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Florida Church Planters: They Left Haiti, Still Serve Haitians

At a meeting of Classis Southeast U.S., (from left) Johnny Gryglewicz, Pastor Obelto Cherubin, Simon, a young man who attends Cherubin's church, and Pastor Leclaire Paurice, who is exploring church planting in the CRCNA.

Two men with a heart for Haiti are working to plant Haitian churches in southern Florida.

Obelto Cherubin led the founding of the Christian Reformed Church in Haiti in the late 1980s, and has lived in Orlando, Fla., since 2005, pastoring his church plant, Haitian CRC while working at Disney World. In January, he left Disney to become a full-time church planter, raising up leaders to plant multiple Haitian-speaking CRC churches in Florida.

Johnny Gryglewicz and his wife Kim became Resonate Global Mission missionaries in 2018. In 2021, when the Haitian president was assassinated and political upheaval ensued, Johnny and Kim and their three children had to leave Haiti. Rather than returning to their home state of Texas, the Gryglewiczes relocated to Tampa, Fla., to be among the Haitian expatriate community. Gryglewicz spends about 60% of his time helping to administer congregations of the Haitian Christian Reformed Church and the other 40% focused on planting Haitian churches in Florida.

“Obelto (Cherubin) is wonderful at empowering other people,” said Gryglewicz, who meets with Cherubin once a week. “He’s someone who is very much into discipleship. He always has someone with him just to be around.”

Every two weeks, Cherubin meets with a group of nine Haitian men. Three of the men are older pastors, and the other six are young men who are being trained to start new churches. One new church plant is already in the works. Cherubin is also translating a church planting-course that he will use to teach the group in Creole. 

“I’m trying to transfer my calling to them,” said Cherubin. “I was 22 when I felt the call of God. I’m trying to find more people to teach. Young people are easier to train, because it’s easier for young people to adapt with a new doctrine or new system.” 

In November, Classis Southeast U.S., a regional group of churches in the Christian Reformed Church of North America, gave $20,000 to support the Creole-speaking church plants. “Our classis has a vision for church planting, mission, reaching people for Christ,” said Scott VanderPloeg, chair of the classis missions committee. “We recognize that here in Florida there’s a real opportunity for reaching all kinds of people. … There’s a diverse way in which we’re going about reaching people for Christ. We’re trying to multiply disciples and multiply churches.”

Tens of thousands of Haitians have fled the country since 2021. Building up leadership to minister in their own language and reflecting their culture in their new home fits an emerging model in Resonate Global Mission: ministry from everywhere to everywhere. 

“A lot of people around the globe are being displaced, and in that, there is an opportunity,” said Tim Sheridan, church planting leader for Resonate. “Ministering to the diaspora is one of Resonate’s priorities, because our priorities emerge from where we see the Spirit at work.”


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