It was the summer of 1992 when we first heard about Haiti. Prior to that I would have had a difficult time finding it on the map. But in November of that year, I joined a missions team from Hillcrest Chapel in Bellingham and helped build the orphanage in Haiti for Childcare International. That was a trip that really changed our lives. I came back overwhelmed with the tremendous need and the feeling that it was an almost impossible situation. How could we possibly make a difference when there was so much need? It was short time later that I read the Starfish story for the first time and then realized that we could make a difference in the lives of a few and that’s what our responsibility was. We began by sponsoring one child.
Now it’s ten years later and we have the responsibility for over 1700 children. It’s hard for us to believe. How did we get from one sponsored child to 1700?
From 1992 – 1997, I made several trips to Haiti, helping Childcare International with some small administrative roles and leading short term missions teams. During that time I developed a relationship with Pastor Diogene Pierre and ministered with him. Then in August of 1997, Childcare International decided to discontinue their orphanage ministry in Haiti and asked us if we would be willing to take over that ministry. After a few weeks of praying, Sheryl and I believed God was calling us to this ministry of touching the lives of a few needy Haitian children. Starfish Ministries was founded.
January 1, 1998, Childcare International officially turned over the responsibility for 27 orphaned children to Starfish Ministries. By that time Starfish Ministries was legally recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit corporation with all contributions by donors deductible. With that we were no longer affiliated officially with Childcare International.
By March of 1998 we had filled the orphanage to its capacity of 48 children. The support by you was there from the beginning and every child was sponsored, sometimes before they even arrived at the home. Within a year at the Pont Sonde location, we realized that the environment in that area was not the most positive for raising these precious children and we began considering other options. During the summer of 1999, we moved the 48 children to Tricotte where they lived in the school and guesthouse until their new orphanage home was completed in May of 2000. The new orphanage was built to house 96 children and was filled to that capacity by July, 2000. And again, every child was sponsored. God has always supplied faithful supporters for these children. Thank you for your faithful support!
With this large project completed, Sheryl & I relaxed, thinking we simply now needed to focus on the operation of this orphanage. How wrong we were! God had so much more in mind.
It was the middle of June, just a month after the orphanage was completed, that we heard of four schools in the Tricotte area that had lost their support. These schools were devastated and would not be able to reopen in the fall without support. Sheryl and I were very reluctant at first and just couldn’t see ourselves getting involved with more. But as we prayed, we came to the realization that in fact this was the direction God wanted us to go. So the next big step of faith! In September of 2000, Starfish Ministries took over the responsibility of schools in Beaudois, David, Champagne and Miock. That meant paying teachers salaries, providing uniforms for approximately 1000 children, as well as providing school supplies.
Then the spring of 2001, Ravine, a small village near Beaudois was found to have no school and many children without educational opportunity. We bought land, built four classrooms and started school for 150 children in September. Shortly we discovered these children needed to be fed as they came to school hungry each day. So in October, we began our first feeding program – a hot meal four days a week.
Also in September we took over the support of the school in Drigeon. That brought us to over 1600 children in our schools.
As we observed the children in the schools, we soon realized the need to feed all the children. In February of this year we began feeding in four more schools and in April in Miock also so that now all our children get a hot meal four days a week. What a difference we see in the kids!
In a short four years, this ministry has really grown beyond what we ever expected. It has been an effective partnership with our Haitian directors, Pastor Diogene and Norius, our school director, and our Haitian board of directors. These capable, gifted people are on the front lines of ministry every day and God is using them to affect the lives of Haitians, both physically and spiritually.
Then there is the tremendous partnership here at home. God is using your faithful prayer and financial support to help make a difference in these 1700 lives. Totally over 250 children are now sponsored. In addition to that support, many of you contribute on a monthly basis to help with the feeding program and other vital needs. The feeding program alone takes over $5000 each month and God’s faithful people have met that need every month. Praise the Lord!!!! We have hundreds more children that could use sponsors. 100% of money donated to this ministry goes to take care of the designate needs in Haiti.
Finally, we thank and praise our faithful and loving God. He alone is the provider of every gift. He has touched so many of your hearts to be involved in this ministry. As we have sensed His call in different areas of this ministry and have taken the steps of faith, He has always provided. We give Him all the honor and glory He deserves!
During the next year, we will have evangelistic crusades in Ravine and Nan-Paul. That will be the kick-off for new church plants in these two villages. God is already at work there and the churches will be a continuation of what He is doing. Please continue to pray for this ministry. Much is accomplished when God’s people pray.
Serving our Lord together,
Bernie & Sheryl Bovenkamp