Question: What made you decide to move to Haiti?
Answer: Well, this actually needs to be broken down into several parts because there’s more than one of us, and therefore multiple stories to tell.
Chris was a graduate of Western Washington University. He graduated with an Industrial Technology degree, with a minor in Vehicle Design. Not really what you would have under your belt for the mission field, but as we’ve realized when we talk to other missionaries here, not many of us thought this is what we would be doing and our skill sets are very varied. Just proves God has a sense of humour.
Chris knew that he wanted to do something to help people and thought missions work was a great way to do that so he went to YWAM (Youth With A Mission) and did his DTS (Discipleship Training School) in Jamaica for 6 months. As he was wrapping up his time there a director from a YWAM school in Haiti came to speak and told about some of their staffing needs. Chris applied and went to work in Haiti on site at their school. He figured that Haiti was probably one of the countries with the most need.
After about 5 months with the YWAM base in Haiti Chris realized it just wasn’t a good fit for him so he went back to the US to regroup and figure out his next steps. While he was at the YWAM base he met Tal and Adele Woolsey, the founders of Clean Water for Haiti. They were renting an apartment at YWAM and working on their site to get their filter project and training school running. Chris helped them whenever he had free time and in fact welded up the first Biosand filter molds ever to be made in Haiti.
When Chris was back in the US he got an email from Tal asking if he was going to come back to work with them, “or what??” :) Seems they had figured Chris was interested and Chris didn’t realize they wanted him there. The Woolseys had just moved to their new site, now our current site. After a lot of prayer Chris returned to Haiti in January of 2003 and began full time work with the mission. That fall the Woolsey’s had decided to return to Canada full time and asked Chris to take over as Executive Director of the mission. Again, after much prayer, he felt God was leading him into that role, and agreed to take on the position. 8 years later he’s still here :)
I was a student ministries pastor in Canada when I took my first visit to Haiti. I co-lead with the other pastor that I worked with, and we brought a group of 15 into the country. It was July of 2003 and things were starting to get a bit crazy here. We had a great time working with the Woolsey’s and see Haiti. I’ll be honest, before we decided to do the trip I didn’t even really know where Haiti was. When I returned to Canada I realized the place had gotten under my skin, but really had zero interest in missions work as a calling.
The following spring when Tal returned to Canada full time one of the projects he worked on with Adele was putting together a board of directors for Clean Water for Haiti. I was asked to be a part of that and became the first secretary for the mission. Over the next year, because of my involvement in the board and fundraisers Clean Water for Haiti was never far off my radar. I had become friends with Chris durning my first visit and we stayed in contact. We would spend hours chatting on MSN and he would tell me all about his staffing needs. I would have that “Hmmm” question rolling around in my head and my heart, but always managed to squash it down.
In the fall of 2004 I started working on preparing another group of students to go to Haiti the following summer. In early 2005 while discussing preparations for our visit Chris and I also started having conversations about what it would look like to have me come on staff in Haiti because my gifting and interests lined up with what he needed on the ground. It was something that ate away at me. We knew it wasn’t healthy for me to make any final decisions until I came back for our trip though. Haiti had changed a lot in the two years between my visits and neither of us wanted me to make a decision based on memories.
I came on that trip, and the day after we arrived I stood out at a table saw all day cutting diffusion plates. As it drizzled rain, not a normal occurrence I looked around and started crying as I thought, “Is this the life I see for myself?” God’s peace just washed over me and it was as though he was saying, “Don’t worry about it today. When it’s time for you to know if this is where you’re supposed to be, I’ll let you know. Until then just enjoy your time here.” I was able to chill out and enjoy the trip. A few days before we were leaving we took a trip to the beach and on the way back I looked around and couldn’t help but think about how beautiful Haiti was. In those quiet moments in my heart I realized the only thing stopping me from coming was fear and that fear was a pretty lousy reason to not do something. Again I felt God’s peace wash over me and I knew that I was coming back. That evening I told Chris what was going on and we started talking plans. I went home, gave my notice at work and made plans to move to Haiti at the beginning of October.
A month before I moved Chris came to visit while on his vacation and we started dating. I bug him now because he was literally the last one to figure out that there was chemistry between us. Five months later, on Valentine’s Day, he asked me to be his wife, and four months after that I obliged :) I can’t tell you how many times in the first year of marriage, usually when I was a crying goo ball because I was adjusting or just being emotional Chris would say, “You do know that when I say long term I’m talking 15 to 20, right?” That usually meant more crying, but now I get it and I couldn’t agree with him more.
Olivia was born in Haiti, and then two crazy people adopted her. Now she’s stuck here as long as we decide to keep following God’s will for our lives.
Again, not much say in the matter. His mommy got pregnant while on sabbatical in Canada and he just got to come along for the ride. So far he’s adjusting well to Haiti life and we think that’s a good thing because he’s also stuck here until he reaches the age of majority and can make his own major life decisions.