When you reach Miami, you see a modern world of towering buildings, bridges and asphalt, pristine beaches, and palm trees swaying in the breeze. Cruise ships, yachts, and pleasure boats fill the waters and suntanned bodies line the sandy beaches.
And yet, ninety minutes away on a small Caribbean island, an entirely different world exists. It’s a world without a road system, without modern conveniences such as toilets, running water, or electricity. Food is scarce, disease is rampant, and the government is non-existent. In fact, the devastated country of Haiti can be considered a petri dish for what off-grid living is all about.
Off The Grid Radio
Released: July 19, 2012
Bill: And welcome back. It’s Bill Heid with yet another interesting and exciting episode of Off the Grid Radio. I’ve got two very special guests with me today in the studio. I’d like to welcome back Jan Ross, the president of Heart of God International Ministries and also Dave Young, the executive director of Heart of God Haiti. Guys, thanks for coming back.
Jan: Thanks for having us.
Dave: Thanks for having us here.
Bill: It’s good to have you guys back again. What’s it been, a year or two years or…?
Dave: Yeah, we were here about two years ago and we gave a little update about what happened since the earthquake so it’s been a rocky road since we’ve been here so we’re very…
Bill: It’s been a rocky road. It’s been a rocky road everywhere—in Haiti and otherwise—but we wanted to talk a little bit about sort of being off the grid in Haiti and I think one of the things that we can talk about… Well, first before we talk about that, a lot of folks probably didn’t hear our original interview so Jan, why don’t you start a little bit and talk about… Tell us what your vision was originally but how did Heart of God get started?
Jan: Originally Heart of God started as a women’s ministry. A friend of mine from just south of Chicago and I started Women of Passions and before long we found that God was expanding our vision to include an international influence so through a period of time and prayer we expanded and changed our name to Heart of God International. That was back in 2007. Since then we’ve added Heart of God Uganda, which is now Heart of God Africa because it keeps expanding. We have Heart of God India, Heart of God Haiti, Heart of God Israel, Soldiers Bible Ministry and we also have influence in other areas as well.
Bill: So you’ve got a lot of things going and you started small. That’s back to that whole “never despise small beginnings” thing.
Jan: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Bill: What a wonderful story. Yeah. And Dave, how about as far as Haiti is concerned—how did the original idea for Haiti—how did you get hooked up with Jan?
Dave: Well, it’s a little bit of a story. I was actually on my second mobilization and I was going to go to Afghanistan and the army had sent me to Haiti for a six week, short term project to get set up for the army and the project became very successful, took a life of its own and the ambassador asked South Com “Hey, can you leave Dave here?” and they left me then in Haiti for a year and while I was in Haiti I linked up with an orphanage that I spent my time on the weekends working with and I worked with my interpreter down there and actually got used to staying in Haiti. I ended up adopting a child from Haiti and grew to have a heart for Haiti.
Bill: And what is it about Haiti that grabs people and when you go there you say, “This is an amazing place” and it just infects, grabs—whatever you want to say—so many people with a lot of passion?
Dave: Yeah, Haiti is… It’s an amazing place inasmuch as it’s so close to the United States. It’s the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It’s literally a 90-minute flight from Miami but it’s a different world upon itself. It’s a little bit like going back in time. And what grabbed Haiti for me was after I left I felt that there was work, that a small project could be done and I wanted to keep in contact with Haiti so we ended up—my business ended up—supporting a school—a Christian day school that we had gotten going after I had left and we had a couple of people running it for us and unfortunately when the earthquake hit in January of 2010 our school was destroyed and 40 of our children were lost and some of our staff were also lost.
But we didn’t give up. We had a fellow—Pastor Dixon there—was able to take the remnants of the folks that were… that did survive the earthquake and move them to an IDP camp, which is an Internally Displaced Persons camp, and myself and some members of my church went down there and thankfully Solutions for Science actually gave us a solar generator that we shipped down there and we were able to keep the ball rolling with these folks.
Bill: Well and tell us—for the people that didn’t hear the first time when we were able to run—this was a PowerHub unit that we had sent down and with… Was it Typhoid or what was it that went through the episode where the water became contaminated?
Dave: Oh, Cholera.
Bill: And you were able to—with the PowerHub unit—you were able to keep the reverse osmosis system working and provide safe water not only for the orphans but…
Dave: For an entire area. So we had… We got the PowerHub sent down there. We brought our team down there. We set up the PowerHub at the IDP camp we were at and then we were actually able to find a new location. So we moved out of the IDP camp into what I’ll call a compound or a center and it ended up… became an orphanage for an area called… in Santo and we… as the Cholera came through we were able to actually filter the water for an entire area, which nobody in our area ended up getting Cholera because we were able to just simply filter the water with a simple solar generator. So that solar generator saved many people from getting sick and saved many people’s lives just because we were able to clean the water supply while we were there—well, for the generator, while the generator was there.
Bill: So that’s a great story but it’s kind of, in microcosm, a little bit about what can happen if someone needs… We talk about Haiti being like a petri dish for “What is self reliance all about? How do you live?” I mean that’s not something that’s an abstract notion for people in Haiti. That’s how they live every day.
Dave: Yeah, every day in Haiti is living off the grid. Abject poverty is just rampant. It’s not uncommon to see people living completely… There is no electricity, no running water. It’s the minority that has that. Most folks live off the grid and our folks in our center are really off the grid. We’re currently up in the mountains but they don’t have the resources that you’d come to expect here in the United States. Every day they need to figure out how they’re going to live off the grid.
Bill: So going to Haiti, again, is just a… It’s valuable. Number one—I think it’s… You can see how other people live. So there is an obvious spiritual content to that and you can see just how much we have compared to other cultures and I think sometimes we look at what we have and we just sort of ratchet up this idea that somebody owes us something and then you go to Haiti and you realize, you know, nobody owes you anything and this is a culture in which that’s very evident that nobody owes you… Can you imagine grabbing the average American and dropping him off in Port Au Prince? What would happen if you did that? I mean just the average person that thinks things are just… this is the way the rest of the world lives.
Dave: It’s very difficult. I mean that’s one of the things that really strikes you about Haiti is it’s such a short flight and it’s going from one extreme to the other and in Haiti—especially post-earthquake—it’s not uncommon just to see people who passed away… After the earthquake we were there and you know putting bodies out in the streets and when the IDP camps’ children were dying for just lack of clean water, lack of food, lack of anything that here we take for granted. So what we have decided to do is we’ve taken a small group of children—we have about 34 children—and we’re just providing a sanctuary for them where we give them a baseline level of physical… taking care of their physical needs and their spiritual needs and making sure we are pushing out the gospel to this new generation of children coming through for Haiti so we can help rebuild Haiti from the ground up using the children to be the future.
Bill: That’s a great point, guys, because I think evangelism needs to be done down there and certainly that message needs to be done but in terms of effecting… What Haiti’s got is a serious culture problem, right? So what is it that the average person believes in Haiti about the universe? What makes it tick? Who am I? Who is God? All these kinds of what might seem like strictly theological questions—very profound questions in Haiti because the answers are very different in Haiti than they are in this country and the answers were very different… We were talking earlier when we were having a cup of coffee about wouldn’t it be cool if we could raise up a generation of little Patrick Henrys in Haiti and have them understand what it means to… what’s the comprehensive nature of the gospel with respect to government? And I think that would be…
Because it seems like you run from the gamut of one kind of strong guy to the next in some of these countries. Dave, do you want to talk a little bit about how government is one of those things in Haiti where there’s not the really… They didn’t have the birth of a nation the way that you had people that came over from Europe fighting this persecution like the Pilgrims did and came here and even in the southern colonies you had… It was kind of a religious movement. That wasn’t necessarily the origin of their country so their roots are different and then how it grows is… And if something is off, we usually use an example of something like well, you shoot a rocket to the moon, right? And if it’s off just a hair when it starts you miss the moon by thousands and thousands of miles. So when they started I think the country, maybe it was off a hair.
Dave: Right. And now the government is… It’s very difficult to get anything… There is so much bureaucracy. The government’s non-functional. One of the major, underlying problems you have in Haiti and have had for quite a long time is really the lack of security, the lack of any sort of justice system. People can get picked up and put in jail and wait there. You have to wait for your trial. But if you don’t have any means you could sit in jail for a long time, until you get to a trial. And one of the issues that we face in Haiti is really a lack of security, lack of a system of justice, a lack of the infrastructure within the government to get things done. So there isn’t a public education system. There isn’t really a good system for healthcare. There isn’t any infrastructure so getting electricity outside of Port Au Prince is very difficult. Even within Port Au Prince it’s the norm to have roaming blackouts or days or weeks without electricity.
Bill: And I think one of the things that’s always important is can a businessman—increasingly this is becoming the case in this country—but can a businessman trust what’s going to happen in the future? So then if you go… If you’re going to make a capital investment you’d like to know that—you’re a CPA, Dave—you’d like to know that that building that you’re building or whatever it is is going to be yours two years from now, three years from now—whatever it is—ten years from now, 100 years from now. And some places around the world that’s not necessarily the case because there is just this uncertainty about what government might do. “Well we might take that.” Bolivia just nationalized one of their largest silver mines. And so I think that’s kind of a thought in Haiti too that kind of keeps investment money from pouring in.
Dave: Yes, and something as simple as like you were mentioning—who owns the property? And when the earthquake happened what little property records there were had been destroyed. So one of the issues with the rebuild now—even a couple years out—is who actually owns what property? So as people want to know… The first remnant of rebuilding was just taking care of the survivors, getting rid of the rubble. Now we’re in the rebuild mode. Now who owns what piece of property? And just to your point, people are skeptical about making a large capital improvement because what’ll happen in Haiti or in most third world countries, people may sit back and wait for you to build that building and now say, “Hey, you’ve just built a $100,000 building on property that I own.” Now there’s a problem.
Bill: Who owns the property is a big issue and I think—not only in Haiti but in other countries in that region—but I think it’s really a problem there.
Dave: Yeah, Haiti brings out… It’s a whole set of challenges. One of the interesting things is if you can make a go in Haiti you can make a go almost anywhere. It’s a set of challenges that we, here in America, don’t face but you’re completely living off the grid. You don’t know what’s going to happen week-to-week, month to month with the government. There is a lack of security. But you know what? The gospel still needs to be pushed out. People still need to be raised up. And our organization will not give up on Haiti and our mission.
Bill: I think that’s a great perspective. We were… Again, we were talking earlier about… kind of talking about Vince Lombardi and this football thing about just the idea of persevering and after watching that thing on Lombardi I was mentioning this morning at coffee to Dave and Jan just wouldn’t it be amazing…? And it’s fine that people have that intensity in sports—I’m a football fan and so forth—but it’s really a peripheral thing, right? I mean we’re talking about things that matter here. Wouldn’t it be interesting if everyone had that dedication and that press that Lombardi had and if we could take that sort of energy about reaching people and about teaching young people—raising Patrick Henrys up—because I think the only way we’re going to solve things in Haiti… This is not an existential issue. You’re not going to solve this problem in a couple months. It took European culture hundreds of years to build the conclusions that sort of brought our Puritan forefathers over here. And so you’re not going to get that with a 12-step program. And Americans really want things fast.
And I think guys—that really collides. How can I change that culture now? That’s not something that we’re going to do so this requires a very patient, very long term version and vision of what the gospel is and what the nature of the gospel is and what our requirements are before God in terms of—as you say, Dave—pressing this out. I mean this is something… And Haiti is just such a great petri dish, as I said, for all kinds of things—off the grid living—thinking about things like that but just how can we get in there with the truth—the truth about something—that can set their culture free? In many ways I think that culture is very much still in slavery.
I mean it had its origins in a slave culture and that’s to be condemned but it’s even to be condemned as much today just because we’re creating slaves—mental slaves—and the Haitian people are wonderful people and fully as capable of people as Americans are and I think any Americans that think that they’re better than Haitians in any way aside from God’s grace really don’t get it. So what’s our obligation here? It’s to help these people. So in that light why don’t you tell us a little bit? Fill us in. Remember we had the earthquake. How did we get from where we are—we saw pictures of the kids and the kids are looking a lot better, a lot healthier—how did we get from where we were to where we are in this… Kenscoff now?
Dave: Now after the earthquake we moved to Santo, which is actually in the Port Au Prince area and we stayed there for roughly a year and the security situation there was very bad. That was right during the time of the elections and a lot of insecurity was going on. Kidnapping started up again and the NGOs—the Non-Government Organizations—which we were partnering with, pulled their support for fear of their drivers getting kidnapped and their people getting hurt, murdered or otherwise damaged.
Bill: So these are guys like… Was it World Vision was one of them?
Dave: World Vision, which is an excellent organization and Food for the Poor—they both worked with us and both of them pulled their support out of at least the area of Haiti we were working in because of the fear of their people getting hurt. We moved up to the mountains.
Bill: So tell me—before you go on—tell me a little… Because I remember talking to you one time and people talk about “Well how bad can things get?” Do you remember the conversation we had when we were talking about you didn’t… They were careful about even cooking because if the gangs smelled food what would happen?
Dave: Yeah. It’s… We were right in the thick of it. If the gangs smelled food or people saw that you had something you had a concern because they’re going to come and take it. It’s a little bit of social Darwinism down there and if you’re stronger you’re going to go for the weak targets. So one of the issues we had there is we had to harden our center. We ended up putting barbed wire around it because people were trying to climb into the wall because they saw… Even having electricity. We had the solar generator and we were a little beacon of light in an island of darkness because we had some electricity that we were filtering the water with and we were able to use this solar generator not only to filter the water, as we mentioned earlier, but to charge cell phones up, to actually power our satellites so they could communicate with us and that started to stand out and people started noticing that. So we ended up having to harden our position so…
Bill: Oh, a military phrase.
Dave: Yeah, a military…
Bill: You’re a colonel in the National Guard. You were uniquely suited for this task, right?
Dave: Right. That is exactly… It was sort of ironic that we ended up using a lot of my military experience to basically end up putting security and a ringed security and having different layers of security and ultimately we got to the position where we couldn’t bring things in because what we would call MSR—the Main Supply Route—was being now controlled by the gangs and that’s why we ended up moving out of that location up into the Kenscoff area, up into the mountains after… That would have been about a year ago now. Roughly May of 2011 we moved up just because we couldn’t now… We couldn’t bring supplies in. But for the year that we were in Port Au Prince we were… We did, through the Solutions for Science—through the PowerHub—save those people from getting Cholera and we were able to make a really good impact in that community inasmuch as we set up medical clinics there, we had a school going there, we had the orphanage going there and when people brought us their water we would filter it and we were able to share the gospel with them.
Bill: Yeah, that’s an amazing story. So we’re in a new location and so as we’ve said, we’ve kind of fast-forwarded and a lot has happened and you’re in a new location very high up. I was looking at the pictures and there’s this kind of misty thing that’s going on in the morning. The elevation is what—5,000-6,000 feet?
Dave: Yeah. You’re about 6,000 feet up there, best we can tell. You’re up there pretty good and one of the major things that God had blessed us with is roughly in May of 2011 Jan said, “Dave, we have a missionary who has expressed interest in joining the missions field and wants to work with Heart of God” and she felt that Haiti was the place to get him going so this young man—his name is Scott—came to our board meeting about a year ago and said, “David, this is what I think God has on my heart” and we got him trained up. And last year—I should say actually earlier this year—in February of 2012 we were able to send Scott down to Haiti and he ended up working with our group. And having an American there helps things immensely because it now gives us a measure to not only pushing the gospel out but also ensuring people are living a Christ-like existence and he’s able to help disciple people and help actually get a program moving in the right direction a little bit easier now because we have a better line of communication with having an American missionary down there.
Bill: But having an American missionary is a little more expensive. We’ve been going over the numbers this morning just to try to make that work and so it is… It’s got its obvious benefits but then there’s a cost associated with that.
Bill: So we’ve got to figure out how to…
Dave: One of the… That’s one of the challenges that it is roughly $50 a day just for our ballpark number to keep an American missionary there, just to put him in a guest house and then we had to buy a vehicle, which is a very big cost down in Haiti and the vehicles up here would be… And if you were going to buy that same vehicle in the United States it would be a lot less expensive but in Haiti there is a limited supply so if you have a limited supply and a high demand the price goes up dramatically. But with having Scott down there we’ve seen dramatic results because now he’s able to partner with other NGOs—other Non-Government Organizations—down there—Christian based organizations—so now we have a network of folks we’re working with and we have a network of folks back here.
And one of the things I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention was your listeners have been a total Godsend and without the support that we get from your organization and your listeners we would not have the impact that we’ve had now. There are people out there that $50, $100—whatever gets sent—100% of that is used in the mission field. None of the money is scraped off the top. All that money goes to glorify God and to help people become the next generation of Christians down in Haiti.
Bill: One of the things that I like about what you’ve done, Jan—how you started and then Dave—how you’ve taken this over in Haiti is there is a sense in which you guys aren’t… There’s not a lot of overhead here and this is not like a lot of… I don’t want to name names but a lot of missionary agencies, a lot of charities are pretty top heavy and so I could never with good conscience recommend something that were people that I don’t know. We’ve got a friend in Uganda—Kim’s my wife’s cousin—who is a doctor and we support her as well because we know her and we know that she’s living… She could drive a Mercedes in this country because she’s a medical doctor and passed all of her stuff with flying colors but she’s chosen to just take her life and go live it with a lot of sacrifice.
Bill: So… And it’s the same thing with you guys. I know your heart and I know that you don’t scrape—as you said, Dave—and this money just goes right to the bottom line and it goes right to the people and I think without all this bureaucracy… Let’s face it; some administration does need to be done. Someone needs to make sure the money gets to the proper place at the proper time—and I know you do a lot of that, Dave, on your own time—but there is a little bit of this “What needs to be done?” But the organization that you guys run is really barebones and that’s why we’re pleased to work with you and we’re happy that our listeners… I’m excited to know—hearing from you—that our listeners have been helping out, carrying some of this load.
Dave: Yeah, and we… It’s a very… It’s a very lean budget we have for any overhead and any overhead is just your required… You need to have an internet. You need to have a phone. But our missionary—Scott—down there, that young man is not paid. His… When I say $50 that’s just covering his room and board. I mean he’s not drawing a salary at all and he is engaged 24 hours a day, seven days a week, spreading the gospel, making sure that our supporters’ monies are being used towards the good of the mission and he’s seeing incredible results but the challenge we do have is funding is always a challenge. Every… Unfortunately, after the earthquake the funding dried up and we’re just really beholden to get people to help us keep the mission going.
Bill: What’s the website that would be best for them to go to, to donate to the project?
Bill: www.HeartOfGodHaiti.org That’s pretty simple.
Jan: That’s it.
Bill: Okay. We’ll continue to donate and help as well. We’ll have a little surprise for you guys this afternoon. We’re going to continue to help and we’re glad that we’re participating. You were going to say something, Dave?
Dave: Yeah, I was going to say what we’re getting up there is…and a way your listeners can really help us is we’re going to set up a sponsorship program so as they go to our website you’re going to see CHILDREN and they can choose which child to sponsor and we’re trying to set up a sponsorship program for basically $1 a day so $30 a month. That’ll give one child two meals a day, which is… I mean just seeing… having a child have two meals a day—it changes everything in that child.
Jan: It does.
Dave: If you don’t feed that child you can’t hope to educate that child. You can’t tell him about the love of Jesus Christ if he is starving. If you can just feed him—and we’re talking $1 per day for two meals—it will change the life of a child down there.
Bill: And as well… As long as we’re talking about changing the life of a child, let’s talk about—it’s not the dark side of this—but at a certain age you get pushed out of an orphanage, right?
Dave: Yeah, right. At age 13 then you aren’t able… Those children, at age… When they turn 13 they are put out on the streets if they’re not going to be adopted and that’s where you have a significant problem with child trafficking or children joining gangs just for self-preservation.
Bill: So as an orphanage we’ve got a certain period of time—like the clock’s ticking. This isn’t something that just goes on forever. There are real people, real children whose lives can be affected dramatically here by virtue of what you’re doing there but they need it at this age because at a certain age… Remember these kids, for the most part—no parents, no infrastructure—you talk about off the grid. How about no home, no nothing? That’s off the grid. And then what’s most likely to pull you is you have to eat—when you’re 13 years old and you get pushed out—and if you don’t have someplace to go, if you don’t get adopted, if you don’t have some kind of job there is a crazy world of—as you said—trafficking, prostitution, drugs, gangs—all of the things… As I said, people have to… They have to eat so they will do crazy things.
But we have a chance to sort of gird them up during this period of time—this, really what is the best time to train children—when they are young. When they grow old they won’t depart from it, right? So Scott and the other support crew down there has a real opportunity to do this training so we don’t have this horrible, dark side drop-off thing happen.
Dave: Right. Because unequivocally we can absolutely say that satan has a foothold in Haiti and satan won’t give up and satan is after the souls of all the folks in the world and if we—as you mentioned—if we can train up these kids while they’re young just think of it of a rock being thrown into a pond. You’re going to have a positive effect because this child now will grow into an adult with a certain baseline education and with Christianity in his life. So this child can become a future leader in Haiti and start making an impact.
Bill: If we get them this knowledge, if we get them the saving grace of the gospel and as we’ve been talking about all morning sort of a comprehensive nature of the Bible in terms of “What does this thing say? How do you build a culture with this?” And we were talking about Patrick Henry and George Washington. What would happen if they would have been the founders of Haiti? We’d have a whole different type of thinking in Haiti and as I said, Haitians are productive people. They need a mindset that sort of undergirds everything that they do. And that’s kind of missing, I think, in a lot of…even in some of the Christian circles in Haiti. I think that we’ve talked about maybe the reduction of Christianity in Haiti to where maybe people see it as a sort of life insurance but not as a way of life.
Jan: We expect the children to grow up with an attitude that they can do it and they can live productive, Christian lives but unless you teach that child by example to grow up and to take the Word of God and use that as a basis for their life they’re never going to do it. And we can sit here and hope and pray for them all day long but you’ve got to show them by example and literally disciple them step by step how you overcome the culture to live a productive and a victorious Christian life.
Bill: Which is a huge undertaking.
Jan: It very much is. But it’s so much needed.
Bill: Because it’s done by sinners too. In other words, the missionaries that we send down aren’t perfect people. We’re sitting here around this table—except for Jeremy—sinners, people who are falling short and so you’ve got additional problems. In other words, I get up in the morning and sometimes I don’t feel like doing certain things. I usually end up doing them because that’s what you have to do when you run a company but it’s a hard thing. So prayer comes into this. This is kind of where I’m going with this. We need prayer for Scott.
Bill: We need prayer for you guys—for Dave and for Jan—to continue to not let this vision slip away because there’s so many pressures, so many reasons to say, “Let’s just let this go.”
Bill: “Let’s just get back to… I just want to go to church on Sunday, read my Bible and let this go.” I don’t know if you guys know the story of John Calvin. He wanted out of France and he didn’t want ay grief. He wanted… He was a lawyer and pretty much of an academic and he wanted to go just study his Bible. And he ran into William Farel—because of a war that was taking place near Strasburg—and he ran into William Farel and they sat down one night and Farel said to him “You know, may God curse you if you run away from where the battle is” and that freaked him out. And here’s a guy that wanted to go study and said, “You know what? I can’t… What you just said convicted me. I can’t go. I’ll stay.” And so whatever you think of Calvin, I’m just saying that’s…
Bill: That’s a story about someone who was convicted about… by someone who… A good friend will say that to you. Somebody that loves you will say, “God curse you if you run away from this project.” So that’s my prayer for you guys. Don’t worry. I’m not going to get… I’m not going to say that but don’t run away from this and let’s hang in here together and continue to sort of gird each other up and pray for each other and encourage each other because it’s not an easy thing that you do.
Jan: Well that’s… What I see happening is God bringing people like you together with us to walk arm in arm. I’m reminded of the Israel army in the Old Testament. And they would go into battle and they would lock their shields together so it was a solid wall pressing against the enemy. And that’s where we need partners like you and like our listeners here today to bind together and be that solid wall to press against the enemy and the obstacles that come against us. We can’t do it on our own.
Bill: Well said. We’ll break apart or we’ll hang separately. As they said during their… We hang together or we’ll hang separately.
Bill: I think that we do hang together and we do things together that works…
Dave: Right. And Satan is pushing back. When we’re having success that’s when Satan’s pushing. If you’re doing nothing you might not get a pushback from Satan. But the fact that we’re doing things, we’re in his area—we’re doing things that he doesn’t want us to do—he’s making life difficult down there.
Bill: Yeah. Well talk a little bit about… You’re going in August. I might even come along. But you’re going in August. Tell me about what your hopes are and what you plan to try to accomplish in August.
Dave: Well we just got back from a trip in May and in May we had just got a feel for where we’re standing and seeing what’s going on. And our trip in August, we’re going down there to bring in some folks from my church down there. We need to do some work to the center itself. We’ve got to fix a retaining wall. We’re going to go down there and set up a Vacation Bible School for the children, set up some evangelism for the church and go down there and try to see how we can keep this project becoming more self sustaining. One of the little projects we’re going to be working with, there are a couple organizations down there where we can use some of their older children to mentor our children.
And there’s another organization down there in Haiti that basically once people age out of orphanages they teach them a trade, a skill—how to make purses, how to make handicrafts and how we can work with that organization where we train our children where they have a baseline education and a work ethic and they can basically get a job. So when they age out of our situation and they’re 13 years old we don’t put them on the street but I take this 13 year old and I bring him down to another organization and say, “Hey, can now you show this person how to sew or how to do a… how to be a mechanic?”
Bill: Like a mentoring program.
Dave: Right. So now we’re working… We have Scott on the ground and he’s working with these organizations. Going to bring our leadership team, which is myself, Jan, the president of our organization and some people from our advisory board and meet with these organizations. We are a feeder program so we’re going to bring up 34 children who have a baseline education and they’re going to hopefully be able to place them in jobs so they can have a job so my 13-year-old girl doesn’t have to go out and be a prostitute. She can be a seamstress. Or my 13-year-old boy doesn’t need to join a gang. He can be a mechanic. And that’s part of just laying the baseline. That’s what our goal in August is.
Bill: It’s hard for Americans, I think—even myself and I’ve been to some poor places in the world but I’ve never been to Haiti—and I think it’s hard for Americans… Even people listening to this right now—you’re probably driving to your home in a nice house. You’re driving down a wonderful, American road. And over there… I mean how do we get this point… We can take some pictures, guys, but how do we get this point across to someone that this is not an abstraction. This is not some kind of idea.
This is real people, real lives and real parents and grandparents with grandchildren or whatever that are orphans and people that have just been dislocated and how would you like your kids to have to become prostitutes and gang members? How would you like your grandkids to have to do that? And again, as I said before, I think as Americans we have to be careful about being smug and saying, “Well, Americans just don’t do that.” And I would say—my retort, obviously—is it’s God’s grace for the country that we do have—even though she’s slipping away. But how do we get people to understand what’s really going on?
Dave: That is the million-dollar question. It is do difficult, Bill. It is. When I’ve been there and lived it and it’s hard for when I go back and I talk to my folks in my church and I talk to my friends and explain to them how it is, how it could be like that, it’s a very difficult thing. I personally think the best way to do that is to actually bring people there and see it for themselves because once you see it you’re seeing it, you’re feeling it, you’re smelling it. You see these people in a situation that you couldn’t even imagine happening. But it is the grace of God that it doesn’t happen here and who knows? Maybe God will lift that grace from our great country and we may be living like Haiti here in our own… in the United States—living off the grid here. It can get ugly quickly. You cut the food supply off and things will get ugly here.
Bill: You’ve certainly seen that there.
Dave: I’ve seen it there.
Bill: Once the food supply gets cut off you take anybody—I don’t care how they were raised or what happens—and a percentage of them—it’s usually in the margin—a percentage of them will start to act in a way that becomes very scary.
Dave: Exactly. You get hungry people—it can get ugly quickly and just because we’re living in the United States doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
Bill: Well there’s a lot of work to do here. You were going to say something, Jan?
Jan: Well I was just going to say that as a mother of six and a grandmother of 13, when I go overseas and I see the way—in Haiti and some of the other countries that we work in—it makes me… I almost put my children in that position. I…
Bill: You see your grandchildren in the eyes of those kids.
Jan: I see my children. I really do. And it’s hard for me to walk away. When it’s time to get back on that plane to come home…
Bill: You’re tearing up here in the studio.
Jan: But just to know I’m leaving those children that have no one and that they’re depending on me to go home and to tell the story and to raise the support and to send the loving care and the gospel and just the knowledge that they count, that somebody knows that they exist, that somebody cares enough to spend $1 a day to make sure that they have food.
Bill: I don’t think a lot of people think that they count.
Jan: But they do. I mean these are real, live children.
Bill: I totally agree with you. But I think how could we make people know that they count? And I think it is by even hearing you tell the story, by showing pictures, by taking people down there. And I don’t know how much we want to open this up but if you are listening to this and you’ve got an organization that may be able to help, I think we’d like to hear from you and I think…
Dave: Reach out to us.
Bill: The money thing is important.
Bill: Bills have to be paid but prayer is important. We can’t do this without prayer. But then there is also these boots on the ground thing and this is back to a military thing, Dave. You can’t… If you go to Afghanistan—whether you’re for the war or against the war, I don’t want to get into that—but you can’t just bomb someplace from the sky and expect… There has to be some troops that go in.
Bill: This is true historically—that go in and do the clean up work. And so real people have to do the clean up work in a military engagement. Real people have to do the clean up work and labor in this engagement.
Dave: That is very true.
Jan: And until people go over there and see it first hand it’s really hard for you to grasp how bad it really is. But that’s what we hope to do is to take more people over there, let them feel that and see first hand. It’s one thing for me to sit here and tell you how bad it is. It’s another thing to see it with your own eyes.
Bill: And to see these kids.
Jan: To see these children.
Bill: To look them in the eye and see your own grandkids.
Jan: See their eyes. Exactly. Exactly. The first time I went to Kenya—and the situation in Kenya is very bad as well—I couldn’t use… let water run at my house when I got home because I knew there was children over there who have no clean water and I felt like I was wasting the resources that we have. It impacted my entire family. I would go around and tell my kids “Don’t run the water.” Even brushing your teeth, you have to shut off the water just because there was so much waste, so much surplus here in our country and the children over there are dying… They would die for half of what we throw out every day. We just don’t know until we go.
Bill: Yeah, it’s difficult to undertake the whole thing without… Maybe we’re a little like Thomas, right? We need to see those wounds and feel it a little bit personally to know what’s really going on.
Jan: That’s true.
Dave: For me it’s unique because I adopted a child from Haiti who is from the same area in Kenscoff where the orphanage we’re supporting is. So my child—RJ—and oddly enough his last name is Jenn, which is “young” so as fate would have it I adopted a child with the same last name as my own…
Bill: Very nice. Yeah.
Dave: So I know that it was God’s hand even in the adoption process and it’s a constant reminder for me that one person can make a difference. So if you’re out there thinking, “Well my $30 a month or my $1 a day isn’t going to make a difference,” well the reality is collectively it will make a difference. And we’re in a position where we’re going to teach these people to be self-reliant because we are working with organizations there as these children age out. We want to be able to place them into something where they have a future.
Bill: And I think it’s… It’s important too… Let’s talk a modicum of theology. Jeremy is going to roll his eyes but I always go back to Stonewall Jackson, one of my favorite theologians. He was probably one of the greatest generals America has ever had but a good theologian and his theology was short. Duty is ours. Consequences are God’s. So it’s not really your job or our job to know how the endgame is. What’s going to ultimately happen? Who is going to affect who and this happens and that happens—butterfly on the other side of the Earth kind of thing that can happen with something. It’s just our job to do.
And I think that’s just good theology. It doesn’t need to get any more complicated than “Can you help?” If someone wanted to go there and someone had some… and they were interested in helping—maybe they’ve got some previous experience in Haiti, maybe they’ve got some… just an excitement, maybe we touched them—if they’re interested in going is there a way that they could contact you personally, Dave, about… and sort of talk about that?
Dave: Sure. Yeah, that’s absolutely no problem. They can go to our website and just click on sending us some information and they… If they go to the website…
Bill: Just go to the contact part.
Dave: Or go to the contact part on the website and it’ll go right to me and absolutely, we’re always looking for folks—doctors and dentists—we can do what we call a med caps. We go down there and help… just give them some base level medical care, some dental care. If you have any building skills—any type of skills—we can put to use.
Bill: Yeah, some construction guys. We were talking earlier about putting on maybe a little… some quarters for Scott to get him a little closer to the actual mission and… so that he’s right there all the time. We’d like to—I’m just throwing this out—we would like to create a place where folks could go stay and where Scott could live. So we were talking about maybe building a place for Scott and then maybe a two-bedroom apartment that could go next to that. We were talking about powering it with one of our solar flex… It doesn’t look like there is a lot of power there so we might have to power it with one of our solar flex units, which are a little more expensive unit. We’ll have certainly some difficulties getting all this stuff through the mountainous roads and all of that, to try to make it work there. But that construction workers and all that side of it, I think, really could be valuable too if we could get the right team to go down there and the right funding for the supplies. It would be a monumental task to line everything up but I think there is nothing that’s impossible.
Dave: Nothing is impossible. No. And one of those things we can possibly use then to train some of the Haitians. So you have, in Haiti, a unique situation where you have a vast amount of unskilled laborers but not a whole lot of skilled laborers. And not that you can hope to accomplish a lot in a short missions trip but if you can show them how to do things they’ll work right alongside you under the direction of someone who’s got a little bit more knowledge on how to build things.
Bill: And again, as my friend Warren would always tell me, who knows a lot about Haiti, that lives not too far from here—Haitians are workers. Haitians aren’t lazy people. If they’re trained how to work and see the end result and can know that they’ll get a paycheck and they know that there is this… What the whole thing is lacking is stability. If they can operate in a system like that you’ve got a great workforce there as well.
Dave: You absolutely do. Haitians are incredibly hard workers. They just need to be given the opportunity to work in the right conditions and things can really turn around.
Bill: Yeah. Yeah. Anything else, guys, as we kind of wrap things up a little bit?
Jan: Well I’d just like to add that even if you’re not a skilled laborer, even if you don’t have a trade or a degree—also what’s needed is moms with a heart to embrace these children and to love them, maybe take over a Bible School program or do a puppet ministry. There are many, many opportunities, even if you’re an unskilled person.
Bill: So we can start scheduling groups to go down and visit the 34 that are at the orphanage now and have a real impact…
Bill: …and this is really a groundbreaking thing because there’s not a lot of involvement here. This is a place that’s not being visited by a lot of other people.
Bill: Has World Vision come here? Is World Vision helping with food right now, do we know?
Dave: No. They’re not because now, with the change in government, they want the orphanages to have what the government would classify as a certificate of orphanage. So we need to be recognized by the government to have this certificate. So now what we have from the government is just an, in essence, permission to have these 34 children under the control of the church and the pastor we have working there but we don’t have our certificate of orphanage, which again, goes back to our very beginning of our discussion is you’re working through a governmental system that doesn’t exist. So we set up a rule saying you have to have a certificate of orphanage but we don’t have the infrastructure in place…
Bill: Well there’s no way to get a…
Dave: Certificate of orphanage. It’s sort of oxymoronic but this is what you’re dealing with and they’ll have crazy rules like “These are the things you have to have” but, as an example, you need to have electricity, running water—hot and cold running water, flush toilets. Well these are difficult things to get but you need to have those things in place so when they come and do your inspection you can pass the inspection and get the certificate of orphanage. And that’s where we stand. So the certificate of orphanage is needed by the NGOs in order to support you. Post-earthquake? No. Now we’re… I mean immediately post-earthquake they sort of didn’t need that but now we’re a couple years out. Now the NGOs—the Non-Government Organizations—want that certificate.
Bill: So do they…? Does it cost anything to get a certificate of orphanage?
Dave: Yeah, it’s going to cost us, I would imagine, tens of thousands of dollars because we have to build the infrastructure that doesn’t exist in order to meet the requirements to get the certificate of orphanage.
Bill: I see.
Dave: So yeah, it will be an expensive…
Bill: So you can have an orphanage but you can’t get… you can’t be… get a certificate that the government says you have an orphanage—a government-sponsored or approved orphanage—without meeting certain criteria, which most orphanages in Haiti simply can’t meet.
Dave: Correct. Many cannot. And I understand philosophically why because there is a problem with trafficking of children and trafficking of people in general in Haiti. So the government’s philosophy is sound. I mean I completely get it. But the challenge is the standard in which they want you to meet and the tools that most people have aren’t there and then what the reality is and then the government… If they were to close down the orphanages without certificates then the kids could be in a worse situation because at least they’re getting something in the orphanages that don’t have the certificate and if they shut those organizations down then those kids are going to be put out on the streets and there we go, back to the cycle of trafficking or possibly the girls getting into prostitution and the boys getting into gangs. So there could be… There are serious ramifications. So we are going to be working towards that goal that’s more of a mid and a long term goal is getting that certificate because that protects us from the government just shutting us down.
Bill: Gotcha. Gotcha. So again, as we close—lastly I think—occasionally we get an email that says, “I don’t want to know any more about Haiti. I don’t want to get involved.” There is a lot to learn from this, even if you don’t even pray for us… You could be an atheist and listening to this broadcast. You could be someone that’s got too many other things going. All that’s fine and dandy but you can learn a lot just from the things that we’re talking about and the mindset that comes from living without the grid, living without anything and what would you do if you were an orphan? If the listeners can only put themselves in this mindset—what would you do if you’re 13 years old, you don’t have any parents, you don’t have any grandparents and you live in a country with no infrastructure, no jobs and no way for you to get your next meal? What would you do? If nothing else—listening to this today—I hope the listeners can put themselves in that mindset and start to think, “What would I do? What would I do?” How would you survive in that situation? I don’t know that anybody’s got a good answer.
Dave: Right. I mean it is… If you really want to get a taste for it go turn your power off. Just imagine no food in your house, no running water, no electricity. If you go outside and you go… You could hit a roadblock. You could be kidnapped. I mean just think about all those things that we take for granted. That’s what it is to live in Haiti.
Bill: And if you get a… As you said, if you get a grid breakdown here don’t think, “Well people in the United States don’t…” This is point number two. Don’t think for a second that people in the United States wouldn’t think the same way as people in Haiti and that there aren’t gangs and gangs wouldn’t form and the strong survival of the fittest—our old friend, you know—if that wouldn’t take over and the weak would get preyed on in a way that this country would never… has never seen and probably would have a hard time digesting mentally.
Dave: Yeah. I mean as a father and as the leader of my household I can absolutely guarantee that I am ready to live off the grid as the best that you can living here in the United States because I think that I have a responsibility to my wife and my children to make sure we are ready in case something does happen. If it never happens—great—but if it does happen that’s not the time now to go scrambling. You should have a plan. I mean you’d be remiss not to. It can be just a natural disaster. It can be anything. You’d be remiss not to be prepared.
Bill: Tell us again the website one more time.
Jan: It’s www.HeartOfGodHaiti.org
Bill: www.HeartOfGodHaiti.org and Jan, do you want to have some kind of final word here, of…? I saw your face when you tried to explain what it was like to leave those kids and you went from a normal disposition to broken in a second just by thinking back to that “I’m leaving. I’m getting on that bus and going back” and you seeing those children. With that in mind, do you have anything else you want to impart?
Jan: All I can say is I’m so grateful to those who have prayed for us and who have held us up and given us the encouragement that we need to go on because some of the things that we’ve faced this past couple years since the earthquake have been nearly showstoppers and it was like you were talking earlier—you’ve got to go on—you’ve got to face the enemy or you might as well just give up. And I’m very grateful for not only the financial support but just the encouragement that we get from our friends and family and everybody who participates in this and partners with us. We couldn’t do it without you.
Bill: All right, guys. Thanks so much Jan and we appreciate you because we know you’re not going to quite and we know you’re going to persevere, hang in there, keep going no matter what and we want to thank the listeners today for hanging out with us. We know their time is valuable and we know your time is valuable. We appreciate you guys coming here to spend time with us today.