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Couple united by mission to Haiti plan to build orphanage in Charrier
Stevana Morris met Zacharie Estime for the first time in 2011.
“I went to Haiti for one week with Cindy Zimmerman from New Life Mission,” Stevana explained, “and Zacharie was my translator. We stayed right there on his mother’s property and we just became friends and talked a couple of times after that but I never imagined that I would return to Haiti.”
However, Stevana did go back in July 2012 for a four month mission trip to teach English to the children of Charrier, the same place where she first met Zacharie.
“Zacharie was my translator again and I again stayed with his family,” Stevana said. “I would have English class and he would have his Bible study and we did that together with the children every evening. So we worked very close for four months.”
After her four month stay in Haiti in November 2012, Stevana returned home. Zacharie came to America from Haiti at that time as well, to begin his college education. The couple, united by their mission work in Haiti, began to date.
In the summer of 2013, Zacharie returned to Haiti for four months to visit his family and Stevana joined him two months into his stay.
Stevana said when he went back, he continued to conduct Bible study with the children every evening, and one of the evenings “I was there, he had all the kids come for class and he asked me to leave the room to get something.”
Stevana said she went to get it and when she came back, “all of a sudden he asked me to come to the front of the room and I came to the front and he got down on one knee and he had a sign that said ‘Will you marry me?’ and all his family and all the kids were there and they had signs too. Of course, I said yes. It was really special having his family there and all the kids I got to know during my four months there.”
After Zacharie returned Stateside at the end of summer, he and Stevana continued their engagement and then, in December, got married.
“I go to Ephrata Mennonite Church,” Stevana said, “so that is where we had the wedding. We didn’t have a big sit-down dinner after the ceremony. We just did desserts afterwards with my friends and family because his friends and family couldn’t be here. When we went on our honeymoon after the wedding, we went to Haiti and we went to visit his family. Zacharie had a big surprise party for me and had all his friends and family come and a big Haitian meal to celebrate, so it was like we had a reception here and there. I had no idea, so that made it even more fun.”
Since the marriage, the couple has been even more determined to return to Haiti to help the children of Charrier.
“When we were there, we both realized we had this vision to continue our work in Haiti with the children, even after my four months there,” Stevana said.
Zacharie, who grew up in Charrier, explained his eagerness to return, “I grew up in a big family of eight. My father died when I was seven. We have something called ‘restavek,’ when a family can no longer take care of you they leave you with another family that can, and so they force you into slavery. They make you work hard. After a while, I said no, I want to go home, and I returned home to live with my family. I realized that I had that experience and I don’t want other kids to have that experience so now I go back and I live with them and I am a father for them.”
Stevana added, “My father also died when I was seven. And my mom had five children to raise on her own, so it kind of gave me a perspective when I went over there to realize that if it’s hard in America it has to be even harder in Haiti – there are no jobs, there are no support systems for families. That is really what brought Zacharie and me together. We both realized we had a passion to take care of these kids and rise up leaders in their own country. A lot of them think they need to leave Haiti. They think they need to move to America to live a successful life. We want to show them all the different skills that they have right there in Haiti. Show them gardening skills and help them find ways to go to school to get an education and give them the love of a mother and father that a lot of them don’t have.”
The couple recently bought 2.5 acres of land in Haiti to build an orphanage on. According to Haitian law, the orphanage will require a security wall costing $18,255.54 before construction of the building can even be started. The orphanage itself will cost $104,719.87 between construction costs and meeting the codes and regulations of Haitian Social Services.
Stevana and Zacharie are currently visiting local churches in an attempt to raise both money and awareness for the children in Haiti. No matter what happens, though, Stevana and Zacharie look to their faith to see them through.
“We are putting all of our faith in God. That He is in control and we put our trust in Him. It’s going to work out. If we get there next year that would be fantastic. If it’s a couple of years from now, that’s okay, too. We just trust Him that He’ll work out the entire situation.”
Merriell Moyer is a correspondent for the Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.