Ministry Roots: Bread to the Nations was founded in 2012 and born out of a relationship that started in late 2010. It was then when we first heard of Pastor Louis Firmin as a man of God with unwavering faith, a “Spiritual Giant of Haiti”. We learned how his family’s home became unlivable following the earthquake, how he and his wife took on a life-long responsibility to raise 14 orphaned children in addition to their 6 children, and how he had planted and built a church in one of the poorest communities in Haiti. We went to see him in January of 2012 to verify first hand that he was indeed a man of God, and yes there was a family of 22 living in shacks behind their unlivable home, and yes he was living by faith and they were struggling to stay afloat as reported. God was clearly at work in Haiti and working through Pastor Firmin and his story and we were compelled to join Him in those relationships and be the Church.
Vision Trip, January, 2010: In October of 2010, Bread to the Nations (BttN) co-founder Tammy Hagstrom traveled with her oldest daughter on a short term missions trip to Haiti. Through a connection made on that trip, Tammy learned of an orphanage being run by a Haitian pastor and his wife. They had six biological children, and had taken in 12 more since the earthquake in January 2010. The earthquake had rendered their home unlivable, so the family had moved into tents in their backyard. Tammy’s contact asked her to advocate for this orphanage, which was struggling to meet its basic needs with little to no outside assistance. Tammy began the hunt for an organization to come along side her. Many organizations she contacted didn’t respond. Many were already overwhelmed by what they were already supporting.
“I became frustrated and discouraged. I didn’t know how to advocate for them if an organization did not come alongside me. Then God spoke to me clearly that I needed to trust in Him, that I could not give up on this pastor and his home because He was not done using me yet,” Tammy said. In January 2012, Tammy pulled together a team of 6 adults including her husband, Steve, and herself. They traveled to Firmin Louis’ orphanage on a vision trip.
While on the trip, the team focused mainly on Pastor Firmin’s home and the children, but the team also had the opportunity to connect with Firmin’s church, the church and family of translator/pastor Pierre, an American missionary Rhyan, two other orphanages, and other Haitians in the area. Pastor Firmin was a wonderful host, and it became obvious that he is an honest and Godly man.
The Louis home held 8 people prior to the earthquake, but was structurally damaged to such an extent that it is now unlivable. As of January 2012, the Louis’ had taken in an additional fourteen children into their home. They are living in temporary plywood structures in the backyard. Because the family’s living areas have dirt floors, they are in danger of being shut down by the Haitian government. Firmin’s vision is to make the home livable for up to 25 people through reconstruction. This has also become BttN’s vision.
In addition to surveying the living conditions at the orphanage, the vision team also learned that “orphanage” was really a misnomer for this organization. Instead, the Louis home felt more like a large family. The kids are happy and their emotional and spiritual needs are being met. All the children attend school, and each are assigned household chores. Due to little income and outside assistance, the Louis’ had a great need to have the physical needs of the family reliably met.
After meeting the family face to face, investing time into understanding their day to day lives and getting to know their personalities, the vision team could not fathom the thought of any of them going hungry for one more day. Two months after returning to the US, members of the vision team launched Bread to the Nations. Its first task was to advocate for sponsors for the children. Only six weeks after launching the ministry, BttN had a sponsor for each child! (Read more about the sponsorship program here.) The children in the Louis household are now family to many of us at BttN, and we fully desire for God to use us in whatever way possible to help them see a brighter future. After all the frustration of trying to advocate for this family early on, Tammy now says, “I know with much prayer and perseverance, anything is possible with God. He is the hero in all of this! Without Him I would not have the strength. Without Him, I would not have been able to witness the many miracles that He has shown me and others throughout this journey. I am blessed to be in this place in my life!”