Sue Martin


Retired Missionary to Haitian American Ministries
“Stories behind My Story”
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer
November 2014

The good friend who encouraged her to become a pastor. The missionary who recommended her to the Lord to be a missionary. The church family who loved and accepted Haitian immigrants. The work teams who remodeled the Haitian church. For Sue Martin, retired missionary with World Gospel Mission, “My story isn’t just one story at all; there are too many stories behind my story.”

Sue Martin grew up on a small farm in Ohio, “the average of the average.” She graduated from school in the little village of Leesville, Ohio, and then trained as a nurse in Mansfield, Ohio. She began working for a Christian doctor who, not realizing it, was very instrumental in preparing her for the mission field. While working there, she came to know the Lord and was sanctified, which changed her life completely.

She met Meryl Esenwein, a young missionary on her way to Burundi, at Camp Sychar, and Meryl recommended Sue and two other friends (Sara Radebaugh Eberhard and Kay Young) to the Lord as missionaries. Within a few months, Sue accepted God’s call, leading her into missions, applied to WGM, and went to Vennard College (Iowa) to prepare for ministry. She was appointed as a missionary to Haiti in 1967, and her primary ministry for years was nursing, mainly in mobile clinics. Sometimes the only way to get to these areas was by motorcycle on bumpy, pothole-filled roads, sometimes accompanied by her dog, Chipper, perched in a basket on the back.

A number of years later, her good friend, Betsy Schott, came to visit for a few weeks. Betsy was a preacher and teacher, and the local Haitian pastor asked her to teach a Bible study. Betsy accepted and when Sue asked who would translate for her, she said “You can do it.” She did, and when Betsy went home, Sue was left teaching the class! That opened up a whole new area of ministry, even though, by her own admission, teaching and preaching were completely outside her comfort zone. With God’s help, Sue was soon writing discipleship materials and teaching Theological Education by Extension classes in several churches on the Central Plateau.

In 1979, Sue began feeling a strange restlessness, as if her ministry in Haiti was coming to an end. “I knew through my devotions that I needed to go back to the U.S., but it didn’t make any sense. I didn’t understand,” she shared. When she returned to the U.S., she was still uncertain about her direction. She began working with the Prayer Ministries Department as a representative in the Southeast.

At the time, she was living with Betsy in Leesburg, Florida. One day Sue was called to the local hospital where several Haitians were being treated. Due to their illegal status, they were temporarily sent to the Leesburg jail. This gave Sue an opportunity for ministry. The two-year-old church where Betsy pastored began to pray for a ministry to Haitians, although it wasn’t apparent that any were in the area. However, a few months later, a migrant group was sponsored by a local social agency. Sue offered to assist them if needed and was soon busy 24/7 interpreting for hospitals, clinics, migrant camps, jail, and court; wherever a Haitian had a need, she was eventually called. Soon, a daughter congregation of Haitians began to form, and Sue realized why God hadn’t let her go back to Haiti. Then she became more involved with the growing congregation, teaching Bible and nurturing the church.

Sue became the director of this new WGM field named Haitian American Ministries, or HAM, and was joined by Leslie and Mary Ruth Madsen, Ronda Walter, and Cathy Gates, who had a fantastic ministry with children and young people. Sue was appointed by the Florida District of The Wesleyan Church as pastor of the Army of Christ Haitian Wesleyan Church. The ensuing years were challenging as they developed as a congregation, and throughout the years, this church has reached out to the many Haitians living in Central Florida. The church was the first Haitian Wesleyan church in the Florida district; now there are many Haitian congregations. “Our church was an important part of integrating Haitians into the U.S. and into The Wesleyan Church,” said Sue.

Since the Wesleyan denomination became a partner in this ministry, Sue was given a ministerial license. She continued the necessary course of study and was ordained in 1993. Sue served as pastor until a Haitian pastor replaced her. She happily continued as assistant pastor under his leadership. Upon Sue’s retirement in 2008, Haitian leadership took over complete charge of the church. Sue and her team have done just what every good missionary dreams of doing—they worked themselves out of a job!

After serving as a career missionary for 41 years, Sue is now a part of the Member Health team of WGM, particularly to those in the Southeast. She continues to make her home base in Leesburg, Florida, while traveling and being an encourager and a help to whomever the Lord leads.