BISHOP LEON D. PAMPHILE
According to Bishop Leon D. Pamphile, there has always been a long standing relationship between African Americans and Haitians.
“I have been in Pittsburgh for the past 40 years and I have worked in the Pittsburgh community and it is quite natural for the local COGIC to get connected with the COGIC’s in Haiti for the reasons of faith, doctrine and coming together,” he said. “Another reason is for cultural and enrichment reasons on both sides. It’s good for African Americans to know about the Haitian culture and it’s good for Haitians to know about African American culture.”
That’s why he created the Pittsburgh arm of the Functional Literary Ministry of Haiti—or FLM Haiti for short—two years ago with two to three local COGIC churches.
“The group is fairly small right now, but I see growth in the future,” Pamphile said.
FLM Haiti is a Christian-based, all-volunteer, non-profit organization that provides education, healthcare and basic needs to the Caribbean country. The organization has been working in Haiti since 1983 and its funds come primarily from individual donations. FLM Haiti has been able to acquire supplies and medications and the group’s work in Haiti is done under the auspices of I ‘Alliance d’ Action Chretienne, a non-governmental organization certified by the Haitian government.
The republic of Haiti was originally occupied as a French colony and gained independence in 1804. It is known as the first nation of freed African slaves in the Western Hemisphere.
Despite that honor, the Caribbean country falls far behind other countries in its ability to educate its citizens. Only about half of the nation’s approximate 5,237,181 residents can read.
A 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti in January of 2010 about 25 miles west of Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital. The death toll was approximately 100,000 to 159,000. 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings were decimated according to the government of Haiti.
The presidential palace, the National Assembly building and the Port au Price Cathedral were damaged or destroyed. Port au Prince Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot and Haitian politician and university professor, Michael “Micha” Gaillard were among those killed.
“The earthquake was a horrible event in Haiti. We lost a lot of people and buildings. The goal of FLM Haiti is fundraising for education and to help rebuild an orphanage we have there and to help with other various missions,” explained Pamphile who resides in Stanton Heights with his wife, Rozelle.
Pamphile moved from his poor Haitian village of Laboule to Pittsburgh in 1971 in pursuit of higher learning. In that pursuit, he attended the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary on a scholarship and earned his doctorate of education from the University of Pittsburgh. As the Bishop of the Church of God in Christ of Haiti—an honor he received in 2011—Pamphile oversees 120 Haitian churches and 100,000 congregants there. He does not pastor any church in Pittsburgh.
Volunteers from the Pittsburgh branch of FLM Haiti typically travel to Haiti on missions twice a year. The group’s next trip is set for January 21-27, 2014 for the Church of God in Christ Haiti 77th National Convention in Jumecourt-Latrembley Haiti.
A luncheon was held on Aug. 24 to help raise awareness for FLM Haiti Pittsburgh’s chapter.
Events will continue to be held throughout the year in the Pittsburgh to bring awareness and dollars to the cause.
“We want people to go and see Haiti for themselves and see what we are doing,” Pamphile said. “People can get involved with sharing the good news of Jesus, working with children at the school or the orphanage, working on the reconstruction of buildings or help with healthcare because we have a need.”
The next event, FLM Haiti’s banquet and art sale, will be held at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary on Saturday, Oct. 19 beginning at 6 p.m. Cost is $50. Guest speaker will be Moni McIntyre, professor of Theological Seminary at Duquesne University.
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