By now, many of you have heard or read the amazing news that the Son of God orphanage in Haiti has been shut down. Since Journey has been involved in this orphanage over the last year and half or so, I wanted to communicate with you some things about this significant development.
First off, please keep in mind that for this is a constantly changing situation. So, by the time you read this message, things may well have changed from when it was written. I’ll do my best to give you at least the most current and important information at this point in time. In addition, one thing I want to make clear right up front is that the orphanage and Pastor Edouard’s church are two completely separate places, and there is no relationship between the two. Our church-to-church relationship with Pastor Edouard’s church continues to be awesome, and Pastor Edouard has proven over the last year and a half to be a person of tremendous integrity. This message is completely focused on the Son of God orphanage.
When Mark Ostreicher and I went to Haiti in May of 2010, we visited this orphanage, and it was heartbreaking. So, once Journey started sending teams to Haiti, while our focus was on our “church-to-church” relationship, our teams also delivered food, clothes and other items to the orphanage, which is not too far from Pastor Edouard’s church in Carrefour. Our teams also spent time just loving on the kids at the orphanage. At one point we learned that there actually were a few other churches and charitable organizations that were also providing food and additional material items to the orphanage, so around a year ago Journey stopped providing that kind of support, and instead just had team members visiting with the kids during our teams’ trips.
Over time it became clear that some things were just not right at the orphanage. For example, large amounts of food would be delivered, and then soon after that the store room would be empty, while the kids continued to appear malnourished. Clothes would be donated, but the kids would not be seen wearing the new clothes. And then, people making return trips to the orphanage began noticing that kids they had seen on a previous trip were no longer there. Putting the pieces together, the conclusion was that the orphanage appeared to be selling donated food and items, and may even be involved in child trafficking. Some things happened to substantiate these claims, which led to an all-out effort on the part of several churches and missions-related organizations to get the orphanage shut down. I’m sure that many of you reading this message have been praying and signing petitions as a part of that effort.
On Friday, the orphanage was shut down. I don’t want to go into all the details behind what led to the closing of the orphanage, partly because you can easily go online and read the news accounts. If you just get on the internet and type in “Son of God Orphanage Haiti,” this will probably be the first story that pops up. Frankly, the news accounts are not 100% accurate, but they got most of the key facts right. The key fact is that the kids have been taken from a really bad place, and that’s a really good thing. So, a big “Yeah God!” is certainly appropriate.
Having said that, this thing is by no means over. As of the writing of this message, our understanding is that the kids who were taken out of the orphanage were put on a UNICEF bus, and at least some of the kids have been located at an orphanage that seems to be a dramatic improvement over the one they have been in. However, many of the other kids are unfortunately still unaccounted for by any of the people from the several organizations that have been working to get them relocated.
In order to help manage all of this, three people from Journey are traveling to Haiti this weekend (Andy Blank, Michael Francis, and Jesslyn Ponce-Dick). That team will join others who are already there, along with a group from another church from Colorado, in order to do whatever they can to ensure that all of the kids caught up in this terrible situation are taken care of. So, please be praying like crazy for the kids, and for everyone who is or will be there in Haiti trying to care for these children. If there are any other major developments, I or someone on the “Journey Serves: Haiti” team will update this blog.