LAKE STEVENS — The care and education of children in a northeastern city of Haiti is an important concern for Pastor Daniel Paul.
The Haitian pastor visited with members of Lamb of God Lutheran Church last week to talk about managing a tuition-free school and a girls’ orphanage and about his plans to open a boys’ orphanage in Ouanaminthe, Haiti.
Members of the congregation knew about Paul, 44, before his visit to Zion Lutheran School on Sunday. Some had met him on his past visits or while they were on mission trips. The Lamb of God Lutheran Church and then-Pastor Samuel Wiseman in 2003 began to support Paul’s efforts when a mission team traveled to Ouanaminthe to help construct the girls’ orphanage.
Church member Emily Bartelheimer, 26, was part of the seven-member team that first traveled to Ouanaminthe.
“We were certainly going out into an area where no other mission teams from a Lutheran church had gone,” she said. “At the time it was a blank piece of property so we started the foundation of the girls’ orphanage and then they sent down another team in 2005 and they continued work on the foundation.”
Two years later, Bartelheimer, a Snohomish resident, was part of a team that built a security wall around the orphanage. In September 2010, she decided to put her two years of nursing experience at Providence Regional Medical Center to use in Ouanaminthe. She moved there to provide health care for the girls.
“I knew I wanted to go back to Haiti,” Bartelheimer said. “I thought I would be there for six months or a year and I’ve been there about a year and a half now.”
The Lamb of God Church congregation and mission teams aren’t the only ones who have offered their support. Faith Lutheran Church in La Grande, Ore., joined with Lamb of God in 2005 and the organization Nord Est Haiti Lutheran Mission was formed. The mission supports the House of the Lambs of God Orphanage and the school located at the compound by sending mission teams, offering sponsorships for students and orphans and collecting donations for construction and agricultural development needs.
Paul said he tries to visit the two church congregations every couple of years to give updates on the orphanage and school but the work in Haiti keeps him busy. A new boys’ orphanage is set to open in August for about 20 boys, Paul said. Most of those boys should begin attending school nearby with the 52 girls from the orphanage and an additional 140 children from the community.
“What I want is to start these kids in school,” he said.
Paul, who grew up in Port-au-Prince and was the oldest of seven children, understands what it’s like to be an orphan. His mother and father both died by the time he was 16 and some of his siblings lived in orphanages. He now lives with his wife, Clynie, and their three daughters at the orphanage compound.
The girls from the orphanage attend school and learn French as part of their studies, Paul said. Older girls take care of the younger girls and they learn to cook and grow food in a garden on the property.
From 1995 to 1998, Paul studied agriculture at the American University of the Caribbean in Les Cayes, Haiti. He then studied at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. In 2001, Paul returned to Haiti to make his longtime idea of opening and directing an orphanage a reality.
Paul’s hope is that the girls and the boys who will soon fill the new orphanage learn life skills and possibly go on to study at a university. He ultimately wants them stay in the country and contribute.
“We don’t do adoptions and send them to other countries,” Paul said. “They need to stay in the country. They need to work for the country.”
Different churches throughout the United States have donated time and money to support the orphanages and school, Paul said. After the boys’ orphanage opens, he’d like to build a guest house and a restaurant on the property.
Lamb of God Church expects to send another mission team to Ouanaminthe in summer 2013, said Jan Novak, worship and youth leader at the church. The congregation and the Nord Est Haiti Lutheran Mission plan to continue to help with the long-term operation of the orphanages and school, he said.
“People are wanting to know how to help but they don’t know how to help,” Novak said. “Pastor Daniel helps us paint that picture.”
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to help
To learn more about the Nord Est Haiti Lutheran Mission go to www.nehlm.org.