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Haitian orphans sing despite all circumstances
A-Haitian choir pic 1
Orphans from the LifeSaver Orphanage in Haiti performed at Harmony Baptist Church during their tour of the southeast. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

As the last rays of sunlight cut across the football field at Tiger Stadium Friday night, a fine rain-leftover remnants of Hurricane Matthew-began to fall.

On the field, Haitian orphans from the LifeSaver Orphanage were gathering to sing the national anthem.

Like the glimpse of sunshine in the midst of the unpleasant, the kids who were waiting to return to a storm-ravaged country grinned and waved and brought joy to anyone who came near.

"Everybody that interacted with them were changed forever, whether they were with them for a few minutes or a few days," said Tina Brady, a member of Harmony Baptist Church.

The church is where the group was housed throughout the last week while they waited to safely fly home to their native Haiti, where, at last count, more than 1,000 people lost their lives in Hurricane Matthew.

"We hear about tragedies, but for God to bring it here to us. This circumstance where it happened there and then came to us," Brady said. "Here's a taste of what they experienced... God showed us how we are one."

While waiting for news and looking for things to keep them occupied, they sang regularly for people coming and going at the church.

Last Wednesday afternoon, the kids wandered one by one into the sanctuary and stepped comfortably onto the stage. One sat at the piano, another picked up a microphone.

The Creole chatter amongst themselves slowed as the group took their spots and many hummed and sang softly.

Their leader, William Paul, called out the first few bars of the song "All Day Long" and their voices burst forth with beaming grins on their faces.

When they sing, it is something other-worldly.

The choir known as Love Him Love Them traveled the southeastern United States from the end of July until they were scheduled to fly back to their native Haiti on Oct. 3. That was before Hurricane Matthew took direct aim at their island home.

While the rest of the eastern seaboard rushed to buy supplies and protect their lives and belongings these kids, ranging in age from 4 to 17, went where they were told with smiles on their faces and praises on their lips.

A canceled flight and broken down van left them stranded south of Valdosta. Pastor Tony Holtzclaw of Harmony Baptist Church heard about their need and went into action.

Holtzclaw came up with volunteers and vehicles and traveled to pick up the group and bring them back to Dawsonville where they stayed in the gymnasium behind the church.

Local businesses, churches and community members banded together to provide food, clothes and entertainment to the even more than normal displaced group.

"To see our community wrap them in love," Brady said. "No matter what, to see the impact on the community-the emotional impact and the response, it is beyond words."

They came to the United States to share Jesus according to one of the founders of Love Him Love Them Ministries, Linda Gunter.

The Atlanta area businesswoman turned adoptive mom initially heard the group sing after she and her Haitian-born children visited the island a couple of years ago.

Gunter's best friend had adopted Haitian children over Gunter's own protests and when her friend passed away, Gunter and her husband eventually took the kids themselves.

Gunter and her new family was visiting another orphanage in Haiti and a local pastor told her about an orphanage that had become one by default-LifeSaver Orphanage run by a music teacher and his wife.

William and Gertrude Paul, who had four children of their own, were known in the area as a place of stability. After the earthquake in 2010, people began taking children who were orphaned by the quake to their home.

Almost overnight the Pauls had acquired 30 kids.

Gunter and her husband David visited the Pauls with their own children.

"We were about to leave and he asked if I wanted to hear the kids sing," Gunter said. "They sang for me in five different languages and I lost my mind."

Gunter immediately wanted to know what they could do to help the kids. William told them they had already helped them as they had just provided shoes for all of the kids.

"They were $0.33 K-Mart flip-flops," Gunter said.

"When we walked out, there was this huge pile of trash and there was a goat and a pig and two little boys rifling through the same pile of trash looking for food. That pushed me over the edge."

The Gunters wanted to help the orphanage and bring the kids to the United States to sing.

"There was no electricity, no running water and yet they were singing," Gunter said. "It was Christmas Day and they didn't have any food. They sang in a way that the joy of the Holy Spirit just exuded out of them. I also realized that day too that my joy did not come from Jesus. My joy was coming from my circumstances.

"There are children in the United States who need to get the fact that when Jesus is really all you have, He really is all you need."

Linda and David Gunter began what was an uphill battle to find a way to get the group out of Haiti. To have travel visas, they needed passports. To have passports, they needed birth certificates. Children pulled from the wreckage of an earthquake did not have birth certificates on them.

"If you have been crushed underneath two houses, and you watched your family members die and you just happened to be the one that got pulled out and you are in an administrative country like Haiti?" Gunter said.

They were eventually able to acquire performance visas for the group. They first had to have a tour scheduled.

They called churches all over the southeast scheduling dates prior to having visas in hand.

"The whole reason we came here initially was to share Jesus, but then people said why don't you take up a love offering?" Gunter said.

The money earned by the group through the tour will be used to support their orphanage and others as well, according to Gunter.

On Oct. 10 a group of doctors, nurses, and rehabbers also left for Haiti to set up a medical clinic as well as begin the process of adding running water and electricity at the LifeSaver Orphanage.

Despite the storm, reports that the Gunters have received say that the orphanage survived while the orphans were safe in Georgia.

"We picked dates out of the air. Who would have ever thought we would have picked Oct. 3 to return and then Hurricane Matthew would come?"

The event has given the group a platform that they had not had before.

Local news outlets have reported on the group and the Dawson community's efforts to shelter and provide for the kids. Consequently, more support has come flowing in.

While they waited to take that flight back home on Oct. 9, the kids were able to go to the movies for the first time ever, perform one more concert at Harmony Baptist Church and minister to everyone around them.

Part of their regular performance is to split up and go into the crowd to meet with and pray over people.

The impact of their ministry is undeniable, children with next-to-nothing offering all they have to people here.

"It's unexplainable," Brady said.

Despite the turmoil and unsettled circumstances, the kids look as though it is nothing. They have no expectations and they seem to find the joy in the moment.

Their light has continued to shine through dark and stormy circumstances much like the rainbow that appeared over the football field Friday night just before they sang.

Their rescheduled flight left Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.

To learn more about the orphanage and the choir, go to lovehimlovethem.com.

Check out the video link of the choir performing "All Day Long," at dawsonnews.com.

 

 

 

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