When an earthquake struck Haiti on the morning of January 12, 2010, it devastated an entire country that had already been on the brink of falling apart. The magnitude of the disaster created problems that would take many, many years to address.
Partnering with the Haiti Baptist Convention, Hungarian Baptist Aid, and the Baptist World Alliance, the BGAV strategically addressed one of the greatest needs for long-term help, and the idea for the Source of Light Center was born. In January 2012, the BGAV celebrated with the Haiti Baptist Convention and other Baptists around the world as the center opened.
At that time, Dean Miller (now BGAV Mission Development Staff Coordinator, then Disaster Relief Coordinator), made this comment: “Thinking long term allows you to take the resources you have, whether they are finances, personnel, or others, and spread them out so you are not only helping people recover from the immediate disaster; you are helping them along the entire way, so you bring more complete healing.”
Fast-forward five years: now in 2017, Miller’s words have proven true. By investing long-term in the people of the Delmas 19 community of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the BGAV and its partners have seen tremendous progress and growth so far. Future plans are for even more strategic, community-sustaining ministries that are primarily driven by the Haitians themselves.
“The Source of Light Center started as a response to a disaster with an orphanage and school,” explains Craig Waddell, BGAV Partnership and Short-Term Volunteer Coordinator, “and has grown to include mentoring classes in life skills, a special needs class, a radio station, and micro-economic projects with purified water and raising chickens to sell eggs.”
Thirty-seven children, ranging in ages from 4 to 16, live at the center. As some of the older children are beginning to age out of the orphanage, there are plans to develop a new property they’ve acquired into a vocational center and transition house.
“One of the big changes,” explains Waddell, “has been the establishment of a board of advisors for the center. The board consists predominantly of Haitians, but two Virginia Baptists serve on it as well. Part of the board’s task is to move the center from a relief effort to a long-term, Haitian-driven, developmental project.”
The compelling vision that drives the center forward and gives the team its energy is to “transform Delmas 19 with hope, for the glory of God!” They not only want to change the lives of the children who live there; rather, they seek to be a blessing for and a living part of the community—seeking out the existing resources and collaborating with partners who are already there.
Pastor Ronel Mesidor, who is the head of the center, believes strongly that living out this vision is the way to change Haiti’s future. He comments, “Haiti is not really a poor country.” The issue, according to Pastor Ronel, is not resources. “We have bad leadership—bad government. I think we have resources, but we don’t build people.”
He goes on to say, “That’s why I invest in kids. When we invest in kids, we invest for the future. At Source of Light, we can prepare the next generation…to be good pastors, leaders, politicians, lawyers, and doctors for the future.”
According to Waddell, the center wants to participate in God’s call to transform the community by making an impact in five main areas: faith, health, education, economics, and partnering. “There are activities going on in each of these areas, but in order to have lasting impact, it’s important for us to choose some specific needs where we can invest ourselves and network with other partners,” he clarifies. Toward that goal, Virginia Baptists are focusing especially on the child sponsorships, discipleship, the new church plant, and the transition house/youth center.
How can individuals and churches participate in what’s going on at Source of Light?
- Opportunity: Child Sponsorship
Child sponsorship directly supports the needs of the children who are living at Source of Light. Sponsorship covers three meals a day, education, books, school uniforms, clothing, shoes, medical care, hygiene, and support of the caregivers (house moms, cooks, launderer, and life mentors). Rod Miller, Director of Eagle Eyrie Baptist Conference Center, has sponsored a child there since 2012.
He recalls, “At the BGAV Annual Meeting, pictures of the children were displayed in the exhibit hall. Every time I walked by, my eyes were drawn to a boy named Mackendy, and so our family’s sponsorship of him began. I’ve sponsored other children through other organizations over the years, but this investment has been much more rewarding because of the personal relationship our family has developed with Mackendy. My sons have sent and received letters and pictures, and we were even able to go on a sponsor-family BGAV trip to Haiti and meet him in person. Our church, West Lynchburg Baptist Church, has now taken groups there each year for the past three years, and our family has participated. We’ve also taken Christmas gifts to Mackendy and the other children. Whether we come bearing gifts or not, the smiles on the children’s faces are worth far more than our partial sponsorship of one boy. Two of Mackendy’s paintings hang inside the main entrance to our home, and we proudly display his photos on the refrigerator in our kitchen. We think about him and the other children often, and we pray for them daily. In many ways, Mackendy has become part of our family. Our relationship with him and the center has instilled in my sons a larger worldview and an incredible heart for missions. This sponsorship has made an impact on them and on me that is much greater than anything we’ve been able to do for Mackendy and the other children.”
There is a great need for more co-sponsors for the children until the center becomes self-sustaining. Sponsorships are available at multiple monthly levels: $140, $70, $35, $20, and $15. For more information, visit SourceOfLightHaiti.org or contact Staci Calkin at email@example.com.
- Opportunity: Discipleship
Following Jesus is the best foundation for building one’s life, so discipleship is at the center of the Source of Light’s investment in the children. Virginia Baptists contribute with VBS teams and backyard Bible clubs in the community.
The adult leaders, teachers, and staff are crucial for maintaining an atmosphere that points to Christ, so investing in discipleship training (based on Mike Breen’s “Building a Discipling Culture”) is critical for them, as well as for the older children. Soon the Spence Network will establish the first Uptick Haiti mentoring group for young leaders.
- Opportunity: Transition House/Youth Center
“The financial reality is a challenge,” explains Waddell, “as there is not much disposable income among the general population.” Funding large-scale projects like renovating the transition house on the new property is a big hurdle. However, children cannot move in until the house is finished. As the older children move on to the transition house to receive more life-skills mentoring and vocational training, they will create more space for additional children at the orphanage. To contribute financially to Source of Light, visit SourceOfLightHaiti.org.
Volunteers and teams are needed in many areas, ranging from teaching VBS to training special needs educators, working in medical needs and physical therapy, repairing facilities and painting, providing continuing education for teachers, and many others. For more specific information about opportunities, contact Craig Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.255.2428, ext. 7263.