"I was born Joe 'Josue' Raymond, into a Christian family on October 7, 1966 - Nassau, Bahamas. I accepted Christ at the early age of 4 years old. Jean Elion Raymond, my father, was a pastor and his father was a deacon. My mother, Damilia Capré, is a daughter of a pastor, Marino Capré. I am married with 3 children, all boys! Although I had been in the mist of Christian people my entire life, it did not mean 'I was a Christian'. By the time I was 3 years old, I realized that I was part of an organization. I sung in the children’s choir, attended Sunday school, visited sick people, watched my father preached in many different places and went to many other Christian functions. My walk in the Christian faith was marked by three major events that took place in three different countries. I lived my innocent years in the Bahamas, the trusting years in Haiti, and the trying years in the United States.
As far as I could remember, the first 5 years of my life I attended Central Baptist Church in Nassau, Bahamas. I went to the church kindergarten and sung in the children’s choir. Recently, I was looking at a picture where my siblings and I were sitting and getting ready to sing. It reminded me of how fun and joyous life use to be. At any rate, the first Christian song I learned was “Jesus loves the little children,” and I really believed it until I took my trip to Haiti. While in Nassau, some of the functions we went to included Christmas parties. Food was plentiful and the toys that we received were very nice. My father sometimes preached by the beach which was wonderful. While he was preaching, I was enjoying the ambiance. Any time my father wanted to do home visits, I was the first to jump in the car - after all, it was a free ride away from my house. People were always nice to my family. I did not understand the reason people were so nice, giving and loving to us, but I liked it. Sometimes in 1971, my dad told us we were going to get on a plane and go to a place called Haiti for a mission trip. I thought it was going to be just like the any other previous outings we went on before. Well, it was not. The trip to Haiti changed everything about me and my belief.
On a bright sunny day, we got off of the airplane in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. My first impression was that this was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. The mountains in the background were splendid. While we were walking towards the customs booth, there were musicians playing some strange music and singing in a funny language, but it was very inviting and upbeat. It was a nice welcome. When we arrived outside, another pastor, Wallace Turnbull, was waiting for us. From the airport, we went to the Baptist Haiti Mission in Fermathe, Haiti. It is located 1 hour east in the mountains of Port-Au-Prince. The weather was about 65 degrees. The welcoming party was great. Then it was time to go to a place that we would live for the next year.
The house was at best a barn house. Slowly but surely it started to sink in that I was in for a rough ride. For a year and a half we lived in at least 4 houses. Then on December 28, 1973, my mother told us she was going to the supermarket and she never returned to the house. She left her four children with my father and went to Miami. We saw her 13 years later. After my mother’s departure, my father sent us to his mother in Cassé-Pied, Haiti. We stayed there for 2 years. The Christmas parties were gone, the niceness vanished, no toys, no lights, no running water, no beach. We were back to the basics, one with nature, and far away from our parents. I would never expose any child to this lifestyle. “Jesus loves the little children,” it is true, but the kids there really need all kinds of loving. Our grandparents did whatever they could to make life a little more comfortable for us. They walked us the church which was at least 5 miles from our village-home. After a while, I learned to enjoy the simplicity of life. Of course, I still love the refinery of life, but I would not compromise my faith in Christ for worldly possessions.
In June 1975, my father came back to the village to pick us up. We moved to Pétion-Ville where we lived till October 15, 1986. In Pétion-Ville, my father introduced us to a missionary lady from Birmingham, Alabama. Her name was Sister Icymae Frederick. She changed our lives in many ways. She would spend 3 months with us in Haiti, 3 mouths in the US, back and forth. Every time she came back, she would bring us clothes, toiletries, school supplies and some toys. That was a sigh of relief. In the meantime, Sister Frederick helped my father to build a church in Furcy, Haiti and started another one in Pétion-Ville. The church in Pétion-Ville was my home church. I was a Sunday school leader, musician, and youth leader and would preach on occasions. My father traveled all over Haiti with us for mission work, Vacation Bible School, summer camp, etc. Throughout good and bad times, I always felt the hands of God on me. Speaking of good times, this takes me to my next journey...
October 15, 1986, we landed in Miami, Florida, where we were reunited with my mother after 13 years. I forgot what she looked like. It was 'goodbye' to hunger and 'hello' to the land of opportunity; however, my faith would be tested to a new dimension. We drove from Miami to West Palm and then to the Orlando area, where I have resided ever since. At first, I joined the Haitian Baptist Church, and then the First Baptist Church, which was an experience. I realized I could not sit in any open pew. I left First Baptist and joined King’s Way Baptist. I stayed there for 10 years and worked at various positions in the church. For a while, I was not a member of any church. Then my wife and I decided we would join Upsala Presbyterian where we have been members now, serving in many positions within the church.
Throughout my journey, I have had many opportunities. While in the United States, I finished high school, went to junior college and then graduated from the University of Central Florida. I continued my education and pursed my Master’s degree. I also had the opportunity to study in Jonquière, Canada and in Angers France. I had the opportunity to visit many churches in Europe, including Saint Paul in London and the 16th Chapel in the Vatican, Rome. I was exposed to quite a few things, but the Spirit of God was always nearby. I worked at Denny’s Restaurant for 7 years and now work for Orange Public Schools for over 14 years. I plan to retire from OCPS unless God calls me in a new direction.
What a ride!!! I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course, I still go back to Nassau to attend a yearly convention. In the meantime, I founded a non-profit organization, Hope N Literacy - International Foundation, INC., as a relief mission to help the people in Cassé-Pied, Haiti. On March 14, 2009, I finished my Commissioned Lay Pastor classes to serve the Presbytery in Central Florida and continue my work for the Lord. He has not failed me yet. We've come a long way, and we still have a distance to go but my trust in God is deep because He loved me first.