By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
HAITI – Wayne Sheppard has seen thousands of Haitian children during 15 mission trips there, but for him one young girl stands out among the rest, symbolizing the whole of the impact of Louisiana Baptists’ work there.
During an October 2015 visit near the capital of Port-au-Prince, Sheppard was working in the medical clinic when 9-year-old Selena came seeking help for an injured leg. The following day she returned, but in worse condition, prompting the volunteer doctors and nurses to rush her to a local hospital.
The team quickly fell in love with Selena, whose home life includes an absent father and a stepmother who shows little interest in her.
One Louisiana Baptist couple, Terry and Shelley Hamilton, members of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in West Monroe, was so moved in their love for Selena, they decided to pursue adoption of the young girl.
Sheppard said he looks forward to many more visits, and encounters with many more children like Selena. Moreover, it made him even more determined to create a better opportunity for others who are not being adopted and remain either alone in Haiti, or unwanted in loveless homes.
“Selena is a young lady we love who really represents the children of Haiti,” Sheppard said. “She is the kind of child we will get to minister to, care for, share the Gospel with and educate in the Children’s Village in Haiti as soon as it is established.
“Pray for Selena. Pray for the Hamiltons as they seek to adopt her,” Sheppard urged. “But pray for all the children of Haiti who also need loving parents.”
The Haiti project is an effort sponsored by the Haitian Baptist Convention, 30 Louisiana Baptist churches and the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home.
Haiti was devastated by a Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and left hundreds of thousands more homeless. Louisiana Baptists were among the first to provide disaster relief and have maintained a ministry presence through mission trips that includes construction projects, pastor training, medical clinics, evangelism and children’s Bible clubs (Vacation Bible School).
In the time since the earthquake response, a vision developed for a permanent presence in Haiti, Sheppard said, and Louisiana Baptists finally completed the acquisition of land in September, and volunteers have completed a well.
The well will serve a planned children’s village and pastor training center, and also provide water for residents of the local community, he explained, adding that church plants will be a pivotal part of Louisiana Baptists work in the country, and the ministry center will be the base from which Louisiana Baptists partner with Haitian believers to reach all of Haiti by starting churches.
The hope is to build a housing community next, followed with the development of micro businesses and trade schools, according to Sheppard, and as the project expands, there is a vision for constructing a hotel, operated by Haitians, and a school for educating the children.
Ron and Alana Greenwich, retired missionaries currently residing in Minden, have been hired to take a major leadership role in this work, Sheppard said. They will coordinate mission trips, build awareness among Louisiana Baptists, help with fundraising, and oversee the development of the children’s village.
According to Sheppard, a Haitian contractor recently was hired to begin construction on the children’s village. The first work will include a security wall, security tower and water well structure, all which should be completed by Jan. 1, 2017.
During the most recent mission trip in October, a 28-member team ministered in the country just a month after Hurricane Matthew caused destruction in many areas of Haiti, he said. They provided $3,000 worth of materials to repair damage to church plants in La Gonave and Foret des Pins and sent supplies to assist residents in Les Cayes, one of the hardest-hit cities. The immediate area around Port-au-Prince, where the ministry center is being built, was largely unaffected.
Team members also served 575 children during multiple Vacation Bible Schools, preached at three churches on a Sunday morning, continued building a school building in Canaan and installed 50 water filters in homes – all the while sharing the Gospel and giving beans and rice to families. At least 110 Haitians made public professions of Christ, Sheppard reported.
“We are always excited when people become part of the family of God. It is especially exciting when they are born again out of the darkness of voodoo and a syncretistic culture,” Sheppard said. “We are thankful that more were added to the number who will worship Jesus around His throne eternally.”
Sheppard said moving forward, mission teams will build the children’s village, medical clinic, pastor’s training center and hotel. At least six mission trips are planned in 2017, with the possibility of increasing the trips to once a month.
But he said what is needed most are prayers.
Financial support and a force of volunteers are being lined up to help make this God-sized dream a reality, he said, adding, the work is only just beginning. We need absolutely more of our Louisiana Baptists to be involved.”
“Louisiana Baptists, you have great opportunity to go and help us establish a footprint and make a spiritual imprint in this country for the Lord Jesus Christ – an eternal impact with the Gospel, for the Kingdom, by reaching the people of Haiti for Him.”
A Shout Haiti breakfast is scheduled 7 a.m., Nov. 15, at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria, prior to the start of the Tuesday morning session of the Louisiana Baptist Convention 2016 Annual Meeting. The free breakfast will include an information session about missions opportunities in Haiti.
Pre-registration is requested at https://louisianabaptists.org/event/haiti-shout-breakfast/.
To participate in a future mission trip to Haiti, email Wayne.Sheppard@louisianabaptists.org.
Financial contributions can be made by check to the Louisiana Baptist Foundation, P.O. Box 311, Alexandria, LA 71309, (Write “LA Reach Haiti” in the memo line.).