Florida Baptist Witness — March 7, 2013
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Jacksonville youth ministers prepare to lead orphanages in Haiti
Carolyn Nichols

HAITI (FBW)—Two youth ministers at two Jacksonville Baptist Association churches are moving their families to Haiti to head the work of two orphanages. One will continue a long-standing tradition of ministry to children, while the other will build the groundwork for a new ministry.

Ryan Rouse, youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Orange Park, will work as executive director of Cabaret Children’s Home in Bercy, Haiti. The Cabaret home has been owned and operated by the Jacksonville Baptist Association since 1998.

Currently 48 children, ages 1-22, reside at Cabaret, with the 22-year-old— a 10th-grader—serving as a “junior nanny” to the other children, Rouse said. In addition to the residence, Cabaret operates two schools in Bercy. The oldest school, with 500 students, is located across the street from the children’s home and a new school, with 50 students, is three miles away in a less mountainous area. Its location eases the children’s uphill trek to school, Rouse said.

Rouse, his wife Stacie, and their toddlers, 2-year-old Hayden, and 1-yearold Piper, will move to Haiti as soon as rental property can be arranged for the family. According to Stacie Rouse, the process is more difficult than in the United States since rent for an entire year must be paid in advance.

“We could manage rent every month, but not all at once. We’re working on it,” she said.

The family may move to temporary housing for the summer months as “a good transition time for the kids,” she said. The move will also re-unite the family with Islanda, an 11-year-old whom the Rouses are adopting from Cabaret. The family is in the early stage of the process that is now more difficult because the government has limited the number of adoptions of Haitian children, Stacie Rouse said.

“The other children at Cabaret understand that she is being adopted, and they are excited for her,” she said.

Rouse will work with missionaries Mike and Bonnie Snyder, who have worked at Cabaret three years, to eventually “improve the exit strategy for the children” at Cabaret. At present a child must leave the home upon graduation from high school. Rouse hopes to offer more jobs and job skills to residents, and to provide transitional apartments for the older residents.

“Where these apartments are may eventually affect where our family lives,” Rouse said.

Stacie Rouse said her father and in-laws are “proud and supportive” of their children’s plans for service in Haiti.

“My dad always knew I would end up in missions somewhere. He’s just relieved that it’s not Africa,” she said.

Ryan and Stacie Rouse met during a short term mission trip to Israel, and they honeymooned in Burkina Faso. Although Ryan was always devoted to youth ministry, he returned from a November 2011 trip to Haiti telling his wife, “We need to talk,” he said.

Although the couple had felt drawn to missions in Africa, they concluded after much prayer that Haiti was their destination, Stacie Rouse said.

“We found that Haiti is just like Africa in a lot of ways—the culture and the poverty. The dirt even smells the same,” she said.

David Tarkington, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orange Park, sensed his youth minister’s call to missions while the Rouses were still in prayer about it. He offered support before they could ask.

“He said he felt that I needed to be in Haiti, and he said, ‘we will do everything we can to get you there.’” Rouse said.

The church will pay Rouse’s salary three years, with a re-evaluation of fundraising at the end of two years. Since committing to Cabaret, Rouse has made eight trips there.

“I am being paid by a church to not work for them, which is pretty unique. They believe in this ministry of JBA,” Rouse said.

Across the St. Johns River from Orange Park, Matt Bush has served as youth minister of Rivertown Baptist Church in Jacksonville five years. He and his wife Jessica made public their call to Haiti in October 2012, and are now beginning the process of raising $300,000 to build an orphanage and to live in Gressier, Haiti, 25 miles south of Port au Prince.

“I know it is a big dream, and reality has set in that is a pretty big undertaking,” he said.

The Bushes first travelled to Haiti in Dec. 2011 to work in Christianville, a non-denominational ministry started in Gressier by St. Augustine resident Edsel Redden. An orphanage was started in Christianville by Audancin and Rosie Sinance, and the couple ministered to children in tent housing.

The orphanage houses 34 children, with two adults. The children range in age from 2 to 17.

The couple has travelled to Gressier six times since, and they found “it was much harder to come back every time,” Bush said.

“By October 2012, we knew we wanted to move there. Every time we went God broke our hearts a little more,” he said.

Bush said he always assumed he would eventually serve as pastor of a church, and he “never thought of myself as a missionary.”

“I also never thought that Haiti would be my home,” he said.

Their families in LaGrange, Ga. And Jacksonville are “supportive and nervous,” he said.

The Bushes are in the process of adopting two or three children from Ethiopia, whom they expect to grow up in Haiti and to attend an Englishspeaking school.

He hopes one day to make the orphanage, now named All Things New Ministry, an adopting site, but the orphanage must first be sanctioned by the Haitian government, he said. Government approval must also precede building new facilities.

The 100 members of Rivertown Baptist Church have been supportive of their youth minister’s decision, and financial support is also coming from unexpected—“really cool” sources, he said.

Greenfield Elementary School in Jacksonville, where Jessica Bush teaches kindergarten, has instituted “Read for Haiti” in which adults pledge $1 for each book a child reads in two weeks. As of Feb. 21, $450 has been raised. The school is also planning a “spirit night” at a local Chick-fil-a in which proceeds will go to All Things New.

Rouse and Bush have met together to talk about their ministries in Haiti, and they are “already praying for each other,” Bush said. Although the children’s homes are about 100 miles apart, the men hope to learn from one another about ministry in “a third world country where Christian ministries work together,” Rouse said.

“They are where Cabaret was 14 years ago, so they can work from our blueprints in building and fundraising. We’ll have advice on what we would have done differently,” he said. “We’ll help lay the groundwork for him.”

For more information about Cabaret Children’s Home, go to www.jaxbaptist.org. To learn more about All Things New, go to www.Allthingsneworphanage.com.