Our second day in Haiti took us to Jacmel, the coastal town that was hit hard by the earthquake but largely ignored when it came to relief efforts. And once again, we found some exciting stories about people doing extraordinary things in challenging circumstances.
One of my favorite stories was that of Tommy Schwindling, the unassuming man from Alabama who runs Children’s Hope orphanage there.
When Schwindling greeted our team, he made no attempts to hide his thick Southern drawl that was as smooth as molasses. He meandered up to our truck and began answering any and all questions we peppered him with to get started. Then he told us the story of Samuel and the beginnings of Children’s Hope, which regularly uses MAF to transport in work teams from Port-au-Prince.
After the earthquake, Samuel’s aunt had 14 children in her orphanage – and she had nowhere to put them. She gave them to her 21-year-old nephew and told him that she would be back. In the meantime, she was going to the U.S. and would raise funds to ship back to him so Samuel could sustain the children.
But that never happened.
Instead, what happened was Samuel was left to fend for himself and feed 14 mouths – all while they lived in a tent.
After two months of this, Alabama Baptist Missions Board got a hold of the information and through a series of connections, eventually opened an orphanage. But they still needed someone to run it full time.
This is where Tommy saunters onto the pages of this story.
“I had told God I would go anywhere he led me to go – and even though Haiti wasn’t high on my list of places to serve, I went,” said Tommy, who was bit by the missions bug when he went to Niger several years ago and thought he might serve in Africa.
What transpired in the months following the earthquake was an incredible story of God’s hand on Tommy’s life, which led him and his wife to Jacmel to run the orphanage. He and his wife sold or gave away everything they had and moved to Haiti.
Now they care for all 14 of Samuel’s kids along with five others. Their facility is quickly growing with hopes of expanding to a capacity of 60-80 children in the next year.
“I’m just a plain guy,” said Tommy, who worked for a car salesman in Alabama. “It’s amazing who God will use if you’re willing to obey Him. I never would’ve thought I would be here, but now I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”