Willis family accepts call to Haiti
We are excited to report that our first set of House Parents will be joining our staff this month in Haiti! The role of House Parent is crucial to our new model of care. If you have not already, please read about what God has been doing at COTP and this new direction by following this link: http://childrenofthepromise.org/cotp-vision-a-new-standard/
We are humbled by the support we have experienced for this shift. Your support has allowed us to complete Home Number 1: The Grace House. We believe God has brought the perfect family to COTP to lead this home! Dan and Holly Willis, and their 5 children, come to us from Lake City, MI. Check out their story as it was told in their local newspaper, the Missaukee Sentinal. The story was written by Mike Dunn.
LAKE CITY – Part of the adventure of walking by faith is never knowing for sure where God might lead. The Rev. Dan Willis, longtime pastor of Calvary Baptist Church north of Lake City (MI), and his wife Holly discovered recently that the path they believe God is calling them to follow will not only take them out of northern Michigan but also out of the United States. Dan and Holly have accepted a call to Haiti to work with orphans through the Children of the Promise ministry. They and their five young children, ages 2 to 11, are in the process of making preparations and will leave for Haiti in March of 2013.
“Doing something like this was always in the back of our minds,” Pastor Dan said on Tuesday morning from the parsonage located next to the church where he and Holly reside with 11-year-old Jadyn, 10-year-old Gabriel, 6-year-old Malachi, 5-year-old Isaiah and 2-year-old Zion Hope. “Adoption is something that’s always been close to our hearts. The Lord adopts us and makes us His sons and daughters.”
“The plight of orphans has been in our hearts a long time,” said Holly, who formerly served as a therapist at an at-risk youth facility in Grand Rapids (MI) and has a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College in social work along with a master’s degree from Grand Valley.
Dan and Holly will serve as COTP’s first set of House Parents. As house parents, Dan and Holly will live in a simple home at the facility with their five children along with six to eight of the Haitian children. They will bond with the Haitian children and basically raise them as their own. They will also continue to home school their own children at the same time. This is a big move for the Willis kids but Dan and Holly believe the Lord will use this to benefit each of them in different ways.
“We feel like this will be a great experience for the children,” Holly said. “They can see how they’ve been really blessed by God to be part of the culture they’ve been raised in and what it’s like for people living in less-fortunate circumstances.” “It’s a hard thing for the kids to leave and for us, too,” Dan said. “The kids haven’t been there to see Haiti first hand and so they don’t really know what to expect. They’re putting their trust in us.” Malachi, 6, expressed his feelings this way with tears in his eyes: “I don’t want to go to Haiti!” he exclaimed. “But I don’t NOT want to go to Haiti.”
Dan and Holly acknowledge that the call to Haiti is a challenging one but they are convinced it is God’s leading. “We came to this decision through lots of prayer, lots of time on our knees together,” Dan said. “When we started to look into this, the door was wide open. There wasn’t even a shadow of a closed door.”
Holly, a native of Prinsburg (MN), first talked to Dan last spring about the possibility of becoming house parents in Haiti. “I saw the need for house parents listed on the website and mentioned it to Dan,” Holly said. “There was a mutual interest right away, so we started to actively pray about it.” Around that time, the couple read a book entitled Radical by David Platt and it strongly influenced both of them. “The book places before Christians the radical call that’s on all our lives,” Dan said. “It’s about being willing to sell all you have and give to the poor, go anywhere God leads and do with your life what He wants you to do.”
After initially praying about a possible move to Haiti, the next step for Dan and Holly was meeting with members of the Children of the Promise board at the headquarters in Minnesota in August. Then in October, they made a five-day visit to the facility in Lagosette. The visit confirmed even more this was indeed God’s calling for their lives. “It was an incredible five-day experience,” Holly said. “We met with the staff there quite a bit and helped with feeding and caring for the children.”
“By the time we left Haiti, we had a great sense of clarity,” said Dan, who has a master’s degree in Christian Education from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and who also worked with at-risk youth at the same facility where Holly was employed. “We knew this was where God wanted us.” Even so, it was hard to say goodbye to the congregation and to the Lake City community. Dan just celebrated his 10th anniversary at Calvary Baptist in September. The church has thrived during his years serving the people.
“We loved it there,” Dan said. “We’ve developed some incredible friendships in the church and in the community. It’s very hard for us to leave Missaukee County and we don’t do it lightly. The people here have taken us in and been so good to us.”
Dan expressed appreciation to the board of his church for supporting his and Holly’s decision to accept the call to Haiti. The people of the church have also been supportive, he said, even though everyone is naturally sad to see them go.
Their time visiting in Haiti convinced them the need in Lagosette is great and that God can use them to play a role in helping the children and also in reaching out to the native Haitians who live near the facility. Dan and Holly have made a two-year commitment to the ministry in Lagosette.