I arrived in Haiti in 2000 to overwhelming crowds, intense heat, and smells of burning tires and sewage. When our bus broke down in the middle of a busy street, I remember thinking "What am I doing here, God?"
During my time at Gordon I never went abroad or did any missions work. In fact, my roommate teased me that my hot curlers never got cold. After college I married, worked for awhile and had three children. In 1997 I began working with a youth group at our church in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, and exploring what it meant to be a servant of Christ. When God called me to be one of the leaders on a youth group mission trip to Haiti in 2000, I said to Him, "I will go where You want and serve You because You called me; I am scared, yet I will trust You."
When we set aside our self-interests and say "yes" to God, we realize we could be taking risks--I was afraid I might not return from Haiti. Why had God called me to serve Him in this volatile Third-World country, racked with violence, political corruption and sickness? What could I do? But 10 days later when I left Haiti, I realized it was what they would do for me that God wanted me to see. He allowed me to see these beautiful people in Haiti--true servants of Christ, who changed my life.
That was the first trip of many. In 2004 God made the way for my whole family to go to Haiti, and they too fell in love. We traveled at a time filled with unrest and uncertainty--just weeks before the coup that took Aristide out of power. By summer 2005 all mission teams had stopped going to Haiti and many missionaries had left. My heart ached, especially for the new orphanage in the house where we had stayed. With no teams there and no source of income for the orphanage, these children could again face desperation. Along with a few other people, we formed a nonprofit organization called Servants for Haiti Inc. in November 2005.
Our mission was to help Haiti's impoverished children become outstanding leaders in their homes, churches, communities and nation by helping them survive and thrive. Our initial focus was providing food and medical care to the 23 children in the Kingdom Kids orphanage in Cité Militaire. This led to a sponsorship program that provided room and board for caregivers at the orphanage, who served these children 24 hours a day. We also sponsor 70 children from the orphanage as well as others, allowing them to go to school. We've offered a full scholarship to one student to go to medical school. We continue to need sponsors for all programs, and funds to help run the orphanage; we trust God will provide.
God has done amazing things, and the fact that He chose to use me is one of them. All it took was for me to surrender, say "yes" and let Him lead.
Laurae and Howard Richards live in Westford, Massachusetts, where Laurae is a kindergarten art teacher. They have three children and are adopting two little girls from Haiti. Laurae received her B.A. in business administration from Gordon and studied art at Rivier College in Nashua, New Hampshire, and at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston, Massachusetts. Her "Images of Haiti" have won awards and appeared in solo and group exhibits.