Haiti on the Horizon — Other Experiences
While we were engaged in the task of building our new tabernacle word came from a Mission office in the northwest asking if I would accompany a young man and his wife who were going out as missionaries to Haiti. At this time the Caribbean waters were red with the blood of victims from the German submarine menace, but I felt that I would be in order to go. It was planned that these young folk, Neal Bonner and wife and baby, should come to our station at Stanyard Creek, then we would go by sailboat from there since sailing vessels stood less chance of being attacked than motor vessels. We were to make the trip aboard our Mission Boat, the ANGELOS, but complications concerning the registration blocked these plans. I had previously applied for my Passport, but it had not arrived when the time came for our sailing. (We eventually decided to go by an island Mail Boat to Inagua, then charter a sailing vessel for the remainder of the voyage.) What I did at this time I would advise no one else to do — especially during war times. It was folly to travel to a foreign port without proper travel documents.
Time will not permit me to tell of experiences upon the island of Inagua where wild cows and wild donkeys roam at large. Here we were shipwrecked, or at least our chartered sailboat was, and marooned until we sympathized with Robinson Crusoe, even though he might have been a fictitious character. Multiplied billions of mosquitoes infested the island. In my world travels I have never seen anything elsewhere which could compare with these vicious little cannibals. It was a happy day for us when we sailed away aboard a Hatien sailing rig.
In the spring of 1942 we landed in Cap Hatien, Haiti, the same port where Columbus had landed and where one of his boats was lost in 1492. Upon going ashore the Immigration official said, “Passport, please.” “Sorry, sir, but I have none. I have a paper to show that application has been made, but my passport had not arrived.” “Mr. and Mrs. Bonner, passports please.” They were readily produced, then informed that they were free to go where they might choose to go. To me he turned and said, “Mr. Bustin, you must go back to the boat and spend the night.” This was bad news, but at least I was a wiser man. The next morning I too was called and set at liberty.
During my limited stay in Haiti my heart was greatly moved by the sin, superstition, and suffering of the multitudes. Every country on earth dominated by Roman Catholicism is under a curse, for every such country is given to idolatry, and idolatry is in God’s eyes rated as the most hateful and hideous of all sins. My heart was drawn out in compassion for the Christless multitudes. There are approximately four million people crowded into the small area known as the Republic of Haiti. The masses are given to image worship — the worship of Satan, and pagan worship in the form of images of saints, Mary, or Jesus. They combine the worship of Satan with that of their religious images. Such moral degeneracy has always incurred the curse of God. This means poverty, illiteracy, illegitimacy, and indescribable suffering.
Upon returning to the Bahamas to continue our activities there I was unable to forget what I had witnessed five hundred and fifty miles away on the island of Haiti. I thought about the suffering masses, prayed for them, and often spoke of their need and admonished others to pray for them. One night I was awakened from a dream or vision in which I was back in Haiti walking along a road about five miles out of the city of Cap Hatien. Someone walked at my side and pointed to our left saying, “Brother Bustin, here is a property which can be bought for a Bible Training School.” Sure enough there were the buildings spread beneath the bowers of large tropical trees. With this I was awake and remained awake for some time. Later I wrote to my friend in Haiti telling him what I had seen. My curiosity was increased upon receiving a letter stating that “there is such a property as you described, it is for sale, and would be ideal for a Bible Training School.” This was never forgotten, but there was plenty of work to occupy my time at the present, so too much thought could not be given to the matter.
In course of time it became necessary for us to move to Nassau for some months in order that my wife might have access to fresh milk, for there was not a cow on the island where we lived, nor did it appear feasible to have one there. While in the city I endeavored to keep busy conducting services somewhere, so halls were rented and special meetings put on. Again we learned that the war was not over. This time we had spies in the services quite often. They would come and bring their Bibles, then try to sing songs they didn’t know. We also got into war with the liquor crowd who were making the city two fold more like hell than it would have been. Such dumps as “DIRTY DICK’S” den, and “SLOPPY JOE’S” saloon were headquarters for vice. The city was so rotten until even a Roman Catholic Editor of a newspaper made a thrust at the moral degeneracy resulting from the free use of liquor. Spurred on by this news article and a sleepless night for my sick wife, kept awake by drunken policemen beneath our window, I handed the Catholic Editor material for two columns in his paper and told him to throw it in the wastebasket, or to use it, but not to “pull its teeth.” To my surprise he spread the whole thing out on the front page, the “bite” and all. The liquor gangs combined with the theaters took away their advertising from the Catholic’s paper, but he seemed not to care. Both of us got it from all sides, but I am certain that good was done. Even old drunks were heard to say, “All dis man says is true, mind you.” God helped us and gave us good friends among the Government officials. We stayed on even after the opposing Bishop was sent back to England, the Methodist preacher returned to England a sick man, and the Colonial Secretary who hated me was sent to another country.
Numerous experiences could be related which are incidental to island missionary life. We have often waded shark-infested waters in the darkness of the night with our clothes off and carried above our heads, we were in storms often, once on the coral reefs, many a sleepless night spent on a rough sea, and have walked scores of miles barefooted over sharp rocks and through marshy sloughs. Repeatedly the family has not known where the next day’s food would come from. We made it a rule to tell no one of our personal needs, and to never borrow. We can never remember a day when we had nothing to eat. The Lord in some special way provided for us. Shortage of food was sometimes occasioned by the mail boat being delayed because of stormy weather. We have gone for as many as three weeks without mail, even though we were less than two hundred miles off the shores of America.
Passing by many touching incidents in other villages as well as at our Main Station, I feel constrained to relate this one for the praise of our Lord. While wife and the children were located in Nassau the Capital, I sometimes made trips aboard our boat in order to visit the work on Andros. On one of these occasions the boat was weather-bound on Andros, so that I was not able to get back to the family as soon as I had planned. During this time we started out and made it about halfway when the wind became so strong that we were forced to scud away for shelter back on Andros. We landed at Fresh Creek where we later erected a small place of worship. Here we found a good harbor where we were sheltered from the storm. It was Sunday morning when we arrived at this place. After the boat was well moored I cleaned up, put on my best trousers and started to step ashore. Just as I was in the act of stepping up out of the boat my knee went right through my well-worn trousers. This was keenly regretted, for the suit had stood me in good stead for a long while. Due to having strained every point for the erection of the stone building at Stanyard Creek the family had spent very little money for clothes for a couple of years. Upon arriving in the heart of the village a native woman saw my predicament and came to my rescue by patching my trousers the best she could with them on me.
A few days after the above mentioned experience I was in Nassau with the family, but upon entering the house my wife informed me that there was nothing on hand for dinner and that we had no money. She also reminded me that the rent had come due. I made ready, and with a basket on my arm walked down town to the Post Office. On the way my heart was lifted to the Lord in prayer especially for my family’s needs. Calculating roughly our immediate needs — food, clothing, and the rent money — my prayer was in substance as follows: “Lord, Thou knowest that we are here for Thy sake, and for the sake of Thy Gospel, and that we have been putting ourselves and our substance into Thy work. We are threadbare, have no food in the house, no money, and the rent is due. We need one hundred dollars this morning.” Upon glancing through the window of our box I could see that it contained a lone letter, but it was the letter I had prayed for, and the one my family had prayed for. It contained a bank draft for $100. Should someone feel that this was a mere coincidence, listen to the remainder of the story as I later learned of it. The same Sunday, Easter Sunday, and at about the same hour that my knee went through my trousers, a religious service was in progress away up in the State of Indiana. The good pastor suggested to his people that he had a feeling that the Lord would have the church take up an offering and send it to Brother Bustin and his family. They felt the same way, so marched by and placed $90 on the table. After the service a man came to the pastor and told him he would put another $10 with this if he would hold off about sending it until he received his pay. The pastor agreed, but later his good wife said, “My dear, I don’t feel that it is best to wait about sending this money. We can put in the $10, then the man can give it to us.” The money was mailed out the next day, thus we received it exactly when it was greatly needed. Praise God for His faithfulness.
In September of 1943 our sixth child was born in Nassau. All of the previous five had brought blessing into our lives. The arrival of little Gerald Thomas was another great event .After some weeks the entire family put in their plea for us to return to the primitive island of Andros. It was a great joy to be home again in our Mission House, and with our precious people of Stanyard Creek.
In 1944 another journey was made to Haiti aboard a banana boat. After assisting my missionary friend in the southern mountains we journeyed to the north and were taken out to see the property which had been seen in the dream. As we drove on to the grounds I said, “This is the place. We must see if it is for sale.” Upon asking the management if they wished to sell, they replied, “We don’t know. The place has been for sale, but we are considering reopening the School here. (The property was owned by the Seven Day Adventists). After further consideration we went out to see this property on another day. It became a clear conviction that God wanted to give us this place, so my friend was asked if he could climb part way up the mountain overlooking the property and there agree with the writer that the Lord would give us this beautiful site with its eighteen or twenty buildings including outhouses. There were more than thirty acres of ground, eighteen or twenty kinds of fruits and nuts, and a mountain spring with water piped over the compound. Brother Bonner said, “I believe this is of God, and that He will give it to us.” We climbed the mountain side and knelt on the rocks to plead the promise of Jesus “That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” We first agreed that they would sell the property, and said, “Thank Thee Lord, for they are going to sell.” Second we agreed that they would sell it for a reasonable sum, then said, “Thank Thee Lord, they will sell it for a reasonable price.” Third we agreed that the Lord would give us the money with which to buy it, then said, “Thank Thee Lord for the money, for it is coming.” It was just this simple, then during our five mile walk back to the city of Cap Hatien we repeatedly said, “Thank God for the property.”
With no assurance from these folk that the property would sell I came back to the U.S. announcing that we were buying a Mission Compound in Haiti. A couple of weeks later word came from the management saying, “We will sell the property for eight thousand dollars cash.” A message went back saying, “We will take it.” This was a bit too sudden and too swift for my good wife who was still in the Bahamas with the children, but in due time the conviction came to her that God was in this move. It was wonderful beyond words how God worked and provided us with the needed funds. Our constant prayer was for the $8,000. The Lord gave us the $8,000 all right, but He also gave us $500 extra. I discovered that I needed a little in excess of $150 to pay my plane fare down and back when the deal was closed. Upon arriving in Haiti it was disclosed to me that the Government tax for property exchange would be $348. The Lord knew this and graciously provided us with more than we asked for. We actually had the money ready to turn over before the abstract was prepared. What a joy in April of 1945 when we arrived at the property one night with deeds in hand, and everything was paid for. Praise be unto our God for His everlasting faithfulness.