Building Beautiful Families

Beyond the tragedy, ruins, and shelters in Haiti stands Operation Love The Children Of Haiti (OLTCH). Established three years ago by Jasmine and Greg, a couple from the United States, the OLTCH orphanage is home to 46 Haitian children.

Many EFCA churches have been sending short-term teams to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake to help EFCA TouchGlobal with reconstruction efforts and various projects in the community — including helping at orphanages like OLTCH.

Last October, Calvary Church (MO) sent a group to Haiti on a work trip that led two men and their families down a life-altering path.

Meet Brian and Natalie Ames

Brian and Natalie married at the young age of 21, and a year later, started a family. As their children grew older, they began to anticipate time alone as a couple again, looking forward to an empty nest and early retirement.

“When the kids grew up, we wanted to retire early, move to Florida, buy a condo, and have fun! That was the plan,” said Natalie. After the stock market took a deep dive in 2008, though, the Ameses reevaluated their early retirement plans.

Shortly after, God touched Natalie’s heart through a picture of two African American boys, Marcus and Denny, hanging on the wall at her church where she worked. They were foster children in need of a home, and every time Natalie passed by their picture, she would sense God saying, “Bring them home.”

Wrestling with what to do, and hesitant to share her heart with Brian, Natalie was moved to action after watching a short skit in church about “Loving the Least.” It featured two couples anxious to hear back about exciting pieces of news. The first waited on an acceptance letter to serve on the missions field. The second waited on the closing date for their retirement condo on the beach.

“It was like a 2×4 to the back of my head,” Natalie confessed. She really questioned what she and her husband were living for. Before she knew it, in May 2009, Natalie and Brian were welcoming Marcus and Denny, now 14 and 13 respectively, into their home — no longer an empty nest.

Fast-forward to October 2010, when Brian joined the Calvary Church short-term team to Haiti. On Thursday of their week-long trip, Natalie saw a picture on the Calvary Church Haiti Facebook page of Brian with a 3-year-old Haitian orphan, Daveson, comfortably seated on his shoulders.

The next time Brian called home, she remembered telling him, “I saw the picture, and God and I have already been talking about it.” She had even started Googling information about Haitian adoptions.

After Brian returned from the trip, they discovered that Daveson had an older brother named Lowensky, 9, and they did not want to split the brothers apart. When the couple visited Lowensky and Daveson in March, the boys were a little shy at first, but took to their new parents quickly, calling them “mama” and “papa.”

Meet Dave and Sharron Mathis

Dave and Sharron Mathis were striving to gain a greater global perspective when God brought Calvary Church’s Haiti trip last October to Dave’s attention. Dave had never been to Haiti, and he was not prepared for what he saw.

“It was tragic. ‘What am I going to do for this place?’ I thought. But I learned that you have to work on an individual level. You cannot help the country as a whole,” said Dave.

Before taking that first trip to Haiti, neither Dave nor Sharron, who were already parents to a 23-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter, had adoption in mind. But then Dave met an 8-year-old Haitian girl named Oltania.

After the trip, Dave couldn’t get Oltania off his mind. Jasmine had talked about the role a child’s age plays in the likelihood of adoption, and it tugged at Dave’s heart knowing that Oltania was considered “too old” by most prospective parents.

“Oltania’s age would fit perfectly into our family. I’m already 46. We don’t need a baby,” said Dave.

When Dave felt that God was leading them to adopt her, Sharron did not take any convincing. “Her smile just lights up her beautiful little face. Through prayer, God has given me such a love for a little girl I hardly know,” remarked Sharron.

In March 2011, Dave and Sharron returned to Haiti, along with the Ameses, to take the next steps of the process. Although the short trip went smoothly for Brian and Natalie, Dave and Sharron quickly hit a bump in the road to adoption.

Oltania was actually Jasmine’s neighbor before she came to OLTCH three years ago. Jasmine knew Oltania was abused by her parents, and when they could no longer feed their daughter, she went to live at OLTCH.

The birth mother and father still had contact with Oltania, and they needed to sign off on the adoption papers. The birth father was supportive of the adoption, but the mother was adamantly opposed. She had heard rumors that orphanages would sell children as workers, and she was not going to sign the papers. The Mathises hope wavered. “At one point, we thought we were going home empty-handed,” Dave admitted.

Then God intervened.

“In our daily lives, we tend to tell God, ‘I’ve got it from here.’ But when you are in a place like Haiti, you have to let God take the lead,” Dave said.

“It took a great amount of faith to move forward with this adoption. While we were in Haiti, our faith was tested daily. Yet the Lord reminded me that stepping out in faith didn’t mean the steps would be easy,” added Sharron.

During the last morning of their visit to Haiti, as the Mathises prepared to leave for the airport, Oltania’s biological mother agreed to the adoption. They saw God move to reconcile the relationship with Oltania’s mother.  After a mad rush to complete the paperwork, Dave and Sharron just made it onto their departing flight.

What’s next?

Currently, there are eight other couples from the U.S. now working on 13 adoptions from OLTCH in Haiti, and most sprouted from short-term EFCA trips.

With the help of Jasmine’s connections in the Haitian government, the adoptions for the Ameses and Mathises are moving along quickly, and these two families are paving the way for the others. The lawyers say that Lowensky, Daveson and Oltania should be with their new families in the United States by autumn 2011.

“We have had lots of confirmation from God, obstacles have been removed, and doubts are gone. I’ve learned how unproductive doubt is,” Natalie said about their experience thus far.

Dave and Brian both plan to return to Haiti on another short-term trip in October 2011, but they hope to have the adoptions finalized by then.

“It’s dangerous to go there [Haiti]. I’ll have a whole house full of kids if I’m not careful!” said Dave.

Though they attend the same church (and Sharron, Dave and Natalie work there), the Ameses and Mathises did not know each other well before the Haiti trip in October 2010. Now, they will always be connected through their children. “God has given us a heart for these children, this orphanage, this country, and each other,” said Sharron.

“We knew each other as coworkers,” Natalie said. “Now, we’re teaching our children to call the other couple uncle and aunt. Our children are a family, so God is building us into a family.”

* * * * *

CONNECT
SERVE

Bring a short-term team to Haiti. Assist orphanages (like OLTCH) with various needs, help build and distribute temporary shelters for those who, even after one year, are still without a safe place to sleep, or serve in other capacities as needed.

PRAY
  • For the remaining steps of the adoption process to go smoothly for the Ameses and Mathises, and that Daveson, Lowensky and Oltania will come home to their new families soon.
  • That God would raise up additional adoptive parents for the orphans at Operation Love the Children of Haiti.
GIVE

Make an online donation to Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

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