Updated: Oct 16, 2021
pa pi mal — adj., literal translation: “not too bad” in Creole, the heart and home language of Haitians. It can carry the meaning of “okay or pretty good, considering the circumstances.” This phrase is often spoken in Haiti as a response to the question, “How are you?”
Despite what you may have heard, Haiti is a beautiful nation! Anthony and I went to Haiti with Overcomers TV in March 2021, and we are now on board to fly back to the island within the hour!
Our mission on each trip to Haiti is to produce miniature documentaries on Christian ministries for the television show, “Answering the Call,” hosted by Pastor Chuck Reich.
KNOWN FOR PROBLEMS
For the past century, Haiti has been known as one of the world’s poorest nations, despite existing next door on the same island with the prosperous Dominican Republic.
Haiti has been in the news on and off for years due to natural disasters. A few months ago, it appeared briefly in the news when the country’s president was assassinated shortly after refusing vaccines because Haiti has very, very few covid cases. When we were there, we only saw masks when we were at trade day on the Dominican border; the majority of the nation sees covid as either a spiritual curse or the white man’s disease. In general, the nation of Haiti does not struggle with covid.
Right after the president was assassinated (within the same month as four other African nation presidents that refused vaccines), U.S. Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced that a shipment of vaccines was ready to be delivered to Haiti.
Having things forced upon Haiti isn’t new for the nation. After Haiti gained independence from France in the Haitian revolution of 1804, the French returned in 1825 and demanded the impoverished nation pay France the modern equivalent of 21 billion USD for the property and land they had turned into sugar and coffee plantations. This debt kept Haiti enslaved to France until 1947.
Now, thousands of Haitians are crossing the open border to the U.S., as seen in footage scattered across social media.
Now that Haiti is on the world stage and we are preparing to return, I present to you this blog post about our travels to “the most African country outside of Africa.”
OH SO AFRICAN
Craig Bogard, CEO of Aslan Youth Ministries, told me while we rode in a tap-tap (basically a Haitian truck filled with passengers, similar to an Indian rikshaw), that Haiti has retained 100 percent of its African culture. This cultural phenomenon is clear from the African-style music and dancing in the churches, to the way women carry containers of water and other items on their heads, to the cooking styles, and — as is common in non-American countries — the prevalence of soccer among youth who are simply spending time outside.
HEADING TO HAITI
When Chuck Reich, founder of Overcomers TV, invited us on our first trip to Haiti, I was thrilled to travel with Overcomers TV, a powerful media ministry led by an anointed leader who is a mature disciple of Christ. I also was thrilled to travel with my husband, who I am totally crazy about. As we sang to each other at our wedding reception, wherever one of us goes, the other wants to go too.
Also, I was specifically thrilled for the Miami part of the trip. Anthony had been talking about wanting to take me to Miami, and we had received a prophetic word about a “honeymoon in Miami” and divine appointments in the coastal metropolis.
Haiti, however, came out of nowhere.
Most of the few things I’d heard about the country were negative — that it was a place of poverty, that the Clintons lied about doing good things there, and that it was dedicated to Satan and ridden with voodoo.
But with God, there is nothing to fear, and there are plenty of good surprises that come when we roll out that carpet of faith and let God work His wonders. Haiti actually has plenty of beautiful parts that you don’t see on the news, we were abundantly well cared-for, and we saw God move powerfully. The enemy has been defeated, and though the nation had been dedicated to Satan in 1791 and again in 1991, Christian ministries are taking it back for Jesus one soul at a time.
That quote stood out to me and helped encompass the entire trip, from an almost kidnapping of an American on the day of our arrival to Port-Au-Prince, to our team riding in a small six-seater airplane just above the rugged mountains of the Haitian countryside toward the end of our trip.
Though our travels were bookended with exits from our comfort zones, there was plenty of joy and beauty in between and along the way.
At Aslan Youth Ministries, where we stayed in a small building next to the airstrip, we faced minor “first world problems,” such as the lights flickering due to generators going in and out; super-slow and spotty WiFi; showers without warm water; and mosquitoes.
However, as long as our mosquito netting stayed in place, we were free from bites. And speaking of bites, we got our first taste of pickliz, which turned out to be one of my favorite Haitian foods!
It was a short drive from that building to the main ministry site in the rural town of Ouanaminthe, where there was a lovely wooden open-air church and a much-needed water well and medical clinic. It was safe and nice in the rural countryside. In addition to getting to film for Overcomers TV, we got to lead kids worship at the church!
To get to our next ministry site, we had to go through Port-au-Prince. That city was unsafe and not pretty. Most people who travel to Haiti, especially if they are meeting with the embassy or doing political work, only get to see this city, which is unfortunate because it is the worst part of Haiti.
It is common in Port-au-Prince for Americans to be kidnapped for high ransoms. In fact, the day we arrived in the city, an American from the embassy was traveling in an SUV when their vehicle was surrounded by a guerrilla gang of 40 motorcycles, armed with weapons. By God’s grace, the person was able to escape back to the embassy. But it wasn’t the most welcoming news on the day of our arrival!
But on the edge of that dirty city, there is a secret paradise. Hidden behind a tall wall with armed guards is a spiritual and physical oasis. When that huge sliding door opened for us, it was like a door had opened to Narnia.
At the gate to New Life for Kids:
Inside the campus of New Life for Kids:
New Life for Kids Founder Miriam Frederick, a prayer warrior often described as “a cross between Mother Theresa and Indiana Jones” told me (paraphrase), “You thought you came here just to film, but really God brought you here because He wants to touch you in a special way.”
He truly did touch me powerfully at one of their church services on that campus.
Miriam also told me that I was there not only to work on the production crew but also to minister, and that came true as well. Anthony and I led worship for children at her ministry’s school and for teens at the rescue home, where Anthony and Chuck also preached to the teens. Chuck told us that God told him something like, “These cameras are going to get you into places, but really, you’re there to minister.”
Also, Miriam gave Anthony a word about the powerful hand of God upon his life from his grandfather, the original (late) Tony Salerno, who was miraculously healed and transformed after a violent past in the Mafia and a heart condition that gave him only months to live. The man went on to live about 40 more years and lead thousands to the Lord in Italy and the U.S.
Miriam said Anthony carries a powerful mantle upon his life to carry on his grandfather’s ministry.
To listen to the original (late) Tony Salerno share his testimony, click the graphic.
POWERFUL PART OF PORT-AU-PRINCE
After all this dogging on Port-Au-Prince, I must mention that we did have one bright spot in the city: filming at the school of Haitian Christian Outreach. The kids there were more urban, so they posed for photos with peace signs and facial expressions often found on social media. We got some great shots in the school and also on the rooftop.
Anthony said he felt proud of me as he watched me host on camera on the rooftop, where I voiced short segues like, “You’re watching Overcomers TV.” I told him that I felt proud of him as I watched him play the drums inside the sanctuary. My husband can play anything. He qualifies that he’s not excellent at every instrument, but I prefer to believe he can play everything. And whenever he plays an instrument on which he is not an expert, he still has a way of making his playing entertaining. 😊
WILL POST SOON: CLIP MOOSE PLAYING DRUMS
MADE IN THE SHADE
Ahh, Jacmel. Though Instagram very few graphics for Haiti in its “IG story” stickers, there is a reason why it has this delightful gif for Jacmel:
This beach town is the most pleasurable, relaxing part of Haiti.
It was also the scariest part to get to! It makes me think of how when we surrender to Christ, we have to go through the doorway, the narrow road, of death to self. But on the other side, we enter a kingdom of love, joy, peace and righteousness.
In the same way, getting to Jacmel was scary and felt dangerous. The plane was so small, and I had heard of people in planes like this crashing and getting seriously injured. It flew so low to the mountains that I sometimes thought we might scrape the peaks! I spent most of the plane ride repenting of known sins and speaking blessings over my enemies, just in case!
Fortunately, we didn’t die on the way. We arrived safe and sound. And, while we filmed there, as we do on all of these Overcomers TV trips, being in Jacmel also felt like an exotic vacation in a tropical paradise.
The breeze and unpolluted air made it feel like a secluded beach town or Carribean resort. It was nothing fancy, but it was very safe, full of friendly adults and happy children who played and helped their families. And the “rock beach” was gorgeous!
At Jacmel, we continued filming our episode on Haitian Chjristian Outreach and got better acquainted with HCO president-founder RoRo Eustache. What a man! RoRo is originally from Haiti but found strong success in the U.S. as a sought-after speaker, minister and leader in the sphere of medical evangelism. He has received many medals and awards and was even recognized in Christianity Today (https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april/our-april-issue-behind-scenes-haiti-roro.html). RoRo has led thousands to Christ all over the U.S. and is also one of the most well-known men in Haiti.
As the saying goes, “Everyone knows RoRo!”
RoRo (left) talks with someone in the airport.
While RoRo could have easily used his gifts, talents and experience to live a comfortable life in the U.S., he chose to return to Haiti and serve the people. RoRo launched and continues to oversee all aspects of HCO, from the school to the hospital, as well as other community development efforts.
Just a snippet story to show his heart and the power of God that moves through him: During one of RoRo’s times in the U.S., he heard that a couple he knew was on the brink of divorce, so he got in his car and drove many miles to counsel them and pray with them. As a result of his visit, the couple chose to not divorce and reported that their marriage greatly improved. No one told Ro-Ro to do that or paid him to do that. He didn’t get anything out of it for himself, except just the satisfaction of serving God and changing lives. It was such a blessing to get to meet RoRo and help publicize what God is doing through him in Haiti.
I also must mention Megan E. Schreiber! After visiting Haiti and meeting RoRo, she chose to leave a comfortable job as a medical center director in the U.S. to volunteer full-time with Haitian Christian Outreach, working from home in Ohio and flying to Haiti frequently. Though it was a drastic cut in pay (from high pay to zero pay), she was able to do it thanks to her supportive husband, and she felt that God had called her to serve there.
Because of her step of faith, she was open and available and already serving in the ministry when the position came open for U.S. national director of Haitian Christian Outreach. She now works from home in a full-time paid position for HCO, which she says never would have happened if she had not left her job to volunteer full-time for HCO.
Isn’t it amazing how God works? When we take a step of faith, not knowing the outcome but seeking to serve the Lord, He blesses us with His love and often opens further doors. As our teammate Anna Kim often says in response to testimonies like that, “Look at Jesus!”
Tiffany Salerno (left) with Megan E. Schreiber outside an airport in Haiti.
TAKEAWAYS & ADVICE
If you ever go to Haiti, be sure to bring portable veggies like these (https://8greens.com/) and ask ahead for whole wheat or gluten-free bread because the Haitians serve Americans totally white wonder bread with peanut butter and jelly, thinking that’s what we like. Neither Anthony nor I normally have gluten intolerances, but by the end of the trip, the white bread made us sick. Whole wheat bread contains a much lower percentage of gluten, and of course gluten-free bread doesn’t have any at all. As we learned from Megan, you can ask ahead for other types of bread so that you don’t get sick from too much gluten!
Also, be sure to bring plenty of water bottles filled with purified water, as water is not always easily accessible. And you tend to get sweaty there, so it’s good to bring electrolyte packets to add to your water bottles.
Most importantly, whether or not you ever go to Haiti, don’t live in fear! Say yes to God and step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be put off by an invitation if you haven’t thought of it beforehand or it seems to come out of the blue, because God is always doing a new thing.
Focus on God’s vision and purpose, not on your fears. God’s word trumps every fear and every doubt. Don’t go by what you see or what you hear but stand on the word of God and move in faith when He calls you.
He will lead you to soar beyond your comfort zone and into the realm of His glory.
Our finalized professional videos from each of the three ministries we featured in Haiti in March 2021:
(You can click each photo below to view our gallery of edited videos from that ministry.)
PS — Here's kind of a fun little video, like a blooper, to close out this post 😊