“It is certainly interesting how God works out his plans for us,” said Jona Francisque Lazarre ’05.
Jona and her husband, Juska, talk often about the unexpected journey they’ve been on, from childhood until now—all orchestrated, they believe, to the plans they recently made to leave the United States and move back to Haiti, the country of their birth.
They started a nonprofit organization titled God’s Vision for Haiti (GVFH), sold their home and in January took their two children with them to Les Cayes, a town on Haiti’s south coast—where Juska is from and where Hurricane Matthew has done extensive damage.
They intend to build a ministry to foster-care orphaned children and preserve families, which includes educating the children and skill-building among the parents.
“In a way, we’ll be foreigners in our own country,” said Jona.
Jona, a graduate of Calvin’s nursing program, was born in Cap-Haitien, on Haiti’s north coast. Her parents immigrated to West Palm Beach, Florida, when she was 15 years old.
“A Calvin graduate, Stu Greydanus, was one of my high school teachers, and he would not rest until I had applied to Calvin College,” she said.
Greydanus told Jona that Calvin was “the perfect college” for her, and her visit to the college confirmed that prediction.
“The Christian atmosphere was so important to me, and yet I liked the idea that I had the freedom to make my own decisions,” she said.
Jona also attended Entrada, Calvin’s pre-college program for racial ethnic minority students, in the summer before she began school.
She thoroughly enjoyed her Calvin experience: “No matter what I was studying, there was an effort to connect it to what’s really important to God.”
She worked as a medical-surgical nurse at Spectrum Health-Blodgett for seven years and then gained additional credentials to be a central nurse educator, helping with the onboarding of new clinical staff.
“Early in my LPN instructional career, I challenged the students to look beyond nursing as simply a job, because people can see that in you,” she said. “Nursing is not a job; is it a passion.”
Jona met Juska through a Calvin classmate. He was born in Les Cayes and moved with his father and seven brothers to Lansing, Michigan—at the same age, 15, as Jona was when she came to the States.
Juska used to spend most summers playing soccer back in Haiti, and on one such visit saw his own face in the face of a boy begging at his restaurant table.
“One of these kids could have been me,” he said. “It is impossible to dream without hope, and I felt a strong call from God that we needed to provide that hope. The purpose of our lives was changed.”
Juska and Jona prayed about this challenge and agreed to follow God’s leading. But what, specifically, to do?
“It has been amazing to see how God brought us to the U.S., brought us together, trained us and now has called us to move back.”Jona Francisque Lazarre '05
They originally were thinking of establishing an orphanage, but when someone responded by saying, “Orphanage? Yes, that’s a great business,” the Lazarres reacted negatively—it was a ministry of hope they wanted, not a for-profit venture.
“While much of the aid to Haiti from Christians abroad has been well-intended, many of the NGOs don’t work together and many don’t involve local churches,” said Juska.
GVFH intends to emphasize ownership and leadership by the local Christian community in Les Cayes, churches and individuals. The organization is partnered with Bethany Global.
“It has been amazing to see how God brought us to the U.S., brought us together, trained us and now has called us to move back,” said Jona.
“Our response to his obvious leading is now, ‘Whatever you say, God.’”
You can learn more at godsvisionforhaiti.org.