When Pastor Derson gathered to worship with his congregation at Victory Bible Church on April 16, 2023, he had no idea that it would be their last time gathering for a very long time.
It was the Sunday after Easter, and Derson preached a message from the book of Esther.
“I wanted the church to understand that God is the one directing everything, even when many events happen that don’t seem to be very good,” Derson recalled.
Three days later, on April 19, gangs violently attacked Source Matelas, the village where VBC is located. They massacred over 100 people and forced the entire village to flee from their homes.
“I believe that message helped prepare people for whatever was about to happen in their lives,” Derson said.
One of VBC’s members lost his life in the massacre. The church lost its location. Everyone lost family members or friends, livelihoods, and property. The congregation scattered across Haiti, with the majority moving up the coast to villages surrounding Cabaret and Arcahaie.
Nine months of waiting
For the last 9 months, Derson and his congregants stayed in contact through phone calls, WhatsApp texts, and home visits, but they did not gather together to worship on a Sunday morning.
“We kept believing the gangs wouldn’t stay very long,” said Derson. “Every new month that came, we still thought ‘This will be the last month we’ll be displaced.’ Everyone’s lives were unstable. We kept waiting to see how the situation would evolve day after day, month after month.”
In the meantime, his congregation attended local churches wherever they had found housing. But they quickly noticed that the preaching was different than the messages they had heard at Victory Bible Church.
Roger, JiHM’s director of operations, recalled one Sunday attending a large church of around 800 people. Before communion, the head pastor gave a legalistic message on sin and how people can “lose their license” to take communion. When he invited the congregation forward for communion after his message, only one person dared take part in the Lord’s Supper. The pastor then backpedaled on his original message, and more people came forward.
“Lots of pastors in Haiti are religious pastors,” Roger said. “Not Biblical. They will often preach to scare people and keep them in their assemblies. Grace isn’t free.”
Derson also struggled to find a church family where he felt at ease. “There were always details that didn’t seem right to me according to the Bible. They won’t let people come to church wearing jewelry. Women can’t wear pants. And so on.”
The growing awareness of the lack of gospel-based teaching in Arcahaie, plus the realization that returning to Source Matelas was going to take much longer than they hoped, brought Pastor Derson, Pastor Jean, Pastor Dieuvert and Roger to the same conclusion—it was time to restart Victory Bible Church in a new location.
Victory Bible Church is reborn
“When we finally accepted that things were going to take longer than we were hoping, we met together to talk about reopening the church in 2024,” said Derson. “Director Roger asked Andris to check with the school for us. We thank God that the school agreed to let us meet there.”
On Sunday, January 7, about 25 people gathered to worship together as Victory Bible Church for the first time since April 16.
To both Roger and Derson, this small rebirth felt reminiscent of the first gathering of Victory Bible Church nearly 20 years ago, when VBC was created to fill the same need for the gospel in Source Matelas.
“Once again, people were struggling to find a church with a good foundation in solid teaching,” said Roger. “The churches they were going to weren’t teaching truth. Many had just stopped going altogether.”
For Pastor Derson, it felt like going home.
“Returning to meet with the people,” he said, “I just felt Iike I was back at my home. I felt I’d been given another chance to preach the Word and another opportunity to make more disciples for Christ, no matter what happens.”
For his first message back with VBC, Derson chose to preach from Psalm 103:1-5.
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
“People lost their houses, family members, and friends in Source Matelas,” said Derson. “Even now they are still in a very difficult situation. I hoped to show that despite every difficult moment, they still have a reason to worship God.
“He forgives all our iniquity. He redeems our life from the pit. He satisfies us with good. He gives us life and health. He gives us food every day. He gives us a place to sleep. He gives us a family.”
Derson’s own family, his wife and 1-year-old daughter, were also able to be present for VBC’s first Sunday back together. They had just returned after six months living apart from Derson in the Dominican Republic.
Planning for an uncertain future
As Derson looks ahead to 2024, he has both big and practical hopes for Victory Bible Church.
“We hope to have new members. We hope people grow more in the Word. We hope to return to our property. We hope to have sound equipment.”
Most of all, Pastor Derson asks that you pray for security. “We need security, because insecurity is affecting every activity in the country.”
Will you pray for Pastor Derson and the remnant of the congregation of Victory Bible Church? May God be glorified as they serve Him in a new location.