MIFFLINTOWN - Two Juniata County missions organizations are pooling resources this summer to build an orphanage for Haitian children who have no homes.
JuniPer (Juniata-Perry) Community Missions and Houses of Hope for Haiti connected this spring when one group noticed a need and discovered a way the other ministry could help.
During a recent JuniPer missions trip to Haiti, local resident George Losch said they met a native man who is living his vision to care for orphaned children.
Haitian children play with Sponge Bob toys they received from a Juniata and Perry county missions group. The JuniPer Community Missions and Houses of Hope for Haiti are working together to provide shelter and food for orphans in the impoverished nation.
After the January earthquake in 2010, the man - Audonson is his name - found himself trapped beneath the rubble of his home. His 4-year-old son died beside him, and for 1 1/2 days, the father was too injured to move.
He promised God that if he survived he would use his life to care for orphaned children, Losch said.
After weeks in the hospital, Audonson returned to his community in Bongette, near the earthquake epicenter, and began a make-shift orphanage for homeless children.
When the JuniPer group met Audonson, his New Horizon Orphanage had 37 children ranging in age from 18 months to 16 years.
The children still live in tents left over from earthquake relief donations. When it rains, they lie in the mud, and a layer of mildew forms on their tarps, Losch said. Mosquitoes buzz around the often sick and malnourished community.
"I know God doesn't intend any child to live where they're living," Losch said.
When they returned, Losch contacted Houses of Hope for Haiti, another Juniata County mission that builds temporary houses for people who lost their homes in the earthquake.
Lori King, one of the mission founders, said Houses of Hope was eager to help.
The mission's only stipulation: The person or entity must own their own land, King said.
And when Losch called Haiti to talk about the partnership, he found out that the ministry there already was in the process of buying property.
"God has connected us with Houses of Hope," Losch said. "I can't even begin to express what this is going to mean for these kids ..."
JuniPer also is working with Fish Ministries to raise funds to build a chicken house, a self-sustainable way to provide food and revenue for the orphans.
Meanwhile, Houses of Hope sent two 16x24-foot dormitories to the Haiti orphanage. The shipment should arrive in August, and a construction team will travel down in September, King said.
Each dormitory will have 24 bunk beds and buckets filled with personal hygiene items and toys, King said.
Houses of Hope, which began last April, has donated 87 homes and two dormitories in total, King said. Soon, the ministry plans to transition to more permanent housing structures, built with concrete and steel, she said.
The community has shown overwhelming support for Houses of Hope, King said. But with the expenses of the dorms and houses, the organization has "exhausted its funds," she said.
"God brought these two ministries together," King said. "We would love to continue if God allows us to."
George Losch's wife, Lori, shared James 1:27, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
JuniPer groups not only help with construction and financial needs, but they also participate in village ministry through Fish Ministries, Lori Losch said.
They go door to door, sharing the purpose of their visit with the family and then pray with them and tell them about Jesus, she said.
"No matter how many times we go to Haiti, God always reveals a huge need," Lori Losch said. JuniPer groups have been traveling to the impoverished nation for more than a decade.
To donate to JuniPer Community Missions, write to PO Box 249, Thompsontown, PA 17094, email Haiticentral@centurylink.net or call 535-5322. Learn more about Fish ministries at www.fishministrieshaiti.org.
To donate to Houses of Hope for Haiti, write to the River Church of Juniata County, 2891 Industrial Park Road, Mifflintown, PA 17059, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.