My First Fifty Years – By Gerald Bustin

Chapter 14

Haiti Bound

“All things are possible to him that believeth.”

Wife and the children had spent one year in the States, where the children had availed themselves of school, for school work in the Bahamas had been much of a problem. Plans were now in the making for the family and others to go to Haiti for the purpose of opening a Bible Training School, and to undertake the evangelization of the neglected multitudes. The time had been tentatively set for our departure in October. Promises had been made by the owner of a certain boat that we could sail on his boat and also ship the thousands of pounds of supplies and equipment needed for the opening of the work. (Two missionaries were already on the field taking care of the property and doing what they could, but without the necessary equipment, and not having a working knowledge of the language, not too much could be expected). As we approached the time of our anticipated departure we received word to the effect that certain marine laws prohibited the boat from carrying passengers. Due to the fact of so many boats having been destroyed during the war, which had only recently ended, it was then almost impossible to charter a boat to carry freight, for the few vessels then operating between the States and Haiti were practically all banana boats. These could not afford to be delayed with freight on account of the perishable nature of the fruit. We sought in vain to find shipping facilities. Our whole plans seemed to be thwarted.

While in the midst of our perplexity a man came to me one day asking why the Mission could not buy its own boat. My reply was, “It is out of the question, for boats are exceedingly expensive.” The rejoinder was, “The Government is selling boats at a give away price. I will pay your way with me to Washington and back if you will go and look into the matter.” I could not object to this, so we went, but with no success. Another trip was made to Miami in search of a boat. We found a beautiful yacht which some said would well serve our purpose, but the price was $10,000, so we had no intentions of buying this until a Christian man who had contributed liberally toward our work came over to the house where we were living and asked to see me. He was full of joy as he remarked, “Brother Bustin, I have just heard from heaven, and God says you can have this boat.” Another one of God’s children came and literally insisted on my taking $1,000 toward the boat. Others came with their voluntary offerings: thus I was actually pushed into the boat business. (I would like to say just here that in all sincerity the boat idea was not my invention, even though in time to come there was much to say about “Bustin and his boats.” I have taken the greater part of the blame for mistakes made, for I should have gone so far with the boat idea and no farther). The family put their fares into the boat fund, others who were going out did the same, then our car was sold and the proceeds devoted to this cause. Money came from many sources, so that within a matter of a few weeks most of the money was in hand.

In the meantime another problem presented itself. We had intended to use one of our Bahamian seamen as the captain of the boat and sent for him. We discovered that United States shipping rules require all vessels of U.S. registry to have a captain who is an American citizen. We tried to find another to serve as captain but could not. My experience with small boats in the Bahamas entitled me to the right to obtain Small Steamship License provided I could pass the marine test. This I did and obtained a five year license.

Seventeen of us including crew and children were at the boat docks in Miami making plans for a soon takeoff, but upon loading the vessel with the cargo we were convinced that it would be unsafe to make the long voyage of nearly a thousand miles with the boat thus loaded, and especially so in case of heavy seas. Different ones who had seen the boat felt that it would be large enough, but now some of us were certain that it would be utterly unreasonable to take such a risk. Such a predicament! We resorted to prayer, and while in the very act of praying a beautiful diesel-motored vessel with steamboat features came sailing into the harbor. We remarked that it would be wonderful if we could have a boat of that type to make the trip with. Some of us were soon aboard this lovely vessel expressing our admiration. To our astonishment the owner said, “Why not trade for this and make your trip?” Naturally the boat was worth three or four of the type we owned, so we concluded that such a thing would be out of the question for us altogether. We were absolutely amazed when the man informed us that he would trade for $5,000 difference, and that he would give us six months to pay this difference. It was not my wish to go in debt at all, but all of the company felt that this offer was a direct answer to prayer, and that it should not be turned down. Upon approaching marine officials they highly favored the exchange and assured us of the superior quality of the latter boat. Another feature which favored us was that the boat was diesel-motored and that it would cost far less to operate. The outcome was, another boat. All the cargo was loaded on and plenty of room for passengers and crew.

On Christmas Day of 1945 the missionary party joyfully sailed out of the Miami harbor aboard the Pelican enroute for Haiti by way of the Bahamas where we were to visit our work. By the time we edged the Gulf of Mexico we had just reasons for thanking God for the exchange of boats, for we were already plowing into heavy seas and the heaviest were yet to come. Even though the writer was the registered captain of this vessel, yet our Bahamian seaman was the leading figure in the handling of the boat. After crossing the Gulf the voyage was quite uneventful through the Bahamian waters. Following a brief period of fellowship with our people on Andros we charted our courses through the dangerous coral reefs and sailed in the direction of Haiti. By the time we reached the island of Inagua, the port where we were to get final clearance, we were having motor trouble as a result of dirty fuel. We had also witnessed some difficulty from weak batteries. Having had some work done on the fuel injectors, and batteries partly charged, we launched out on the final lap of the journey. Exceedingly rough waters were ahead of us, and some very unpleasant experiences developed when for a period of several hours both motors were out of commission. God answered prayer so that we were finally able to limp through the raging waters with the power furnished by one motor. What a joy when the mountains of Haiti came well into view! A greater joy when we anchored in Cap Hatien harbor! Our hearts were filled with praise to God for His abundant mercies. Our friends in Haiti had long looked for our arrival, so joined us in thanksgiving to God for a safe voyage over turbulent seas. We had been on the way for a week and a half.

Upon landing in Haiti we knew so little of the joys and of the sorrows which the years would bring. How good is our Heavenly Father in withholding from our knowledge the many heart-bleeding blows of life which lie ahead. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” We do not desire the deep soul-suffering which sorrow brings to us, but we should not despise it, for, even though we are made to bow, bend, and break beneath sorrow’s heavy blows, the breaking becomes our making if we keep yielded to God. We are not already made as we suppose, but God is making us. A man or a woman prepared for God’s service, as a vessel unto honor, is the most valuable instrument known in heaven or upon earth. Such instruments are not cheaply made. They must be led beside the still waters, in paths of righteousness, along thorny paths and over rugged steeps, and on through the valley of the shadow of death. They must be forged in hot fires, hammered on hard anvils, plunged into deep waters, and proven in trials great and sore. Those who victoriously come through this melting, molding, and making process are promoted to kingdom service, but those who fail eventually find their uncoveted place among kingdom rejects.

The landing of the Pelican’s passengers in Cap Haitien, Haiti was history in the making, but the writer of this book is not a historian, therefore must largely leave the eventful happenings through the years for others to tell, who may have the time and are so disposed. The limits of time and space constrain me to confine the recordings to the principal points which may render praise to God.