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'An avalanche of goodness': Alexandria Covenant sends mission team to Haiti

Jazmine Roste (left) feeds a girl named Emily during a week-long mission trip this past summer to Carrefour, Haiti. (Contributed)1 / 3
Sam Williams (right) spends time working on a puzzle with one of Pastor Firmin Louis' rescued children during a mission trip to Carrefour, Haiti, from July 26-Aug. 2. (Contributed)2 / 3
Firmin Louis, pastor of Blessings Christian Church in Carrefour, Haiti, took in 14 orphaned children after the devastating 2010 earthquake. In 2012, the Alexandria nonprofit Bread to the Nations was created in response to what organizers called his positive impression and overwhelming faith. (Contributed)3 / 3

On the fateful 12th day of January 2010, devastation shook all of Haiti when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the Caribbean country.

Firmin Louis could not be shaken.

The pastor at Blessings Christian Church in Carrefour, a Haitian town of about 500,000, opened his doors in response to the tragedy. His house deemed unlivable, Firmin and his wife, Magalie — already parents of six — pitched a tent and brought in an additional 14 orphaned children to live with them.

Sam Williams led a team from Alexandria Covenant Church on a mission trip to Carrefour this summer from July 26 through Aug. 2, where the group said it witnessed firsthand the ways in which Firmin relied on God throughout the trying times.

"He was saying, 'God, if you take care of me, I'll take care of these kids,'" Williams said. "That was really inspirational."

The trip was Williams' fifth over the last five years, where he and a small team from Alexandria Covenant focused on supporting Firmin, his church and area children through encouragement and resources. The team also has a goal of bringing biosand water filters to Carrefour through the Alex-based organization Bread to the Nations, with hopes of providing clean water to the area.

Williams was joined in Haiti by Christian Flemming, Jazmine Roste, Chris Wold and Jeanete Wold. Williams traveled with about 20 members during his first trip to Carrefour, but he was grateful for a more intimate team this year. He said that the smaller group afforded him more one-on-one time with each team member to help form deeper relationships.

"(Our efforts) are laser-focused on this community every year to help these kids be educated, fed and provided for so that, in 10, 15, 20 years, they'll be a positive influence," Williams said. "We're there to help the church in that community, and they're grateful for the help that we can give them."

Forging a lasting relationship

Pastor Firmin first landed on Alexandria Covenant's radar through Bread to the Nations, a nonprofit established in 2012 to build up and support Firmin's family and church community in Haiti.

After a U.S. missionary shared Firmin's story far and wide, Tammy Hagstrom was one of the few people who actually took notice — and action. Following some financial support and an initial trip to Haiti in 2012, Hagstrom helped create Bread to the Nations in response to what organizers called the pastor's positive impression and his overwhelming faith.

"We come alongside the local church to help strengthen the body of Christ and also strengthen families," Hagstrom said. "Over the six years, we've looked for activities that we can partner with the local church on, that would have long-term impact."

Bread to the Nations has teamed with the organization Clean Water for Haiti to install the biosand water filter systems. Bread to the Nations plans to start with one church community and install 30 filters at a time.

They also started a sponsorship program for the 20 children in Firmin's household to provide basic needs such as food, clothing, tuition and general household support. In August 2015, after the children were sponsored, Bread to the Nations helped rebuild the family's home and even added a second story.

"Sometimes it's very easy to go in and do relief work, put a band-aid on things," said Hagstrom. "It takes a lot more patience to go after things that you will see the progress over six years — and sometimes it'll take that many years to see the results. The clean water project that we have been really promoting this year is probably one of the most impactful things that we've (done) so far."

For more information on Bread to the Nations or to donate to the clean water project, visit www.breadtothenations.com.

Kingdom builders

Although the mission team's time in Haiti was brief, Williams said the impact stays fresh and leaves a lasting impression, even after the plane lands back home.

"It's not just about the trip," he said. "It's neat that we can go on these trips, but really, this is supposed to start an avalanche of goodness in our lives, where we are. That's my goal, to motivate these people to do something far more than just one week in Haiti."

But even while they were still in the field, Williams said he saw God in action, working in both the community and in hearts.

"Kids were able to be fed twice during the day," he said. "They were in a safe environment for those three days (during Vacation Bible School), they were loved on and they were cared for. That was encouraging. In the evenings, we'd do a devotional and a time of sharing. Some people were very vulnerable. Some healing took place in those moments."

The team had plenty of opportunities to minister and share the gospel during their trip, he said. And they made sure to take full advantage of it.

"There's a verse (in Matthew 25) about when Jesus says, 'I was hungry and you fed me. I was lonely and you visited me,'" Williams said. "We took great comfort in that."

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Echo Press in Alexandria. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Alexandria area sports updates and jokes he thinks are funny.

(320) 763-1230
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