MENH and Jean Berthony Paul: Visionary, Pastor, Mission Founder, and Humble Servant in Haiti

Pastor Thony PaulRev. Jean Berthony Paul, known to his friends as Pastor Thony, is the founder and president of Mission Evangelique du Nord d’Haiti (Evangelical Mission of Northern Haiti or MENH). [click to view their current newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 3, Winter 2010]  The mission was established in 1979 in the community of Grande Riviere du Nord near the town of Plaine du Nord (about 10 miles from Cap Haitian), known in Haiti as the capital of voodoo.

Pastor Thony’s family lived in a mud and thatch-roofed house in the mountains, and eked out a living off the poor land as best they could. Whenever it was known that they had a little money, the voodoo priest would arrive and convince them to sacrifice a chicken or perform some other ritual for money lest one of the children sicken and die.

When Thony was about sixteen years of age, three Haitian evangelists who had been led to the Lord and trained by an American missionary, came to his area and invited the people to attend a meeting. Thony was told not to go and never to trust anyone who carries a big black book. His curiosity, however, got the best of him and he went to the place of the meeting intending to make fun of them. He was ashamed of his dirty, ragged clothes and the fact he had no shoes so he hid near the back and observed. What he saw was people who appeared happy and not fearful, who seemed to care for one another. Instead of making fun, he was drawn to them and to the message.

Ultimately and in spite of his family’s objections, he committed his life to the Lord in 1957. The American missionaries took him under their wings and helped him begin his education (he was illiterate at 16). Finally, in 1966 he was admitted to Emmaus Evangelical Seminary, a ministry of OMS. Upon graduating, he responded to God’s call to go to the worst place in Haiti, Plaine du Nord, to “dig a big hole to bury voodoo.”

In those early days he often had to sleep in the park and preach in the public square. It wasn’t long before he decided to purchase land in faith that God would provide the funds. God did and also provided enough to build the first church building.

MENH school at LalomasSoon after the first church was established, it was apparent that there was a need for schools for the children. The children of his church were not welcome at the existing school so they opened a little school of their own for nine children. They now have 14 schools serving over 5000 children across northern Haiti including some in the very poor mountain communities similar to the one where Pastor Thony was raised.

People began coming from other villages, some traveling long distances, to attend the services at the church. Pastor Thony went to them and helped them establish their own churches. He saw the need for some kind of oversight as well as training of church leaders, which led him to establish the mission we now refer to as MENH. There are currently 18 churches under the umbrella of MENH, most planted by Pastor Thony.

Over the last 35 years the church has grown to include thousands of people who might otherwise have never heard the gospel message. Pastor Thony is well known throughout the region as one who is not afraid to speak out, though his life has been threatened time and again. In 1998 he and two other pastors were imprisoned for attempting to hold an evangelistic meeting in a place usually reserved for voodoo ceremonies. So many believers marched in protest, quite overwhelming the local authorities, that the authorities released the prisoners – something it is said almost never happens.

Pastor Thony has always had a strong desire not only to share the gospel but also to meet the needs of the poor. He has sacrificed many things to provide food, clothing, education and more to people in need, and has worked tirelessly to find others who will catch the vision and come and help.

Ride around the region with pastor Thony at the wheel and you will find that he stops to greet almost everyone he sees with “we missed you in church. Keep Jesus first.” To almost every young person he says, “Four things you need to know to have a big tomorrow: Jesus first; school second; never waste time; have a goal for tomorrow.”

Through his leadership and with the help of his board, his staff, volunteers, and foreign friends and partners, the mission has expanded into new areas such as preaching on weekly radio broadcasts, providing vocational training, establishing a print shop, and opening a clinic. They dream of having a Bible school to train church leaders and lay people and to expand the vocational courses being offered.

Ebed Paul (MS-ICED, B.TH, B.CA) was appointed as Executive Director.  Ebed Paul is also president of Leve Kampe Mache, an affiliated organization of MENH dedicated to development and participating in relief efforts.

MENH's motto is:  "Building up people to build up our communities and our nation."

MENH's vision is:  To see spiritually and materially transformed people and communities where poverty and violence are totally eradicated, where people work hand in hand, praising God for his mercy and waiting for the return of the Lord.

MENH's core values include:  Respect, Democracy, Solidarity, Love, Service.

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Compiled and © copyright by Annette L. Jones, Exec. Dir. Of East West InterKnit, February 14, 2006. May be used with permission.