Can GOOD news come out of Haiti?
YES! Children are being educated, treated, and fed by this growing ministry every day. We started small and have grown slowly and steadily over the years. Find out more in the newsletters and the PDF archives below. You’ll read inspiring stories of amazing hope in circumstances that are unimaginable to those of us who live in the developed world. Celebrate Jesus of Haiti, Inc. is a registered 501c3 Charitable Organization. Our Federal Tax ID number is 45-0490339 501C3. All gifts are tax deductible and are treated with the highest levels of integrity and good stewardship. Thank you for giving and praying!
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Dear Friends of Celebrate Jesus of Haiti,
It is the season to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is also the season in our lives when we share the marvelous news that we are gifting the ministry of Celebrate Jesus of Haiti to a couple who love the Lord and love the work He is doing on LaGonave Island. The Word of God says that we move from glory to glory. We feel in our hearts that we have walked out the glory He assigned to us and now it is time for us to pass the mantle of CJofH to the ones He chose to carry it to the next level of glory for His sake.
We served alongside Dr. Paz for six years before Sonja felt the call of God to teach the Gospel message of hope to the people on LaGonave who were so hopeless. Seven to ten day mission trips were not going to be enough to change the spiritual condition of the people there. We closed up our home and moved to Anse A Galet for an intended stay of one year. Jerry followed Sonja out of love for her and a desire to support her. By the third day, she knew that God had prepared her for this her entire life. After a short time living there God stirred Jerry’s heart and he also fell in the love with the people of Haiti. He brought his skill set of leadership, architecture, construction, and financial management.
Starving children were placed in our arms as we walked the streets. We made a fire in the center of town to make Ramen noodles. While the water boiled Sonja preached the Good News of Jesus to all who would listen. Every child ate. When we had drained our personal resources, Faith Christian Family Church began to send us an offering each month and the Feeding Program of Celebrate Jesus was birthed. Now, 900 children in Anse A Galet and the surrounding area are fed a nutritious meal daily. Malnutrition and starvation have been virtually eliminated. Baby Jesus grew up and fed people in the Galilee. He said we would do even greater works. Through believers around the world like you, He is still feeding the children. Each of us is a vessel used by Him to show the love of God.
He gave us the wisdom to begin each ministry program, and to appoint a Haitian leader over each area. Their first assignment was to identify and begin training a successor to assure continuity in the church, the school, the clinic, and the feeding program. Wisdom is knowing when to start and when to stop. We have been praying for several years, asking God to show us who would succeed us in this work. In 2018, he presented Pastors Jim and Theresa Zilinski of Nashville, Tennessee. They are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we believe they will be a great blessing to Pastor Joaquim and all the people inside of Celebrate Jesus and on the whole island of LaGonave. Their new Board of Directors will assume responsibility for the ministry effective January 1, 2019. The 501c3 non-profit status will continue unchanged as Celebrate Jesus of Haiti. Operationally the ministry will continue as it is. The daily ministry will be lead by Pastor Joaquim and each Haitian leader will continue to carry out their excellent work in leading the church, the school, the clinic, and the feeding program. We are blessed to pass on a full church with a children’s program, a fully accredited and highly valued free school grades 1-13, a free children’s clinic where children birth through 12 can receive treatment for illness and accidents, and the feeding program with 8 locations in the poorest areas. Life-changing safe housing is provided to many families in The Dwelling Place. Church families can have a garden to help feed their families in The Promised Land. Our assignment there is complete and now the Lord will do even greater works.
A corporate donor is supporting the work of Jim and Theresa, and this means that every donation received by Celebrate Jesus of Haiti goes directly to Haiti to do this work and to fulfill the Great Commission of teaching the saving message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The new address for your donations is Celebrate Jesus of Haiti, P.O.Box 157, Wentzville, MO 63385.
We will provide Jim and Theresa with your contact information and they will contact you by email very soon with their personal contact information. I have faith in God and trust in you that your hearts for the people of Haiti remain unchanged by our passing of the mantle of leadership for God’s work there. The goal of the ministry remains unchanged: preach the Gospel so that more and more people hear and believe.
Serving God with the gifts and talents He gave us has given us the most rewarding life imaginable. That is the blessing we wish for you. Don’t wait to act until you think you’ve identified every gift and talent and perfected them. Our achievement-oriented selves has this process backward. Step out in obedience. Do the last thing you heard Him say in your heart. Then he will show you what you have been uniquely equipped to do. Until Jesus served He couldn’t finish the sacrifice He had come to make. He showed his disciples how to love God and others. You are spiritually secure, but to keep your soul healthy you must serve.
As we reflect on the impact of the ministry to the Haitians, those of you who were able to make the trip to LaGonave came back different than you left. You allowed yourselves to be emptied of the things you had once thought important so that God could rearrange your priorities for the rest of your lives.
As we come to the time to celebrate the first coming of the Lord Jesus, we look forward to the New Year and meeting the next person we will lead into the Kingdom of God. Each New Year brings hope. Our hope is that your thoughts and prayers for us will result in your continued support of this precious work in LaGonave, Haiti.
As we close our last Celebrate Jesus of Haiti letter to you, the words to this familiar version of this hymn were ringing in our hearts.
To God Be the Glory
How can I say thanks
For the things You have done for me?
Things so undeserved
Yet You gave to prove Your love for me;
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am and ever hope to be
I owe it all to Thee
To God be the glory
To God be the glory
To God be the glory
For the things He has done
With His blood He has saved me
With His power He has raised me;
To God be the glory
For the things He has done
Just let me live my life
Let it be pleasing, Lord to Thee
And if I gain any praise
Let it go to Calvary
We give God all the glory for this past twenty years and what He did there. We add to that our thanksgiving for and to you. Without your your heart of sharing and serving none of it would have been fulfilled. You worked hard alongside us. Many of you put your hands and feet alongside ours in Haiti. All of you prayed, gave, loved us and people you had never met. When Jesus comes again you will embrace them and celebrate the Kingdom life in which your paths crossed. The Bible says to give honor to those to whom honor is due. We honor you and your hearts of love.
In His love and service,
Jerry and Sonja Dickherber
The two of us made a short trip to LaGonave in September. Jerry worked with his local team to complete his last building project, the addition to the church. When we bought Campus One and started the ministry 18 years ago, we began with the most important structure which was the church. The people of LaGonave needed a worship center which was both comfortable and uplifting. He built our guest house, then the elementary school, the secondary school, storage buildings, and the clinic. All along our feeding program was growing in the town of Anse A Galet. The handful of church families multiplied until an extension was needed, and Jerry built the south wing. We bought the Promised Land and he built a well and fence for church community gardens. Next came Campus Two which we named The Dwelling Place where 12 houses now provide comfortable shelter for the neediest of employees and their families. People continued to come to faith in Jesus, and now finally he has finished his last planned construction, the north wing of the church. Capacity is now 400 with room for more lost ones on LaGonave to come to Jesus. His expertise in building and leading “his men” from Haiti has come full circle.
We traveled alone, but God surprised us with an unexpected drop-in from the Cowboy of GUTS Church in Tulsa, OK. He was part of the team from GUTS who drilled several wells on LaGonave and met a great need for clean water here. Now the rig has been donated to a ministry on the main island of Haiti. But before it leaves LaGonave, the Cowboy and his wife will repair all the wells from the erosion that comes from the salt air and we look forward to their return.
Sonja spent her time with all the people in leadership, seeking their thoughts on the best way to go forward with the ministry. God has blessed us with wonderfully gifted and spiritually mature leaders. Marie Claude, the new elementary school principal, is both talented and godly. She sets a great example for the women on the island to see her in such a position. She is bold with us and isn’t intimidated to ask for what she needs. If the answer is no, she moves on without offense. Dr. Zacky, head of the free children’s clinic, is both skilled and compassionate. He is both gentle and fun with the children. The clinic administrator told us privately that he always keeps money in his pocket. When he treats a child for malnutrition he slips a few bills into the hand of the mother to purchase powdered milk for the child. If a woman has walked for hours to bring her sick child down from the mountains to see him, he pays for her taxi (motorcycle) ride back home. When she asked him what one thing is really important for the children, he said “Pastor Sonja, they are hungry, so hungry.”
People ask us “Do you make a difference in Haiti?” For the 900 children who get a meal every day it makes a difference to them. In Psalm 41, David told about his own experience in caring for the needy in his kingdom. “Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble. The Lord protects them and keeps them alive. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. The Lord nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health.” This ministry to some of the poorest people in the world has given us so much joy. God has always been there for us when we have had needs. He has rescued us from hurricanes, dengue fever, and rejection, and prospered us spirit, soul, and body. He has given us friends who truly are the salt of the earth. If you are reading this letter, it’s because you are one of those. Much joy to you today, friend.
Sonja and Jerry Dickherber
We arrived late afternoon on Monday. The Women’s Conference had been advertised on LaGonave Island on Tuesday-Wednesday unexpectedly, so our women’s team of Dotty Knoepflein, Sonja Dickherber, Beth Kassebaum, and Jan Shine hit the ground running. We searched the storehouse for items that had been shipped over in a container previously plus our six very full luggages to sort out what we needed for each day. Previous conferences started out slow with less than 100 on the first day, yet we had planned for 150. God outdoes our plan, and more than 200 women arrived each day.
Welcome gifts were handmade cloth bags filled with goodies. Though we didn’t have enough door gifts for everyone, they all had a chance to win prizes during games. We started with half hour of praise and worship each day followed by games. For women who find little reason for joy, laughter is a gift. Games were funny, starting with each woman being asked to blow up a balloon until it popped in her face. First poppers won prizes but everyone laughed outrageously. Then 10 women were randomly selected and only when they got up front did they learn they were contestants in a dance contest. We did a dance-off with the “top 4” and the audience voted on winner by applause.
Day 2 started with a craft. We had given each woman a t-shirt and scissors and Beth led them in making those into totes. However, many of the women put them on before we had a chance to tell them they were to be cut. In need of clothes, they preferred the t-shirt over the tote bag so only half of the ladies actually cut theirs. The first four did a modeling stroll down the center aisle and Pastor Joaquim joined in, easily winning the strutting contest but NOT the prize! Then a relay race with two teams walking the aisle with a ball between their knees. They figured out quickly that if they moved the ball up between their thighs they could practically run. Everyone won! We had hidden numbers in their gifts so we gave all the prizes away with a drawing. Interestingly they chose the feminine things first and not the practical things. Women are women everywhere and we want to look pretty. Their daily snacks were tied up in large scarves with descriptive words from Ephesians 1 on them: Beautiful, courageous, strong, accepted, beloved, chosen, redeemed, forgiven in Kreyol language.
Fun and laughter are good, but the Word of God is what will remain. Our whole team taught them about women in the lineage of Jesus and those qualities God saw in them that enabled them to thrive in very difficult circumstances. The central message is that each of us has a story that is important to God. He has always been part of our story, even when we didn’t notice His faithfulness to be with us always. They were asked to create their own story rope using fabric scraps tied onto a cord representing key events good & bad. That didn’t go as well as we had hoped because they had difficulty sharing the fabric and also trusting one another with their painful memories. We trust God that they will remember the stories and think about their own differently from now on.
Day 2 teaching was on truth and lies. Each of us has believed a lie about ourselves at some point. Often those include our lack of value, our appearance being unsatisfactory, not being smart or capable, or needing to yield our bodies upon demand. Each of those lies was disproven with scripture about how God sees us as magnificent creations made in His image and lacking no good thing. We ended the conference offering prayer in 4 areas: provision, physical healing, spiritual growth, and recovery from abuse. They flocked to the four team members by group and received prayer and a personal touch. We know that God hears us when we ask according to His will. We trust that lives have been changed because of those prayers and their belief in His power.
On Thursday the whole team from FCFC and Reach Church went into town to serve at one of the eight feeding stations. The children are required to bring their own dish and often siblings must take turns using the bowl. All squat on the ground and eat with their fingers. The youngest ones often only have clothing on the top half of their bodies. Only children 6 and under in the Saline Flats are fed because they are the most vulnerable and resources are limited. This is the only meal these children will get all day. Signs of malnutrition, such as orange hair and bloated stomachs, are gone since Celebrate Jesus began feeding them. Pastor Chris Meyer and Jake Sewell of Reach Church took a turn dishing up rice & beans. We gave out toys of dolls, stuffed animals, and hotwheels but the local Haitian leader, JZ, had to quell some fights as they compared gifts. This is to be expected amidst such poverty and we try to be careful to make gifts comparable. Note for future: girls want Barbies!!
On Friday we tried something new. We gathered the oldest high school girls from grades 11 through 13 for a ministry session. God provided so well. We had assumed we would have leftovers from the Women’s Conference but because attendance was so high we had nothing left. So we went to the CJ “ya-ya store” which is what Sonja calls their storage room. We searched through all the tubs of goodies previous mission teams had brought over. We found plenty of gifts to give, including pretty gold bracelets with two charms on them. One was a heart that said “love” and the other was a tree. This was significant because the teaching included the “lies” stored on the trees (neurons) of our brain and the truth of God’s word that dispels those lies. Only God can do such very special things! We also found tablets which we needed. We asked the girls to write the answers to two questions. First was their hopes and dreams…what they wanted to be doing in ten years. Sadly, it was very difficult for most of the 33 girls to write. They simply don’t dare to hope or dream for something beyond what they have seen their mothers or grandmothers do or be. But on the question of what qualities they would like to have in their future husband, writing was fast and furious. Only 3 girls were willing to share what they had written. That gave us the opportunity to discuss how valuable they are as tri-part beings… spirit, soul, and body… and the importance of waiting for marriage to a godly man before sex. Sonja taught about covenant and how God had made women’s bodies special to reflect a covenant relationship. Though they were quiet, they were not still. Lots of wiggling going on during that very direct talk. It was unanimous… they want us to do this again each time we come.
On Saturday while Jerry and I held meetings with staff, Beth, Dottie, Jake, and Jan spent hours at the Saline Flats ministering door to door. They took turns leading prayer for healing, provision, favor, and for deliverance from the entrapment they feel in their lives right now. There are no jobs on LaGonave and everyone suffers lack. Still, almost all said they were followers of Jesus though often answered truthfully that they do not pray. They were able to lead two men and two women in prayers of salvation and relationship with Jesus. Word traveled quickly that they were in the area and men and women began to seek them out. An older man asked them to come with him to his house to pray for a sick relative and they walked through alleys and finally came to his one room home where his elderly father lay on the floor propped up on one arm. He was wearing a catheter which needed to come out but the local hospital won’t do it unless cash is paid up front. They gave what little cash they had brought and anointed him with oil as it says in James 5:14 and prayed for his healing. As they left the house his small yard was filled with children looking for gifts and candy. They obliged but it became a hectic scene as even parents flocked to get something and they had to depart. A woman probably in her late 20s was waiting for them asking for prayer. They followed her through the alleys into an open area and saw the problem immediately. One of her breasts was greatly enlarged to the point that she looked lopsided. They prayed for her healing and also encouraged her to see a doctor. The challenge for all of them is that the local hospitals operate on a “cash first” basis and no one has any. The two hospitals, including one newly built, have no x-ray equipment for diagnosis.
Her only medical path is to go to Port au Prince on the main island and put her name on the list to be seen. While she waits for a turn, money for transportation, lodging, and food must be provided. Then treatment must be paid for. Many people die on LaGonave of treatable illnesses because they have no money to pay. This painful situation is what we have lived with all these years ministering there. Jesus said you will always have the poor among you. So we do what we can do to ease their suffering, knowing that we can’t do it all. This made me very sad as I felt so connected to this young woman. Please pray with us for God to do what He is able to do and heal her. It was a blessing to send them out, trusting the Holy Spirit to minister through them. Mark 16:18 says that believers will be able to lay their hands on the sick and they will be well. He asks only that we obey; He does the restoring. We trust His Word and we rejoice.
All the while this was going on, the expansion of the church building was continuing. We watched as Jerry lead his remarkable team of “Jerry’s men,” Joseph, CanCan, JZ and a few others. They were joined by Pastor Chris and Jake. They were like David’s mighty men. They started work at 6:30 am and worked until 5 pm. In the heat of Haiti’s summer season, they busted rock with a sledgehammer, hauled concrete mix in a wheel barrow and mixed it by hand. Then the “master builder” in charge of building the rock wall would refine each piece of rock with a hammer until it fit perfectly into the spot he had planned for it. This process reminded us of I Peter 2:5 “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.” Each of us has a spot planned out for us, but it takes busting and then some chiseling to get our rough edges off until we fit perfectly into the wall of God’s kingdom.
This beautifully diverse team of men built the overhead beams and laid the tin roof. They built frames to pour the concrete base and top for each section of wall. They worked in perfect unity. In only 5 days they completed the structure. Before we return in September, the steel grid which provides for both window and security will be built and ready to be placed. When all is complete, the Selebre Jezi Egles (church) will hold 500. As we stood in the church Sunday morning, their only request was that the expansion be filled with new believers.
It was fitting that our final day on the island included baptisms of one man and one woman. These are done in the Canal de La Gonave where a dozen families gather for a Sunday afternoon swim and a few watercraft are seen. Dr. Zacky, the physician in charge of the Celebrate Jesus Children’s Clinic, joined the ministry 6 years ago. Little by little, Pastors Joaquim has shown him the Kingdom of God by his example and teaching the Word. Now he was asking to be immersed by Pastor Sonja and it was a joy to join with Pastor Joaquim in his baptism.
Jerry and Sonja
Dear Friends of Celebrate Jesus of Haiti,
Two teams joined us for our last trip to Haiti. We named them “The Good Humor Team” and “It’s a God Thing!” The Good Humor Team was two dads, Derrick & Kevin, and their two 14 year old daughters, Raquel and Norah. The girls had held a shoe drive at Christian High School and came to distribute the shoes and toys they had collected. They went into each of the classrooms and looked under the desks, then quietly escorted the children with worn-out shoes outside where they fitted them with new shoes. These young women also opened up the “Ya-Ya Store” where we store clothing and other personal items and gave away a mountain of needed clothing and shoes to the church families.
The men helped Jerry place foundation posts and beams for the church expansion. People stand around the edges of Sunday services at this time. The expansion will seat an additional 150 people. God is increasing the church daily and we celebrate each soul saved.
As an extra measure of joy, The Good Humor Team brought with them an ice cream freezer and all the ingredients to make ice cream. The fathers made it and the girls happily delivered small cups of ice cream to the children and mothers waiting in the clinic, to each of the school children, and to all of our staff. They were such a blessing.
Exciting Church Services
It’s a God Thing team included Dr. Nancy Holtkamp, her two sisters, Sue and Pat, and her 14 year old daughter Katie. They specifically planned their arrival so they could attend Sunday services at Celebrate Jesus Church and they raved about the joy of the people as they worshiped the Lord. Jesus promised us fullness of joy independent of material wealth or a perfectly orchestrated life. It is found in Jesus, and when we embrace Him we experience that peace beyond human understanding. When first time visitors see joy on the faces at Celebrate Jesus Church they come to understand that “it’s a God thing” and He continues to show up and show out in the lives of some of the most underprivileged people on earth.
They set up the eye clinic and dispensed 400 pair of prescription glasses in just a few days. The World Health Organization estimates that 153 million people in third world countries, which includes Haiti, need corrected vision. The cost of a pair of glasses can be a year’s salary for them. But Pepose Vision and doctors like Dr. Nancy are bringing their own special kind of joy to the people on LaGonave Island by allowing them to see. It’s a God thing!
Both teams were the hands and feet of Jesus, dishing up rice and beans at the feeding stations and being reminded of how truly blessed we are to have our basic human needs met every day. We are especially excited when teens come to visit, knowing that a mission trip like this will change their worldview and their lives forever.
With our love and gratitude,
Jerry and Sonja Dickherber
Jesus taught his disciples how to fish for the souls of men, then he showed them how to do it, next he sent them out without him to let them try it. He listened carefully to their reports, then helped them see their work from God’s point of view. Knowing he would be leaving them, he prepared them to follow the example he had given. It is our hope that all of you have known a leader who taught you the Word and then lived it and trusted you to accept the challenges the Lord gave you. From the start of our ministry in Haiti we required that each employee train one of the other employees how to do their work so the ministry could continue uninterrupted should they depart.
New church plant in nearby village
The Lord put on our hearts that it was time to make new disciples of Jesus Christ in an additional town. We had made food distributions in Zetwa and found the people there to be hungry not only for food but for the Spirit-filled life. It is a much smaller town and poorer than Anse A Galet and a hard 90 minute drive. Consistent with our principles, we have tasked Pastor Joaquim and his leadership team with establishing a core group of believers in Zetwa and regularly teaching them the Word. We will provide counsel like Paul did Timothy, but we won’t lead it. They have been alongside us since the beginning. The team is studying the Word using International School of Ministry video training. Sonja used this to train Pastor Joaquim and now he is facilitating the same training to help his team grow in knowledge. We trust them to duplicate what they have seen.
Quilt for Haitian Children
We made a trip to Zetwa in May. We never like to go empty-handed. We keep a storehouse we call the “Ya-Ya Store.” It is filled with the gifts of love you have sent over just waiting for the right need to be met. This time we gathered up beautiful handmade quilts for the young mothers. We always draw a crowd, but we specifically shouted out that we wanted young mothers to come. They came. Their eyes were big when they received their very special gift including one for their child. These character-themed quilts are made by Ruth Bly of Tulsa, OK. It is her “retirement” project. Her husband’s “retirement” project is to find a stuffed animal and pair it to a quilt. We taught the people gathered there some worship songs and it was a joyous time.
Medical Student Assists at Clinic
Consistent with the focus on apprenticeship, a young medical student named Hogan joined us to use his training for the Lord. Assisted by his mother Tia, he did a basic health check (triage) on first through sixth grade students. He brought a file cabinet to hold these new student records and now Dr. Zacky has a base point to track their health. Hogan observed that our kids are healthier than most in the U.S. He found no orange hair or scabies common to poor countries. The 850 children we feed daily receive a nutritious meal of rice and beans with vegetables and supplements. He spent several days shadowing Dr. Zacky and he said he had learned more about medicine from him than he had learned in medical school thus far. God let us see He had sent us his very best. He could easily work elsewhere for more money, but Dr. Z has taken “ownership” of the clinic. He appreciates the trust we have in him and most importantly, treats each child with tenderness and love.
Pepose Vision Institute – Glasses for Haitians
Pepose Vision sent Dr. Syberg, a low-vision specialist. He loves the Lord and puts his heart into the people he treats. He saw 183 people in 3 days and most of them received needed prescription glasses. What a blessing. Working alongside Pastor Joaquim and Sonja in organizing eye patients was a boy named Michener. The ministry is paying for his English classes and in time he may work for us as a translator.
More Homes Built
The Dwelling Place (Campus Two) now has ten homes. The fence keeps the wandering animals out, enabling the families to plant coconut and banana trees. What comes in must go out, and Jerry built a 20’ deep privy with six stalls for the families living there. The other side of this building contains six private stalls for bathing. People here are very modest and it is a great blessing to have a private place to carry in their bucket of water and wash themselves. Jerry looks forward to being able to build an addition to the Celebre’ Jesus church, which is always at capacity.
All this is important, but the best news is that four people received the Lord Jesus as their Savior during the week we were there. This is why the Lord sent us to Haiti.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ are persecuted and often killed in other nations. In our lifetime in America we may lose possessions, businesses, or legal rights because of our faith. But because of our faith, the world powers can never take away our true freedom in Christ. Celebrate Freedom!
With our love and gratitude,
Jerry and Sonja Dickherber
2016-July – Upcoming golf tournament, progress in many areas
2013-September – New campus, starting homes, new school year, Jonah update
2013-May – Fencing around The Promised Land, clinic update, Jonah update
2013-March – Medical Clinic, Roofing, Child who was intentionally starved found and fed (“Jonah”)
2012-December – Donated skid loader arrives by boat