Photo by Pam VanArsdall
I grew up in a Lutheran church in Illinois. When I was around 12 years old, I was confirmed, and during the confirmation process I felt Jesus come into my heart. But it didn’t take long for me to turn my back on God and start doing things I shouldn’t be doing. Even though I felt Jesus in my heart, the world had control of me. I have been a farmer for over 40 years. I bought 300 acres of farmland when I was 20 years old. My business and the struggle to make payments had control of my life. That was the most important thing to me. I also had a problem with handling anger. I have a history of anger in my family, and when that DNA is inside of you, it is hard to control.
I got married when I was 23. We had three children. I was not a good husband and didn’t treat my wife well. I don’t even remember much about my children growing up. I was abusive with my tongue. In 1998, my wife got tired of the hatefulness and we divorced. Now that I look back, I don’t blame her for leaving me. I rented out my farm because I wasn’t making enough money to support my kids the way I wanted. I went to work on the road as a millwright, putting together conveyors and machinery. I continued to farm when I could, putting crops out between work on the road. I worked as a millwright for eight years and met my second wife during this time. She has been with me ever since. After my kids were raised, I took my farm back. I have continued to farm since then. Last year we put out 2,000 acres of row crops of corn and soybeans. I also have a herd of beef cattle.
Around 2014, some family circumstances created a lot of tension between me and my wife. We got to the point where she lived upstairs and I lived in the basement. I could see my second marriage drifting away like my first marriage. I was still of the world and my business was the most important thing to me, not God. I regret this immensely, but I was unfaithful. She found out through a text on my phone. She climbed up in my lap and said, “I love you and I don’t want to lose you.” She said that even after she knew what I had done. My whole world caved in. I was speechless. I said, “There is no way you are going to lose me if you want me.”
A couple of months later, my wife said she wanted to go to church and asked me to go with her. I said, “Absolutely.” God called us to that particular church for a reason but we didn’t find out until three years later. The church was planning a mission trip to India. I had felt compelled to go on a mission trip at some point in my life, and my wife agreed that we should go. We went to a missions meeting and were prepared to sign up, although it was more than we could really spend. I was telling a Christian friend about that, and he invited me to go to Nicaragua with him in February which would have been easy to do because we didn’t have crops to tend to. Then our church canceled the trip to India because of unrest and they decided to go to Haiti. The mission trip to Haiti was to leave on May 26, my busiest time of the year. This is where my life turned from the world to the Spirit of God. I felt God was telling me that I was to go to Haiti with my church. But this was a terrible time of year for me to go. I would be finishing up corn planting, beginning our soybean planting, and making hay for our cow herd. I have not been away during this time of year since I first began farming. It is a big job and has to be done right or I won’t make a profit. It was imperative for me to be on the farm to see everything got done.
But I kept hearing it. It was not an audible voice. It was in my heart. It was an overwhelming feeling that God was urging me to go to Haiti. We were just about to send the money to the Nicaragua trip. I told my wife, “I have this feeling that I can’t shake that God wants me to go to Haiti, and I want you to go with me.” She said, “You can’t go to Haiti in May!” But we talked more and she agreed to go with me. We knew we could be putting the farm in jeopardy, but we trusted the Lord and went anyway. For 50 years I have had the Lord in my heart and I could feel Him speaking to me, but I always turned a deaf ear. This time I listened and obeyed. It rained the whole week back home while we were in Haiti, and no one could do any farming. Had I been home, we would have done nothing on the farm.
An older Christian friend told me his similar story. He said he was called to go on a mission trip but didn’t go. The day they left for the mission trip he was working on a piece of machinery and hurt his back. He laid on the couch the whole week unable to do any work, and about the time the plane brought the mission group back, the pain went away.
God sent me to Haiti for a reason. A bus took us to town and we gave away goats and evangelized and painted houses. But one day, our bus stopped in a place we hadn’t been before. When we got off the bus, we found out the village champion needed to go buy goats for us to give away. While we waited, our translators led us up a hill to an orphanage. There was close to 20 kids there from infant to 12 years old. The first thing they did was sing the Christian song “10,000 Reasons.” “Bless the Lord oh my soul, oh my soul. Worship his holy name.” They sang in English but they did not speak English. They also recited Psalms from memory in Creole. We knew that because the translators were interpreting as they spoke.
A Christian Haitian couple started and ran this orphanage with no help from an outside church. God had called the woman to take care of children. They had basically nothing there. Their church was a tin roof supported by two by fours. They had a block building and a couple of rooms with cots for the children to sleep on. There was a little boy that had HIV who was in a wheelchair. When I saw him and the way he looked at me, all I could do was kneel down beside him and pray. The little fella just smiled all the time. The children were clean and well taken care of. We stayed at the orphanage about two hours. Before we left, the man who ran the orphanage asked if we could help them. He said they needed a water tank and lights for their house because they wanted to apply for a permit to become a licensed orphanage. I told them I would see what I could do. That was a Tuesday. The next few days we did our usual mission activities. On Saturday morning we went back to the orphanages and that’s when it got overwhelming for me. I found myself kneeling beside the same little boy with HIV. He looked weak and sickly. He was 10 years old. I asked everybody to lay hands on him and we prayed over him. Then they told us that the children hadn’t eaten in a day and a half because the couple really doesn’t have any regular income. We asked how they got money for food and they said that family and friends give them money but sometimes the money doesn’t come and they go without food. The average wage in Haiti is $2 per day and unemployment is 80 percent. We collected $186 amongst ourselves, bought food, and took it back to the orphanage. When we left, the children were eating again.
When we got back home, I asked the associate pastor who had been on the trip, “Are we going to be able to feed those kids? Is that why God sent us to Haiti instead of India?” His response was, “We can feed them for one to two months, but we need to find someone else to help.” I asked the interpreter how much was needed for a month’s worth of food and he said $450. Our church sent $400 by Western Union. I contacted the mission organization that we went through to go to Haiti. They feed 91,000 children per day in Haiti but they do this in the schools not in orphanages because some orphanages are not legitimate and are abusing and trafficking their children.
It’s been a little over a year and half since our trip, and I think about the orphanage every day. I believe the Lord is calling me to help the orphanage. The church sent money one time. God told me that the kids had to be fed. I told the proprietors I would personally send the orphanage money each month to buy food. As I did this, I investigated the orphanage to make sure it was legitimate and spoke numerous times with the proprietors. I have come to know this orphanage is legitimate as I have made multiple trips there. The couple who runs the orphanage are obeying God in a very corrupt nation. They are evangelists to the children, devout Christians, teaching the children about loving and serving God. They have a 30-minute devotion each morning and evening. They have worship and sermons on Sundays. Everything about their lives is to serve God. They are pure in their motivation.
A friend went with me back to the orphanage in January 2019. We stayed at the orphanage. We shared one small mattress under the church tin roof, sleeping back to back. We stayed eight to nine days. My friend is a plumber and we installed a 500-gallon water tank and ran gutters on the church roof to carry water into the water tank. Before we installed the tank, they had been dipping water out of a murky, contaminated stream, carrying five gallons of water a quarter of a mile sometime four to five times a day. Our church had held a benefit to fund the water tank project before we left. The church agreed to send money over for the water in the tank every month. The church felt like they should get involved with the orphanage, so we planned a trip to go back in April 2019. There were four of us from the church going. But five days before we were to leave, everyone decided not to go and I ended up going to Haiti by myself. I bought solar panels with money our church had raised and installed them for the orphanage, which means they now have lights. While I was there, the male proprietor asked me to go with him to take the little boy with HIV to see the social worker. The social worker told me that before this boy was taken into the care of the orphanage, he was malnourished and very weak, basically starving to death. His mother could not afford to pay for the medicine he needed. The social worker said the child was now at the high end of the health chart and was as healthy as he could be because of the care he receives in the orphanage.
When I came back home, I found out that we could no longer send our money to the orphanage through the church. We began going to another church, a little Baptist church way out in the country. I wasn’t going to tell anyone about the Haiti project at the new church, but the preacher brought up Haiti in a conversation and we ended up sharing with him. Our preacher ended up going to Haiti with me in August 2019. We put a concrete roof on a hurricane shelter that I had begun on a previous trip. We were thinking about going to the government to apply for a license, but I prayed and prayed and really felt that the orphanage was not ready for that yet. The proprietors are not concerned about getting the license. They are only concerned about doing God’s will and what He has called them to do. They believe that God will provide for them. I’ve never seen such faith in people. It’s all in God’s hands to them. But they do want to get approved if they can.
The orphanage still needs a lot of improvements, like a wall around it and suitable beds. We had half of the money to finance building a kitchen, so we started building it. I had been there nine days and extended my stay another nine days. I needed another $1,000 to finish the kitchen. A man I buy fertilize from called me while I was in Haiti and I asked if his company donates to charities. He said, “The company won’t give you anything but I will send a check for $250.” Right after that my banker called me to ask about our credit line. I asked him about a donation. He sent me an email back saying to come by the bank to pick up a $500 check and another friend donated $100. My wife went and picked up the money and wired it to me. It was enough to finish the kitchen. That was another miracle of God. The kitchen has running water and lights and light switches. We have also put in a 1,000-gallon cistern in the ground. The toilets are a hole in the ground and smell horrible. The shower was over the same hole. We put running water all over the house, so now they have an indoor shower and they don’t have to take a shower over the pit toilet.
We have submitted the paperwork to set up a non-profit 501c-3. I know that God will provide. I am an old, redneck farmer—I’m not a preacher—but God gives me the words to speak in churches to tell people about the children in Haiti.
The tragedy in our marriage in 2014 put us on a path to go to Haiti to serve that orphanage. I believe that with all my heart. I think back to the times I would be sitting in my easy chair, drinking a beer, watching a commercial asking for a donation for the children with flies on their faces. I would think, “Somebody should do something for them.” The Lord woke me up and showed me that it’s time for ME to do something. Once I received the Spirit wholeheartedly in 2014, I got down on my knees and put my face to the floor and told God that He could take everything if that’s what it takes to serve Him. I am not afraid of what might happen. My devotion now is to the Lord.
If God knows there is goodness in your heart and sees potential in your heart to serve Him, He will call you, even if it is the latter days of your life. He will call and call loudly. This is what God did with me. God is now using the skills I have learned working on the farm and as a millwright and the relationships and trust I have built as a businessman in my community over the last 40 years, to help children in an orphanage in Haiti. I am so grateful to God for straightening me out the way He did. He called me to serve Him and He fills my heart with joy while I am serving Him.
Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.