In the U.S., we celebrate Parents Day on the fourth Sunday of every July – July 22 this year – as a way to support and strengthen our nation’s moral fiber in its most essential place, the home.
Scripture agrees that parents have a vital role in raising their children in the training and instruction of the Lord, according to Ephesians 6:4. Fathers are a specific focus of this instruction from the Lord. They are the head of the house, the protector, the defender.
So, on Parents Day this year, we want to take another opportunity celebrate the love of our fathers and their important role in our lives.
But not everyone is blessed with a loving or caring father. Some fathers are abusive. Or away, chasing work or pleasure. Or apathetic. Or absent.
One of the most prevalent problems facing Christians in Haiti is the absent father.
It is very common for a man to leave his woman (not his wife) after she becomes pregnant. These men do not marry their women because it is custom that the man must wait until he can build a new house for his woman before they can marry. Faced with such an expensive task, many men are left feeling defeated and oppressed, and the added responsibility of another mouth to feed only prolongs the wait. The woman then must bear the brunt of responsibility for raising her family.
Of course, this is not universal, as there are many men who commit themselves to their families with a house or not, but more than half of the women we serve in our LiveBeyond maternal health program in Haiti are single parents, left to fend for their children alone.
One of the ways we at LiveBeyond combat this is by encouraging marriage. We advocate for the family unit through our evangelism efforts and encourage men to marry the mother of their children, thus making a commitment to their wives as well as their children. Not only is this biblical, but these men are more likely to be present and active with their children.
Another way we combat this is through job creation and house building. We employ many men in the area as artisans, construction workers, overseers, preachers, and farmers so that these men have a means to provide for their families. These men are proud to have well-paying jobs that allow them to provide for their families, especially in a region where the unemployment rate lingers at 80 percent.
We also offer financial responsibility classes and micro-loans to individuals looking to build a home for their families. There are few opportunities in our region of Haiti for people to receive loans to build anything. The no-interest loans we give for houses give these men an opportunity to work toward an attainable goal in a reasonable time frame.
We are so thankful to see the strong men that are being raised in our church. We now have a group of Haitian men that act as deacons, going into their own communities to preach the gospel and bring more people to Christ. These are committed, respectable, and honorable men, polar opposites of the gangs that have ravaged the community for years.
They take seriously this passage in Deuteronomy 6:6-9:
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
This Parents Day, we rejoice in the strong men that are being raised up in the church in Haiti. We thank the Lord for the children in our church who are growing up with two loving and present parents, and we pray for the more than 300,000 orphans in Haiti who might never understand the true meaning of Parents Day.
Devin Vanderpool is the Director of Communications for LiveBeyond, a non-profit humanitarian organization founded by David & Laurie Vanderpool in 2005 dedicated to providing clean water, medical care and adequate nutrition to the poorest of the poor. To learn more about how LiveBeyond is transforming lives in Thomazeau, Haiti, see http://livebeyond.org/blog/.