Missouri Baptists provide aid to Haiti – St. Louis area missionary spearheading the effort
By Bob Baysinger
May 25, 2004
ST. LOUIS – Missouri Baptists and others in the St. Louis area are throwing loads of support behind Charles Chatman’s efforts to feed, clothe and house starving people in Haiti.
Chatman, who formed his own evangelistic association 28 years ago, has been able to transport tons of food and clothing to people in destitute areas of northern Haiti with the help of Ed Watkins, a member of First Baptist Church, Harvester, and owner of the Show Me Believers professional indoor football team here.
First Baptist, where Chatman is also a member, has partnered with the Chatman Evangelistic Association in the Haitian effort.
“We have seen people who are literally starving; people who told us that one-half of their family had died because of no food,” said Chatman, who served as a pastor for 17 years before entering the fields of evangelism and missions.
“We asked the survivors how they had made it, and they told us they first ate the larger animals and then the smaller animals. Then they ate the rodents, the bugs. Some said they had survived on the roots and bark of trees.
“When you see them, talk to them and bring food to them, it leaves an impression that you can never erase.”
Chatman has been sharing those impressions with thousands of Christians in recent years. Many have responded.
“We have taken almost 3,000 short-term mission volunteers to Haiti,” he said. “In the early days it was mostly three-week crusades. Then we began to discover that if we would cut it to two weeks, more could take their vacations and go with us.”
Some miraculous stories have developed out of the mission trips, including the opening of an orphanage for homeless children.
“It wasn’t our intention,” Chatman said, “but we found a couple little orphans on a work site. A Haitian pastor told us that if we could provide enough money for food and clothes, he would take the two children to his house. At the time, the pastor already had five sons and was expecting another baby.
“I never dreamed that the next time I returned to Haiti that the pastor would have 13 children, and 20 the next time and 30 the next time. When the people learned the pastor was taking orphans, he would get up the next morning and find two or three children abandoned on his door step.”
During one of Chatman’s follow-up trips, he saw 30 boys and girls sleeping on a banana-leaf mattress. He said they were stacked like a cord of wood.
“I told the pastor that we had to organize. That’s when we began to raise funds. We first built a girls’ dorm and then a boys’ dorm. Next was a kitchen and dining room. We even built a 20-room, two-story school house.
“Now we have orphan children attending the school, but it’s also open to the whole community. We have children of all types attending. Some are even brought by people who are involved in witchcraft. Every day a Christian teacher opens the class with Bible reading, a devotion and prayer. Every class is taught by a Christian teacher. We maintain between 500 and 600 students in the school.”
The complexity of the political climate in Haiti often makes getting food to the orphans a big obstacle for Chatman and his workers. On the most recent trip to the mission field, the safety of workers as well as food was a problem.
“We had 57 people on the last trip. About two-thirds of the group were in the north when rebels closed the road to Port-A-Prince, the nation’s capital. We finally made arrangements to fly them out. It took three days.”
The mission team continued to hear reports about a political uprising during their stay in Haiti.
“We kept hearing that the rebels were going to close the road to the north, so we decided to get a big load of food out to the orphanage. We bought the food and contracted with a commercial truck to haul it to the orphans. They set out at 4 a.m., but the truck loaded with food dropped out of sight,” Chatman explained.
“What happened was that the truck driver drove off the road and hid the truck when he saw that the road was blocked. Each day he would walk to the soldiers and ask if they would let him through with the food for the orphans. The driver finally was able to talk to the rebel leader. His heart was softened and he not only let the truck through the roadblock but also sent an escort with the truck.
“I felt like it was a real miracle – a testimony of how the Lord is with us, helping us meet the needs of the children.”
The problems encountered by Chatman’s mission team sparked a recent media frenzy in St. Louis. Stories on radio and television and on the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch generated an influx of donations for food.
Chatman was able to return to Haiti three weeks ago with enough money ($27,000) to purchase 55,000 pounds of food. Haitian Baptist pastors have been delivering the food to people in remote villages.
“I’m just praising the Lord for every open door to serve Him,” Chatman said. “We’re trying to impact the poor and needy and starving in Haiti. It is a country right at the back door of the U.S. – the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
“Not one iota of glory belongs to me for what is happening. We give all the praise and glory to the Lord. We’ve seen a lot of significant things happen. People tell me that when we started in 1975, the whole northwest of Haiti was five percent evangelical Christian. Our ministry has been faithful to go back again and again and now the area is more than 50 percent evangelical Christian.”
Missouri Baptists who would like to support Chatman’s evangelistic efforts in Haiti can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Chatman at 314-355-5444.
“We’re trying every way possible to communicate the love and good news of Jesus Christ to the people of Haiti,” Chatman said. “I believe it is difficult for people in a very needy land to understand the love of Christ unless it is demonstrated to them. It’s hard to understand on an empty stomach when the truth is preached.
“They begin to see His love when we give them food, and it becomes easier and easier for them to embrace our Savior. We are seeing some dramatic turnarounds in some of those villages.”
He said men and women who go on mission trips to Haiti also return home changed.
“I couldn’t begin to tell you how many mission volunteers have returned home and been elected to mission committees of their churches,” he said. “They return home on fire for missions.”
Chatman said he is also thrilled about changes at the Missouri Baptist Convention.
“I’m excited that God has turned our state Convention around from top to bottom. “We’ve got Bible-believing, doctrinally-conservative men and women in positions leading this Convention,” Chatman said.