Board votes to launch mission partnership with Hands and Feet Project in Haiti
With a unanimous vote Sunday, Frazer’s lay leadership led the way to a bold new chapter in the long history of the church’s ground-breaking leadership in missions. The Frazer Board of Stewards affirmed a recommendation from the Missions Board to form a partnership with the Hands and Feet Project (HAF) for the next three years, working together to build a Mission Guest Village in Jacmel, Haiti. The objective of this project is to provide sustainable jobs for orphans and at-risk families through a bold new way to facilitate missions travel. The long range vision is that by jump-starting economic development, the project can be the catalyst for renewal in the whole nation of Haiti, and a model to other Christian missions around the world.
The recommendation was presented to the board by Michael Gross, chairman of the Missions Board. “Frazer is always out in front when it comes to missions,” Michael stated. “We’ve been challenged by our pastors to pursue ‘God-sized projects’–projects so big that only God can do them, so that only God can get the credit when it is done.” With an investment of over $800,000 in this project spread over a 3-year period, this will certainly be just such a God-sized project for Frazer. However, with approximately 800,000 orphaned and abandoned children in Haiti, the need is there as well.
The Story of Hands and Feet
Mark Stuart, Executive Director of HAF, told the board the story behind the project. Mark has been involved in Haiti for 30 years, beginning when his father served as a pastor there. After achieving success as the leader of the Christian band Audio Adrenaline, Mark was called to return to Haiti. Together, the band launched the HAF ministry and began taking in orphans in 2005. Currently HAF cares for 100 children, with plans to expand further this year. When Mark lost his voice and had to step down from the band, God gradually revealed to him that this was part of a bigger plan for him to step up his ministry in Haiti, he told the board.
Although HAF is considered a model orphanage, providing the best Christian care possible for children in a family-like environment, Mark says he still “stays awake at night” thinking about what will happen to the children when they become adults and age out of the system. “We have done our best to feed and clothe them, to provide emotional and physical health, to educate them and show them Christ,” Mark said, “but the fact is there are still few jobs for them in Haiti.” Tragically, Mark noted, many children raised in similar Christian orphanages end up putting their own children in orphanages when they become adults because of extreme poverty. The goal of the Mission Guest Village is to begin changing that reality.
Saving Orphans by Creating Jobs
The lasting solution is not simply more aid, Mark explained, but building industries that create jobs. Haiti is a breathtakingly beautiful Caribbean island, so the natural place to start creating jobs is in the tourism industry. The Mission Guest Village is an economic development project that expands on the thousands of short term missionaries and aid workers who already visit Haiti on a regular basis, and turns that relationship into an economic engine to create jobs and help the world begin to recognize Haiti as a beautiful place with a wonderful people, worthy of being a travel destination for its own sake.
“We tend to think that in missions, we must serve the Haitians, and never allow them to serve us,” Mark said, “but that mindset steals their dignity. When they are trained to do job where they can be paid for providing a service, they are no longer dependent on handouts, and we restore their God-given dignity.” Jobs at the Mission Guest Village could range from cooking and cleaning, to management and finance, to leading a specialized experience like a snorkeling expedition.
Guests at the village would be offered what Mark calls a “curated experience” designed with Frazer’s help to be a life-changing combination of mission projects, spiritual development, and opportunities to be refreshed and inspired in the beauty of God’s creation. Whether traveling as part of a church team or as a family, a uniquely customized mission experience would be created for guests.
Frazer’s Leading Role
Frazer was challenged to take on one third of the funding for the approximately $2.6 million needed for land acquisition and construction of the village. At each stage of development, Frazer leaders will have an opportunity to give input and inspect progress before the next stage of investment. The immediate need for $50,000 in seed money will be drawn out of the existing 2014 missions budget, according to Missions Coordinator Butch McPherson.
Frazer’s involvement will not be limited to financial investment, however. Individuals with all types of business skills and spiritual gifts will be needed to give training and support to the Haitian employees brought on board at the Mission Guest Village, and short term teams will have numerous opportunities to share Christ’s love with the orphans at HAF while enjoying the guest village. Frazer members Jan and Frank Stevens are already moving their family to Haiti this summer to serve as site directors at one of the HAF orphan villages.
A Step of Faith
Michael Gross underscored to the board that the recommendation of this project by the Missions Board followed hours of background research and prayer. The work was guided by the vision laid out in the 2013 Joel Committee Report, which called for the church to focus its mission efforts into holistic, sustainable projects in longterm partnerships, Michael said.
Board Chairman Russ Dunman called for a vote after setting the stage by reminding those present of the financial report given earlier in the meeting by Finance Committee leader Tom Oliphint, which included the projection that Frazer will be debt free by the end of this year thanks to God’s faithfulness shown through the generous giving of our members. As Russ put it, the challenge before Frazer is not really about money, since God’s resources are unlimited, but rather about our willingness to stay faithful to God’s mission.
After the unanimous vote affirming the Mission Committee’s recommendation, Senior Pastor Tim Thompson thanked the board for once again demonstrating that the heart of Frazer has always been for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in every way possible throughout the world.
Look for more information on the details of Frazer’s new mission project on this blog in weeks to come.