By: Christa Meland
Rev. Mickson Deronvil preached his first sermon at just 13 years old and was called to pastoral ministry at age 17 while growing up in Haiti. But he wanted nothing to do with being a pastor, so he became a pharmacy technician instead.
Somehow, though, he couldn’t ignore his call—no matter how hard he tried, it kept finding him. Person after person in his life sensed the call and encouraged him to follow it. After moving to Florida in his adulthood, the pastor at the church he attended was one of them; the pastor wanted to prepare Deronvil to eventually replace him. Deronvil was not interested and ultimately left the church.
Eventually, “I saw that God would never leave me alone,” he said. “I had to stop what I was doing and follow my call.”
He and his wife moved to Minnesota in 2013. When his father-in-law—a retired United Methodist pastor in Haiti—encouraged him to start a Haitian fellowship, he decided he was finally ready to stop running and let God work through him. In 2015, at age 31, he started Rapha Tabernacle of Glory—which is now a thriving United Methodist church start in St. Paul that ministers to the Haitian population.
“I believe that God wanted me to move to Minnesota,” said Deronvil, a licensed local pastor. “This is where I learned that there is nothing better to do than to work for the Lord.”
Each Sunday morning, Rapha offers Sunday School for all ages and worship in Haitian Creole. More than 50 people typically attend.
Rapha began as a non-denominational fellowship that attracted people from many Christian traditions. One of Deronvil’s challenges and opportunities has been to bring them into the United Methodist fold and teach them the Wesleyan tradition.
In November, Rapha will launch a second worship service that’s in English. Deronvil plans to organize community meals this fall in hopes that they will help build positive connections with the church’s non-Haitian neighbors in advance of the debut of the English service.
“My greatest hope is to have all the community come together—not only the Haitian community but the community around the church,” he said, adding that there are so many people without a church home. “I want to bring more people to the kingdom of God. I want everybody to know that God is still the best healer.” (“Rapha” is a Creole word that means “healing.”)
Rapha receives support from the Minnesota Conference and Rev. Ben Ingebretson, area director of new church development. Donations to the Reach • Renew • Rejoice capital campaign have helped make this support possible.
“Rapha and Pastor Mickson are working hard to serve both the Creole-speaking, first-generation Haitians and an emerging, second English-speaking group,” said Ingebretson. “The Minnesota Conference is delighted to support this multiplication vision.”
Rev. Dan Johnson, the Twin Cities District superintendent and someone who played a key role in helping bring Deronvil’s vision for Rapha to life, echoed that sentiment.
“Mickson’s exuberance and unbridled love for Jesus is contagious through his preaching, music, prayer, and community outreach,” Johnson said.
Deronvil is unique in that his platform for sharing the gospel extends well beyond Rapha and even Minnesota. He hosts an online radio show four times a week that reaches 8,000 people across the U.S. and beyond. The show has opened up opportunities for him to visit and preach in various locations, and he’s planted churches in both Haiti and West Palm Beach, Florida, as a result. Although he’s not directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the other two churches, he has remained connected to them.
Meanwhile, Deronvil plans to move back to Florida next year to be closer to family, but he hopes to remain connected to Rapha—and he’s already in the process of coaching and training leaders who can help it continue to grow and thrive after he’s gone.
“This is what brings joy to my heart because I am doing the work of the Lord and what God wants me to do,” he said.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
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