Years before Jopnel was old enough to even be thinking about seminary, God had already brought him to Saccanville, the small mud-hut village Emmaus calls home.
He recalls his first trip while explaining the most dangerous evangelism experience he’s ever had. His youth group was spending the summer sharing the Gospel in villages stretching from Cap-Haitian to Limbe. As Jopnel unpacked God’s plan of salvation in a small Saccanville yard, a man lunged at him with a machete, holding the chiseled blade to Jopnel’s neck for several minutes before plunging it into the ground by his feet.
Despite this experience, and others like it, Jopnel beams as he calls evangelism his great God-given passion. “Since I was about 12, I knew I wanted to follow the Lord always, and when I was 14 I was baptized in the same church where I still serve today. I have always loved sharing the Gospel story with others, and I realized long ago that if I didn’t take the Word out from the church, there would be many, many people who would never hear it.“
“I got into the practice of sharing the Good News in tap-taps (small public transportation trucks) years ago. When I climb in, I immediately start asking about where everyone’s been, where they are going, how they are doing, and looking for a path. I pray God will show me a way in, and when He does, I take that road, using one of those conversations to lead into a simple Gospel message. I talk about how we all come up short, about God’s great love for us and desire to be in relationship with us, and about how that motivated Him to send His Son for the gap that our sin leaves. Every day I share the Gospel like that, in every tap-tap I’m in. It’s a great place to do it because I have a captive audience!”
After continually noticing the way another young man in his prayer group “just stood out as a man of character I wanted to be like in my walk with Jesus,” Jopnel learned that Rujerry was a student at Emmaus Biblical Seminary (now graduated, May 2018, and on staff). “Both he and the associate pastor at my church encouraged me to study at Emmaus after high school, and I’m now at the beginning of my final year!”
“I give glory to God because He’s truly shown Himself to me through so many people at Emmaus.” Jopnel says. “I’ve been thoroughly trained–spiritually and academically–and whatever continued ministry I end up in after graduation, it will be with my whole heart and with the relationships and tools I need to do it well, for His glory!”
To help student-ministers and evangelists like Jopnel continue to be equipped through EBS Haiti, please give online here now or send checks payable to Emmaus Biblical Seminary (memo line: Student Scholarships) to 1022 Main Street, Sabetha, KS 66534.
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They always tell me that when my mom was pregnant, the whole pregnancy, every time she went to the doctor, they said there was no sign of life. The doctors told her I was dead, and everyone told her to have an abortion. For some reason, she always says that she wouldn’t let me go. When the time came for her to deliver, I was born feet first, and I was very sick and weak, but I was alive.
Neither my mother or my father served God, but they figured someone must have a plan for my life. When I was four or five, my parents split up…they were always fighting.
I stayed with my father and grew up with him. My whole life I was raised in a Catholic family who practiced Voodoo, but I always heard the Gospel being preached from a little church right next to my house.
My family says they will never leave voodoo practices, because when my grandfather was a young boy, an evil spirit came to him and asked my grandfather to serve him. My grandfather agreed, and that spirit became the spirit of our family…he owns the family, the family serves him.
When I was 15, in 2008, my grandfather died. Only a few days later, I was staying at my mom’s house for the weekend, and that night, I had a terrifying and heavy dream. In my dream, there was an evil, dark, heavy presence, and he said that he was my family’s spirit. He told me that I would follow in my grandfather’s footsteps, and now the role of my grandfather to serve him was mine, for my family.
I was terrified at the thought of being chained to this horrible spirit, and I told him NO. He showed me all of these things in my dream…nice clothes, a nice house, a nice car, soccer equipment, and he told me to follow him, and that he would bless me with all of this stuff. I told him NO. Now, he came at me with a spear-like weapon, and said if I would not serve him, he would kill me. I shouted NO, and he stabbed me in the side. I awoke suddenly, and there was a sharp sharp pain in my side.
I had never prayed before, but I called out to Whomever was the furthest away, to Whomever most opposite from this dark and evil spirit, and the pain was gone.
The church next door was always reciting Psalm 46, “Our God is a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble…” I thought through that Psalm that I had heard them call out so many times, and saw how God had absolutely been my very present help.
As I laid there, I asked God not to let that spirit kill me. God revealed to me that it wasn’t the spirit who was bringing death to my life…but it was my sin.
I got up, I left my mom’s house. I went home, I went to that church, and I asked them to please show me how to repent, how to pray, how to give my life to Jesus.
I was the only believer in my house. A few years later, my father died, and the whole family started arguing and fighting over who the house belonged to. It became awful living there, and finally I left. I moved in with member of my church, and I still live with them to this day.
The ROAD to EMMAUS
I heard this message when I was 16 or 17 that has always stuck with me. The pastor said that if we are truly Christ-following young people, then when we finish high school, we can’t just think about what we want and pursue that. He told us that it was GOD who had a plan for our lives, and to ask God what He wanted us to do, and to follow in that path alone.
So, as I finished high school, I was always praying about that, and my church was, too. People kept telling they felt God wanted me to study His Word, and there was even an elder in the church who told me God showed him in a dream that I would study His Word. I prayed about that a lot, even spending three days and nights fasting and praying about what God wanted.
I finally felt peace that this was what God wanted me to do.
Everyone told me to go to Limbay University, where they had a theology program, but I also really wanted to make sure I was in the center of God’s will on WHERE I went, too. I prayed and prayed about “Limbay” and just never felt peace. While I was praying one night, I was listening to Radio4VEH, and a man named Pastor Lucner (the academic dean at EBS) was on, and he was talking about a place called Emmaus. As soon as he said the words, “Emmaus Biblical Seminary,” I was flooded with peace. I prayed more and asked more questions, and knew this was the right place for me to study God’s Word.
I’ve only just started at Emmaus, in September ’16, but I am learning SO MUCH, and better, I am learning how to take what I am learning and transmit it well for others. I loved the preaching class…and am looking forward to studying more.
Pray for me, that I will always stay right in the middle of His will for my life. Pray that He will help me persevere, and that He’ll continue to provide for His calling on my life! Thank you!
YES, Sundy needs a sponsor!! If you are interested in partnering with Sundy, and/or students like him, jot me an email and I would love to hook you up!
Partnering with one of our students means that you commit to providing a scholarship in their name and to praying for them. It also means that you can be in contact with them through Emmaus if you want, visit them and get to know them as much as you’d like. You’ll hear from your student throughout your partnership either way!
There are two ways to provide a scholarship (a full scholarship is $2000/year, but scholarships in ANY amount are greatly needed!) for one of our students…
I’m not quite sure how to wrap words around this, but you know me…I’ll try!
Today I was sitting down with Camille, one of my favorite first year students…soft-spoken, clear-eyed, sweet-smiled, slow to speak and always visibly rolling his words over in his mind before he speaks them.
He was telling me his story. Start to finish, highlights and prayers, dreams and visions.
I’ve been asking a lot of questions of students lately and gathering up lots of little stories, but then here was Camille, and his story just wasn’t all that different than any old story.
At first, I was a bit disappointed…because I’m just in awe of the amazing, mind-blowing, can’t-quite-wrap-our-culture-around-it stories, and here was Camille, talking to me almost like just any old kid I grew up with.
But after we finished and he headed out, I went back through his story to fill in the language gaps (while they share their stories rapidly in Creole, I type them out in English, and then clean up any language blocks after).
As I reverently worked to well-articulate this man’s story…his STORY…his journey with God, his path of calling…not much different than any story from my own culture, I was very hit with the sameness of us all.
It’s easy, even after 10 years, to feel like while we deeply love and appreciate those we are ministering to and with, we think, we speak, we history SO differently. Even how God has REACHED us is so different, the way God’s revealed himself to each of us, so different.
And then sometimes, there is a moment where you realize, where you remember, that it’s ALL the same.
Where he comes from, what he looks like, how our stories are different…it just really doesn’t matter.
He’s just a person, like me, with a story, like me, with a God, MINE, too, wanting to be close, like I do, wanting to be found faithful, just like me.
My heart, his heart, my story, his story, our God, our hearts…it is all the same.
If we are in Christ, we all have the same story, void of culture…sinners saved by grace, striving for the kingdom come that is not yet…resting in the kingdom come that is already here, working together for His glory, to make Him known, to love people well.
Camille and I (and you and the persecuted believer sister in Sudan, the praying-eyes-wide-open brother we have in Korea, the Christ-follower next door, next country, next continent), we’re foreign missionaries together, kingdom children of the one true Father, this world not our home.
And remembering that is so vital. It sees through straw huts and strange clothes and weird foods and language struggles and skin colors and different upbringings and crazy pasts and cultures and instead remembers that He alone is God, that we are each made in His image, and that He is why. and how. and who.
So. Meet my brother Camille.
He is your brother, too.
My mother and father are both Christians, and from the very beginning, all of us kids (I have three sisters and a brother) grew up in church. Everytime the church was open, we were there. My dad drove a bus for a school, and my mom was a seamstress. When I was about 10 years old, my father spoke to me about my relationship with Jesus, and explained to me that even though we were a family of believers, I still needed to decide for myself, and still needed Christ’s salvation for my sins and life. He prayed with me that day and I was so happy to be a true believer.
From the time I was small, every Monday night there was a prayer group, a small group, that meets in my house. My father always leads this group, and one day when I was 14 or 15, the member who was going to share a short devotional thought from Scripture wasn’t there. My father asked me if I would like to share something from my personal time in the Bible.
I shared for a few minutes about what I was learning, and after that I made sure I was always ready to share what God was teaching me. In my Sunday school class, later in youth group, some Monday nights, and even sometimes in special services at church, I started having opportunities to share the Gospel, and people started asking me to more and more.
Around the same time, there was a series of spiritual attacks happening in my community, and one after another, several small children were killed in a matter of months. I remembering feeling SO burdened, and everyone talked about the demonic attacks as if there was nothing to be done. I started a small prayer group then, made up of other children and youth, and we focused all our prayers on the protection of the children in our community, that God would be powerful and protect them against all spiritual attacks, and he HAS.
In 6th grade, one night I had this dream, in which a person appeared to me holding out a Bible, and told me to take it. I held the Bible, and the person told me to take it everywhere.
Then, I entered high school, and I was thinking about going into farming. In fact, I even studied a semester of agriculture, and while I was doing that, a pastor friend of mine came to me and said, “Hey, what are you doing? I see that you have a vocation, I see that God is calling you into His work full-time. Why are you studying this when you should be studying God’s Word?”
At the same time, I had been getting really sick at school, and finally in January, instead of starting a second semester I was forced to come home because I was so sick. While I was recovering, I spent a lot of time asking God about this, and about whether He truly did have a call on my life to be preaching the Gospel. One night, I had that same dream again, in which the same person came to me, but this time I was already holding the Bible. “Are you taking it everywhere?” they asked me. “It’s time to take it everywhere.”
Another friend came to me, and he said, “Look, you’ve got to get studying. God’s got a plan for you to share the Gospel throughout Haiti, and it’s time to start. There’s only two places you can go. I want you to go and visit them both, and then tell me where you’re going.
So I went to Limbay and visited and asked questions, and I came to Emmaus and did the same, and I knew that Emmaus was where I wanted to be. I started in August of 2016, and right away, I knew God was calling me to EBS so that I can fulfill His calling for me to take His Word throughout Haiti.
I loved the preaching class. Even though I’ve been sharing lessons and the Gospel for a long time, there are so many ways to do this better and more effectively, and that class is teaching me that. I also loved my Intro to the Old Testament class. The Old Testament is rarely preached from in Haiti because many people don’t understand it or feel that it is old truth, but not for today. My Intro to OT class showed me how the Gospel is entwined throughout the whole Bible, and how.
I still live with my parents in my home, and I still work in the same church I grew up in. I still teach every Monday night at our small group, I still lead youth in praying for our children and youth, and I help lead services now and teach a Sunday School class in my church.
I really feel I’m supposed to share the Word everywhere. I guess I’m an evangelist!
Please pray for me, that I might persevere and be well-equipped for this calling He’s given me.
Collecting the stories of our students is the part of my job that most forces me to count my blessings. I say “force”, but to be fair, their stories bring gratefulness upon me effortlessly.
I am just so thankful of God’s gracious pursuit of us.
There might be lots of differences. I may have no dreams or witchdoctors or prophets in mine, like many in other parts of the world do. But each story captures the same image that is resounding in mine: Jesus with his arms outstretched in great love, in great sacrifice, waiting and ready and alive and well, from before we were born until today.
When there was NOTHING good, He was there. When everything was incredibly broken, He waited and met and healed. When there was nobody, there was Jesus. When there was no good plan, there was His. When the cycle of self and sin and death and destruction was begged to be broken, He broke in, Mighty.
Short of this amazing truth, I just don’t now how in the world Kervens and his scrawny, beautiful self is with us today.
Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save.
Meet Kervens, and rejoice with me.
When I was a child, I was born into a non-Christian family who didn’t know God at all. My mother and father were two people who fell in love, but my father was already married to another woman and had children with her. My mom became pregnant with me, gave me to her parents as soon as I was born and left, and she and my father split up.
So I grew up in Au-Bois, calling my grandmother and grandfather mother and father. My grandfather was a witchdoctor, and many of my aunts and uncles also lived there. They paid for me to go to school, and everything else I learned was with them.
In 2009, my grandfather died, and as soon as he did, people from the local church were always coming to our house to talk to my grandmother and aunts about Jesus. My grandfather would never let them do that before. Men and women were always coming, asking to pray for our family, telling us about following Jesus, telling us about sin, telling us about salvation, about heaven.
And every single time they left, even though they weren’t ever talking to me, I thought about everything they were saying, and thought about how I wanted to do that…how I wanted to follow Jesus.
In 2010, I finished middle school, and there were almost no schooling options in the village where I was. So, my grandma sent me to Cap-Haitien to finish my schooling, and I moved in with my father and his wife. That was a really awful time in life, things were really rough in that house. I did seventh grade, but at the end of the year, I went back to Au-Bois to live with my grandma and aunts and uncles, and my mom had moved back in, too. There was a big crusade going on in the church next to my grandfather’s temple, and it was a Saturday, on July 17, 2010, that I was on a truck on the way back to Au-Bois, alone, and I said this to myself:
“I’m done. There is nothing good for me in this life. When I get home, I will borrow a pair of pants from my friend, and I am going to that crusade, and I’m going to turn away from the life of my grandfather, from the life of my father, from the life of my family, and I’m going to follow Jesus.”
I got home, put on the one white t-shirt I had, borrowed pants from my friend, and did just that.
I came straight home after the crusade and told the whole family about my new life in Christ, and nobody fought me. And since then, there have even been people in my family who converted.
Once, my aunt gave her life to Jesus, but after a few months, she returned to voodoo, saying the demons of my grandfather were too strong, and she became a mambo (female witchdoctor) and took over my grandfather’s life and temple. A different time my grandmother repented and converted for a time, but then one of my uncles became ill, and she quickly returned to Satan and took him to a witchdoctor for healing. To this day, I am the only person in my family following God.
I continued school, and in 2013 I had to come back to Cap-Haitien because there were no high schools in our whole area. I stayed with one of my mother’s sisters, and I finished all my schooling. I had this pastor from Cap-Haitien who came to my church in Au-Bois from time to time to preach, and when I moved to Cap-Haitien I found his church and that was where I stayed. That is the church I am still in now.
When I accepted Christ, it was just me. And I thought maybe God could use me, like Paul. Maybe I could bring Jesus to my family. Maybe I could give Jesus in many dark places. I grew and grew in this church, and many people saw I was hungry to know Jesus and the Word more.
I saw that God had shown me a great grace to be in Christ and to stay in Him. While my family flounders and lives in darkness, seeing some light but continually falling away, God gives me grace and strength to remain faithful. And I figured God must have had a reason to give me this grace, to stay in Him. And my church was confirming that.
I was (and still am) a part of a small group, a prayer group for young men coming from several area churches, and the leader was Jopnel, who is a student at Emmaus. When he saw me growing and learning and asking questions, he told me all about EBS, and brought me to visit. Even though my mom is far from Jesus, she helped me find the money to come, and now she helps me all that she can each semester.
Finally, I have a home with believers. I finally live with brothers, with sisters. I’d never touched a computer before, I’d never spoken a word of English, I’d never learned how to study my Bible, I’d never learned how to teach it, how to share it well. I am learning SO much, and I still have SO much to learn, both in class with our teachers, and in the dorm with my brothers, in chapel and at meals with my family.
I don’t know what God’s going to do with me, but I really love to teach others as I am learning, and that really burns in me. I love that. I know God will show me His plan, His good plan, as I grow. I am the secretary of my church now and teach a Sunday School class.
Pray for me. I am young, and I am from a faithless family. Pray that God would hold me firm and faithful. Pray for the people in my family, that they might come to know God.
I do the finances ’cause somebody’s gotta do it. I teach English because it helps me build great relationships with the students. But learning and sharing people’s stories is just my very very favorite.
As I was reading the to the girls tonight about the Israelites, right before Joshua died, our hearts beat faster with the Israelite people as Joshua reminded them about God and Abraham. About God and Isaac. About God and Jacob…and Joseph…and Moses…and.
When the people REMEMBERED the stories, remembered THEIR stories, they were impassioned for God and committed to His commands and inspired for His service.
It was when they forgot, when they spent more time with secular encouragement than inspired encouragement, when they stopped reminding each other of who God was and what God had done, when they wanted what everybody else had more than they wanted the One True God that they fell away. That they disobeyed. That they suffered.
Joshua reminded me how important it is to tell and re-tell and pass down our stories. From Adam on.
I was born into a very poor family, but they sent us to school as best they could. I had two sisters and one brother, and I’m the first born. My family wasn’t a Christian family…we were raised in the Haitian Catholic church and practiced Voodoo, though we weren’t very involved with either. But the family that lived right next door to us was a pastor and his wife and their kids. They were always kind to us and reached out to us kids, and over time, we all came to really love and respect Pastor Clide and his family.
When my little sister was 11, she asked them to please teach her how to follow their Master, and she became a Christian. Not long after her, I asked them the same thing, and she and I grew under their leadership, friendship and at their church. I was nervous about giving Jesus my life because I always felt like there were still things I didn’t understand. But Pastor Clide assured me that even though I didn’t understand everything, I could give Jesus my all, and little by little He would teach me.
Not long after I started following Jesus, my mother came to the Lord. Then my father. And my parents led my other siblings to Jesus. Because of Clide’s family’s faithful testimony in our lives, today my whole immediate family is following Jesus!
After I converted, I was always following Pastor Clide, always asking him questions and wanting to be like him. When I grew up, I wanted to be like him and study like he did, in theology. When I was in high school, I was firmly set on that…and I really grew in my desire to go into theology.
But there was a problem. I had thought through my family’s financial situation. And the difficulty in finding work. And the costs of university. I came to a point of complete despair. No matter how much I wanted to study God’s Word, and live it and give it like Pastor Clide does, there was simply no way it would ever be possible. We had nothing. I was nothing. I knew no one who could help me! I was so depressed.
I was speaking to Pastor Clide about that one day, and he said, “Listen. If you’re desiring to follow God, and you believe God has a call of ministry on your life, then you are looking the wrong places. You are trying to see what your parents can do for you, what your church can do for you, what you can do for you. Instead, look to God. He provides for His calling, He alone is almighty, by His power and by His strength we are to find our hope! This isn’t about our ability, but about HIS. Do you trust Him?”
This new perspective encouraged me greatly.
Pastor Clide went to Emmaus Biblical Seminary, and I wanted to be grounded in the Gospel like he was. So I got together my papers and all my trust and the tiny bit of money I had and I went to Emmaus Biblical Seminary. And with a happy heart I can tell you that I have now completed one semester at Emmaus, and little by little, payment by payment, God has provided for me!
I was also afraid that maybe I wouldn’t have the mental capacity to study here, because classes are taught just entirely differently than the norm. But again, I remembered what Pastor Clide said, and realized that this wasn’t about my ability to learn and grow and succeed. This was about God’s ability to help me, to form me.
My favorite class so far was the Christianity and Voodoo class. I did one day at a time, and God helped me so much to grow and to understand and to be surprised by such new perspectives on things I simply always thought. I didn’t have to worry about my capacity, but relied on His ability.
I also loved the preaching class! I teach Sunday school at my church, and help lead the service, and preach every few weeks…the things I learned in that class about how to pray through and develop and deliver a sermon have already been SO helpful in the ministry I’m already doing!
Pray for me, that God would give me the strength to do His work, give me the energy, give me the ability. I know that because of Him, I can do and be whatever He wants me to do and be!