I'll be frank: Eglise Baptiste Haitienne Emmanuel’s 40th anniversary celebration trumped your church service.
Held on July 14th, while most Haitian churches use their anniversary as a moment to bore their congregation to sleep, EBHE reminded its members that Christianity is meant to be celebrated.
“We were celebrating 40 years of service and ministry for the Kingdom of God,” said member Fednel Leveille. “All around people were hugging, laughing and catching up with each other. My favorite moment was when a couple of individuals decided to make a conga line and it started with maybe ten people but ended with over 70 plus.”
You read that correctly: A conga line broke out at a church celebration. Has that ever happened at your church? Yeah, I didn't think so.
Serving the community is not easy," said Reverend Wilner Maxi, Senior Pastor. “We've faced a lot of obstacles but through the grace of God we've helped a lot of people. We take care of them physically, morally, and spiritually."
And apparently, socially, too considering services started at 10:30 am and ended at 7 pm.
A staple in Little Haiti since the city’s formative years when it was referred to as “Lemon City,” the church did its best impression of Eddie Murphy’s infamous wedding scene from the cult hit, Coming to America.
“The anniversary was an experience that I will never forget,” said Leveille. “It started with our morning service [called] the procession. [Our] pastors, deacons and choir members walked in to the sound of trumpets, horns and a bass drum. We walked in like an army of one.”
Again, does has this ever happened at your church's anniversary party?
Located at 7321 NE 2nd Avenue, the festivities included prayer services, live music, and a smorgasbord of traditional Haitian food just to name a few.
Like any Haitian church, the air conditioner seemed to be a stubborn challenge as Leveille admitted, “It was hot but it didn't matter.”
But at the end of the day, the most important part was honoring the church and its plight in Christianity.
"By ourselves it’s impossible but with God we can go higher and higher until we reach the top," said Maxi in regards to the take away message he hopes members received.
With a 40 year legacy, one wonders, “What role has EBHE played in the lives of Haitians within Little Haiti?”
"Some organizations start for two to three years and then they disappear,” said Maxi. “That’s not our goal. We're in the middle of the road of our growth.”
An aptly put statement considering the church’s expansion to include a facility to serve young people.
“[EBHE] has helped me to understand the importance of family, ministry, and the love for others,” said Leveille. “My church has been a major advocate for family oneness and has pushed me to continually fight to keep my family together through prayer and faith in God.”
It continues to uphold its motto of ‘Excelsior higher and higher’ by providing resources to the community like a literacy program for adults, medical resources, job opportunities, food distribution, and financial assistance on a case-by-case basis.
And as a sign of the times, the church actively targets the youth as a preventive measure. Case-in-point, it offers summer camps, after school care, Bible study youth groups, and tuition assistance for members attending college.
For non-Creole speakers, feel free to visit as EBHE accommodates to non-Creole speakers by conducting services in English and Creole. A move, Maxi observed, contributed to attendance by Cuban and American worshippers.
"We've grown with the community," he said referring to the increase of Haitian pride he watched blossom in his 30 years within the church. And explained he feels proud, having watched Haitian professional society grow with an influx of lawyers, doctors, and civic leaders.
Mark your calendars for next year.
Eglise Baptiste Haitienne Emmanuel is affiliated with the Florida Baptist Association, Southern Baptist Association, and Miami Baptist Association.
Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center would like to thank Charles Cazeau for contributing to this article.