When an ITEC I-FIX training team went to Haiti in April 2017, they were greeted with two pleasant surprises that are not typical for this type of training.
I-FIX typically involves teaching indigenous Christ-followers in remote areas of developing countries to troubleshoot and repair motorcycles engines, chain saws, outboard motors for boats and other small engines. It’s another form of “teaching them to fish” rather than giving them fish. In Haiti, the focus was on motorcycles and generators.
Steve Buer (president of ITEC) and I-FIX trainer, Mark Youngerberg, were the core members of the training staff. Mark is from Steve’s home church, Living Hope in Wilmar, Minnesota. Living Hope was an important component since the Haitian students were part of Teen Challenge. The Minnesota church has a long-standing relationship in support of Teen Challenge (TC) in the United States, as well as Haiti.
In North America, TC is a Christ-centered, faith-based ministry program for youth, adults, and families with life-controlling problems, such as substance abuse. In the USA, TC is usually court-ordered as an alternative to incarceration. Participants have two options: jail or TC’s recovery program.
In Haiti, TC is also Christ-centered and faith-based, but participants must apply to be part of the recovery program. They ask to be let in. Self-initiative can be important for success. That was pleasant surprise number one for the ITEC team. Program Director, pastor Julio Volcy said over 200 more young people wanted to be in the I-FIX class. Only 12 were selected for this initial class.
Out of Poverty
All of the students wanted to turn their lives around. In personal testimonies, they related having been sexually abused, involved in prostitution, and having struggled with pornography among other addictions. Pastor Julio, the founder of the church and the program, is a walking-talking model for them. He came to the United States for his education, then God called him back to Haiti. There are about 20 baptisms per month in the congregations he leads.
Students were deliberately selected from different areas of the country, with a maximum of just two per community. The class included 10 young men and (surprise number two) two young women who insisted that they be included. Their counselor, a female civil engineer by training, was one of the translators for the training session.
The ITEC team brought home memories of the often-expressed appreciation by the Haitian students for their training, which was also demonstrated by their courteous and intense questioning during the training. These sorts of “good students” are the food that trainers thrive on. With another 200 young people wanting similar training there is, perhaps, a great deal more training opportunities on the horizon for ITEC staff and their supporters with many more “good students” to be trained and encouraged.
Steve Saint started ITEC in 1996 to develop tools and training to equip indigenous Christ-followers to meet the physical and spiritual needs of their own people as a door opener for the Gospel. Our hope is that ITEC training programs, like I-FIX, can equip the local church and create an opportunity for community development without creating dependency.