If you’ve ever lost electricity at your house for an hour – or even a full day – you know the havoc that can ensue.
But what about a country, where the majority of people live every day powerless?
A nation where four of every five people are not wired for lights in their house. Or a fridge. Or a TV.
This is Haiti, circa 2011.
“Of 9 million people in Haiti, only about 20 percent have electricity,” said Arturo Hotton, country director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association My Hope project.
There are generators, sure, but far and few between.
Only about 25 percent of those without power have access to a generator, Hotton estimates.
So, with less than half the population hooked into a power source, how do you pull off a My Hope project? After all, the effective tag line of the program is “World Evangelism Through Television.”
But what if there is no television?
“The radio is very important,” Hotton said. “Kind of like it was in the United States 50 years ago.”
Ah yes, the magic of radio waves. Still an important means of communication, news distribution and entertainment vehicle in the rural Haiti villages, where electricity is lacking the most.
The power of Christ will be transmitted where there is no power, through specifically-tailored radio versions of the three-day My Hope broadcast. Only instead of inviting friends to your living room to huddle around the television set, it may be an outdoor gathering, centered around a radio box.
The My Hope concept remains the same. Inviting friends, family and neighbors over to hear a program that includes a clear Gospel presentation. Then inviting them to accept Christ as their personal Savior.
“It will work,” said a convincing Hotton, who has worked on 15 My Hope projects, five of which he has led. “The pastors think the radio will be an important part and many decisions will be made through the radio.”
Calling the radio audible will not be as widespread throughout Haiti as it may seem.
In places like Port-au-Prince, where 700,000 of the 2 million people are still living under tents, the infrastructure of the church is organized to the point where most people can be reached through projectors or TV showings at the local church.
“We’ll use projectors in some parks or some churches,” Hotton said. “A lot of people that are Christians in tents are going to invite them to a church.”
But whether My Hope is delivered through a living room TV, a rural village radio or a church projector screening, the method and the message remains unchanged: Matthews from local churches will be trained up by pastors and encouraged to invite their friends, family and neighbors to hear the Good News through a media presentation.
“The pastors are very excited,” Hotton said. “The people are excited. The Council of Evangelical Churches in Haiti is excited. This is a great opportunity to work with the people of Haiti all at the same time.”
Hotton thinks the national goal of getting 3,000 churches involved in the project is within reach, based on the enthusiasm and participation following January’s Festival of Hope, an outreach at the one-year anniversary of the Port-au-Prince earthquake.
“Talking with pastors, they told me people are more open now to listen to the Gospel, to receive the Gospel,” said Hotton, who added that 80 percent of the denominations are working with My Hope. “Everyone’s excited to work together. You see Baptists working with Pentecostals. They all know that people need Christ at this time.”
On March 31, Hotton and all 25 district coordinators rallied together for a Master Vision Meeting, launching the project’s current phase which includes over 100 vision-casting meetings taking place with key Haitian church pastors.
Shortly after, training will begin in earnest: First the master training, followed by regional pastor training and then Matthew training in the final month, which will crescendo to the national broadcast on July 21-23.
“After losing everything, they start to wonder where can we put our hope, where can we see anything new,” Hotton said. “There is no hope in this world.”
Hotton said conditions, still not great, have stabilized now 15 months after the quake. And despite almost three-quarter of a million people still living under tents in Port-au-Prince, there is food and water and the economy has returned to its basic standards.
“Everything is working again like it was before,” Hotton said. “But you can not compare Haiti to other countries. Haiti is one of the 10 poorest countries.”
Which makes receiving the Good News of Christ an even richer experience.
“I always tell people to pray every day for this unique opportunity we have,” Hotton said. “I tell them, ‘Think about this. We may only have one opportunity. We may not have this opportunity again.”