Serving the Haitian Diaspora: Meet Jorave Telfort [Interview]
Welcome to EGC's Leader Profiles, where you can get to know the unique stories of Boston area Christian leaders. Our vision is for a surprisingly well-connected Christian community across cultural, generational, and denominational lines throughout the city.
Jorave Telfort partners with Boston Missionary Baptist Church and Emmanuel Gospel Center in his ministry work to Haitians both here in Greater Boston and in Haiti.
Tell me a little about yourself and your family.
I am the firstborn of a family of seven children—four boys, three girls, though one girl has passed. My dad passed 10 years ago, but mom, who is 80 years old, lives in Haiti with siblings. All of my siblings live in Haiti or the Dominican Republic. I am the only family member living in the U.S. I’ve have been in Boston for 26 years, which is where I met my wife of 17 years, Jésula.
What’s a favorite childhood memory?
My father was always coaching me in my schooling. He always made sure that I studied and did my homework.
I have always been involved in ministry since a young age. My father was a preacher, so he wanted to make a leader out of me!
What’s a food you can’t live without?
I like the historic Soup Joumou (pumpkin soup), which dates back to January 1, 1804, when Haitians were free to consume that soup. It was historically a special recipe for our colonizers—French masters. But when we won our independence, we could eat it. We became free, and so we were free to consume it, and we still like it!
What’s your most treasured possession?
My books—I love books! I have more than I can ever read in my lifetime. I collect them. If you go to my office or house you will find the evidence. I always gain something in reading. I like to read philosophy and biographies.
Tell me a little about your relationship with Jesus.
I see my relationship with Jesus as one like an older brother—a role model. He is my ideal. In everything that I am trying to do or think, as much a possible I try to refer to Jesus to see what examples or models I can copy from him.
What do you love about your relationship with your wife?
I love my wife a lot because of the person she is. She loves God and takes people at face value, where I need to see more evidence before I trust someone. For fun we like watching shows like the French version of Jeopardy, "Questions pour un Champion". And we always watch the news together. We like to stay informed of what is going on in the world. What happens in one part of the world affects the rest of it.
Tell me a little about your ministry and how God led you to it.
I came to Boston in 1992 after finishing my degree in Agribusiness at Ohio State University. I came here to join and serve in the great movement of growing Haitian churches in Massachusetts and in the New England region.
I started working with the Emmanuel Gospel Center's research team in publishing the second edition of the Boston Church Directory. I quickly became involved with the Haitian Ministries International, under Rev. Dr. Soliny Védrine. Pastor Sol co-founded and led the Fellowship of Haitian Evangelical Pastors of New England, a network of Haitian pastors and local and international churches.
One year later, in July 1993, while serving as assistant to Pastor Sol, we launched and established the first annual Haitian evangelistic crusade in Boston. It attracted several thousands of Haitians, and it made front page news in The Boston Globe in 1995.
More recently, in 2014, the Lord enabled me to begin realizing the 25 year-old dream and call of going back to Haiti to help strengthen churches, to assess needs and opportunities. I work with the Bible Baptist Mission of Haiti, a Christian organization of more than one hundred churches scattered throughout more than half of the country. I’ve been very excited to rejoin this organization because I grew up and began ministry at very young age there.
Right now, I’m locating human, material, and financial resources to support those churches. Most of them don’t even have a building for holding services. The need has become significantly more pressing since the passage of the damaging 2010 earthquake and subsequent hurricanes. They’ve affected or destroyed the already fragile properties and meagre belongings of those churches and schools.
What’s your passion?
I love to relate to people. Relationship on all levels is my passion, and that first begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ. My passion is to see people to come to a close relationship with Jesus Christ through the transformation of their lives.
What’s your prayer for Boston?
To see a united Body of Christ in Boston—across denominational lines, social barriers, classes, and of course race as well.