Craig Culbreth, the director of partnership missions for the Florida Baptist Convention, has been visiting Haiti for the past 12 years and working with the country's more than 1,000 Baptist churches. After his most recent visit, Culbreth spoke with reporter Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra about his work.
Countless churches lost property in the January earthquake. How many new churches have been started since January 12?
Since January, 215 brand-new Baptist churches have been started. None of these churches meet in a building. I wouldn't even call them tents. There are no walls. A piece of plastic has been put up over wood or frames to get them out of the sun and rain.
What are the long-term prospects for these congregations?
Very good. Our plan involves Bible training, working with established pastors for encouragement, and small salary supplements for pastors. We believe everything rises and falls on leadership.
Why should planting new churches be a priority over housing or education?
You have to be on similar tracks that run together. You have to provide for them spiritually, or we've become just another relief agency.
Has there been a net gain in Baptist churches?
Yes. We had 891 before the earthquake, and now we have about 1,105.
Were many people in these congregations previously active in a church?
No, just the opposite, in fact. We are finding many new converts from the earthquake experience. We have records of 162,314 conversions since the earthquake. We believe our new churches are made up of these converts. We are after a relationship with Jesus Christ, not a nation that has religious people.
What are the differences between these new churches and the ones that existed before the quake?
All are under plastic tarps versus fixed buildings ...1