Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, has been in turmoil for decades and has had no real successful plan to fix the overwhelming problems it has faced. This country has been plagued with economic collapse, governmental corruption, poor health conditions, bad roads, little electricity, no real sewers, a huge trash dilemma, contaminated drinking water and very high unemployment. To make matters worse, in January 2010, a major earthquake devastated the capital city Port-au-Prince and at least 250,000 were killed and 1.3 million people lost their homes according to many estimates. Hundreds of thousands of hopeless people were looking to start over, but where? Well, droves of them moved to a city three hours west of Port-au-Prince called Les Cayes. Prior to the earthquake, this city had a population of 70,000 people. One and a half years after the earthquake, the city has become extremely overcrowded with a population somewhere between 300,000 to 400,000 people. The city is filled with trash, vehicle traffic is insane and very few job opportunities makes life in Les Cayes difficult, to say the least.
Shortly before the earthquake, Stanley, a young Haitian man, started participating in our young adult program at my church, Envision Church in Fort Wayne, Ind. He and his family moved to America 13 years prior because his mother, Marie, had received permanent residence due to political unrest in Haiti that threatened her life. She came to the U.S. four years before her family, however, she eventually brought them to live with her.
After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, our church was looking for a way to help. Because Stanley was involved at church, we asked him if he had any relatives that were directly impacted by the earthquake. He said, “Yes, but they were not hurt.” He then told us that they moved back to Les Cayes where they were originally from. Marie grew up in Les Cayes and had a brother, Pastor Enoch, who pastored a church in that community called Sanctified Church of God Through Faith. Pastor Enoch had a dream from God to build a church that could hold conferences and have a regular place for the people of his community to learn about God and worship Him. For over 12 years he believed God for the dream in his heart to come to pass and a little over seven years ago, he started laying the foundation of the building. Yet, due to difficult times, he ran out of money and it remained unfinished for all these years. People would walk by the church and laugh and say it was an ancient ruin! Despite the critics, Pastor Enoch believed God by faith that what God promises him to come to pass would come true in some divine way.
When Marie shared this story with us, we felt overwhelmed with compassion and wanted to help see his dream become reality. God put a scripture in my heart when I began to pray about our level of involvement: “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me'” (Matthew 25:35-40). There was something so exciting about aiding someone who could not accomplish his dream on his own. He needed help from God to make it happen. God wants His people to be available and open to His leading to assist the less fortunate in the world. I felt compelled by God to make a difference in Pastor Enoch’s life and so did Envision Church.
One year ago this past July, Envision Church took a team of 11 people to start phase one of the building project. Over 100 people from Pastor Enoch’s congregation showed up to contribute to the work and it was a huge success. While on this trip, we found out that 100 to 150 kids in Pastor Enoch’s church and the surrounding area were unable to go to school because their parents could not afford to send them. Our church was not in a position to sponsor all these kids so we began asking God what we should do. Several months went by and the Pastors of Envision Church, Marie and I went back to visit Pastor Enoch in Haiti to begin planning for phase two construction of the church building. While there, Hurricane Tomas hit Haiti and the cholera epidemic began spreading, rapidly killing thousands. Only if Haiti had good medical treatment, thousands of lives could have been spared. We felt like God was showing us another area where He wanted us to make a difference. So, we went back to the states and worked on a medical plan with my sister Aimee, who is a nurse for a huge hospital network in Fort Wayne called Parkview. We wrote a letter to the CEO of Parkview and he loved our vision and wanted to partner with us to see the community’s medical deficiencies fully met through a partnership with the local Baptist hospital in Les Cayes.
As we geared up for our second construction trip, God highlighted three things we should continue to explore: the construction of the church building, finding some way to provide schooling opportunities for the children in Pastor Enoch’s church and local community and bringing the medical practices of this community up to American standards.
The trip could not have gone better. We reached our project financial goal, which allowed us to accomplish most of phase two construction and the whole community rejoiced at the progress made! When the building is totally finished, it will seat 1,500 people and will be a real asset to Life .
Even though there was much work completed, there is still more to be done. We believe God will bring in the remaining balance of $50,000 to complete the project in ways that only He can do. God many times speaks to the hearts of individuals, churches, businesses and organizations about partnering with Him to see His work complete throughout the earth.
We also had a great meeting with the board of directors and the head doctor of the local Baptist hospital in Les Cayes. They were eager to discuss our level of involvement and went on to explain what their top needs were: a CT scanner to aid in medical treatment, the right equipment to give mammograms and they needed doctors and nurses to help train their staff on best practices and procedures. The closest hospital with these technologies is in Port-au-Prince, which is at least 3 to 4 hours away. They also had a dental office at the hospital, which had very old equipment and is in desperate need of updating. We are currently putting together a “needs” assessment based off of the health needs in the community and our conversations with the hospital and will be presenting it to Parkview in Fort Wayne, Ind. This document will help determine their funding and commitment level.
Lastly, we found out that a man died recently in Pastor Enoch’s church. He left a wife and five children behind and the wife could no longer afford to send her children to school. Pastor Enoch asked if we could help. He briefly mentioned a sponsorship program in church and 100 kids with their mothers showed up desperately asking for help to send their children to school. Again, none of these kids are currently in school because their parents cannot pay. God began tugging at my heart saying, “Take on this challenge and trust that I will provide a way to make it happen.” Each child in elementary school will cost $30 a month and each child in secondary school will cost $35 a month. This includes tuition, books, two uniforms per child and possibly lunch. Marie told me when I began taking pictures of the children, that the mothers’ faces were filled with hope!
God is looking for people who are willing to fill a need when it intersects their path. Envision Church has stepped up to the plate with God’s divine grace to make a difference in Les Cayes in very tangible ways. Will you partner with us?
If you want more information on giving to the building fund, medical program or are interested in sponsoring a child to go to school, please contact Cory Nickols at [email protected].