who we are
In 1973, a minister from St. Albans, W.Va. went on a mission tour of Haiti. Dr. S. Robert Weaver and his wife were hosted by a young Haitian couple. Andre and Justine Jean had come to Fort Liberte in 1968 just after Andre graduated from the Baptist Seminary at Limbe. Dr. Weaver was so impressed with Pastor Andre and Madame Justine that he committed to helping their church construct a new building for their rapidly growing congregation. When he returned to the U.S., Dr. Weaver contacted an architect in his congregation and asked if he could help. J.D. King went to Fort Liberte to design the new church and met Pastor Andre. The bond of friendship that began with these two men continues between friends in Haiti and friends in the U.S. today.
In July 1975, the first group arrived in Fort Liberte. Mostly comprised of youth and church ladies, the "Yes!" group dug the footers for the new building of the Jerusalem Baptist Church. Over the next few years, everyone J.D. met learned of his love for the work and the people in Haiti. The new church was finally completed in 1982. At the same time, groups also worked with the church to help them build a new facility for the school they had established in the 1960's. The Eben-Ezer School grew and grew as the facility expanded, eventually providing education for hundreds of kids from pre-school through secondary school.
As more people traveled to the little town, ideas and plans emerged to help the desperately poor congregation. Medical teams started holding clinics each year in school rooms. A child sponsorship program was begun in 1987. After J.D.'s death in 1989, the child sponsorship program kept friends in the U.S connected to the congregation in Haiti, through all the political upheaval and change. In 1993, a group of J.D.'s friends and family in Elkins, W.Va. applied for a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
The Friends of Fort Liberte was officially born.
Since 1993, groups have to continued go and work each year, and our involvement and committment increases. In 1996, the King Orphanage was started with 10 homeless children. After years of holding temporary medical clinics, a year round health care facility, the Eben-Ezer Clinic, was completed in 2004. In 2009, a farmhouse was constructed on land purchased by Dr. Weaver for the church back in 1970's, and the development of a farm is underway. After the devastating earthquake of 2010 in Port au Prince, the decision was made to tear down the old crumbling orphanage building and begin construction of a much improved, safe facility. Our programs grow as friends in the U.S. visit Haiti and share the stories of the great needs with their friends and congregations. Each person who visits pays their own way, and the funding for our programs comes from friends telling friends.
The needs are still very great, but many are helped, one at a time. We know that as God enables us, we are making a difference. And so we press on, building on friendships that have been forged in this partnership across the years.