The Business of Ministry in Haiti
He leaned back slowly in his chair into a more relaxed position as I asked him questions about his ministry and his business. Both are things that he loves to talk about because he sees them as gifts from God. They are separate, yet the same.
Pastor Jean-Alix Paul lives in Kenscoff on a beautiful Haitian mountainside overlooking Port-au-Prince. Not only does he pastor multiple churches, but he also is a very successful businessman who works in the import/export business. At first I was fascinated by his ability to juggle two extremely demanding jobs. However, the more I talked to him, the more I saw how closely the two work together.
Jean-Alix’s family has always embodied an entrepreneurial spirit, working hard to earn what they have. In fact they’ve done well enough to send him to school in the United States, a privilege not available to the masses in this fourth-world (least developed) nation. But after a coup occurred in Haiti, Jean-Alix left the comforts of the first world, choosing to follow his heart home, even against the advice of family and friends.
“I knew that God was calling me to the ministry here in Haiti.” He said. “But when I returned to Haiti and started serving in the ministry, it was taking up all of my time—with no pay.”
So what does a poor, starving pastor do? He revived those entrepreneurial roots. Using money saved from other smaller ventures, he bought a shipping container full of whatever food and other goods he could get from the United States. Then he turned around and sold everything directly out of the container itself. No moving it to a storefront or warehouse. His strategy? Just get people there and sell until the container is empty.
Today, Jean-Alix does have a warehouse that he uses as a temporary holding facility for multiple containers so that his six employees can help with the management, sales, and distribution of whatever goods he can bring in for sale in the market.
He strives to offer a good price for all of his buyers, mostly street vendors, so that they can maximize their profit when they turn around and sell the goods to end customers. Jean-Alix believes strongly that you reap what you sow, and he’s more concerned about providing good opportunities for the people of Haiti than he is about padding his own bank account.
But his business is more than just being a good supplier to some struggling street vendors. His business also gives him other opportunities to glorify God.
Jean Alix believes in investing in his employees by paying them well. “I’d rather pay a few people who I trust really well, than to pay lots of people very little and not be able to trust them,” he said. He views his employees as family and works to give them opportunities to better establish themselves with a little financial security—something that’s pretty rare in Haiti.
The business also supports Jean-Alix and his family in the work of the ministry. His income allows him to tithe into the ministry and the work of his churches which often means that people are getting fed, children are getting an education, and community development projects are being established.
In the areas where that he ministers, the church is often the center of community for the people with the tools and resources to help them. And in Jean-Alix’s mind, the help isn’t only material but also spiritual. Because his business thrives, his ministry is able to reach out to the whole person, not just one part or the other.
As I leaned back in my chair pondering the enormity of the work that this man has taken on, he looked me in the eye and said, “If God gives you the vision, He’ll give you the provision. You have to be wise and humble. Give, and don’t worry about control.”
I would say, “God bless you Jean-Alix,” but it’s obvious that He already has.
Images by Scott Wade and Mollie Donovan. Used with permission. Post by Social Media Editor Dan King author of The Unlikely Missionary: From Pew Warmer to Poverty Fighter.