Haitians helped through homegrown effort

COLUMBIA CITY — What was once an idea to provide aid to Haiti, has evolved into a full fledge mission. Just Cause International, formed by Whitley County residents Thaddeus McKee, Jeff Royer and Alex Carlin, is a nonprofit outreach organization designed to provide support and hope to Haiti.A benefit concert is set for Saturday at First Church of God, Columbia City, from 6 to 8 p.m. Nina Daniels, a worship leader from Chicago, will be the featured performer. The concert is free, but donations will be accepted to aid in the next phase of JCI’s work in Haiti. JCI’s concept is more than simply bringing food and a friendly face to the poverty-stricken country of Haiti.In the prisonThe group is going into prisons to bring worship, spiritual messages and one-on-one discipleship to provide a sustainable life once released.“At the prison, we bring Haitian teams in to lead these men in worship and preach the gospel to them every week,” said McKee. “We spend time in prayer with these men, encouraging them to be effective Christians through prayer even while behind bars. We recently baptized 41 men into the body of Christ and are working to help lead these men to be disciples of Jesus while in prison and after they leave.”In the homeIn August of 2012, JCI had just purchased a home in Montroius, Haiti. The group had plans to make that a transitional facility for those men leaving prison. The trio wanted to provide teaching that would give the men a chance at a better way of life. “We wanted to do more than just give them a meal for that day,” said McKee. “We wanted to see their lives transform to become self-sufficient.”Now the home is operational and has several success stories to credit to JCI’s objective.“The purpose of this house is to train young adults to do ministry by sharing life with others and engaging with their communities to share and show the love of Christ,” McKee said. “The vision is to have young Haitians living in the home, sharing in daily devotions and worship, and having a weekly Bible study where the community is invited to come and share in the study of the word. Our hope is to see these young adults become people who carry the mission of Christ to the communities and eventually to the world.”Now the focus turns to raising dollars to support the work JCI is determined to accomplish.Currently, the organization is looking to support the day-to-day costs of the discipleship house and its work in the prison as well as hiring a house manager and assistant manager.It costs an estimated $500 a month to fund JCI’s work. However, generating the funds is worth it when McKee, Royer and Carlin see the positive impact on the lives of Haitian men.In the heartsCendernson is 18 and wants to be a surgeon. He is one of the young men that currently lives in JCI’s discipleship home. This is his last year in high school, and JCI leaders said he is doing “exceptionally well.”“When he is done with high school, he wants to go to college to become a surgeon,” said McKee. “When he was a boy his mother had some tumors and the Haitian doctors couldn’t figure out how to help her. American doctors saved her life. That inspired Cedernson to help other in his own country.”At the discipleship house, the men serve along side JCI leader. The participants have a list of goals to work toward while living in the home. These are evaluated month-to-month. Each week there is a meeting with the house manager to assess the participants progress.In addition to maintaining the home and helping with daily chores, the men are involved in weekly Bible studies and volunteering in the community.JCI leaders also offer English classes to local Haitians as well as needed skills to further their education and career paths. “We want them to become leaders in their community who are equipped to stand for justice,” said McKee. “These classes are also a tool to connect with the community around us. They draw people to meet the members of JCI, which enables us to make relationships and share the gospel.”Valentin recently joined JCI in September 2012. He is 22 and wants to be a teacher.“Haiti has a poor education system,” he said. “I want to make it better.”Valentin leads Bible classes for young adults and occasionally offers a sermon at his home church.In the communityJCI is also addressing the need for food in Haiti. “Separe pen” means breaking bread in Kreol and this particular ministry fills a physical need.“Our desire is not to give only a hand out of food, but meet with ‘the least of these’ on a consistent basis while meeting a basic need of food,” said McKee. “Our hope is to build long term relationships, share love and life, and help disciple these people to become long term followers of Jesus Christ.”But JCI also wants to bring life and laughter to the community it serves. Soccer fields are accessible for organized play and games.There has already been several events and activities that have united JCI members and the community.To learn more about JCI’s work, visit http://justcauseintl.tumblr.com or email justcauseintl@gmail.com.