Imagine being 8 years old and moving into an orphanage just so you can eat and go to school. Imagine becoming a pastor and bishop of churches, director of the orphanage, founder of a community school and a traveling fundraiser. Imagine sending a child to primary school for a whole year supplying books, tuition and supplies for $170 — plus uniform and shoes. Imagine that some of the children come from the hills of Haiti where they run around with no clothes or shoes and often go days without food or just what they can gather from the surrounding area. Imagine if those children had a chance to learn a trade so they, too, could give back to other children and inspire hope for a better life. That is the mission, in part, of Rev. Gregory Georges from Grand Goave I’Ouest, Haiti W.I., who ministered Wednesday night at the Believers Family Worship Center in New Iberia. He has visited the Teche Area on several other occasions through his relationship since 1992 with Rev. Ken and Stephanie Leleux at Glorious Church Worship Center. Rev. Mona Burleigh, also a member of the church, has watched and helped him grow the past 20 years. Imagine no longer. This week meet pastors Georges and Burleigh as they share part of their history and hopes for Haiti.
What is the most impactful thing you learned as a youth and continue to teach today?
— Rev. Georges One of the things that I always remember is the training we had, but more the teaching — every day you need to read your Bible because you are a Christian. You need to take good care of yourself. Like you eat to keep your body in good shape, you need to read and pray everyday so your spirit can be in a good shape. Without that, you’re not going to make it because your body is going to be stronger than your soul and spirit. Temptation or other things happen and you will fall, because your body is stronger than your spirit. If your soul and spirit is very strong, you can do a big fight and you can win. This is something we try to advise people about so they can become a strong Christian.
Education is important, but why especially in Haiti?
— Rev. Burleigh Unemployment is about 40 to 50 percent. As they graduate from high school, those that want to apply themselves, if they get a vocation, their employability goes up exponentially. That part of our ministry increased as the children grew. The ministry changes with them. This year we were able to get five kids sponsored to go to vocational school. It could be a long way from the town. We’ve been able to get sponsors and now they are graduating. Teachers, nurses, accountants, electricians, whatever their interests are. It’s not like here. They are focused for specific trades whether two or four years depending on the courses. We found that by doing that, it is changing the whole community because they are staying.
What are your targets for education?
— Rev. Georges We’re trying to start computer school and that is both for those in school and in the community. Day for students, night for community. Welding and general contracting skills for one. They all want to build their own homes. Skills for themselves as well as for the community. We tell the people coming on missions, you might be here to build something, but take these kids with you and teach them how to do it. Don’t just do something, teach them.
— Rev. Burleigh We do a lot of projects, water wells, stuff like that. Our ministry is not building projects, we’re in the ministry of building people. Everything we do we try to relate it to build people. We used to minister to this young man, now we walk beside him. That is our goal. There is not a better testimony than the people who grew up in the ministry are now doing the ministry. To me, that’s the best testimony. They have an evangelism team that goes into places most wouldn’t dare go into because of voodoo.
Who is with the children while you are in the United States?
— Rev. Georges For the first time, my wife Sylvienne is in charge. We had our own home until Sister Dula Trahan died. We realized the children needed to see and be part of a family so we moved to the orphanage. Sylvienne and I have five boys of our own. The oldest is David at 12, then Davens, Davenson, Davensky and Prince. He is 3 years old. We broke the naming mold with him. We are family to all of the children.
Who is your role model for the work you now do?
— Rev. Georges Sister Dula Thomas was a retired school teacher who didn’t go on a mission trip to Haiti until she was 60. After moving to Haiti, she lived there teaching the orphans and others in the community until she died at 90. She was tough, but she was so full of love. Strict, but children need discipline.
Haiti has suffered with hurricanes and earthquakes, tell a little about overcoming those natural disasters.
— Rev. Georges It’s very hard. The earthquake happened and almost 500,000 people passed away. The amount of the orphans increased from that time. The poverty increases. People are dealing with jobs, even young people could go to university, but they live without a job. Some go abroad to United States, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile. Almost everywhere in the world there are some Haitian people. It makes their life harder than ever. We used to have walls at the orphanage, now we don’t. The earthquake took down the kitchen, we don’t have it back yet. It’s about 10 years since that happened, and we are making progress but we’re still not back where we were. All we can do is buy things and let the people do the work. Like before the earthquake we used to plant a garden. Now when we do, without a wall the goats come and eat the plants. If the children forget things outside after daylight ends, at night others will take things.
Are you traveling in other parts of the US?
— Rev. Georges Yes, Dallas, Pennsylvania and New York. Some graduated from the school and now live here. They are helping us. Since Sister Dula died, we have not had many connections for fundraising. She had the support base. We have room for 100 children, but our current enrollment is 22. Some children have never been to school when they come at 12 or 13 years old.
For more information, how can either of you be reached?
— Rev. Burleigh For pastor Georges, Servant of All Ministries call (509)43345112), or email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 701 Route Nationale No. 2, Grand-Goave, I’Ouest, Haiti W.I. or through Glorious Church Worship Center. To join others on a Haiti trip in September, contact Rev. Mona Burleigh at Goye Global Ministries at P.O. Box 70, Cade, LA 70519 or email email@example.com.
“I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
— 1 John 2:14, New International Version