By Linda C. Hoops
The man known as “the father of Lutheranism in Haiti,” Dr. Doris Jean Louis, was murdered March 12 at his home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during an attempted robbery.
Dr. Louis, who received his M.Div. through colloquy and later an honorary doctorate degree — both from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. — was pastor of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church and founder of the first Lutheran churches in the country.
According to reports, Dr. Louis and his wife returned to their home Friday evening after working with a medical team in the city of Port-au-Prince during the day. As he was closing the gates of the house’s compound, he was confronted by two assailants who demanded money.
When Dr. Louis responded he didn’t have any, the robbers shot him. They then entered the home to demand money from his wife, Elucie. When she said she could write a check but that her husband would have to sign it, the robbers told her, “Don’t worry about him, we shot him.” Before leaving, the men beat her.
“After this tragedy, she was in church on Sunday morning two days later,” said Rev. Thomas Brinkley, pastor of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Esko, Minn., who had known and worked with Dr. Louis on mission trips for 15 years through his congregation’s participation with the Lincoln, Neb.-based Haiti Lutheran Mission Society, USA (HLMS).
“I feel for his family and the members of his congregation,” Brinkley said. “First the earthquake wrecked their churches, their schools, and their homes, and now they’ve lost their shepherd. At this point, we are pledged to keep his vision going and stand behind his family. He was very faithful in his work and we won’t let evil squelch that.”
Missouri Synod President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick wrote in a March 13 statement, “Along with many in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and beyond, I am deeply saddened and grieved by this news, especially having met, visited, and prayed with Pastor Louis on March 2 during my recent trip to Haiti.”
In an e-mail to Reporter, Kieschnick wrote, “I extend sincere Christian love, care, and concern to his wife, Elucie, their three sons, and the congregation he has served for many years. As they mourn his sudden and needless death at the hands of would-be robbers, I pray that this family and congregation will be comforted with the hope and assurance of the resurrection through faith in Christ our Lord.”
Representing Kieschnick and the Missouri Synod at the funeral service in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, March 20, will be LCMS First Vice President Dr. William Diekelman and former Florida-Georgia District President Dr. Gerhard Michael.
This was not the first robbery attempt on Dr. Louis and his family. In 1994, eight armed intruders stormed into the couple’s bedroom at night demanding money while their two younger sons slept. (Their oldest son was away at college in Nebraska.)
During the ensuing struggle that drove off the attackers, both Dr. Louis and his wife were shot, but their sons were unharmed. The family later moved into the hills above Port-au-Prince, hoping to avoid further violence.
Born in 1944 in a small village northeast of Port-au-Prince, Dr. Louis and his family became Baptists when he was 7 years old. Following high school, he received training in radio and electronics, but it was when he worked at a mission school and served as a lay pastor that he felt the call to become a pastor, according to his biography on the HLMS Web site (www.haitilutheran.org).
He graduated from the Jamaica Theological Seminary in 1977, but found that his beliefs were closer to Lutheran theology. With financial assistance from a Lutheran layman in Alabama, he moved his family to Fort Wayne and was enrolled in the colloquy program, graduating in 1980.
Prior to entering the seminary, Dr. Louis and his wife began personal evangelism witnessing in Haiti and started worship services in their own home. This led to the formation of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Petion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. He subsequently founded three additional churches, three Christian elementary schools, a Christian high school, three literacy schools, one vocational school, a Lutheran foundation, and a medical center.
In a Jan. 15 letter to the Haiti Lutheran Mission Society, USA, updating the organization about damages to their facilities following the earthquake, Dr. Louis begins the note by writing, “First off, thank you to everyone for their prayer, care, and concern for the situation in Haiti. At a moment like this a lot of people are scared and are wondering why something like this happened.
“But we Christians are blessed to have God to turn to and know that everything happens for His glory. And whether or not we understand why, we can trust that He is here with us and will provide a way for us to stand up under this.”
Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.
Posted March 16, 2010