Haitians Are Ministering at the End of the World

As Haiti is uprooted by violence, church leaders treat gunshot wounds, give up homes for strangers, and rescue dignitaries.

Pastor Frederic Nozil has learned to keep his head down.

Last year, the year he turned 53, gangs attacked his neighborhood in Pétion-Ville, a suburb overlooking Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. They ransacked the house Nozil was renting and set it on fire. Nozil moved with his wife and two daughters to a safer community a couple of miles away.

Still, he took few chances. This year, he turned 54 at home, quietly. A few people from his church brought a cake. They stayed no more than an hour. “Parties attract attention,” Nozil said. “You can’t celebrate too much.”

He schedules church activities to wrap up before a mandatory curfew. He will cut a prayer service short if he has a bad feeling about a police vehicle he noticed on the street. Some of his congregation risk their lives crossing gang checkpoints on their way to the church, the Centre Chrétien International Maison d’Adoration, so he knows to expect a smaller turnout.

Ministry looks different, he figures, at the end of the world. “We are living in an eschatological time,” Nozil said.

That’s how it felt in the early hours of March 18. It was a Monday, and the bespectacled minister should have been recovering from the usual slate of Sunday demands. Instead, he shut himself in his home for two days straight as heavy gunfire echoed through the hills.

Gang members in balaclavas wound past Nozil’s neighborhood in cars and motorcycles, ascending the main road into the mountains. They shot automatic weapons and left at least a dozen pedestrians dead in their wake. They stopped in a wealthy enclave called Laboule and laid siege to its walled residences. In one home, security cameras recorded armed young …

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