Isaiah 58:10-12

10 And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

(Read the whole chapter – it’s my favorite!)

I tend to cringe when people sometimes refer to me as a “missionary.” Perhaps the pedestal feels a little too high off the ground for my comfort level. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t sent by any particular church or denomination even though my motivations were directly linked to my faith. Maybe it was because my moral compass wasn’t always due north and I knew at many times I certainly wasn’t worthy of the title. (Read my book for the juicy details).  I didn’t hold formal Bible studies in Haiti or preach in pulpits. My faith came out naturally through relationships and through prayers amid the suffering, probably more similarly to how one would live out their faith in whatever normal life they lead. I’ve always felt that I was just an average believer trying to live out my own personal faith convictions no matter where the paycheck was coming from.

I guess what distinguishes a “missionary” in some ways is exactly that: how they are funded. They are not lay people with regular jobs, but rather people who have stepped out in faith to rely on others for their daily bread in order to fully pursue the mission that God has called them to. So far, in my time with our artisans in Haiti, I have not had to do that. I never wrote support letters to ask for personal financial support, though I am no stranger to the process as I did my fair share of personal fundraising when I was an endorsed “missionary” with both Young Life and Youth with a Mission in my twenties and thirties.

For me, I have tried to make the business of creating jobs in Haiti able to support all the foreign staff (including myself) in order to make it sustainable and because we are all (I hope) worth our pay. Being paid with a percentage of the artisan goods so that I too can support my family doesn’t always sit right though. There isn’t a month that goes by where I don’t feel guilty about what I have and what I can spend money on. Can I take the kids to Disneyland? Can I buy those shoes? What about my pets? Is my dog allowed to have a better life and be better fed than so many Haitians ever have? The financial burden is strong and confusing. There is no way that it feels right. On one hand, for business to be strong and sustainable, it needs to be able to robustly support all its staff- from top to bottom. And for years we were able to do this. But in a down-turn, I have been forced to make decisions about who should be laid off or have their hours cut and what the business can actually support.

The present time has been tough and with this past year’s political unrest in Haiti, we have reached an impasse. Let me be clear, we are not in despair and are very hopeful and know that this downturn is temporary. Our move to a new location, the return of stability in the country, and our efforts like never before on marketing are going to pay off! (I really believe that!)

But at this time, I can no longer justify keeping my salary while cutting hours to mothers and fathers who desperately need the income to feed their babies. Just last week, Nadia looked me in the eye and told me that her one day of week she was able to work was not enough to feed her three children let alone send them to school. My aching heart! These are my friends!

So, should I just quit? You might ask… I’m not sure that would give the outcome I would be after. If I quit and try to get a job that can pay what I need, the business, and everything that has been built would undoubtedly begin to unravel. My role in the company as the “bridge” to the market is real and necessary for what we need to survive and thrive again. I can’t minimize the fact that the artisans would be hurt by my abandoning my post. But how can I stay and not take money from the business during these difficult times? I too need to support my family.  How can I choose to keep them working and allow myself to be let go from the burden of payroll?

There is only one way. I need you. I need to raise independent support for myself to be able to stay in the missional position of creating opportunity for artisans to earn an income. The scripture passage above states it so well, “the Lord will satisfy my needs”. I am in a place where I need to step out in faith and rely on the generosity of personal donors to give generously in order for me to be able to continue working.

I would like to humbly ask you to consider becoming a monthly donor to help me continue the work in Haiti. I hate asking, but I hate looking at Nadia’s children in need even worse.  I am hoping to raise at least $3500 per month in donations so that I can free up those available resources to keep our moms and dads working first! If I can find 100 friends to commit to $35 per month, I will be able to keep doing my job.

The good news is that all donations can be made to Papillon Empowerment, which is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit charity, so support will be tax deductible. Any amount above what I need for my monthly pay will be used to help with training, emergency needs and the work that Papillon Empowerment is doing in Haiti.

Will you join me?  My hope is that prosperity returns soon, and your commitment is temporary, but I would be humbled and grateful to have you on my team for 2020! If you ready to partner with me please click the donate button below.  Thank you so much for being willing to invest in me and join me in this incredible journey!

From a sun-scorched land…

With love and gratitude,

Shelley Jean