How one man's dream—and a late dinner—saved a group of Haitian orphans.
Even people of deep faith sometimes question where God is in times of disaster, like when a powerful earthquake devastated the island nation of Haiti back in January 2010. For months, Newark Star-Ledger columnist Bob Braun reported the story of an orphanage in the Haitian town of La Plaine, just outside the country’s hard-hit capital of Port-Au-Prince. And the story he uncovered just may provide an answer.
Many years ago, a young Haitian boy named Jean Jacob Paul was put into the care of a Presbyterian missionary after the boy’s father died. The missionary brought him to Brooklyn, New York, for a chance at a better life.
“One day, I will go back to Haiti to help other children like me,” Jean promised the missionary.
But the years passed. Jean grew up. He went to technical school. He worked as a cab driver for many years. He married, and had four children. He moved to Atlanta to start a business. His promise was all but forgotten.
Then one evening, Jean had a dream. A man approached him. “You must go to Haiti,” the man said. “Or I will send someone else.”
Jean had the dream again a few nights later. And again. He knew someone was telling him something. Something he couldn’t ignore.
Jean moved to Haiti and built the Reformation Hope Orphanage. Seven years later, 56 children were in his care. He gave them food, shelter and an education, like the missionary had once given him.
The evening of January 12th, the orphans were waiting for their dinner, gathered outside in the courtyard of Jean’s church. Dinner was always served at 4:30, inside the church dining room. But today, the cooks were running behind. The food seemed to just take longer to prepare than usual. It was already 20 minutes late. The staff just couldn’t explain what was taking so long.
The children were getting restless. Some wanted to go inside. But one of the older boys kept them out. “Get away, dinner is not ready!”
Just then, the ground shook. The children screamed. Suddenly, the church roof collapsed, flattening the dining room.
The church was leveled, but all 56 orphans, and the orphanage staff members, were miraculously unharmed. If they had been inside…
The story of the orphanage, and the children’s survival, led to one more miracle. Reporter Bob Braun was assigned to cover the aftermath of the quake, and one of the first people who helped him when he arrived there was Jean. Bob wrote an article on Jean’s orphanage and the story was repeated around the globe.
Readers were moved, donating money and materials to help rebuild. And today, seven months later, a new church stands in the place of the one that was lost, bigger and more beautiful, with a roof designed to withstand future earthquakes.
A dream brought Haitian orphans a hero. A late dinner saved their lives. And those incredible stories moved others to help rebuild their home.
A disaster can shake anyone’s faith. But through the stories of those who survive against all odds, we can find God in even the darkest of times.