Hope reborn in Haiti

Hope reborn in Haiti

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.” 1 Corinthians 13

Among our church’s longest and strongest Outreach relationships is that with the St. Joseph Family. Founded in the 1980’s to provide a home for boys living on the streets, it has come a long way and this year achieved two new milestones, in which our partnership played an important part.

In the 1994, the boys in St. Joseph’s Family saw a new need in their community. Many disabled children in Haiti were faced with bleak futures—they often were born into families without the financial resources to provide the care needed and some in the culture did not accept these children, viewing them as a sign of God’s disfavor. This led the St. Joseph Family to take a leap of faith, creating Wings of Hope, a home for disabled children, once again using the approach of rebuilding a family for those society had neglected and rejected.

The earthquake in 2010 shook the foundations of many institutions in Haiti, and the St. Joseph Family was among them. Both of their facilities were destroyed or damaged beyond repair. For the last five years, the thirty members of the Wings of Hope family have been living in a jury-rigged rental house in the hills above Port-au-Prince. The love and support of the caregivers remained unchanged, but the physical challenges of a three-story house accommodating severely disabled children, many in wheelchairs, were daunting.

Faith, hope and love are the true foundations of the St. Joseph Family, however, and they put these to work, dreaming of new facilities to replace the old, places where loving care could take place in a setting tailored to the needs of the children. With the help of their Raleigh-based fundraising arm, Hearts with Haiti, they raised money for a world-class facility and began construction. Your generosity through the Capital Campaign tithe played a key role in this process. In January the new Wings of Hope opened in Jacmel.

Our Mission Team visited the new Wings in late March and was blown away by the new facility. Brightly colored, all on one level, and surrounding an open-courtyard, it’s a facility designed with the needs to the disabled first and foremost.

The bCardsoy’s rooms, paid for by your donations, was bright and spotless, with beautiful Haitian art decorating the walls, and the girls dormitory was similarly beautiful. The smiles on the faces and the joy in the voices of the children provided the clearest message—they love their new home. We were blessed to share the Easter service with them and were moved to tears by the way in which all, even those who cannot speak in words, are included in the service. We also had a chance to give each child a set of Easter cards made by the children in our Sunday School classes, which were received with great excitement.

The St. Joseph Family has also experienced a second re-birth over the last year. The plan of the founder was to ultimately turn over leadership of the Family to the alumni of the program. That is now coming into fruition as boys who grew up in the family have become young men, and are assuming leadership roles. Three of them, Maya Fond-Rose, Daniel Jean Mary, and Walnes Cangas spent the last three weeks in the US, meeting and thanking supporters and spreading the word about the good work of the family. A group from our church shared dinner with them, hearing first hand of their triumphs and challenges. All of us came away with a new sense of commitment to our partnership, which has brought much to so many in Haiti and in our congregation. We also hope many more people in our congregation can join trips to visit Haiti, and experience the beauty of the land and people first hand.

– Mark, for Global Outreach

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Little caterpillar, what do you see?
Walking along so close to the ground
Making your way in the world an inch at a time
Progressing slowly but surely
Moving with joy but uncertain of the path

Then one day everything changes
The world gets dark and scary and uncertain
Enveloped in the chrysalis of change
Questions swirl in your mind…
What is happening?
What comes next?
Is this the end?

Finally one day a crack in the darkness appears
Could this sliver of light be a new beginning?
Slowly the world comes into focus
And a new being emerges
But the questions still persist
What have I become?
How do I move in the world now?

The sun brings light and understanding
As confidence is gained
And fear falls away
Your questions are finally answered
As you realize an end is really a new beginning
And that you have become your dreams
An explosion of beauty and color fills the sky
Because it is now you can take flight on WINGS OF HOPE!

Written by Renee Dietrich for the dedication of Wings of Hope, Jacmel ~ January 29, 2016

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Resurrection Living

Resurrection Living

In this story, Shelley Wiley, one of the founders of Hearts with Haiti, shares how the family at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys represents “resurrection living.” This is a family who – in many ways – is like any other. There are arguments, laughter, eye-rolling, and complaints about chores. But what has always set the SJF apart is their posture of genuine hopefulness and gratitude and the firm belief that, with God, all things are possible. 

In January of 1997 I took my first trip to Haiti and stayed at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys – this was in the days before the chapel and roof were complete. It was also before there was a pump system for water in the house, so a daily chore for the boys was hauling 5-gallon buckets of water to all of the bathrooms.

The house was full, with boys ranging in age from about 5 to 20, along with assorted guests. Laughter would ring out when guests and boys played games, or when the Sunday morning darts tournament was underway.

To this day, though, I still believe that what captured my heart was the evening gathering of the boys and Michael, to which guests were always invited. Any of you who have visited will probably have your own memories of “Bravos.” During bravos, boys give a “bravo” to others for things they did that were kind or for assistance given or even simply for being a friend. Bravos were followed by family discussion of random issues that needed to be addressed, such as missing school books or upcoming field trips. Last, the family would then turn to evening devotions and prayers.

During the prayers, boys would pour out their prayers of confession, owning up to ways in which they were not being who they could be. There were also prayers of thanksgiving for the life and resurrection and hope that becoming part of St. Joseph’s brought them.

They all understood, even the youngest, that their lives had changed from suffering to resurrection living.

Like all families and homes, things were not perfect. Sometimes the house ran out of operating money, and they would have to wait for their allowances. Sometimes some of the boys did not want to do their fair share. And yet, I couldn’t help but be moved by the raw honesty in the boys’ prayers and in their voices.

But, where it became most clear to me that Michael’s vision of providing “family” for the boys was a holy calling was in just how normal the boys were. The youngest ones needed help and attention. They sometimes drifted off to sleep during devotions. They looked at the older boys with admiration.

The oldest guys had moved into the stage of life where they understood it was time to be helpful and to give back. They willingly took on their chores. One would get up very early to go pick up the bread for the day. Another would get up early to make many gallons of sweet, sweet lime juice for all the others.

And then there were the young teens. At bravos, they would often roll their eyes as others expressed appreciation. They would poke at the little ones. At times they were a bit surly or in very grumpy moods. In other words, they were going through that change from childhood to young adulthood, with all the attendant changes in hormones and moods, and they did it freely. When they went too far in their grumpiness, their punishment was extra chores, or requirements to help the younger ones with their homework. Just like in a “normal” family.

As I have gone back again and again over the years, I’ve seen those same awkward young teens turn into amazing adults. They mature and grow, just like we all hope our children will do!

What I realized was that the boys of the St. Joseph Family were allowed to be who they were at the various stages we all go through as we mature. But they were also being nurtured into responsible young adulthood by Michael, the older boys, and even the men who had grown up at SJHB and came back on the weekends to visit.

They didn’t all make it. I remember one boy who had survived on the streets by stealing what he needed to live, and they could not get him to break that habit, and thus he had to leave. I remember another boy who simply thought the chores and daily routines of being a part of a family were not fair to him, and he left of his own accord.

But so many more did understand the new life and new possibilities that were given to them because of the St. Joseph Family. The ones who couldn’t manage family life were also given second and third chances to make the adjustment, and many were helped to survive on their own for a time when they couldn’t.

Finally, though, it has always been the eye-rolling that has given me the most hope. Being 13 years old is difficult anywhere, but even more so for these boys whose early lives have brought them so much suffering. I know in my heart that if these surly teens can grow into strong men, something akin to resurrection is surely going on!

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