Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Last night the band and I returned home after spending a week in Haiti. My mind is reeling with the places and the people I saw there, so I wanted to share with you some of our experiences in an effort to save these memories.

We arrived at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on November 3rd. There we met Tom (pictured above), a local missionary who lives with twenty two Haitians in Bon Repos, most of them boys he's adopted from a local orphanage and surrounding villages. He's trained them as local leaders and they work for him as an interpreters, ministry and outreach coordinators and teachers. When we arrived at Toms compound (a walled off property containing 3 houses) we were met by the boys. Their ages range from around four to the mid-twenties. We greeted them in the courtyard and as we shook hands their faces beamed with excitement. It was clear that they enjoyed visitors, and even more clear that we looked a little different from the usual church groups. After playing some basketball we were escorted to our rooms, which the boys usually sleep in but give up to visitors whenever they arrive. Over the course of the week we learned the names, stories and dreams of these guys, and after a week I can honestly call them my friends. Never have I met more sincere, loving and driven group of people, each of them are concerned with bettering their community. They truly are the hope for Haiti. On top of all that many of them have a great sense of humor, and we spent much of the week laughing with them.

The average long-term missionary lasts about two years in Haiti, Tom has been there for over fifteen years. His goal with his ministry is to replace himself, and not with white folks, but with Haitians. Haitians who would otherwise have been orphaned and abandoned, left to live in poverty, he gives them the opportunity of an education, a job and a better life. Coupled with a lifelong dream of sharing the Gospel, Tom is driven to meet the needs of the poor. Food, water, shelter and love are among his top priorities. He believes you can't successfully share the Gospel with someone who is sick and starving unless you first show love by meeting those basic needs. I couldn't agree more. Missionaries are often times portrayed as folks who go into third world countries with the priority of making converts, ignoring the basic needs of the people. Jesus Himself served the poor with his life, commanding us to do the same, but we sometimes hear stories of missionaries ignoring verses like this:

"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed." (Luke 14:13)

Tom is not one of those missionaries. He truly believes in the commandment to love his neighbor, and because of his sacrifice his neighbors are impoverished Haitians. He isn't solely concerned with their spiritual needs, although the Gospel is the reason he's there. His heart breaks when the innocent die from preventable causes. Through tears he tells us stories of people he's loved and lost. He tells us of the thirty-some-odd children who live at the garbage dump on piles of garbage, sifting through the waste of one of the poorest countries of the world. The poorest of the poor. He tells us he would love to take all thirty of those children home, to give them food and safety and an education, to raise them with hope and faith. Slowly, as he gets more people committing their finances to Jesus In Haiti Ministries, Tom is able to take more orphans and poverty stricken children home with him. Three of the boys we met were recent additions to his family. They've already learned to call him "Papi," and although their english is still poor after only a few weeks they're learning quickly. The boys go to school daily for an education they wouldn't get otherwise. Schools cost money, and an education is out of the question when you don't know where your next meal is coming from. At Tom's they get a family, consistency, discipline, food and an education. They get a second chance at life.

It's a working system. I spent much of the week with Johnny, who acts as Tom's translator. Tom found him when he was fifteen, living with three other boys in a shelter with two cots, the boys would take turns with the sleeping arrangements each night, two on the cots and two on the floor, and then they would switch the next night. They stuck together to gather food, if one boy would find some he would take it home and share it so they could all survive together. These boys have been orphaned by parental death or abandonment, they've all seen and lost so much due to poverty and sickness, but their sense of family is still so strong. Ten years later, at twenty-five, Johnny works for Tom as a full time outreach director, worship leader, translator and charismatic funny man. You'll see a lot of him on the video we are currently editing, singing "The Coldest Heart" at the top of his lungs with a Creole accent (He loved to improvise the words, "Woa-oooh-ooh-ohhh I'm losing weight! I used to be fat.... etc. It is always followed by laughter.) He speaks great english and is passionate about helping boys just like him. The stories go on and on about the boys Tom has raised. Because of him, where they came from and where they are going are dramatically different places. Thats the incredible thing about what Tom does. He doesn't take capable, educated Haitians and put them to work in the poor villages. He takes poor, uneducated Haitians, invests his time and resources into them, loves them like his sons and daughters, and then turns them lose. They have a natural passion and empathy for the people, and it's beautiful to see them have the opportunity to give back.

Tom's ministry has what he calls the "Five Points of Light." They are the house, the orphanage, the garbage dump, the church, and the school. He has dreams that each of these "Points of Light" will act as such, and that they will be beacons of light in a community which desperately needs their physical, emotional and spiritual needs met. The orphanage lives on a committed sum of donations of about $3000 a month. This takes care of and feeds around 125 orphans. It's not nearly enough. Tom thinks that they need about $10,000 to do it properly, but God seems to provide on the meager donations they receive. Tom said when he first discovered the orphanage, the children were sick and starving, everyone was laying around in a comatose state. They hadn't eaten in days. He teared up as he told us the story of how that day he stood in front of them and pledged, "Help is on the way." Since then they've received support, and because of that support the kids have one meal of rice and beans each day. The point is that there are a lot more children who need help, but they can't afford to take any more in. The orphanage is already three times over capacity for the support they are getting.

They recently bought a field and pitched a large tent. The tent houses the school during the week, the youth group on Fridays and the church on Sundays. They are in the process of planning to erect a building, but there is still money to be raised in order to start the project. The school contains around 100 children who get a well rounded and proper education (some of the other schools use textbooks from Cuba, which claim quite a few falsehoods about America and are quite biased in favor Cuba, it was funny to hear some of those falsehoods and even funnier to hear that Haitians actually believed them). The children at the school would otherwise be running naked (or close to it) in their respective villages, with no money for an education or food for that matter. The school also provides water and a meal each day for the students, which is something the other charging schools do not provide. The teachers are paid $100 a month, which may seem like a meager salary but is actually more than what most teachers make. Tom is concerned with getting the best teachers for his kids, teachers with the right attitude and heart for Haiti. Each year they graduate about fifteen students, which frees up room in their lowest grade to accept fifteen more. Tom says there's a long waiting list to get in. They wish to accept everyone, but right now they're at capacity financially and space-wise. The point is there is plenty more good to be done there, for a small monthly financial commitment anyone could allow for starving and impoverished child to receive a meal, water and an education. For next to nothing we can give a child a future. I've been there so I know it works, I've seen my own $25 a month at work in the orphanage, every dollar being spent on the kids. In seeing that I am challenged and convicted to send more money. I don't have much, my debt to wealth ratio is about 20 to 1, but compared to these kids I live in heaven. I can sacrifice at least few more meals out a month so another couple kids can eat rice and beans once a day.

Tom never asks for money. He doesn't like leaving Haiti, but once in awhile he has to head back to the States to raise money. When he does he leaves JiHM in the trustworthy hands of his boys, who run everything smoothly. He goes around to churches in the US to try to raise support, and how is does it is simple: He tells stories. He says what he does, and leaves it at that. He never asks for money, but after hearing about the need people are generally led to help out. He smiles as he tells me the small churches give more. I smile as I tell him I know. The church I go to of around 150 people is the sole source of support for the orphanage on a weekly basis. Without our meager church, over 125 kids would be be starving. Now they can eat, play and live, what an amazing thing! The thing is there is always a need, no matter how small your church, how little you have, you can always make a difference in the lives of people who have less than you. You can make a real difference for real people.

The thing that always blows me away about other cultures is how similar we all are. We all want the same things: hope, health, peace, love and opportunity. We all struggle with the same pressures, some of the specifics are different, but the emotional struggles remain the same. One night I drove to the store with Claudy, the 21-year-old whose room Robbie, Alan and I stayed in. He told me about meeting his girlfriend, about how he used to be and about how she changed him and continues to challenge him. I told him about my relationship, and how much that really paralleled with my life. We talked about honesty and how important it is in a relationship, and discussed much of the same things we've learned from our girls. The thing that always strikes me is how alike we all are. From first world to forth world, from black to white, we all are so very human and real.

The people we met aren't just faces on a television, or on a sponsor packet, they're real people with unique personalities who are loved by God. They are just like you and me. The only difference is that they were born in a third-world, and we were born a first-world. They were born into perpetual poverty, and we were born into opportunity. We have an opportunity to help them, and you can bet we're going to take it. I don't know how exactly, but we're brainstorming possibilities to really garner support for JiHM and Tom's mission. Even if our role is purely educational, our goal as a band will be to see dramatic growth and support for Haiti in general, in the right places and in the right ways. Tom's way seems to work, so we're going to back him.

For more info on JiHM visit http://www.jesusinhaiti.org/

To contribute financially send to:

Suite # 155
10214 Chestnut Plaza dr.
Ft. Wayne, IN 46814
ATT: Pat Hinen


  1. I'm so glad you were able to visit Haiti and be the eyes for us who are stuck stateside. I hope that as you share what you've seen and experienced, it will cause all of us listening to think outside of ourselves more. That we can see how blessed we are, and see how much we have to give. That we don't forget what we've heard, but we take action.

  2. Ah man. This post really made my day. It is so strange (perhaps not so coincidental)that this type of thing is something I feel God has really placed on my heart this week.

    I live in South Africa, and coming from a privileged Afrikaaner home, I have had a bit more opportunities in life than my fellow South Africans.

    For a while now I have been under the impression that God is really guiding my heart into the Rural Townships near the University where I study.

    I have been praying about this and seeking guidance the last couple of days and this - along with other conversations I had with fellow students - is in a strange way a confirmation that I should open myself up and see where God takes me.

    So thank you.
    This really meant a lot to me.

    God Bless
    and take care.

  3. It's quite excellent seeing someone with a passion for Haiti.

    A friend passed this article along because I lived in Haiti for a year (as a short term missionary), I'm from Seattle, and I'm a Classic Crime fan...

    It was pretty sweet to see all of that come together on one page. So. Yeah. Thanks.

  4. This is amazing. Inspiring and wonderful to read that you guys did something like this, would do something like this. Espeically because it's exactly what needs to be done. Thank you for reaching out and inspiring us all to do the same...

    I do something similar with my own [small :) ] church every year, we go down to Tijuana for 8 days to build houses and hand out rice and beans and meet people. Amazing stuff, for the same reason- it's only the tip of the iceberg, but it's exactly what needs to be done.

    "We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don't get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers... We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we're called home."

    ps, I'm from Seattle too, but I was born in South Africa and my whole family lives there... so we have a whole little Seattle-South Africa club on here :)

    love, mariƩ.

  5. This is incredible. It reminds me a lot of when I went on a week-long mission trip to Guatemala- also a boys' orphanage. It was a life-changing experience, and someday I want to go back or go somewhere new and just help people. I'm not a rich person by any means, but I always feel guilty about what I have here.

    So thanks for making a difference.