International Missionary Fellowship - Foundations

When God Speaks

In the early 1970's, Tom Northen had an established missionary work in Jamaica. He had come to Haiti on a visit to share about his work and network with some folks in Port au Prince. When the presentation was finished, he was offered the use of a vehicle and a driver / translator's services. The only person he knew was a pastor from Jamaica, who had started a church in a little village in Northwest Haiti called Creve, which was several hours away from Port au Prince. To get to Creve one must pass through Bombardopolis.

As they arrived in Bombardopolis it was raining so heavily that the roads were impassable and they could not continue. They found shelter in a small community church that was having a prayer meeting that evening. Several individuals offered prayers. There was one lady in particular, Mme Davilus, who made an impression. She prayed long and she prayed hard and she prayed with fervor. Through the interpreter Tom was able to find out that in her prayer, paraphrased here, Mme Davilus was asking God, "Please send a Christian missionary to start a hospital here in Bombardopolis. Lord, you have sent people here with your message of salvation, and many of us have received it with gladness, but those of us who have do not have anywhere to go when we are sick. We have left the ways of the Boca (witchdoctor) behind and need to see your hand move in this. We need a hospital run by Christians." The astounding thing was that she had been praying essentially the same prayer for 30 years. Thirty years.

Realize that Tom had no intention of stopping in Bombardopolis. Had it been a sunny day, this encounter would likely never have happened. Through this providential meeting, he felt the not so subtle leading of God to begin that hospital and, soon after, moved his focus from Jamaica to Bombardopolis, birthing what would become Hopital Evangelique. Over many years of struggle and reward and frustration and victory and grace and provision, Hopital Evangelique has provided care to some of the poorest people on the planet in Jesus' name. Among other methods, God uses saintly women and tropical downpours as a means to get His point across. During the past 40+ years, the ministry that began as a result of this providential encounter has touched tens of thousands of lives and continues to do so. We pray the we remain open to His communication to us.

Missing Jean

It is interesting how you can think you know somebody pretty well and find out that the extent to which you did in fact know them was actually quite limited, tunnel vision I guess. I have known Jean Northen for 12 or so years. To me, she was always defined in relation to her work for the Lord, in and for the people of Haiti. In the last few days I have come to see who Jean was a bit more completely, though I am sure that my vision is still quite limited.

Many of us know that she often, maybe even usually, had guests in her home. Some people needed a place to stay briefly while in town for a specific time. Many needed help while transitioning to or from a career or relationship. Jean was very active in her church. Never seeking recognition or reward, she sought only to serve, to be Jesus' hands, feet and shoulder.

Jean was one of eleven siblings, all who were able were at her funeral. Jean was a friend. There were hundreds at her funeral giving testimony to how she had quietly but positively touched their lives. Jean was a mom, a grandmother, an aunt. The love and respect that her family had for her was so evident, so real. This was an aspect of her that I had overlooked with my tunnel vision.

Jean has touched more lives in her humility than most ever will. Easily tens of thousands of folks in Haiti have been touched through her quiet obedience to Christ. Her influence on lives weaves together a tapestry whose pattern and coverage we will not know until we get home. Our knowledge of her impact was surely not important to Jean, she wanted only to share the love of her Savior in the hope that more would come to a saving knowledge of Him and into a deeper knowledge of Him.

Though I have come to find that Jean had a full life apart from the work she and Tom began in Haiti all those years ago, it is still that work through which she has had the biggest impact on my life. Through her quiet (and oh yes, persistent) encouragement to Sharon and me to go to Haiti, our lives were changed. Being involved in the continuation of the work she started has become a large part of the definition of our lives. I have seen Jean weather trials with grace. I have disagreed with Jean. I have been frustrated by Jean, and I have been a frustration to Jean.

I am here to say that my life, among thousands, is immeasurably better for the impact that Jean had on it, and I thank her for it. Jean affected not only my today but my eternity. She deserves the rest that is hers now.
- Dan

When writers of scripture quote writers of scripture we probably do well to pay particular attention. Isaiah 28:16 states that God is laying a costly cornerstone, firmly placed, and that all who believe in it will not be disturbed. Peter recognizes that Jesus Christ is this cornerstone. While being interrogated by the high priest, Peter, in Acts 4:11, identifies Jesus as the cornerstone who was rejected by them. He again quotes Isaiah in the second chapter of I Peter, identifying Jesus as the foundation of all who place their trust in Him. So, we see that Jesus is the foundation of our faith and so the focus of our new lives.

Sounds theological but what does that mean? A foundation is meant to be built upon. Since Jesus is our foundation, we must be connected to Him, we must seek His will to make it our own. Of course, we do this mainly through reading the Bible and through prayer. Jesus says in Mark 11:22-24 that if we have faith, we can move mountains and if we have faith that God answers our prayers, He will.

As we consider the beginnings of IMF, we certainly are thankful to Tom & Jean Northen for building the mission. Without their willingness to take God's will as their own, Hospital Evangelique would not have had its beginning. But it is evident that the laying of the foundation began thirty years before they were even aware that there was a place called Bombardopolis. As Paul says in I Corinthians 3:6 and elsewhere - Kingdom work is teamwork. We are grateful to be able to partner with you and continue to build upon the foundation of faithful prayer that brought Hopital Evangelique into being over forty years ago, a prayer that began thirty years before that, to a Savior who has always been.