FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (BP)–There is pride in Pastor Moralas St. Hilaire’s voice when he talks about Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Pierre Garçon.
“He is one of my sons from our church,” he told Baptist Press.
Just days before Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida, Garçon had been on the phone with St. Hilaire, making arrangements to support relief efforts to Haiti through his home church, First Baptist Haitian Mission in Belle Glade.
It is a tiny church, southeast of Lake Okeechobee and at the tip of the Florida Everglades. It’s 45-minutes from where Garçon played football at J.I. Leonard High School in Green Acres, Fla.
It is a small mission with a big impact in the Haitian community planted by the Florida Baptist Convention, which St. Hilaire credits with being part of the reason Garçon has made it to the Super Bowl.
It is where two years ago the entire congregation laid hands on Garçon after he was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL to play for the Colts from Mount Union College in Ohio.
“God is going to move things out of your way to make you humble,” St. Hilaire said he remembered telling Garçon. “He is blessed.”
As a pastor, as a friend, as a mentor with sons of his own, St. Hilaire encouraged the young Garçon to pursue his dream to play in the NFL. He also prayed he would not forget his roots.
“He was brought up here. Florida Baptists have been part of his life,” St. Hilaire said. “If not for Florida Baptists, we would have not had our church in his life. We are all winners in this.”
St. Hilaire said Garçon was active in the church since he was very small and went to church camp each year and made a profession of faith when he was older. Garçon stays in touch and occasionally attends worship in Belle Glade, even though he now maintains a residence in West Palm Beach where his mother and other family members have since relocated.
“We call him and pray with him,” St. Hilaire said.
For devastated Haiti, the pastor said he believes it has been “a blessing” that the two teams facing off are the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. St. Hilaire made the comments in an NFL video.
Garçon’s pastor said he also knows Jonathan Vilma of the New Orleans Saints. Both Garçon and Vilma, with family ties to Haiti and from South Florida, have become the unofficial spokespersons for Haiti relief during Super Bowl week.
“I know Vilma, I’m proud of him too, I’m real proud of him, I love him,” St. Hilair said. “It is a blessing that God can put these two teams together at the same time.
“It will be a special moment especially for the country, to stay strong and do well,” St. Hilair continued, in the video. “Haitians, I think we were born to survive hard times. I am going to predict that we are going to survive this.”
Vilma, a first-round draft pick from the University of Miami, has created a T-shirt and plans for profits to go to relief efforts.
Building on his family legacy of helping others, Garçon is supporting his church’s efforts to send supplies and resources to Haiti — specifically to the Leogane Valley where his family originated. St. Hilaire said the church is also supporting the relief efforts of the Florida Baptist Convention — which has nearly 900 churches in Haiti — and is working with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, which has medical and feeding teams on the ground in the island nation.
In the video, St. Hilaire’s voice softens when he speaks of how the earthquake in Haiti affected Garçon, who also shares his love and concern for the overwhelming tragedy that occurred when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake broiled the city of Port-au-Prince and rolled throughout the countryside.
“I knew his heart was with the Haitian victims, with the people,” St. Hilaire said. “I know he has been troubled by what happened in Haiti, but he has his job here.”
And come Sunday, St. Hilaire told Baptist Press, his “other boys” have been working feverishly, even trying to get him to switch around worship services so that everyone can be in place to watch Super Bowl XLIV.
“It’s going to be a big day for us,” St. Hilaire said. “I’m going to pray that he wins.”
Not to discount the prayer need for Haiti, St. Hilaire said a prayer meeting Friday night at the church will focus on the need there, but also will provide some much needed balance for a people who have found themselves on an emotional roller-coaster the past several weeks.
“God is visiting us through Pierre,” St. Hilaire said. “We are human and sometimes you need that encouragement to go through life, to go through hard times.
“God has picked up one of us,” the pastor said, chuckling. “Kids that were never touched before have seen this. Haitians are playing in the Super Bowl. It’s unimaginable for me, but God has made it possible.”
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness (www.gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. See the NFL video at
To see a Baptist Press video of Pierre Garcon speaking to reporters at media for Super Bowl XLIV, go to http://www.bpnews.net/mediaplayer.asp?Id=61.