes us stronger in the midst of problems.

Troubles are not here without reason.

What discourages you today?

What discourages me is that I can’t really do my job effectively. I can’t preach the way I should. Everything we spent time building up in church was gone in one fell swoop: children’s choir, adult choir, women’s group, youth group, Bible studies, etc. It is a burden to be a pastor without a church, especially when you cannot meet with the people to preach the Word to them, which is the priority of a pastor. Although I preach in other churches, visit members, and pray with them and encourage them, I always feel like my work is lacking.

For my family, we have barely been married for 2 years, our daughter is not even 1 yet, and we are already separated because of the country’s situation.

How would you describe life in Haiti right now? What has changed? Is anything the same?

Life in Haiti now is like a prison. People used to be able to travel around wherever. Now it’s different. Sometimes I think if I hadn’t graduated yet, I wouldn’t have been able to return to Jacmel to finish seminary. For a long time it was only Port au Prince that had gangs. Now they are everywhere. 

Despite that, the Haitian smile will never change.

Pastor Derson visits Grace Emmanuel School students in May

What are you praying for today? How would you like people to be praying for you?

My prayers are to reunite with my family, for the church to meet again, and for people from Source Matelas to return to their homes again. I would like you to help me pray for those things.

Please pray for Pastor Derson. If you would like to send a note to encourage him, please do so here.

Kristi Bucher has served as Communications Manager for Jesus in Haiti Ministries since 2014. She currently lives in Minnesota with her husband, Nathan, and two kids. Kristi and Nathan lived in Haiti from 2012–2014.