Branch Schools is beginning a new blog series this spring to take a closer look at some of the Bible verses used in past newsletters, posts on Facebook, and more. Read on to learn more about these verses, why they were chosen, and what they mean to Branch Schools!
1 Corinthians 16:14 - "Let all that you do be done in love."
This verse from 1 Corinthians was shared on Facebook this past Valentine's Day. While this verse has a great link to Valentine's Day itself, its connection to Branch Schools doesn't end there. What does this verse mean to us during the rest of the year?
The Bible speaks often and highly of love–both God's love for us and how we should love our neighbors. Jesus says in John 13:35: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." At Branch Schools, our mission is to "make disciples who make disciples"--that is, to build up the next generation to be able to continue spreading God's Word, and God's love, across the world.
In Haiti, vodou practices and beliefs are pervasive throughout the entire culture, and directly oppose Christianity. Vodou teaches that there is a god who is very distant and removed from the people. As a result, fear is a common principle in vodou. As Lutherans, we understand God to be forgiving and loving, even as He is perfect and just. He desires to bring us close to Him, but our sinfulness cannot approach His holy presence. So, God sent Jesus to take our punishment–and our sins–and give us His own righteousness to wear in God's presence. We do not have to fear for our souls; in fact, we can look ahead to an eternity in heaven with God Himself.
Because vodou and Christian teachings are in opposition, it is difficult for Christians to practice openly. In October 2021, Branch Schools shared the troubling story from Haiti of 17 Christian missionaries who were kidnapped. In April 2021, an armed gang broke into a worship service, which was being live-streamed, and abducted the pastor and several churchgoers. These heartbreaking events are, unfortunately, not isolated; kidnappings and threats towards Christians remain common to this day.
1 Corinthians 16:14 is one of several directions given by Paul. In verse 13, he also instructs us to "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong." These words are encouraging and bolstering to Branch Schools, especially in the turmoil of the political and economical situation in Haiti. Even as persecution of Christianity continues to rise, Branch Schools has stood firm under God's protecting hand.
Thanks be to God, who has blessed Branch Schools with a wonderful reputation throughout the surrounding areas of the schools in Haiti: Smyrne, Carrefour, Leogane, Pilate, and Les Palmes. Branch Schools has truly enjoyed being an integral member of these communities and is thrilled to be able to share the light of God's Word in a culture darkened by vodou. Church services are held at the facilities in the Port-au-Prince area schools; in 2020, attendance at these services reached over 400 people!
This high regard from the community comes, in part, from the quality of education the students receive. The teachers' love for the students is evident in the great care they take in the classrooms. One six-grader, Milot, said "the teachers teach very well. They carry out the activities with care." We are so grateful for the wonderful faculty and staff across all of Branch Schools who are a beacon of love to their students.
The love from all the donors who support Branch Schools floods Haiti in the light of God's Word. Thank you for helping us "make disciples who make disciples" and reflect God's love!
We ask for your continued prayers that the persecution in Haiti may end and peace may spread over the country. In the midst of the chaos and danger that dominates news from Haiti, we remember Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13:13: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti, Inc.