How God Used a Hope Center
in Haiti to Restore a Family

By Bonnie Wellensiek, Child Champion, U.S.A., with Dr. Mathias Bonhomme   |  Photos by Faella Eustache and Jean Elie Vilnord

The family of two sponsored girls in Haiti seemed broken beyond repair. But God used relentless prayer and an event at their Hope Center to bring the family back together.

Jessica listens to her daughters read letters from their sponsors.

Peterson* knows firsthand the power of prayer.

Prayers pursued him for nine years after his marriage fell apart. His church prayed, his children prayed, and his wife prayed.

And God answered their prayers.

A Survivor

Peterson’s survival is a miracle in itself, given all he has been through in life.

As a child, growing up in Haiti, one of the poorest nations on earth, Peterson longed to go to school. But his parents barely got by selling coffee and coco beans, and sending their children to school was not a priority.

Then an uncle came and took him away to another area so he could attend school. But it wasn’t the experience Peterson had dreamed of. Instead, it left him traumatized.

Peterson at work in his workshop.

Every morning before school Peterson had to take care of his uncle’s livestock, which often made him late for school. His teacher, who drank, would whip him for being late.

By the fourth grade Peterson couldn’t bear it anymore and ran away. He ended up in the city where life was even harder for a boy alone.

Peterson then made his way to the Dominican Republic, the country that occupies the other half of the island of Hispaniola where Haiti is located.

Driven by extreme poverty and gang violence in their country, many Haitian immigrants cross the border into the Dominican Republic, hoping to find a better life. Peterson spent several years there before returning to Haiti, where he married Jessica*.

A Family Man

Life wasn’t easy for the couple, but they settled into marriage and eventually had three children.

Peterson does his best to provide for the family, working as a cabinetmaker, while Jessica is a vendor in the marketplace. Sometimes they earn enough to cover their basic necessities, but not always.

The family walks together in their community.

Like many families in Haiti, Peterson’s family lives in a two-room house with no electricity, running water, or bathroom. They light the home with candles at night, and a small stream running behind the house serves as a community toilet, creating serious hygiene problems.

The community also lacks health care, and the pump that supplies water only works when it’s raining.

But a ray of hope came when a local pastor invited the family to enroll their two daughters, Stéphanie* and Samentha*, at a OneChild Hope Center.

Jessica fixes her daughter’s hair.

“We used to have difficulty paying school fees before registering at the Hope Center,” says Peterson. “It used to be difficult to feed them as well. But thanks to the Hope Center everything became easier for us.”

His children’s education is especially important to Peterson.

“I did not go far in school. That’s why I am working hard to have my kids complete school and go to university,” he says.

“My dream is to have my kids study what they like to succeed in their life. I don’t want them to face such difficulties as I have faced in my childhood.”

The girls already have dreams for their future. Stéphanie, 12, wants to become a hairstylist and Samentha, 9, hopes to be a nurse.

A Broken Home

Despite the struggles of day-to-day life, Peterson and Jessica had a peaceful home. Then, several years ago, a bad choice changed everything.

“One day I misbehaved,” says Peterson, accepting responsibility with candor.

His sin shattered their marriage.

“Our marriage split for nine years,” Peterson says. “My children suffered a lot from that.”

Peterson suffered, too, spiritually.

“I am a Christian,” he says, but adds, “During all that time I could not go to church.” Throughout those nine years, however, his family was crying out to God on his behalf.

“My wife was always praying for God to restore our marriage,” says Peterson. “The children were praying for their father to come back home.”

A Family Engaged

Family is the most important influence in most children’s lives. That’s why OneChild developed a program for Family Engagement, where Child Champions hold trainings and events to strengthen families.

Read how a Hope Center in the Philippines is transforming their community through Family Engagement.

One day a pastor from Stéphanie and Samentha’s Hope Center reached out to Peterson and Jessica, inviting them to a conference on Family Engagement. Although they were separated, both parents agreed to attend.

The family reads together.

What happened next was the long-awaited answer to prayer.

The teaching they received at the conference touched each of them deeply.

“We took the information to heart and applied it,” says Peterson. “And the same day we came back together.

“Each of us was suffering on our side because the whole family was impacted by the broken family. The Family Engagement program helped us to put our griefs aside and hold each other’s hand again.”

He says the Hope Center’s pastor, who was always praying for the couple, talked with them, taught them what the Bible says about marriage, and helped them put their home in order.

Peterson understands that marriage is not just a private matter; it impacts the whole community.

“Everybody in the community was happy for us,” says Peterson. “It was a victory even for the church because everyone was suffering with us.”

Peterson and Jessica share a hug.

Peterson can also see the tangible impact on his wife, who is healthier and has less anxiety.

“Joy and exaltation overflow in our hearts,” he says.

Hope for the Whole Family

Jessica and Peterson now have two more children, and the Hope Center has continued to be a blessing to the whole family.

Asked what he likes best about the Hope Center, Peterson says, “Absolutely everything!”

“I know that my children have people available to help them in hard times and this makes the difference in their lives,” says Peterson.

He recalls a time when all his children were suffering from a condition that was causing them to lose weight.

“I did not have money to send them to the hospital,” Peterson says. “The Hope Center’s nurse gave medicines to Stéphanie and Samentha and the other children. The medicines were effective, and the children were healed.”

Jessica and Peterson with their daughters and their Child Champion, far left.

He says the pastor’s wife, who is a Child Champion at the Hope Center, takes special care of the children.

“She always fixes the children’s dresses when they reach the Hope Center. She always feeds them when they are hungry. She always smiles at them, and she is always watching over them.”

The family is also grateful to Stéphanie’s sponsor, Allyson, and Samentha’s sponsor, Heather. Peterson feels that God has sent these sponsors to help hold his daughters’ hands along the way.

“Thank you for being there for my kids,” he says. “Thank you for loving them. May God bless you more every day.”

Always Hold On

Through his experiences, Peterson has become a man who depends on God.

“Please pray for God to keep us forever in love, to keep us under His wings,” he says. “Please pray for God to make a way for my family.”

And Peterson has this advice for any family going through difficulty:

“Hold on when times are harder and darker; do not let the devil take his place in your home. Always pray and stay devoted to each other. Hold each other’s hand to live better. And always forgive each other.”

*Names changed for family privacy.

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