“I promise you, I will not get involved with Haiti.”
I boldly proclaimed this statement one evening in August of 2009 as my band, Willet, accepted an invitation to visit Haiti for 10 days. Originally, I was hesitant to even visit because of our current involvement in several communities in Africa.
Two years ago, my brothers (Justin and Jordan) and I traveled to Zeway, Ethiopia as a band to learn about a particular poverty-stricken village. This trip was part of a vision trip with Food for the Hungry (FH). I remember seeing literally hundreds of children on a sidewalk with their hands outstretched begging for food, water, medicine and clothing. We later learned that the same sidewalk on which they were begging for those items also became their bed each night. Suddenly, record sales, tours and “success” as we knew it in the industry didn’t seem so important, not when those children had nothing. On that trip, we replaced dreams of success as artists with dreams to help thousands of children living in extreme poverty.
In 2009, we had the opportunity to travel back to Ethiopia with a team to see the progress that had been made since most of the 1,000 children from Zeway, Ethiopia were sponsored. In only two years, an entire community of people was transformed through the placement of a clean-water well, school desks, food and a hospital. Following our work in Zeway, we were asked to help another village called Belo, also in Ethiopia. This was a community of about 500 children. One of the many reasons we partner with FH is because they believe in helping one community at a time through child sponsorship. This allows us to keep our audience engaged in the transformation process of the communities we work in.
God is putting so many different communities on our hearts and equipping us with the ability to help them. In August of 2009, myself and the other members of Willet had the opportunity to travel to Haiti to spend 10 days with a group of children there. As in Ethiopia, we honestly had no intention to get involved with Haiti, especially because we had so many commitments in Africa already. However, God had other plans.
Following that trip, I came home and told my wife about the children I met. We began to pray as a couple, and after a week, it was very clear as to what we needed to do. The next week, my wife quit her job, and in November of 2009, Kathleen moved to the country of Haiti to care for these children. Both of our lives changed even more, along with hundreds of thousands of others when the tragic 7.0 earthquake hit the country on Jan. 12. Kathleen was with the children during the quake while the band and I were on tour in New Zealand getting ready for a performance at Parachute festival. Following the earthquake, we waited for three days to hear if Kathleen and her kids survived the tragedy. Late one night, through a string of short text messages, we learned she and all her children survived, and were living in tents until repairs were made to their building.
Because of our involvement with international relief and development, I am often asked, “Why do you care so much about helping children overseas when we have problems here in America?”
Although I do agree that we have problems in the U.S., and I do believe that we should be very active in helping those on our own soil, I disagree that we should only be interested in helping domestically. I wondered if there was one main reason to summarize why we should help children around the world as well as the United States? Earlier this week when I got back to my office in Maryland, I began going through my mail, and I found the answer:
In the mail was a letter from a boy my wife and I sponsor through FH. Meet Mathewos from Belo, Ethiopia:
Mathewos lives with his parents, five brothers, and three sisters. He is in 4th grade, helps with farming and is turning 11 on July 28. I had just written Mathewos a few weeks ago asking him some questions. His response gave me the reason we should help all children around the world. I have received many letters from him, but this one was different…
“Jesus Christ greatly changed my life and we now have a Bible in home and we read at devotion evening and morning. All family, brother, sister, father and me read Bible every day and we also believe every word.” —Mathewos
“Jesus Christ greatly changed my life.” Since the last time I wrote our sponsored child, Mathewos prayed to trust Jesus as his Lord and Savior! Rejoice! That is the reason we cannot ignore the poor around the world. Jesus saves.
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.” (Psalm 96:3)
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. (Matthew 28:19)
We can discuss all day about physical needs and specific strategies for relief, development, building projects, hygiene, food distribution, medical stations, school buildings and clean water, but when it all comes down to it, a child living in poverty, or in wealth is a child who is lost unless they’ve found the Savior: Jesus. The God I serve is not confined to one country in the west. To believe we should only be concerned with fellow Americans rather then helping globally is to suggest that 95 percent of the world’s population does not count. I’m not OK with that. The rest of the world does matter, and people like Mathewos are coming to find the love of Jesus!
After the Haiti earthquake, the Lord has moved us to be even closer to the hurt—literally. I now travel back and forth in between Willet tour dates while Kathleen serves as the Community Development Facilitator for FH in Haiti. We are still very committed to our work in Africa, in fact, in October of this year; we are flying to Gorongosa, Mozambique for 10 days to begin helping our fourth community. I look forward to joining Reject Apathy and RELEVANT to share the transformation that is occurring in Haiti. I plan to send updates and write articles frequently from Haiti throughout the upcoming months. Thanks for coming along on the journey.
Jeremy is the lead singer and songwriter for the band, WILLET, co-author of the book carried. – Bearing the cross to a world in love with kingdoms and co-founder of The Hunger Strike. Jeremy and his wife, Kathleen, live in Haiti while Jeremy travels back and forth to the U.S. on tour to encourage child sponsorship. You can connect with him via Twitter @jeremywillet and email: [email protected]