claude

Pastor Claude 2Pastor Claude’s passion for caring for orphans is apparent from the first moment you meet him, and it is fundamentally impossible to not see his passion stems from his redeemed life through Christ, and having been an orphan himself who was brought to Christ by a pastor helping orphans. Pastor is always transparent with what his life was like before Jesus, “Sometimes when I think about my past, I cry, and I remember God is helping me to move forward. When I am crying, I say, God you needed me and you know you are going to use me for your own good. Why did you let me do those bad things when I was young? Not everyone has the chance I have. Some people die when they are doing the bad things they are doing.”

That surrender to the life God has called him to brought Pastor back to Haiti in 1997 for the first time since leaving Haiti many years before with a mission to help those that had no one to provide for them. In each face taken in and he sees the reflection of his own face as a child living in extreme poverty near Cap Haitian. Every impulse Pastor has is to champion children just as he was championed by a pastor that came into his life and led him to the cross.

Walking with him at one of the villages he cares for kids, it is hard to miss the chorus of “Papi Claude” that ring out, or the kids that come and follow him, most of the time receiving a hand on the head or reminder of doing their homework or preparing for church in some way. Once when Pastor was returning from walking the countryside for several days, as he walked back into the village at Latremblay, the kids ran to his side, his absence having been a palpable void in their days.

Love runs deep in Pastor’s ministry, and that deepness is drawing his kids into a transformed life calling some to be pastors, others to music, and as Pastor prays, some to care for orphans just as he has dedicated his life. According to Pastor, “In Haiti, kids who don’t have parents, other orphans or people who don’t have money, people don’t want to marry these kinds of people. You are not considered as people. They think they are superior to them.” It is equality in God’s realm that unifies the villages of Pastor Claude and invites his congregations to be a part of something bigger than cultural norms of this world.

Armed with God’s word, Pastor consistently points back to the Bible to anyone around him. “In Psalm 41, it says, ‘blessed is anyone who cares for the weak.’ The first and the second verses say, blessed are people who take care of people who don’t have anyone to take care of anyone. It’s not only in Haiti, but Africa, everywhere, if you can help people who don’t have anyone to help them you should help them.”

The Lord has led GO Project to support the leadership of Pastor Claude as he cares for economic and social orphans at his villages of Latremblay, on the east side of Port-au-Prince and Leogane, west of Port-au-Prince. At GO Project, individuals or communities can contribute to life care and education costs of the orphans on a monthly basis or through long-term support of the pastors.

men

I’ve seen countless women answering God’s call to be present within the orphan window around the world. Obvious reasons feed into why women are drawn to orphan care. Each has an innate way they nurture, love and care for others. I’ve even been surprised to see some of these qualities come out in myself. What I really wish is that social expectations for those qualities in men were higher, with much respect for what they already bring to the table.

Realistically, I would trade 5 of these phenomenal, Jesus’ lovin’ women drawn into orphan care for ONE MAN who is passionate about Jesus, willing to surrender himself and step outside his comfort zone to pour into the lives of orphans in this world and those who care for them.

No, ladies, I am not disvaluing your continual presence in the lives of orphans you care about, and it is always a joy digging deep into the mess of relationships with the kids and laugh until I cannot breathe with you. I am emphasizing the importance of men who are not afraid to show they love Jesus in the lives of kids who have been abandoned, and have few examples of the strength found in men that embrace their love for Jesus, and then their love for wife, family and friends.

If you hear one thing let it be that orphan care is not for one gender or the other. It is equal opportunity for all to be active in God’s Kingdom. Let me also clarify that orphan care is all inclusive of many different people in our world. When you define an orphan as someone who has no one to champion them…that busts open a new worldview to orphans being elderly, single moms, widows, foster kids, abandoned kids, kids with no parents, kids with parents in jail and the teenager down the street whose parents have decided they are done parenting.

Orphan care is also not just for those of us who happen to be called beyond the borders of the United States. It is for every believer living in God’s Kingdom who is a neighbor, employee, spouse, parent, sports enthusiast…the list goes on. Orphans surround you on a daily basis. Granted some are living in far more extreme situations than the neighbors of those that are reading this, but to God each orphan is equal to the next. No orphan is loved more by God based on the situation they find themselves.

IMG_1114I’ve had some unique opportunities to see men active in the lives of orphans around the world in the last month. In October, there was a group of 22 that came down to Haiti. Four in that group were women. Do the math…that’s eighteen of the male variety. What I saw in that group was the admiration on the kids’ faces as the men led games. Joy when a kid found themselves on the top of a man’s shoulders. Intense concentration as a man’s hair was braided, then pride in the result. Complete abandon as men held them and ‘hopped’ them through a potato sack race. There is great responsibility when a man steps into the life of an orphan, because that child of God is looking at how they treat the wife and kids they are traveling with, as well as the others on the team. They are watching, because they don’t see it very often.

IMG_5081The kids rarely have men play with them, and each of those interactions is a mark on a young boy or girl that has few models to look to in their life. I love the translators that work with us in Haiti. They have genuine love for the kids they see, and it’s no coincidence that the kids gravitate to these strong men who love Jesus. A few months ago one of the male social workers was at the village when a group pulled in to visit. He had a swarm of older teenage boys hanging around him as they kicked a soccer ball around. Another village we support has mamas and papas who live with the kids. The respect the kids have for the papas who are with them every day is evident. When you look around the village you see a lot of women taking care of the kids, cleaning clothes, cooking meals and male Pastor who is leading them all. What is absent from the daily life of most villages is the presence of good, strong examples of what it looks like to be men who passionately loves Jesus and choose to be present with the kids. There is definite strength in the women surrounding the kids, but God wants to use the presence of men in the kids’ lives to enrich their view of his Kingdom, too. Does it help an orphan connect with God when they see the real life example of what it is to be a man running after his Father’s heart? It was beautiful watching the kids come alive around the men on the team, but equally beautiful watching the men come alive as the kids soaked up the time they were given.

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; or else I will strike the land with a curse. [Malachi 4:6]

My hope is that men would inspire men to go deeper into God’s heart for the orphan, but that means time and loyal investment into the messy areas of orphan care. It means making time to walk through life with someone else. It means spending time with other men struggling through a calling to be present in the lives of orphans. It means digging deep into relationship and in the best case scenario…discipleship. And ladies, it means no guilt trips when your man is working through answering his calling. Take pride in that with him and support him, even if that means a fraction of time away from your family. He will be a better dad and husband for answering God’s calling…I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

Recently I traveled with a group to visit the kids in Russia that we have known for six years. These are short visits with long-term commitment that God is richly showing up in as we gain shared memories with the kids. Kids and their American friends write letters throughout the year, and once a year we get to physically be present to connect with kids, as well as their caregivers, teachers and the man who directs them all. These relationships have taken years to develop and much patience with God laying a base of trust. It has been a hard road, but worth every messy minute to be a part of what God is doing now.

IMG_5817This year we had four people, two men and 2 women, after several years of only one man traveling on our yearly visit. Much time was spent with these fellas being goofy, leading activities and allowing themselves to simply be present in the moments God put before them. We spent a lot of time in the gym, and there was a constant line of boys challenging the American men to different athletic endeavors. But it wasn’t just about a show of strength, it was about connection. It was about how you act when you lose, and how you represent yourself in a game. It’s about taking opportunities to be on the same team. It is about a young boy looking at an older man and craving to be known by someone that cares about them. It is about the moments in conversation where life is shared. It is about respect. Men crave respect, and it is no different when you are 14 or 55. How a man respects another man in the context of a challenge shows their character, and as far as the character in the lives of the Russian kids…not many take the time to pour into it.

One of the conversations I had with the orphanage director this year was how impressed we were with the amount of college and university students he had this year. He humbly blew off the compliment with a response that they may be getting good grades, but their character is lacking. His example was how he can provide for them and they can get good enough grades to move on, but after that it is up to them while living on their own. I’m praying God will raise up Russians to help pour into his concerns, at the same time I know we will seeking God in ways we can help support him to grow character in the kids. It is God’s Kingdom community working together that dissolves language barriers and country borders.

I am blessed to know many men who are active within the orphan window and passionately love Jesus. These men have incredible character, and love for their families. I get to see every aspect of these men come alive while being present with some incredible kids. It’s in those moments I see God’s Kingdom come to life.

Many of the kids I know names and faces of throughout the world never knew their father. The fathers are the ones that, unfortunately, are more likely to not take responsibility for their families. I also know many men that are taking responsibility, whose character is strong and love for Jesus is written all over their lives. I believe God is calling these men to call out the men who have not taken responsibility for their families. I get that it’s hard. I get that you don’t think it’s your responsibility. I get that it’s easier to pretend that single mom is doing great on her own, but if you are a great father then disciple other men to be great fathers. Imagine an absentee father on his knees asking forgiveness of his children, imagine the grace possible…imagine the picture of a family restored because a community of men came around another man whose relationship with God needed restoration. A Kingdom life restored to God’s glory. Men, it’s time to be men…real men who stand up for what is good, right and just in this world. Hold fathers accountable to being present with their families, and keep their family unit whole. Embrace how God has created you and lead with confidence.

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; or else I will strike the land with a curse. [Malachi 4:6]

God is calling men to take seriously the spiritual role as head of their families. God is calling the men who already are to disciple those that are not leading their families. God is calling men to seek the gentleness, playfulness and compassion within the strength he has given them. God is calling men of all backgrounds to be present and pour into the orphans of this world…the real question is which of those men will have enough crazy and courage to say yes.

 

 

 

pathways

Sometimes I wake to screeching through my bathroom wall. Nope, not roosters, more human….it sounds like a plethora of teen girls, but in reality…I have lived next door to the Pathways boys for 6 months and when they argue over whose turn it is to use the shower it sounds like a teen girl-cat fight through the wall. It really does make me laugh, and gives me a great source of material to tease them about.

But don’t let arguments over showers sway you on your opinion of these young adults, because they are a phenomenal group of young people being empowered with skills to lead a life of sustainability in Haiti.

IMG_0136 (2)Global Orphan Project has an amazing discipleship journey that brings 18-21 year olds into a program to teach them life and trade skills called Pathways. One of the things I love most is the students are physically learning with their hands. Most schools for older kids in Haiti are all classroom work and teacher led, nothing is hands on learning. The Pathways instructors are physically out in the field instructing the students, the sewing teacher is sewing with the girls, the decorating teacher is working bows with the girls, the boys are physically working with chickens at the chicken farm…they are gaining experience in everything they are being taught.

The other thing I love is the students are being discipled by Haitians that are passionate about teaching others what they know and passing on their knowledge, which includes everything they know about Jesus, the Bible and how to lead others in the faith. When the Pathways students start praying, watch out because heaven and earth will move, friends. And their worship through song…love for their Savior flows from these young adults in mesmerizing ways.

On a recent Friday night, I passed one of the boys in the corridor and said, “Bon swa! How are you?” The response I got in Creole accompanied by a massive smile was, “Good! I wait for Sunday!” I stopped, thinking I translated it wrong in my head, and yelled after him in Creole, “Did you say you wait for Sunday? Today is Friday, tomorrow is Saturday.”

He responded, “Yes, but I am waiting for Sunday. I love Sunday. I love Pastor Claude. I love church.”

I know a LOT of teenagers who love church. I know a lot of teenagers that love Jesus, but I doubt any of them would tell me on a Friday night in the States that they are waiting for Sunday. But here in Haiti, this is the devotion these young adults have for their Savior and the love they have for communally worshipping through prayer, song and the Bible.

One of the girls I love to laugh with was walking with me last weekend, and as we both walked off to our separate rooms, she grabbed my hands and said, “I will pray that Jesus will bless your dreams tonight!” The spirit of joy and love for Jesus in this young woman is a constant source of inspiration for me. She is constantly making us laugh, and is a huge fan of inside jokes. I truly think it is a longing to be known by others that connects us to her, as well as fuels her love for Jesus.

For the last six months I’ve had the privilege of sharing a lot of the same space with the Pathways students, but last weekend the boys moved out into the new Pathways building that will give them space to grow. It is an exciting time, not only for the current students, but to see how God will continue to grow opportunities for so many more kids in villages that are not at a high enough grade level to continue their education into university when they have to leave the villages at age eighteen.

We will miss the abundance of life the students have brought to Jumecourt. The girls are still here at the moment, but as the boys moved out, they were visibly hopping, running, jumping to load their belongings. The energy was electric around here last Saturday as they moved.

IMG_0121 (2)A new first year joined us a night early, and we found out he was from a village one of the second year students was from. Yelling to him as he played basketball, ‘What village are you from?’ He responded by thrusting his arms into the air with his hands formed into fists while flexing his muscles, and then yelled back in English at the top of his lungs, ‘Biggarouse!!! I am from Big House!!!’

The pride and confidence in these students for not only where they come from, but that it means something to them is palpable. They own their place in this world, and it is amazing to see them embrace their story. Their story is a victorious one. They had some place to go when they had to leave the village, and within that place, they are embracing who God has created them to be.

That first weekend, we also got to see their confidence as they absolutely acted like ‘older’ kids when the first years arrived to join the second year Pathways students. Perhaps too much cockiness was in play, but it was great to see their confidence in the path of learning they are on, what they have learned over the last year and excitement for what they will be learning in their last year of their two years.

As one of our organization leaders says, you cannot care about orphan care without caring about orphan prevention.

Realistically, orphan care without emphasis on orphan prevention is only a business of moving money and bodies. Do some orphans get genuine care and love? Of course, but unfortunately emphasis on the monetary aspect has brought a lot of dishonesty within the ‘business’ of orphans. God calls us to defend the orphan, and care for the fatherless. A large part of that defense is providing jobs to keep poverty orphans with their families. God’s heart is not in the ‘business’ of orphans, but it is in preserving the dignity of the parent who is able to provide for their family.

Orphan care cannot outweigh orphan prevention, and God willing orphan prevention will make orphan care obsolete. The Pathway students are a piece of that orphan prevention. If the poverty orphan cycle stops with these educated, cross-trained young adults creating businesses and remaining employed as they have families of their own, then Haiti moves forward in reclaiming their employment independence from organizations and countries that unload their excesses here plaguing any efforts for sustainability. And that is a very exciting future to pour into with Haitians that we are honored to know, love and see grow into strong leaders in their communities.

Join me in praying for the second year students, new first year students, instructors, directors and all of those that support them from the States. As someone who deeply cares about these students, I know your prayers will be received with much gratitude and any glory given straight to our God we serve.

 

 

 

good, right & true

What is good, right and true? Not much in this physical world, right?

There is sin, and in sin is brokenness and in brokenness is hurt, and in hurt is where we peel back the layers of ourselves and bare all before God. But who wants to take the surrender and pain that bareness brings?

However, it is definitely not good, right or true that orphans exist in our world.

It is not good, right or true that parents feel their only choice is to give up their children simply because they cannot afford food, clothing or education…or a combination of all three.

It is not good, right or true that Haitians earn on average $4 a day. Do the math, even IF they worked every day of the year, which they won’t, it is less than $1,500 a year…on AVERAGE.

There are a lot of reasons that Global Orphan Project is an excellent fit for me. Just one of them is their intentional work in orphan prevention.

I say intentional, because orphan care is messy and orphan prevention is even messier. When you are dealing with broken people in a broken world living in a broken system with no long-term outlook…it is just messy.

GO Project partners with businesses in Haiti that are intentionally creating jobs, and hiring parents in order to keep families together. A steady job, some with health insurance, is a huge step in keeping families together in Haiti.

The key is helping these businesses create profit by getting the word out regarding what they are doing. If they are not selling, or do not have orders to make…there is not a need for more workers, or even the employed ones. Check out GOEX.org for who we work with, because there are some amazing people running these businesses. We want to see them succeed, and they are inspiring in their ability to be stubborn against what people say can and cannot be done in Haiti.

Even better? Not only is GO Exchange able to partner with those that we are inspired by, but all of the profit from GO Exchange goes back into orphan care…creating a great visual of what sustainability could look like for Haiti and a multitude of other places.

It is not always about throwing money at a situation. Money helps in the right context, but when you are looking at things on a global scale…so many avenues get corrupted and money being brought in without an effort for sustainability within that country is key.

It breaks my heart when governments are apathetic to not just the rights of their workers, but keeping those workers employed. The reality is that believers have an opportunity to make more of an effort to stand in that gap to not only create jobs with dignity, good pay and working conditions, but also support those creating jobs to ensure those being employed are consistently employed.

It is good, right and true to care about the sin in our world on a personal, local and global level, because things are not right in this world. The heart of God is for all things to be set right and restored in our world. The real question is are we supporting those who are making that effort in risky, inspiring and sometimes persecuted environments?