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Interview with Roger and Norma Alexander

Article from Life in the Son, Summer 2002

In the summer of 1983, Roger and Norma Alexander moved from Mortan's ap, Ky. to Port-de-Paix, Haiti. Today, 19 years later, Sonlight Ministries is the product of their shared, inspired vision and God's great provision. Having recently celebrated a milestone, graduation of Sonlight's inaugural class, Roger and Norma reflect here on the growth, struggles, hopes, and blessings that have marked their ministry to the Haitian people.

Above: Roger and Norma Alexander with Chase and Isabella, missionaries to Haiti
since 1983 and founders of Sonlight Ministries

Q: How have you seen your ministry here grow and change over the years?
N: Well, the biggest change was when we started working with children. But then it has just grown so much with the Haitian people and with the Americans who have come here to work. But it’s not just a growth in numbers; it’s the spiritual growth of the young people.
R: We decided after being here about three years that we needed to catch kids before they became adults, teaching them to think and reason and come to logical conclusions.
N: Another reason we wanted to work with children was because it’s easier to teach children the Bible than to unteach the Voodoo beliefs and superstitions they grow up with.

Q: How did God first plant the idea in your minds for starting a Christian academy?
N: When we talked about teaching children the Bible there was really no logical way of doing that without an educational program.They needed to learn to read and write to be able to study the Bible. I think we came here thinking we’d evangelize then teach. But with four-year-olds, you have to teach and evangelize and teach.

Q: In what ways have you witnessed God’s provision for Sonlight?
R: It seems that He’s always provided what was needed. We’ve continued on faith, and it seems like people to help and the finances were always there to do it.
N: And we’ve had people that have seen the need, too. When people see what’s being done and a need, they’re willing to help.

Q: How has God used others to assist in building this ministry?
R: We’ve had very highly talented teachers come here to work.
N: And work teams come in and are willing to do construction or prepare classrooms. Some groups come in every year to do that.
R: Some work on vehicles and equipment. They just see a challenge and a need, and they go for it.

Q: What does it mean to you to work alongside some of your children?
R: It makes you proud to feel that they have the vision that we have.
N: I’ve always felt like you never have as much influence on anyone else’s life as you have on your own children’s. I feel like they can go beyond what we could ever have done. But they didn’t come here to be home with us, because they’re all very independent, self-sufficient people. They came here because there’s work to do.

Above: Our Students are very appreciative!

Q: What have you found to be the most effective way to reach Haitian people for the kingdom?
R: I think the most effective way is training the Haitians to do it themselves. Like our church, it has grown quite fast, and as it’s grown, they continue to do the things the Bible talks about. That way it’s more permanent too. They’ll always be answering to their peers, not to Americans or someone else.
N: But I also think a drawing point has been English and a good education to draw them into the school and the teaching.

Q: What has been the most difficult or challenging aspect of your ministry here?
N: The most difficult times were the embargo years.
R: In October of ‘91, an uprising threw President Aristide out of office. Then the Organization of American States and some other countries put pressure on Haiti to reinstate the President. The embargo got stronger, and by June of ‘94, they stopped all airline traffic into Haiti and no fuel was allowed to come in. The only things allowed in were beans, rice and propane.
N: We couldn’t get any supplies. We didn’t have refrigeration, electricity or gas. It was just difficult. The U.S. government asked us to leave, but the Haitian people asked us to stay. They told us that they would take care of us. We stayed, and that probably was a turning point in our ministry. People realized that we were here to stay.

Q: In times of difficulty, such as that, what sees you through?
N: I think just the faith that God has always provided everything we’ve needed.

Q: On the other side, what has been the most rewarding aspect of your ministry?
R: To see the children and how they have grown up as good, faithful Christians.
N: And our own children – to see their vision to come back here and teach and work with the people. They say the best thing a missionary can give to the mission field is their children. They’re so much more capable than we are, because they grew up in this culture. And this year, it will be rewarding to see Christiano graduate.

Q: Could you share with me about your relationship with Christiano?
N: He was five months old when we moved here, and we fell in love with him. He’s spent so much time with us, he almost has the same background as our children. Christiano says he has four black sisters and five white sisters, three black brothers and one white brother. He just considers himself family, and we do too. What makes me happy is that he’s grown up with the honesty and the spiritual background that our children have.

Above: Roger and Norma with 2002 graduate Christiano Louis; one of the first graduates of Sonlight.

Q: What thoughts do you have about the young men and women of this year’s graduating class?
N: I feel that they have an excellent education. I’m also rather fearful for them to go into the college atmosphere, as I would be for my own children. It’s such a change for them to go from this culture to that culture.

Q: What hopes do you have for this graduating class, for their lives and futures?
N: We hope that they’ll return to Haiti and carry on in ministry, whether it is through teaching or preaching or Christian work in whatever way.

Q: What are your hopes for Sonlight?
N: I see our students involved in ministry all over Haiti, ministering in whatever jobs they choose. I’d also like to see them involved in teaching. To me that’s been our whole purpose, to teach them to teach their own people.
R: Also, I would also like to work with churches out in the country, teaching them the basics.

Q: What would you like people to truly know about Haiti?
N: I’d like to have people see the joy that these children have over some of the simpler things, candy canes at Christmas and soccer balls, a doll, new panties, socks and soap.
R: The people as a whole are very friendly. The people as a whole are willing to learn and to help.
N: As far as what we want people to know about Sonlight, there are things they can do here. If they want to teach or work, short-term or long-term, they can be used. And they can make such a difference in the lives of people here.