Sam Wiseman, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church of La Grande, talks with members of his congregation on Sunday. Wiseman is a big reason for the creation of the House of the Lambs of God orphanage for girls in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. Prior to coming to La Grande, Wiseman was pastor of a Lake Stevens, Wash., church, where he helped found the Nord Est Haiti Lutheran Mission, which built the orphanage for girls in Ouanaminthe in 2007 and one for boys that opened a year ago. (Chris Baxter photo)
Members of Faith Lutheran Church of La Grande continue reaching out to orphanages in Haiti
Silas Moe of North Powder expected the unexpected when he went to Haiti earlier this summer with members of the Faith Lutheran Church of La Grande.
Still, Moe found himself unprepared for what awaited.
“I had no idea what it would be like. It was an incredible culture shock,” Moe said.
He said the “immense poverty” that is everywhere in Haiti jolted him.
“It made me realize how much I had and how much I don’t need,” Moe said.
Moe also was jolted by something else — an outpouring of unconditional love. Moe was with a party of five from the Faith Lutheran Church, which spent most of its time working at two orphanages in Northeast Haiti, of which the La Grande church is a major supporter. Moe and the other members of his party will never forget the reception they received when they arrived at the House of the Lambs of God orphanage for girls. The 50 children who live there all kissed each member of the party on both sides of their cheeks and hugged them.
“It is crazy to care that much for people who didn’t know who you are,” Moe said.
Jeremy Yancey of Starkey, who also accompanied the group on the trip, was equally struck by this outpouring.
“They definitely have a lot of love to share,” Yancey said.
The children may not have realized it, but they were embracing a party responsible for their opportunity to escape an impoverished childhood. The La Grande church, along with the Lamb of God Lutheran Church of Lake Stevens, Wash., founded the girls orphanage in Ouanaminthe in 2007. The orphanage was created in large part due to the direction of Sam Wiseman, pastor of the Faith Lutheran Church since November 2003.
Prior to coming to La Grande, Wiseman was pastor of the Lake Stevens church. At Lake Stevens, he helped found the Nord Est Haiti Lutheran Mission, which built the orphanage for girls in Ouanaminthe and one for boys, that opened a year ago. Today, the Nord Est mission, chaired by John Herbst of the Faith Lutheran Church, oversees the operation of both orphanages.
Members of Faith Lutheran Church travel to Haiti to work at the orphanages every other year. They made their most recent trip earlier this summer, working at the orphanages from June 19 to July 3.
The party consisted of Wiseman, his daughter, Anneliese, Moe, Jeremy Yancey and Betsy Crist. They were joined by Scott Miller and his son, Jonathan, of Montana. The Millers previously lived in Union.
Wiseman was excited to see how the boys orphanage in Ouanaminthe, which opened in 2012, was faring. It now has 20 children who are being well served.
“We are on a constant learning curve,” Wiseman said. “This is the first time we have (operated a boys orphanage). It is going exceedingly well.”
Much of the work the group of seven did involved the construction of a grade school in Ouanaminthe. It will replace a school now based in buildings at the girls orphanage. All the children at the two orphanages, plus 140 other children, attend the school.
The intent of the school’s staff is to prepare young Haitians to succeed in their culture.
“We are helping them become good citizens, not change them,” said Betsy Crist.
This will continue to hold true when classes are conducted in the new school building.
La Grande is many miles from Haiti, but the connection between the Faith Lutheran Church and the House of the Lambs of God orphanages appears to be getting stronger as the years pass. Wiseman never has difficulty getting a team of volunteers to go to Haiti every other year to work, even though the cost is high, roughly $1,500 per person.
Anneliese Wiseman believes the bond between her church and the orphanages is strengthening because so many in the congregation feel a close connection to the Haitian children they are helping.
“It is a foreign mission we all are in direct contact with on a regular basis,” Anneliese Wiseman said.
Sam Wiseman’s connection to Haiti was forged in the late 1990s when he met the Rev. Daniel Paul of Haiti at a seminary in the United States.
When Wiseman later learned about an orphanage Paul wanted to start in Ouanaminthe, he stepped forward to help. Today, Wiseman works closely with Paul, who operates the two orphanage in Ouanaminthe.
“We never know who God will bring into our path who will effect our lives very significantly,” Wiseman said.