Early History of Wellsboro First Baptist’s Ministry in the D.R

Reverendo Jean Luc Phanord

JEAN LUC PHANORD

Pastor Jean Luc Phanord was sent to La Romana as a missionary by the Haitian Baptist Churches in Haiti. His church met in a small building inadequate for the numbers of people who attended – many looking in through the windows and door. He felt God calling him to build a large church for the Haitian people working in the sugar cane factory in the large city of La Romana. God also gave him the vision to reach out to the Haitians living in small, impoverished sugar cane villages. Many of these bateys were far in the depths of the sugar cane fields where the people received no health care, no education, and little food except the sugar cane they ate while doing back-breaking work cutting the sugar cane for $2 per day. He foresaw American teams helping to build churches and later a hospital to serve the Haitian people. He also recognized the need for medical care on the bateys, so he asked for doctors and nurses to come and hold clinics and disperse medicines.

When Jean Luc Phanord was a child, his father was a pastor in a village in Haiti during the reign of dictator Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc). After Papa Doc began the terrorist army called “Tonton Macoute” and it became dangerous for Christians living in Haiti, Jean Luc’s father sent the family to Miami where they would be safe. There, young Jean Luc learned several trades- architecture, tailoring, cooking, etc. All came into good use when Jean Luc was sent to the Dominican Republic after the family reunited in Haiti when it seemed safer.

 

LA ROMANA – 1985 – 2001

Around 1983 or 1984, young Pastor Jean Luc Phanord visited ABC International Ministries Headquarters in Valley Forge, Pa., requesting help to build his church in the city of La Romana, D.R. Two Pennsylvania pastors – Tom Elsie from Milton and Wayne Diffenderfer from Wellsboro – answered his plea. Pastor Diffenderfer organized the 60 person team (mostly from PA), including 13 from Colorado where Pastor Elsie had moved. Pastor Phanord had visited First Baptist, Wellsboro, with plans he’d designed for his church, which included a balcony for the large numbers of parishioners he envisioned attending.

The 60-member team left PA. on Christmas night – Dec. 25, 1985 – for the long trip to Santo Domingo where Pastor Phanord met them in a large bus. His present church was VERY small, and the only places to sleep were on the narrow church pews, tables in the eating area, and the dirt floor of the garage. Breakfast was at 7:30 AM so they could get to work early before the sun became too hot for these Northerners! Haitian women cooked breakfast outside on charcoal fires, and the Haitian men worked alongside the Americans with Jean Luc translating. In two weeks the team had built the lower portion of the large Haitian Missionary Baptist Church.  God performed many miracles that week, including keeping the water coming for cement mixers when water trucks were not running on New Year’s Day!

Jean Luc also reached out to a church in Abington, Massachusetts which completed the building of the Haitian Missionary Baptist Church that same winter.

 

MEDICAL CLINICS

When the American Baptist ministry began in La Romana in 1985, Pastor Phanord also requested medical personnel to care for the Haitians living on the bateys. Dr. Ardell Thomas and Dr. Donald Shaw brought medicines and supplies with their team of doctors and nurses, not having had a clue as to what diseases they’d find among the people. They depended on the Haitian bus driver to get the medical team to remote bateys, often riding in an old school bus for two hours on bumpy, dirt roads through the sugar cane plantations to see over 200 – 300 people a day in the neglected villages where they encountered diseases the team had only read about in medical books. SO many people came to the clinics that medical personnel individually took very short breaks for lunch and worked at least six to seven hours at a time, caring for the people. Many of the problem cases were results of the voodoo priest giving bad advice, such as putting warm manure on an open wound to stop the bleeding and withholding food and fluids from an infant with diarrhea. Little children to adults were lethargic with reddish hair and bloated bellies due to malnutrition and parasites.

Missionaries Tim and Patti Long in San Cristobel were so pleased when the team drove 2.5 hours to their small school near Santo Domingo. Though ABC churches had sent money for food, other physical problems were hindering the children from learning. The doctors gave them vitamins and worm medicine which resulted in physical improvements and the energy to concentrate; Patti said “The kids can actually LEARN something now.»

Pastor Phanord initially reached out to 13 bateys. With the Lord’s help, he chose men of wisdom and spiritual knowledge to come to his church every month so that he could teach them the month’s Bible study. They memorized very well because the Haitian people could not read or write. As his missionary zeal grew, more bateys asked for Jean Luc’s help, and more Christian leaders emerged who could minister to people in their villages.

In 1987, with Pastor Diffenderfer in charge, another team from all over Pennsylvania built a church on Batey Higuera. Drs. Thomas and Shaw had asked the Gulf and Western sugar refinery for land on which to build the hospital Pastor Phanord had drawn (using his architectural skills), but the company refused. The next year a team from Massachusetts made the same request of the local La Romana government and were given the land, which included a huge garbage dump! In 1989 the team, led by Pastor Diffenderfer, began building a large part of a two-block square wall around what would later become the Good Samaritan Hospital. The team built part of the wall with horses, chickens, pigs, etc. eating from the dump; a picture of that scene is at First Baptist Church in Wellsboro, PA.

After a hiatus, FBC, Wellsboro, returned to the ministry in 1995. The team poured cement on the flat roof of the hospital to support what would later become a second floor, and they built a church/education building on Batey Alta Gracia. The medical team visited bateys with medicines and help for the Haitian sugar cane workers – all but ignored by the sugar company. In 1998 the team built a church/educational building on Batey La Chuga and helped the people recover after a devastating hurricane. In 2001, the mostly-Pennsylvania team built a church/educational building on Batey Cannistillo.

When we had asked Pastor Phanord if it would be better to send money than to send people, his answer was clear as he pointed his finger at Bud Voorhees’ camera: “You should come; it will change your life.” We have found over the years that many team members’ lives have, indeed, been changed.

Pastor Phanord was killed in a plane crash in the fall of 2001. Ours was the first team to go to La Romana after his death, so we asked the hospital administrator Moises Sifron if our visit was appropriate. He answered readily, “Please come. We want to be sure you are coming for us, not just for Pastor Phanord.” There was much sadness and grief as we ministered to the people of the Haitian Missionary Baptist Church that year. We missed our friend, but God ensured that the work would continue.

Pastor Phanord had initially reached out to 13 bateys. With the Lord’s help, he chose men of wisdom and spiritual knowledge to come to his church every month so that he could teach them the month’s Bible study. They memorized very well because the Haitian people could not read or write. As his missionary zeal grew, more bateys asked for Jean Luc’s help, and more Christian leaders emerged who could minister to people in their villages.

In 1985, Ketly Pierre, a young school teacher from Puerto Rico, was visiting during her Christmas vacation to help with Jean Luc’s ministry. She was Dr. Thomas’s translator because she spoke Creole and English, as well as Spanish, and confessed that she would like to go to the US for Seminary training. Dr. Thomas replied, “It just happens that I am chair of the Board of Eastern Baptist Seminary. I’ll see that you get in!” FBC, Wellsboro, funded Ketly through her first year of Seminary and continued to give her aid throughout her training, as well as in her MA in business at the Eastern College campus. She became the first ABC missionary to La Romana and married her husband Vital while he and Tanis Derolus were beginning a Christian school in San Pedro de Macoris. God moved them to Nicaragua after their marriage.

Later, the American Baptist churches sent Kristy Engel, R.N., as missionary nurse to begin a program called “Fountain of Life” – training health care workers on the bateys, teaching mothers to wash food and bodies in clean water, and visiting bateys regularly. She organized visiting teams and the translators as well as government-required personnel, and often brought her dog to demonstrate how to brush teeth! Bateys were visited at least every six weeks and records were kept of patients seen. She trained the translators to share the Gospel to the people and to report spiritual as well as physical needs to the pastor on the bateys. Kristy held regular Bible studies for her teams as well as for women on the bateys and for doctors and nurses at the hospital where she worked as a surgical nurse. Before the Lord moved her from the D.R. to become a “Global Servant” in health care, Kristy was supervising 150 bateys – some quite remote. Though the witch doctor is still relatively prominent in the villages, more and more people are seeing the difference Christians make in their lives.

Ketly and Vital Pierre are presently ABC missionaries in the areas from La Romana to San Pedro where they encourage Haitian pastors and congregations in those areas, setting up a wonderful Community Center to minister to Haitian immigrants in literacy and Christian discipleship.

 

GOOD SAMARITAN HOSPITAL

The Good Samaritan Hospital began seeing patients in 1995 with only parts of the first floor having been completed. Moises Sifron and others were trained by Craig Bean, a hospital administrator in Houlton, Maine, who continues to work with the personnel at Good Samaritan. Surgeons and medical teams come from various states in the U.S. to sustain the hospital, and Moises has gotten grants from Rotary, International for good water supplies.

Much progress has been made on this now well-respected hospital- dialysis machines, ultrasound, mammography, labs, a large surgical suite, a brightly painted pediatric unit, and even a dental section for surgery and routine dentistry. A fourth floor was added in 2018. This is a clean, well-respected, notably Christian hospital ministering to all who come through the doors. The Haitians pay a minimal fee, but Dominicans and tourists pay “full freight” and go to Good Samaritan for the quality care they receive – many utilizing the up-to-date dialysis unit purchased by Rotaries and churches in Kansas City, Kansas.

Drs. Ardell Thomas and Don Shaw led the PA medical teams in the 1980’s, but Dr. Thomas was joined by Dr. Mike Brown and/or Dr. Pam Weaner through the 1990’s and early 2000’s. More recently, PAs, RNs, NAs, LPNs, and other medical assistants and lab personnel joined the teams. They held eight to nine clinics in the remote bateys and the barrio of Las Colinas. In 2020, Dr. David Pfisterer became medical director of the team with Patrick Perl, RN, as a team leader. Dr. Thomas was only in Las Colinas for Team I.

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