Read letters from Suzette Geffrard
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 62
Suzette ended mission service with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 2015
About Suzette Goss-Geffrard's ministry
Numerous mission teams are traveling to Haiti in response to the earthquake that devastated much of the country in 2010. As part of the ongoing Presbyterian response to the disaster, Suzette Goss-Geffrard will help the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) identify partner organizations such as Fondasyon Men Lan Men Ayiti (FONDAMA) and Mouvement Paysan Papaye (MPP) and match those partners with mission teams from the United States. Based in Port au Prince, she will assist the teams by coordinating logistics, arranging study opportunities that explain the context of Haiti, and providing other types of support to enable the teams’ effectiveness. Her work is part of a long-term Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) response called “Walking with Haiti, Walking with Christ.” The PC(USA) has been involved in Haiti for many years, working through a partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti.
Haiti became an independent country in the early 19th century when a slave revolt overthrew the French colonial government. It has had a turbulent history marked by military dictatorships, corruption and violence. The 2010 earthquake was a devastating blow to Haiti, which was already the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through its disaster assistance ministry arrived quickly to help with recovery efforts and will continue to help the country rebuild. While other organizations that responded to Haiti have left, Presbyterians remain committed to a long-term effort. The PC(USA) has been involved in Haiti for many years, working in health, hunger and education ministries through a partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti.
About Suzette Goss-Geffrard
Ten months after the massive earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, Suzette heard a loud, joyous shout coming from people who were still clearing rubble with their hands and a few donated tools.
Friends and neighbors had formed what Suzette described as a “human chain” to dig through debris where a house once stood. What prompted the exuberant outburst? “They found the foundation was intact,” Suzette says. “Under the rubble, they found a viable foundation.” Therefore a new house could be built on the old house’s foundation.
That solid foundation is a metaphor for how Suzette views Haiti. The destruction caused by the earthquake does not define Haiti. The country sits on a solid foundation unseen by most people in the United States.
“No cameras were rolling when the foundation of that house was discovered,” Suzette says. Yet she explains that the determination of the Haitian people is revealed in such stories of hope. For Suzette, seeing the celebration surrounding the foundation’s discovery was a “turning point.
“I realized at that moment that I wanted to share about the Haiti that was beneath the rubble,” she says.
That will be part of her job as she works with groups that come to Haiti. Suzette wants everyone to know that “God is there, the good news is there, and the good news is being shared and lived.”
Suzette has a long history with Haiti. Her first experience was in the 1980s when she volunteered to teach a summer vacation Bible school class to the children of missionaries. “I returned to the U.S. a changed person,” she says. She realized that she could not return to her life as a special education teacher with a “business as usual” approach.
“I began to question myself, my motives and my lifestyle,” she says. “After a great deal of prayer, reflection, and seeking information and advice from trusted mentors, I made myself available for service, not really knowing what opportunities would develop.”
Opportunities did in fact develop. She served in education-related roles as a missionary with the American Baptist Churches USA, her denomination at the time. She served in Haiti for three years and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for six years. She also served in Mali for two years while her husband, Willys Geffrard, worked with the Christian Reformed Church.
Upon returning to the United States, she worked for eight years as a speech/language pathologist with the DeKalb County Schools in Decatur, Georgia.
In Haiti Suzette works alongside her husband, who serves with a non-governmental organization.
Suzette holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Redlands in Redlands, California, and another master’s from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer Seminary) in Philadelphia.
In her life and work Suzette is inspired by Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
“This is a life verse that my mother gave to me when I left home for college," Suzette says, "and it has always guided me and assured me of God’s presence.”
Suzette is a member of Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia. In addition to her husband, Suzette is accompanied in Haiti by a teenage daughter, Malaika.
Suzette, What fun to "rediscover" you after all of these years! I think you connected with our AB youth or our region, oh, back in the 80s. Not surprised to learn that God is still using you in vibrant ways!!
I am so glad we have you in Haiti. I sent you an email not to long ago,I am fron jeremie.I would like to meet you this coming January in Haiti,please reply to my email.Have a blessings
I am very happy to meet you during the wcc conference on diakonia and to know about what you are doing in haiti.
Suzette, congratulations on your assignment. A couple of years ago I "founded" an organization called "Clean Water and Clean Energy For Haiti". It is a ministry of the Presbytery of Southern Kansas. Utilizing trained technicians from Living Waters For the World (Synod of Living Waters) and Solar Under the Sun (Synod of the Sun) we raise funds within our presbytery and our volunteers help our Haitian partners build solar powered water filtration systems in schools, clinics, churches and orphanages in Haiti. We just completed our latest installation this last Saturday and will return in October to build 2 more. I hope to meet you at some point in time and am so glad that you are representing our denomination in the beautiful land with beautiful people.