Quisqueya Chapel (QC) origins can be traced back to Christian American Marines stationed in Haiti who wanted English Sunday school for their children. In 1960, a group of them contacted John Beerley (UFM – Now Crossworld) and a Sunday school was started. In conjunction with this, an adult Bible study also was held. Right from the beginning, unsaved were invited to attend.
Missionaries heard of this study and joined in, bringing their children to Sunday school on Sunday afternoons on the Bolosse campus, as there was a felt need for MKs to have and be part of an English-speaking Sunday school experience. In these early days, Walt Baker (also UFM) and John Beerley taught the adult Bible study which developed into an informal fellowship.
After four years, the US marines were withdrawn and the fellowship continued, consisting primarily missionary families from many different missions. This Sunday meeting became a regular habit, to the point of setting a schedule and asking different people to speak or give a short Bible devotional. From the beginning, it was open to any English speaker who wanted to come, and non-Christians, including members of the Haitian elite, who were invited.
With the enjoyment and fellowship of the early start, and the rapid growth of short-term and specialized Christian personnel in Haiti, this fellowship met a definite need for the spiritual feeding of English-speaking, evangelical Christians and for MKs.
About 1967, the Bible study grew into more structured worship services and moved from the mission compound to the Haitian American Institute. Sunday school meanwhile stayed at the UFM Campus.
In 1970-71, Adams, Beerley and Hanney were on a committee to help the organization develop its own identity. Its purpose still stayed the same: to minister to English-speaking evangelicals AND to reach out to the unsaved. At that time it began to be called the Port-au-Prince Bible Church. By 1970, this group had moved from the Bolosse campus and was meeting for worship at St. Vincent School. It was still a very informal, non-official fellowship, with the leadership essentially in the hands of missionaries.
New name: Quisqueya Chapel
In 1976, a committee was set up to formally organize Quisqueya Chapel as a recognized fellowship body and church. Among its members were Barry Timmons (World Team), Jack Hanney and Ray Bachman (Grace Children’s Hospital), O. Carl Brown (Missionary Church), and Boxley Boggs (UFM). The committee’s purpose was to establish a church out of this loose fellowship, set its purpose (to minister to and reach out into the English-speaking community), and to call a pastor. The committee wrote QC’s first constitution and a Statement of Faith, and called QC’s first pastor, Ron Smeenge. Quisqueya Chapel also informed the Ministry of Cults of its existence, although no formal registration could be made since the official pastor was not an assermented Haitian pastor.
QC has now had seven senior pastors as of this date: Ron Smeenge, Cal Gardner, Clayton Schletewitz, Ron Miller, Ray Bachman, Garth Reesor, Ned Hixon, Karl Olsson and Bobby Boyer. The chapel has also been blessed with the ministry of four youth pastors: Dave Manley, Kevin Klaasen, and Dave Harrington, Shane Mattenley and Jason Schmick. And, there have been several interim pastors during the years.
In late 1976 or early 1977, the Chapel began meeting in a school auditorium downtown – the Catholic Cultural Center on Impasse Lavaud. This arrangement did not prove to be satisfactory and a search was made for ideal facilities. In 1978, QC signed a 10-year lease with Quisqueya Christian School (an independent organization) and moved to the school property on Delmas 75, using the school auditorium for worship services and several school classrooms for Sunday school.
By the late 1970s, QC expanded its vision to reach French speaking Haitians, as well as English speaking worshippers, and developed what the late 1970s knew as “the French section” of Quisqueya Chapel. This French speaking fellowship continued to grow as well. At the end of the original 10-year lease, the Quisqueya Christian School felt that both churches had outgrown the ability of the school to handle them both well in its limited facilities, and so the school board voted not to renew the lease. This forced both congregations to do some thinking of their futures, and plan for relocations. The Quisqueya Chapel moved to the Christopher Hotel in Bourdon in 1988 and rented facilities there until 1990 when property was acquired at Delmas-Fragneauville. The French section wrote a constitution, changed its name to the Evangelical Community church of Delmas and eventually purchased property on Delmas 75-77 and built a facility. This body of believer continues to grow, ministering to several hundred Haitian worshippers.
Unique Perspective on Membership
Through the years, QC has never had what most would consider official church membership. This was never felt to be a pressing matter, since the Chapel was simply an international fellowship of Christians worshipping in English. Furthermore, many of the regular foreign worshippers were prevented from signing a membership statement with QC, due to membership restrictions within their homeland churches. And so, QC has shied away from any written membership roll preferring rather the status of a loosely-knit fellowship of Christians, with those who considered QC their home church in Haiti free to participate in the annual business meetings, according to their consciences – sort of an honor system.
However, with the purchase of the Fragneauville property in 1990 the question of chapel ownership and responsibility became increasingly more apparent as questions were faced about property management, use of the facilities, growing ministries, and the congregation’s responsibility for such. Who should be making decisions for Quisqueya Chapel’s present and future ministries? Who has the right to vote in congregational meetings?
Finally the Board of Elders decided in 1996 to initiate a system of “Registered Voters”, which would not be formal church membership, as most of us know it, but WOULD maintain some sort of control over the operation and ministries of Quisqueya Chapel. There is an application form for those wishing to be considered as registered voters of Quisqueya Chapel.
Consistency of Purpose
Throughout its history, the purpose of Quisqueya Chapel has been to minister to English speaking evangelicals, providing them with nurture and fellowship, AND to reach out to the English speaking community with the Gospel of Christ. Though missionaries have been its “life blood” so to speak, its primary function has never been to minister just to them; that has always been secondary. The first priority of QC has always been broader than that: to minister to the entire English speaking population of Port-au-Prince.
(Notes from a short interview with B. Boxley Boggs (4/26/87), with input from Don Adams, Don Weaver, and Bob Dargan)