By Rev. Martin Hawley
Four decades ago, a nine year old boy walked into a Haitian revival tent meeting and came face to face with God's purpose for his life. The missionary leading the service looked down at Jean Jacob Paul and called him "Pastor Paul". The man of God was convinced that Jean's calling was to bring the power of the Gospel to his countrymen in Haiti. The evangelist promised Jean a plane ticket to the United States, a loving home, and a full education including a Bible college degree. In exchange, Jean was to return to Haiti and serve King Jesus by spreading the Good News.
Jean came to the United States and received the love and affection of his foster Caucasian mother. He grew up in New York like any other child of his generation and he became a U.S. citizen. He graduated high school and went to California, receiving a college degree in Bible. Jean's missionary benefactor proudly met him at his college graduation, handed him $1,000 and a plane ticket to Haiti. As he left, he reminded Jean of his calling - "return to Haiti and share with your countrymen the Gospel of Christ".
But Jean had no intention of returning to his country of birth. Instead, he dreamed of a career in the United States, prosperity, and a family of his own. Before too many years went by, he got everything he wanted. Jean returned to New York, earned a degree in engineering, and made a success for himself in the Northeast and later, in Atlanta, Georgia. He met and married his wife Jocelyne, and they became a family. But for Jean, there was one little on-going problem. Ever since he left California and returned, not to Haiti as agreed but to New York, he began having a recurring dream. In his dream, a man dressed in white appeared to him and always asked him the same question: "Why aren't you in Haiti?"
As Jean grew older and more prosperous in his upwardly mobile lifestyle with his wife and children, these dreams grew more frequent and more vivid. Yet Jean was absolutely certain he would never, ever return to Haiti. Nor would he give up his high paying work in Atlanta for the poverty of ministering among the desperate masses in Haiti. Or so Jean thought until the week of Christmas 2002.
In yet another display of affluence, Jean decided to buy a brand new SUV. He would take his family for a holiday vacation and it all began with a shopping trip in the new sport utility. They had just picked up the new car and were driving over a railroad crossing when the SUV suddenly began spinning around and around on the railroad tracks for no apparent reason. As this was happening, the family could hear the sound of an approaching train. Jean tried everything he could think of to get the new vehicle to move off the tracks but nothing seemed to work. Just as the train was about to crash into the Paul family's new SUV, it suddenly lurched ahead and cleared the railroad tracks.
That night, Jean had another dream. This time, the man dressed all in white said, "The only reason that you are still alive tonight is because your family was with you in the SUV today. You must go to Haiti or I will take your life." Jean woke up, quite rattled, only to find that Jocelyne was also awake and frightened. She told Jean that the man in white had appeared to her in a dream and told her that the only reason her husband was still alive was because she and the children had been with him in the SUV that day. He also told her that Jean was supposed to go to Haiti. Seeing no other alternative, the two agreed that Jean should make travel plans to Haiti and see what God had for him to do there.
Jean arrived in Port-au-Prince on October 31, 2003. He was met at the airport by a strange woman who addressed him as Pastor Paul, and handed him five orphaned children. This was the start of Jean Jacob Paul's ministry in Haiti. Over the next three years, Jean struggled to provide shelter and food for these five children, and for others who gradually found their way to Jean. Eventually, he was able to secure a rental house through a Mr. Osias. This house and the land upon which it set would become the nucleus of a ministry compound in the years to follow.
Through God's guidance, Pastor Jean developed a group of supporting pastors and churches in the United States. At first, these ministers, their churches, and other organizations raised funds for specific projects to benefit the orphans under Jean's care. They also banded together across denominational boundaries in order to collect donations of clothing, shoes and items for a small resale shop supporting the ministry of Haiti.
By the end of 2006, it had become clear to the ministers, churches, and others working with Jean that the needs were too great among his orphans and throughout the nation of Haiti for this unorganized approach. Jean Paul's American partners decided in January of 2007 to organize a charitable organization in the U.S. and to seek an Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) designation. As the support up to that time had come from Presbyterian, Anglican, Charismatic, Lutheran, and Bible churches, it was decided to establish the organization outside of direct denominational affiliation. A board was formed and the name Reformation Hope, Inc. was chosen for the organization. An Atlanta law firm, Bird, Loechl, Brittain, and McCants, was hired to lay proper legal footing, corporate organization, and make all the applications necessary to receive favorable ruling from the IRS.
Reformation Hope received a favorable ruling and was granted 501(c)(3) status on June 27, 2007. Since that time, RHI has been used mightily by God for development and transformation among the people of Haiti. Even with the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, the work has continued at an accelerated pace. A new well, rebuilt walls, rebuilt school, and new church and shower facilities have been constructed since the earthquake. Leadership training for pastors from all over Haiti and a micro-finance initiative are now moving forward into 2011, as well as a seventy-acre agricultural project.