By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
CROIX-DES-BOUQUETS, Haiti (LBM) – The Children’s Transition Village in Haiti has welcomed its first group of economic orphans, after more than five years of prayer and hard work by Louisiana Baptists and the Haiti Baptist Convention.
According to Darrin Badon, president of Louisiana Reach Haiti (a partnership between the Louisiana Baptist Convention, Haiti Baptist Convention, Louisiana Baptist churches and the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home) seven boys entered the facility in Croix-Des-Bouquets July 1. The buildings are designed to be home for up to 20 boys and 20 girls. But the hope is to eventually reunite the children with their families.
“Every day in Haiti the battle for the family is being fought,” said Badon, also director of operations at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. “Often it seems like a war that can’t be won — as poverty and high unemployment destroy one generation after another. Many children end up in orphanages, but care can range from good to deplorable.
“We will offer our children the best of care. But not to keep them,” he said. “We can’t be, and will not be, a place that divides the family that God designed and created.
“As we receive these children, we will first work to give them a safe home and meet their needs,” he continued. “Then we will quickly begin working toward reuniting them with their families when possible. We understand in most cases we will need to find a way to bridge the economic gap that has institutionalized these children in the first place.”
The milestone of accepting the first cohort of children was the culmination of the nine-year Louisiana Reach Haiti partnership, Badon said.
Haiti was devastated by an earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and left hundreds of thousands more homeless in January 2010.
Louisiana Baptists were among the first to provide disaster relief and have maintained a ministry presence since then through mission trips, sometimes multiple times each year.
After the earthquake response, some members of the Louisiana Baptist team felt led to create a permanent presence in Haiti, and they shared their vision with Louis Odvald, pastor of the New Evangelical Baptist Church in Croix-Des-Bouquets, Badon said. The completed walled-in compound which houses the Children’s Transitional Village in the outskirts of his town is only part of the plans they visualized.
A church and school, with a well, has been completed in neighboring Canaan, as well as the “brick and mortar” portion of a medical clinic. Badon said funding still needs to be raised for clinic operations.
Perry Hancock, president and CEO of the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries, was thankful for the results of “years of much prayer, planning and building.”
“LBCH is honored to be a part of this ministry to house and educate impoverished children while sharing the love of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Wayne Sheppard, who retired as missions partnership mobilizer for Louisiana Baptists in 2018 and helped lead this initiative to establish a strategic foothold in Haiti, echoed Perry’s excitement.
“Seeing the pics of these precious boys who have entered the children’s village causes my heart to nearly explode,” said Sheppard, now pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Casa Grande, Arizona. “In 2010, we could only imagine how our God would use the coming investments for a new future for people in Haiti. These ‘young men’ are the divine hope for new beginnings for untold numbers of children and families going forward. As Ephesians 3:20 says, to Him who is able belongs all the glory.”