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HAITI (FBW)—Two youth ministers at two Jacksonville Baptist Association churches are moving their families to Haiti to head the work of two orphanages. One will continue a long-standing tradition of ministry to children, while the other will build the groundwork for a new ministry.
Ryan Rouse, youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Orange Park, will work as executive director of Cabaret Children’s Home in Bercy, Haiti. The Cabaret home has been owned and operated by the Jacksonville Baptist Association since 1998.
Currently 48 children, ages 1-22, reside at Cabaret, with the 22-year-old—a 10th-grader—serving as a “junior nanny” to the other children, Rouse said. In addition to the residence, Cabaret operates two schools in Bercy. The oldest school, with 500 students, is located across the street from the children’s home and a new school, with 50 students, is three miles away in a less mountainous area. Its location eases the children’s uphill trek to school, Rouse said.
Rouse, his wife Stacie, and their toddlers, 2-year-old Hayden, and 1-year-old Piper, will move to Haiti as soon as rental property can be arranged for the family. According to Stacie Rouse, the process is more difficult than in the United States since rent for an entire year must be paid in advance.
“We could manage rent every month, but not all at once. We’re working on it,” she said.
The family may move to temporary housing for the summer months as “a good transition time for the kids,” she said. The move will also re-unite the family with Islanda, an 11-year-old whom the Rouses are adopting from Cabaret. The family is in the early stage of the process that is now more difficult because the government has limited the number of adoptions of Haitian children, Stacie Rouse said.
“The other children at Cabaret understand that she is being adopted, and they are excited for her,” she said.
Rouse will work with missionaries Mike and Bonnie Snyder, who have worked at Cabaret three years, to eventually “improve the exit strategy for the children” at Cabaret. At present a child must leave the home upon graduation from high school. Rouse hopes to offer more jobs and job skills to residents, and to provide transitional apartments for the older residents.
“Where these apartments are may eventually affect where our family lives,” Rouse said.
Stacie Rouse said her father and in-laws are “proud and supportive” of their children’s plans for service in Haiti.
“My dad always knew I would end up in missions somewhere. He’s just relieved that it’s not Africa,” she said.
Ryan and Stacie Rouse met during a short term mission trip to Israel, and they honeymooned in Burkina Faso. Although Ryan was always devoted to youth ministry, he returned from a November 2011 trip to Haiti telling his wife, “We need to talk,” he said.
Although the couple had felt drawn to missions in Africa, they concluded after much prayer that Haiti was their destination, Stacie Rouse said.
“We found that Haiti is just like Africa in a lot of ways—the culture and the poverty. The dirt even smells the same,” she said.
David Tarkington, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orange Park, sensed his youth minister’s call to missions while the Rouses were still in prayer about it. He offered support before they could ask.
“He said he felt that I needed to be in Haiti, and he said, ‘we will do everything we can to get you there.’” Rouse said.
The church will pay Rouse’s salary three years, with a re-evaluation of fundraising at the end of two years. Since committing to Cabaret, Rouse has made eight trips there.
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