Dr. J. L. Williams was an evangelist and teacher who traveled around the world in apostolic ministry as God led and enabled him. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, he mentored key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures. He was relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships. J. L. went home to be with the Lord on December 28, 2016.
One of the most intriguing verses to me in the New Testament is found in Paul’s brief “P.S.” at the end of his Philippian Letter. He says this: “All the saints greet you, especially those in Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22). This provokes the obvious question: “How in the world did we get saints inside of Caesar’s household?” By Paul being arrested, that’s how.
Writing from a prison cell, Paul started this little letter by assuring the Christians who were praying for him that God was absolutely in control. “Now I want you to know brethren,” wrote Paul, “that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel. As a result, it has become clear through the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (Phil. 1:12-14).
Even though Paul was in chains—the Word of God was not. In fact, God was using those very chains to directly connect Paul to Caesar’s household. That’s because the very “Palace Guard” that Paul was chained to for hours each day were really his prisoners! He had a “captive audience” to share Jesus with two at a time as they guarded him 24/7. Some obviously were converted. And eventually those same guards would rotate out into Caesar’s household for guard duty with the royal family. As a result, some in Caesar’s household also heard the Gospel of Christ and accepted the Lord. And in the process, some of them also became believers to the degree that Paul sent special greetings from the “…saints in Caesar’s household!” Truly the purposes of our sovereign God cannot be thwarted by any circumstances of life—whether arrest, imprisonment, persecution or death.
Because God is the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8), He continues to infiltrate the various political realms and regimes of governments around the world. And one of the places He is mightily doing that is in Haiti from where I have just returned. If you read my last email entitled “Easter…Outside the Gate,” you know about my time in Haiti for Holy Week. I am especially thankful to all of you who prayed for me during that time.It was definitely one of the most diverse and demanding times I have spent in Haiti in the 40 years I have been ministering there
. The “P.S” at the end of this report will explain why.
The primary focus of my being in Haiti was to preach alongside my dear friend, Pastor Chavannes Jeunes, in a number of special Easter Services. At the same time we also conducted several major Bible distributions among various government groups. This is an on-going project to help him fulfill his vision of putting a Bible in the hands of the more than 100,000 government workers all over Haiti – from the highest to lowest elected officials. He has already presented leather Bibles to the President, Prime Minister and top Cabinet Officials with their names embossed in gold leaf. Now by God’s grace, we are already well past the 25,000 mark in this strategic and historic Bible distribution.
It is my prayer that you will indeed be blessed and encouraged by what your prayers and partnership made possible in Haiti over Easter. The following pictures and captions will give you a brief overview of some of the highlights of my “Easter…Outside the Gate.”
The Residence & Office of the Prime Minister where we held our first Easter Services during Holy Week.
Because of the favor God has given him, Pastor Chavannes organizes and presides over all of these political outreaches in the Haiti White House and other Executive Branches of Government. He is basically acting as the Christian chaplain to all of the government officials – an unprecedented open door in a country dominated by 200 years of voodoo.
Since it was Maundy Thursday, I spoke on “Christ’s Servant Leadership” as demonstrated through his washing of the disciples’ feet (Jn. 13).
No one can sing like the Haitians! I wish you could have heard the Prime Minister’s Residency reverberating with enthusiastic singing of hymns in Creole!
What a blessing to hear prayers being lifted to God along with raised hands in praise in this Official Residency. And we were surrounded by everyone from the office workers, security guards, kitchen help and cooks – all praising the Lord. This is just the way Caesar’s household was infiltrated with the Gospel in the First Century
After our ministry at the Prime Minister’s Office we did a Bible distribution to all of the employees of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs
Pastor Chavannes distributing Bibles to the heads of the departments
The Director of Women’s Affairs thanks Pastor Chavannes for the Bibles. She is a believer who was reading her Bible when we arrived—another “saint in Caesar’s Haiti household.”
Our next Bible distribution was in the City of Gonaives 4 hours north of Port-au-Prince over bone-crushing dusty roads
The focus of our Bible distribution in Gonaives was to the entire Police Headquarters of that city and district.
Chavannes prepares to give out Bibles under the watchful eye of UN soldiers—who were Muslims from Pakistan! And they too asked for Bibles which we gave them – another totally unexpected sovereign serendipity!
Chavannes signs Bibles for all of the senior police and military staff.
There is no Bible distribution without a sermon by Chavannes on the importance of the Bible. Each time he quoted how President George Washington said that the two things that were absolutely necessary for his presidency were prayer and the Bible. So Chavannes always stressed to them the importance of not only receiving a Bible—but studying and applying it to their careers.
The eagerness to receive a personal Bible was amazing! You would have thought we were handing out gold bricks! Not a single person refused to receive a Bible. Most wanted more than one so they could share it with a family member or friend – but we could only give one per person because of our limited supply.
One of the top UN Officers reading his first personal Bible in French. Chavannes said he has recently received over 30 phone calls from different political officials thanking him for the Bibles distributed in their department. But there was one complaint. They said that their workers now just want to read their Bibles on the job and not do their work!
Chavannes with two of the security officers who escorted us everywhere we went.
Commissaire Godson Orelus is the top police official of this region with hundreds of policemen under him. He was our host while we were in Gonaives—and the first recipient of a Bible. After Chavannes did a similar Bible distribution to the police force in Cape Haitian, the Captain called him and asked for him to send someone to lead a weekly Bible Study for all of the force. They said they would be willing to come to work an hour early for someone to lead them in a Bible Study!
My personal “body guards” while in Gonaives who made me feel very secure. However, I often tell people that I have a personal security guard of three – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who provide all the security I will ever need! Protected by the Holy Trinity, I believe I am invincible until they are through with me. Then nothing can stop them from taking me home in their time and way.
A group picture of some of the top policemen and UN officers with Chavannes after receiving their Bibles.
Pray for policemen and soldiers like this who now have their own personal copy of God’s Word that they would let it transform their lives according to Rom. 12:1-2.
There is nothing more potentially transformational than the Word of God in a person’s hands and heart. Through the centuries God’s Word has positively transformed more lives than all of the religions, philosophies and ideologies of man combined.
It was an unexpected joy to meet a UN officer from Nigeria, Africa, serving in Haiti. He was a passionate Believer in Christ who had already planted a church in Gonaives while stationed there. He also has a ministry in the local prison and was asking us for many more Bibles to give out.
Pray for this Nigerian brother as we seek for ways that Chavannes and I can support him in his ministry in the Gonaives region.
As we drove back and forth from Gonaives, we went through several of the lingering strongholds of voodoo in Haiti. Every Easter is the season for
“Ra-Ra” which is the equivalent of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
We drove through over a dozen Ra-Ras composed of thousands of people dancing, frothing and frolickng in the streets. These are generally very licentious affairs lasting all day and most of the night.
The Ra-Ras are filled with festively dressed women with various colors that are associated with the many different spirits in the pantheon of voodoo spirits. A sensuous seduction of the spirits by the women is part of these voodoo festivals until they are inhabited or possessed by these demon spirits.
The Ra-Ra revelers curiously peered into our car as we slowly drove through the pulsating crowd. We could certainly sense the pervasive spiritual darkness that hovered over these voodoo worshipers.
The combination of pulsating voodoo drums, horns, whistles, bells and cracking whips made for quite a cacophony of sights and sounds—all mixed with liberal doses of cheap wine, beer and liquor. By night fall these Ra-Ras become very licentious affairs that do anything but celebrate the true meaning of Easter. Being among the Ra-Ra revelers reminded me of the many years I spent on the beaches of North and South Carolina during Easter and Spring break when American young people were basically doing the same thing! So it shows you the devil has a satanic diversion for every Holy Day in the Christian calendar. He will do anything to deflect, darken, drunken and deaden people’s minds to the degree that they lose all consciousness of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus!
On Easter Friday we had another major Bible distribution with over 200 elected officials from the Western region of Haiti. This was again organized by Pastor Chavannes.
Before we distributed Bibles, I taught a seminar on Christ’s Model of Leadership.
They were a very attentive and receptive audience and took a lot of notes and have requested copies of my books on leadership .
As always, Chavannes gave a solid teaching on the priority of the Word before distributing the Bibles to everyone.
Chavannes passionately challenged them to put the principles of God’s Word at the center of their official duties as the only hope for bringing lasting change in Haiti.
One of Chavannes assistants preparing to help us hand out Bibles to everyone.
A local official obviously thrilled with his first very own personal Bible.
It was a joy to sign as many Bibles as possible – along with a special reference like Joshua 1:8.
It was my joy to preach at the down-town plaza, or “Champ-de-Mars,” for the Easter sunrise service. It was sponsored by all of the major ministerial fellowships of Haiti. I preached on “The People Jesus Appeared To After His Resurrection.” Namely the one who had been defiled…the one who had denied…the ones who had been disillusioned…the one who had doubted…the one who had been deceived – or to people just like you and me!
The sunrise service was carried live on the 3 major local TV stations as well as the 5 major radio stations. So the message went out all over Haiti as well as among the Diaspora in America, Canada and France. As I preached and Chavannes translated, I remembered that I first ministered at that same plaza back in 1968 with the New Directions Singing Group. It is also where we had the “Haiti At The Cross” event in 2006 with Joe White. God has been so faithful to consistently expand our ministry in Haiti through the years for His glory.
After we finished the sunrise service at the Plaza, we drove over 3 hours south through winding mountains to the City of Jacmel for another special Easter Sunday Morning Service. There I preached on the “First Easter Message” proclaimed by the angel to the women at the empty tomb: “Come, See, Go, Tell.” After a quick dinner of Creole chicken and Haitian beans and rice – my favorite, we drove back to Port-au-Prince. There we changed cars because of mechanical problems and headed 3 hours north to Verrettes for our final service on Easter evening. As we drove there, we again went through a number of Ra-Ras who where in their final hours of drunken revelry before the close of Easter weekend. This caused us to be nearly 2 hours late for the outdoor crusade. But when we got to the town of Verrettes, there were no Ra-Ras because of the strength of the churches that have rooted them out. A large crowd of several thousand people were awaiting us for a “Resurrection Ra-Ra” to close our Easter weekend. Pastor Chavannes did his usual passionate job of preaching the Gospel and sharing the true meaning of Easter – perched atop a large truck.
Even though the hour was late the crowd was enthusiastic and attentive.
Many of the people in the crowd like this sister were wearing T-shirts saying: “The Devil is the problem…Jesus is the Answer!”
The joy on this woman’s face says it all! To see this kind of liberation from the darkness and superstition of voodoo makes every trip to Haiti such a blessing.
As I hope you can see from this report, God is mightily building His church and expanding His Kingdom in Haiti. And you are a vital part of all we are doing there through your prayers and partnership. The response to this historic Bible distribution among political people has been far greater than Chavannes or I could ever have imagined. Please take another moment or two to read this recent report that Chavannes sent me about the importance of this project and its historical background going back to 1990.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ‘BIBLE FOR HAITI’ PROJECT:
In general the Haitian people are very religious. That statement is not necessarily true for the people in power. In fact for a long time our churches leaders have taught us that evangelical Christians should not participate in the active political life of the country. It was considered a disdain in the church for an evangelical Christian to run for a political office or be nominated at a high post. I first realized that when I have the honor and privilege to represent the Protestant Sector in the Provisional Government led by Mrs. Ertha PASCAL-TROUILLOT in 1990. It was the first time that an evangelical Pastor was elevated at such a high political post. As the only Pastor in the Provisional Government, I quickly realized that I had a golden opportunity that I could not miss. I wanted then to mark my passage in the National Palace by my conduct, my attitude and by some concrete actions. I figured the best way to do that was by introducing and instituting prayer meetings at the National Palace and by putting God’s Word (The Bible) into the hands of the highest officials in the Government. With God’s guidance and wisdom I handed the first Bibles to Mrs. PASCAL_TROUILLOT and to 17 Army Generals who did not know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior at that time.
Stunning Results: a) The first democratic elections ever held in Haiti in 1990 were held by that Team! b) Today Mrs. PASCAL-TROUILLOT, the ex-president of the provisional government and 5 of the 17 Army General have accepted Jesus as their Personal Lord and Savior, they are all active members and leaders of local churches and model Christians in the Christian community.
Based on the above results, I am convinced that if I can use my influence with the actual Government officials to hand each and every high official a Bible, I know that God’s Word can change lives and give directions. The country of Haiti can expect to see a new generation of political God fearing leaders and better handling and management in government. As I am writing this, the actual President, Prime Minister and his 18 Ministers, the National Director of Police and the President of the Supreme Court, are just a few officials who have already received their own Bible from this project. We still have a long way to go. Once the dream of putting a Bible into the hands of every elected and nominated official is realized, we, as their Christian brothers and sisters, must continue to pray for them. The rest and the future of Haiti are in God’s hands!
March 17, 2008
Pasteur Jean Chavannes JEUNE
Evangelist, Ex-Candidate for President of Haiti
President of the Political Party “UNION”
After reaching about 25% of our goal of putting a Bible in the hand of every political official in Haiti, the response has been absolutely overwhelming. Now more and more of these people who have received Bibles are asking for follow up Bible Studies on a regular basis. They want to be taught how to read and understand this Bible they have been given. So Chavannes has asked me to return to Haiti this fall for a major seminar for these government officials on “How To Study The Bible.” We hope to give each of them a copy of my book by that title. After that historic seminar we will hold another Leadership Conference for around 500 pastors and key leaders from across Haiti. So we need your continued prayers and financial support for these on-going initiatives in Haiti. With your help we will see more and more “saints in Caesar’s household” in what continues to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere as well as one of the most difficult missiological challenges in the entire world!
Still “fighting the good fight of the faith” in Haiti,
PS: The very day I landed in Haiti I sensed that something was amiss in my body. But then at 66 that is not to be unexpected! But with each passing day I sensed more fatigue than is normal for me—even in Haiti under the extreme schedule we had undertaken. Next I noticed a rash beginning to break out on my chest. I first thought it was bed bugs! Then it spread under my arms and around my back. Blisters begin to arise that made the touch of any clothing excruciating—especially in the hot and humid weather of Haiti. But I had to keep reaching deep in the Lord for the strength to fulfill all of my commitments with Pastor Chavannes. Because of the prayers of friends like you, I made it through. As I traveled home on Easter Monday I still had no idea of what was wrong. When I got home that night and showed Patt the rash she said: “It looks like Shingles!” Sure enough, that was what it was. By now I was more than 5 days into it and the pain was increasing hourly. I immediately went on some strong antibiotics that have helped greatly. However, the recovery will be slower than I would like. But to try and avoid permanent nerve damage I must stay in the country and try and take it a bit slower for the rest of the month of April. So I do covet your prayer as I down-shift to a bit slower pace. For those who know me personally, you know how hard that will be since I am generally a rather high-energy, multi-focused person! But Patt is a wonderful “nurse and nagger” to me during these days of convalescence. So I will be using these “down days” to do a lot of writing and finish several books that are almost completed. I covet your prayer for this new physical challenge in my life. Last September it was malaria—this year it is Shingles! But God’s grace is more than sufficient for all things. To Him be the glory!