Our friends at St. Paul’s Church in Conway, SC, have been champions for the work of our partners, the Valdemas, for over fifteen years. Their enduring support and commitment to walking alongside Light from Light and Lespwa Timoun have been crucial to the growth and success of Carmel Valdema’s Nutrition Program and the Lespwa Timoun Clinic. We’re so grateful to St. Paul’s Youth Director, Sean Richardson, for sharing the history of this relationship and its impact on the church’s youth. Read Sean’s post below to learn more and hear the story of how God turned the disappointment of last year’s canceled mission trip into a life-changing blessing for one Haitian family.
Haiti is a land of hospitality and generosity with much potential, but it also has a very serious need. The people need resources, both natural and monetary. They need food. They need medicine. They need hope. Light from Light is an organization that is helping to meet these needs with help from churches and generous donors.
St. Paul’s Church in Conway, SC is one of those churches that has partnered with Light from Light and is helping to support Haiti. In 2004 we sent Ginny Biddle to Haiti to establish a partnership with Pere Val and Carmel Valdema. The next year, we sent our first team to Haiti, and afterwards began sending medical teams until the earthquake hit in 2010.
In May 2011, Kelsie Pharr (now Kelsie Helton) and I, Sean, went to stay with the Valdemas to research the feasibility of bringing a group of high school students and their parents for a trip to Haiti. A year later, that first high school trip happened. Four students and six adults ventured to Haiti for ten days, staying at the school at Croix des Bouquets. Since then, the St. Paul’s youth group has returned to Haiti several times, in 2014, 2016, and 2017. These trips have been beneficial for the people of Haiti whom we serve, but our own participants have gained so much love and insight during their time spent in Haiti.
The May 2011 scouting trip was Kelsie’s first overseas trip, and it opened up a door in her heart for international missions. Since then, she has returned to Haiti two other times and has also been to Uganda. One of the students who participated in our first youth trip back in 2012 fell in love with the people of Haiti so much that he returned to spend two consecutive summers working with the Valdemas. Another student, inspired by the nutrition work that Carmel had started, chose to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Public Health with an emphasis on women and children. This same student has also returned to Haiti and participated in another international trip to Togo.
St. Paul’s has also found some creative ways to generate funds for Haiti. Our men’s group has an annual golf tournament, and some of the funds raised during this tournament are sent to Light from Light to be distributed as they see fit. During Lent, Deacon Dawn Rider, who has participated in a Haiti trip, sponsors ‘Hogs for Haiti.’ Members of the church get piggy banks to collect spare change during the season of Lent. This money is also sent to Light from Light. More recently, we have begun buying Haitian artwork while in the country, which we bring back to the United States to sell at local festivals. Church members volunteer to sell the work, and this is one way that they are able to participate in helping out Haiti even if they aren’t able to physically go to the country themselves. The money generated from the artwork goes to sponsoring more trips to Haiti.
The most recent trip to Haiti that the St. Paul’s youth group scheduled was set for 2019, but we were unable to go because of the civil unrest. We had budgeted $2000 for this trip, and after canceling our plans we asked Carmel about how the funds should be used. She knew of a family who lived outside the Lespwa Timoun gates who could use the money. They were a family of seven (five children and two parents), though they lost one child to malnutrition. The money we sent was used to enroll three of the remaining four children in the Lespwa nutrition program. We were also able to send three of the children to school, reducing the risk of them becoming delinquents and gang members. With the children in school, the parents can focus on growing their business, and we were able to help them by providing them with supplies to rebuild their small shop.
St. Paul’s has been actively involved with Haiti for over 15 years now, and Pere Val, Carmel Valdema and Lespwa Timoun have a very special place in our hearts. By sending people and resources to Haiti and Light from Light, we hope to provide the Haitian people with hope and resources that they might not otherwise have.
Hope to see you in Haiti!
Sean Richardson, Youth Pastor
St. Paul’s Church, Conway, SC