Tag Archives: Grace Assembly Network

Haitian pastor, family attacked

By Sheldon C. Good, Mennonite World Review

Pastor Lesly and Bernadette Bertrand
Pastor Lesly and Bernadette Bertrand in the “mother church” of Grace Assembly Network in 2004.

A group of robbers attacked an orphanage in Haiti early on March 19, killing one person and raping another. They injured at least three others, including Mennonite Pastor Lesly Ber­trand.

At about 1 a.m., the robbers jumped over the wall surrounding Grace Children Home located in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, eight miles northeast of Port-au-Prince. They shot and killed the security guard and took his keys.

They then tied up three people — Pastor Bertrand; his wife, Bernadette; and the yardboy — and beat them. The robbers raped the Bertrands’ 14-year-old daughter. They took a cellphone, a laptop and some money.

Bernadette Bertrand and the girl were both hospitalized overnight. They are now receiving medical attention at home.

Esaie Bertrand, a son of the family, said in an email March 20 that the orphan children “are doing well.”

In addition to the orphanage, Assemblée de la Grâce (Grace Assembly Network) consists of 25 congregations with about 2,387 members, and seven schools. There are more than 30 pastors.

Pastor Bertrand is bishop of Assemblée de la Grâce, which is a partner in mission of Franconia Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA. He has invited prayers for the situation.

Walter Sawatzky of Hatfield, Pa., a consultant with Wozo, an organization that runs a trauma-healing program in Haiti, said that Garly Michel, executive director of Wozo, planned to meet with Pastor Bertrand.

Wozo is an adaptation of Eastern Mennonite University’s Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience program. The Haitian program began in October 2010 with funds from six denominations and organizations, including Mennonite Central Committee and the Church of the Brethren.

Sawatzky said the Bertrands and the orphanage are victims of a broader trend of violence and insecurity in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.

“The pattern I’ve seen is that the robbers will observe when there’s been contact with international people,” he said. “After the visit is done, they assume [the foreigners] left some money or that the Haitians have access to money, so they kidnap people or try to rob them.”

This is not the first time Grace Assembly Network has been targeted. In 2006 several gunmen came into the “mother church” of Grace Assembly Network and shot and killed a church deacon, severely wounded the worship leader and injured several others.

The intruders “promised to come back and kill Pastor Lesly,” Sawatzky said.

At the time, Bertrand and his family lived near the church. They later moved across town.

“Foreigners are given a wide berth when it comes to street violence or even home invasions,” he said. “The sad thing is that the average Haitian is far more vulnerable to this kind of violence, because they lack the foreigners’ greater visibility, and therefore, protection by the global community represented through occupying U.N. security forces deployed in Haiti since 1994.”

Gay Brunt Miller, who relates to Assemblée de la Grâce for Franconia Conference, said at least three conference congregations are taking special offerings for costs associated with the situation, including for the security guard’s funeral. An offering was taken at a Sister Care seminar of Mennonite Women USA held March 23-24 in Souderton, Pa.

“This incident makes me heartsick,” she said. “Please pray for Pastor Lesly and all those impacted by this brutal violation. Pray that God will heal their minds, bodies and souls, and give them courage so that they may continue to shine God’s light in Haiti.”

Gifts can be sent through Franconia Mennonite Conference, 569 Yoder Road, Harleysville, PA 19438.  Please mark your check “Haiti.”  Article reprinted by permission of Mennonite World Review.

Haitian leader marks date of earthquake and requests ongoing prayer

–a note from Lesly Bertrand, lead pastor, Grace Assembly Network, Haiti

January 12, 2011 makes one year since Haiti has been hit by a 7.5 earthquake at 4:53pm lasting for 35 seconds. About 30% of the country has been destroyed, nearly 300,000 people have been killed, 1.5 million are homeless and 800,000 have been disabled. Fifty hospitals and 1500 school buildings have been destroyed. During this tragedy, the whole world did not leave us alone. People from every nation came to help us in the way that they were able. Through my voice and on behalf of the Haitian people, I want to thank everyone who has given hands to us. Two things, I would like to ask you—first would it be possible to take two minutes to pray for the Haitian nation as we mark this day and ask God to watch us with an eye of mercy but not with an eye of judgment. Second, would you continue to give hands to us to rebuild what has been destroyed? Thank you and may God bless the nation of Haiti.

After the earthquake: Working to bring healing and hope to Haiti

Jessica Walter, Ambler

some-of-orphans-at-orphanag-copy.jpgIn the weeks and months following the massive earthquake sustained by Haiti in January, Franconia Conference continues to collect funds to assist the Grace Assembly Network congregations in the rebuilding and reconstruction following the Haiti earthquake.

In the days following the earthquake, communication with key Grace Assembly Network leader, Pastor Lesly Bertrand, was limited, but phone calls and a visit form Mennonite Central Committee staff assured the conference of his and his family’s well-being.

Many also waited anxiously for word from the 27 member team from Souderton (Pa.) Mennonite Church who traveled to Haiti for a week long service trip with the Water for Life program located in Passe bois d’orme and the Tree of Life program in La Baleine, Haiti. The team was escorted to safety after the intial earthquake and, in the days that followed, was able to provide some medical relief in a small makeshift refugee village in Cote de Fer. The team returned to Pennsylvania safely on January 18, after an only a few days extension.

“I will never forget arriving in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake and going through the city,” reflected Christopher Dock Mennonite High School senior, Jordan Miller, during a sharing time at Souderton Mennonite. “When the earthquake struck on Tuesday, we had no idea of the magnitude of the situation. It never really hit me until we went back through Port-au-Prince and saw the same places. The destruction was terrible and it was hard to see the fairness of the earthquake happening to an already poor nation. Many of the Haitians in Passe bois d’orme were still praising God with the same vigor after the earthquake, which was really impacting. Their relationship with God was amazing and it gave me a new sense of how to worship. I like to think I have faith in God, but you never really know until it is put to the test, like it was for the Haitians who had lost family and friends, and had little reason to keep on praising God. They did anyway.”

Pastors Aaron Durso and Curt Malizzi from the Hopewell Network of Churches set out to Port-au-Prince on January 22 to learn more about the earthquake’s effects on Grace Assembly Network’s congregations and ministries. Franconia Conference sent a satellite phone with the pastors, to be delivered to Pastor Lesly to help establish more regular contact. The phone was intended to empower Pastor Lesly in his work and ministry by opening doors for conversation that would allow movement of goods and lifting of spirits as the recovery continues in Port-au-Prince.

section-of-security-wall-co-copy.jpgFrom Curt Malizzi . . . “On Saturday, January 23, we toured the site of the Grace Assembly Network orphanage and found the building to be perfectly preserved, but the perimeter security walls had two large sections fallen down and some additional walls leaning.”

To our surprise, as we arrived at the orphanage, a truck of donated food supplies arrived from the Mennonite congregations of the Dominican Republic coordinated through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). There was much joy in the area and a first food distribution was held for the area people.”

The well at the orphanage keeps running every day to supply water to around 2,000 people. The orphanage is in the Bellanton area which is about 18km northeast of Port au Prince. In the Bellanton area I estimate that about 25% (1 of every 4) of the houses have been demolished or seriously damaged by the earthquake. The Bellanton church building and school suffered much damage, but the Christian believers showed they are staying strong in the Lord with a wonderful celebration of praise on Sunday morning attended by us and the MCC delegation. Thanks to Franconia Conference, a satellite phone was temporarily provided for Pastor Lesly to maintain outside the nation contacts until the cell phone towers began working again.”

The immediate needs are to help reconstruct the security walls and reoccupy the orphanage, then to reconstruct some of the church buildings and pastors’ houses. We appreciate and thoughts and prayers for the people of Haiti and especially the 1,500 people of the Grace Assemblies churches in Haiti.”

Mennonite Central Committee continues to partner with Grace Assembly to bring healing and hope to Haiti. Another shipment of canned meat was distributed by Grace Assembly Network through MCC in early February.

Congregations and individuals from across Franconia Conference continue to be involved in providing relief and support to Haiti.

Franconia Conference gathered funding to support Dr. James Conrad, of Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, in joining a medical team to Haiti coordinated by Virginia Mennonite Missions and MCC. The Souderton congregation has raised support for Haiti through collecting offerings, four person (or larger) tents, relief kits and bedding for MCC and holding a benefit concert on March 20th.

The earthquake halted the distribution of 3.1 million deworming pills delivered to Haiti by the Worm Project but the pills are now being administered again. During this time of limited clean water and food resources parasite removal is crucial. The Worm Project is now preparing to ship three million more pills to Haiti. For more information contact Claude Good at cgood@franconiaconference.org.

MCC continues to post regular updates on their relief efforts in Haiti, including their work with Grace Assembly Network. To get the most updated information visit www.mcc.org.

Franconia Conference continues to actively solicit contributions toward the ministry of Grace Assembly Network in this critical time for our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

Pastor Lesly Bertrand reflects on strong faith of Haitians in MCC Podcast

Pastor Lesly Bertrand, pastor of Assemblée de la Grace Mennonite Church (Grace Assembly Network) in Haiti, speaks about the strong faith of his congregation and many Haitians. Yet their practical needs are many. MCC and Mennonites from the Dominican Republic are helping to meet their needs.

Strong in Faith (click to listen)
Running time: 3:29