On February 6th, 2014 I attended “Business Day in Madison” at the Monona Terrace. The morning’s opening speaker was retired Navy Seal Team Six member, Robert O’Neill. Robert’s morning message was: “Never Quit: The Story of a Life Built on Successful Missions”. One of the people Robert quoted was Richard Bach, author of the well know book; Jonathon Livingston Seagul. That quote was, “Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t”. It was an inspirational talk by an American Navy hero that left everyone in the room with a deep sense of patriotism and heartfelt appreciation to our military men and women who put themselves in harm’s way.
But what is a hero? Webster’s online dictionary defines the term as: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities: a person who is greatly admired. With that definition as the backdrop I’d like tell you about two ordinary people who are heroes to many, Gary and Carolyn Walker who are Missionaries in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.
Prior to full time missionary work, Gary was a pastor of a small church in West Virginia which he had originally planted while also working a regular job to support himself and provide benefits.In 1989, after her first husband died, Carolyn started doing short term mission trips to Haiti to help her friends Ken and Rosemary Sunderman, founders of Touch Ministries (http://www.touchhaitiministries.org/) whom she met while living in Chicago.
Gary and Carolyn’s paths did not cross until later in life, getting married in 1999; Gary was 52 at the time and Carolyn, 57. Carolyn continued her short term mission trips until 2001 when Ken Sunderman became too ill to continue in fulltime missionary work. Gary and Carolyn felt called by God to fill the void and at 54 and 59, an age when many of us start to consider winding down, they made the decision to go into the mission field full time. By doing this they made the tough choice of leaving behind a church ministry, a pension, and the comforts of the United States.
Gary and Carolyn’s first years in Haiti were during a time of great political turmoil; warring gangs roamed the streets and gunfire rang out nightly until St Marc Haiti, the home of Touch Ministries, fell to rebels and was then re-taken by the government police. The Walkers housed many Haitians during that awful time, providing adequate protection and a place of piece and comfort from the flying bullets.
The Walker’s first years were tough financially and also physically. They lived on 300 dollars a month, had a vehicle that seldom started, and had acquired a small staff of deported Haitians who were great interpreters but also tended to cause many problems. They had been shot at (a bullet hole can still be seen in one vehicle to prove it), were robbed at gunpoint, accused of crimes they did not commit and taken to court but never convicted. They have had malaria, suffered from parasites, have been laughed at and shunned.
However, they have kept with the theme of Robert O’Neill’s message; they never quit and they are building a life story on successful missions. They have managed this by relying totally on the Lord who has sustained them for over 13 years. The Walker’s have also been living out the quote from Richard Bach in that their mission on Earth is not finished because they are still breathing. In fact, they are truly alive and they meet all the definitions of the word hero!
Today Touch Ministries is experiencing continual successes as lives are being regularly transformed. Their El Shaddai School, House of Hope Orphanage, and Bible Teaching School are all growing and providing young Haitians with a glimmer of hope. Recently, volunteers also began a roof top garden project on the top of the school buildings to teach the children and adults how to grow their own food. With additional support they could continue their growth and vision of providing a brighter future for the lives of those they help.
Does their mission sound worthy to you? If so you could be an answer to the Walkers and many Haitian’s prayers by helping their efforts through financial support and/or volunteering. On March 29th, 2014 at the Madison Marriott West, Schools-For-Haiti (www.schoolsforhaiti.com), a major contributor to Touch Ministries and ministries like theirs, will be hosting a fundraising dinner and silent auction. The mission of Schools For Haiti is: “We are changing their lives and they will change the future of Haiti”. Help us in supporting the heroic efforts of people like the Walkers by attending the event and hearing how you can have an impact. See the following Facebook link for more details and how to sign up.
Stay tuned to this blog to hear about more heroes.
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