Celebrating 50 Years: Haitian Emmanuel Baptist Church Marks a Milestone

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Pictured above: Pastor Wadler Jules preaches during a celebration service.

MIAMI – A vibrant beacon of faith and community, Haitian Emmanuel Baptist Church, situated in the heart of Miami, is celebrating a remarkable half-century of existence.

The church was the first Haitian congregation on record in Miami Baptist Association, and its timely appearance in Dade County kept many from falling into the hands of various sects that were prospering in the community at that time, wrote Lulrick Balzora, chaplain for the United States Navy, for the Florida Baptist Historical Journal.

“In 1973 when the Haitian community was still small in Miami, a church was planted in what would become the center of the community called Little Haiti,” recounted Al Fernandez, Southeast region catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention. “Fifty years later we celebrate how God through the ministry of Emmanuel Haitian Baptist Church has reached so many people coming to a new land with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In 1973 Miami had approximately 210,000 Hispanics. Haitians, however, had not yet begun to come to South Florida in great numbers. The few Haitians in the area came primarily from northern states such as New York. Most were predominantly Catholic. The Catholic church had a great influence among Haitians because many priests spoke French and because of the official status of the Roman Catholic Church in Haiti.

In 1973 when the Haitian community was still small in Miami, a church was planted in what would become the center of the community called Little Haiti. Fifty years later we celebrate how God through the ministry of Emmanuel Haitian Baptist Church has reached so many people coming to a new land with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Al Fernandez Southeast region catalyst, Florida Baptist Convention

During that time, a small group of Haitian refugees settled in South Florida, seeking solace and community amid the challenges of displacement. These pioneers, driven by their shared faith and the need for connection, laid the foundation for what would become Haitian Emmanuel Baptist Church. Under the guidance of its founder, Armand Ogero, the church began its journey of spiritual growth and community service.

Ogero, a pillar of leadership and discipline, led the congregation as its pastor from 1973 to 1983. His dedication to teaching and spiritual growth set the tone for the church’s future. Following his tenure, Wilner Maxy took the helm in 1983, leading with unwavering faith and a deep love for the community. Over Maxy’s impressive tenure of nearly four decades, his leadership transformed the church into a symbol of hope, love and service.

In 2021, a transition year marked the leadership of Jacques Moise Joseph, a man characterized by his humility and commitment to prayer. This transition paved the way for the current senior pastor Wadler Jules. As a son of the church and a child of immigrants, Jules brings a unique perspective to his role. Since assuming his position in January 2022, he has been resolute in his vision to “send equipped and mature disciples to transform our world.”

woman lifts hands in praise
To celebrate their half-century of ministering in Miami, Haitian Emmanuel Baptist Church held worship services during their anniversary week.

“Throughout Emmanuel’s existence, the church has served as the community’s voice on numerous social issues for our active parishioners and non-members residing in South Florida,” said Jules. “In addition, Emmanuel has made great strides in helping the community to achieve a higher potential. Low-income working families, senior citizens, troubled young people, single-parent families, refugees, impoverished families and imprisoned individuals in Miami and abroad have all experienced transformed lives because of Emmanuel’s influence and ministry,” he continued.

Beyond its spiritual endeavors, Haitian Emmanuel Baptist Church has woven itself into the fabric of the Miami community. Over the years, the church has extended its hand to the elderly and children in Miami-Dade County, offering outreach services that include food, clothing and education. Its compassionate work has not been limited to the local community; the church’s dedication to charitable endeavors has reached across borders, notably impacting lives in Haiti.

From its modest beginnings, the church’s commitment to growth and service has remained unshaken. The congregation’s benevolent spirit led to the acquisition of a 60,000-square-foot warehouse, once a furniture showroom, which was transformed into a sanctuary capable of seating 600 individuals. This space—acquired in 1988— not only hosts worship services but also accommodates a range of community services, including Sunday school, daycare, a health clinic and an elementary school.

As the church celebrates this milestone, its legacy serves as an inspiration to both its congregation and the broader community. Leaders believe that the next 50 years promise to be just as transformative and impactful as the first 50, with the church’s mission to send forth equipped and mature disciples to continue shaping the world around them.

“This milestone does not mean that we have reached our destination,” said Jules. “We can hardly rest on our laurels. … We are committed, more than ever before, to rescuing lost souls to lead them on the path of salvation freely offered in Christ, to forming servant-leaders ready to invest themselves in the lives of the children of God, to equip members of the congregation not only for their individual maturity but also for ministry to others, making each spiritually mature in union with Christ.”

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