Diaspora

Remarkable Coleman family shows faith alive in Haiti – The Mountaineer

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DEDICATED FAMILY — Part of the missionary family, Lydia Coleman prepares to board plane leaving Port-au-Prince airport, Haiti. The family members are Christian missionaries in Haiti, but for their safety, had to evacuate to the U.S. in early November.
HEARTBROKEN TO LEAVE HAITI — The Coleman family (at left) and Jenna Donavon (right) are living in a Missouri home temporarily. They connect daily with their Haitian staff and hope to stop in Maggie Valley on their return trip to Haiti in January.
FAITHFUL MEMBERS — Roy and Beth Childs are members of Maggie Valley UMC when in NC. Pictured with the Colemans are, from left, Roy Childs, Kris, Rachael and Lydia Coleman, Jenna Donavon, Levi Coleman and Beth Childs.
HELP NAVIGATING LIFE — The Colemans assist in raising three teenaged Haitian boys, who were orphaned. Pictured, in Haitian school uniforms, are two of the boys, Steve and Djouby.
HOPING TO BUILD ASSISTED LIVING CENTER — Rachael Shirley Coleman accompanies Geta, who would benefit from an assisted living home in Haiti.

DEDICATED FAMILY — Part of the missionary family, Lydia Coleman prepares to board plane leaving Port-au-Prince airport, Haiti. The family members are Christian missionaries in Haiti, but for their safety, had to evacuate to the U.S. in early November.
HEARTBROKEN TO LEAVE HAITI — The Coleman family (at left) and Jenna Donavon (right) are living in a Missouri home temporarily. They connect daily with their Haitian staff and hope to stop in Maggie Valley on their return trip to Haiti in January.
FAITHFUL MEMBERS — Roy and Beth Childs are members of Maggie Valley UMC when in NC. Pictured with the Colemans are, from left, Roy Childs, Kris, Rachael and Lydia Coleman, Jenna Donavon, Levi Coleman and Beth Childs.
HELP NAVIGATING LIFE — The Colemans assist in raising three teenaged Haitian boys, who were orphaned. Pictured, in Haitian school uniforms, are two of the boys, Steve and Djouby.
HOPING TO BUILD ASSISTED LIVING CENTER — Rachael Shirley Coleman accompanies Geta, who would benefit from an assisted living home in Haiti.
A family with local ties and a long-established missionary in Haiti recently had to leave the country after prolonged civil unrest, the assassination of the Haiti’s president and the capture of several mission workers.
“We were heartbroken to leave Haiti and pray diligently that we are not gone long,” said Rachael Shirley Coleman, daughter of Maggie Valley’s the Rev. Michael and Sue Shirley.
The Colemans are Christian missionaries in Haiti but for their safety had to evacuate to the United States Nov. 2. They hope it is temporary, and they’ll be able to soon return to their ministry in Haiti.
“The situation is more unstable in Haiti than ever,” said Rachael Shirley Coleman. “We decided that (for our family) and Haitian staff and its missionaries, it is best if we leave for a short time. We’ll return after the holidays if things have stabilized. We know that God can use anything. He can even use this time that we did not plan to be out of Haiti, for His glory. We are choosing to trust God in that.”
Kris and Rachael Shirley Coleman have three children. Two are home, Levi and Lydia, and the eldest, Anna, is a student at Southeastern University, a Christian liberal arts university in Lakeland, Florida.
Between her freshman and sophomore years, Anna Shirley Coleman was a summer intern at the Maggie Valley United Methodist Church and according to her mother, Anna Shirley Coleman, was devastated to not be able to spend Christmas at her home in Haiti. Sadly, the family evacuated on such short notice that clothes, Christmas gifts, and even their two dogs had to be left behind.
The Colemans founded a ministry in Haiti called KONBIT in 2016. “Konbit” is a Haitian-Creole word for a traditional form of cooperative communal labor. Partners focus on nurturing connection while growing support for students and families.
“The Haitian people are the heroes here, even as they are unable to escape the turmoil that surrounds them,” Rachael Shirley Coleman said, when asked about the kind of service they provide for the people of Haiti. “They are diligent workers, committed to community, and so very hospitable and kind. We follow their lead in all we do with KONBIT.”
One of their ministries is Meals on 2 Wheels, currently feeding 12 people. The meals are delivered on motorbikes, and recipients are elderly friends who have no loved ones to care for them. They provide weekly food, companionship, light medical care when needed, and much more.
As an example, a Haitian friend, Valcimeme, recently required increased care. She could not cook the food that the ministry provided for her and would not take her medicines given by a local mission clinic.
A dear Haitian friend, Milione, was hired to be her caregiver, and when members of the ministry arrived at her home, they saw Valcimeme being bathed and cared for by Milione, who she now calls Mami.
“We hope to expand the program so that as care needs increase, we can meet the demand,” said Rachael Shirley Coleman. “This includes purchasing land in order to build an assisted living center. We’re also active in small business creation and support by offering loans for people to expand or start a business venture. Many thousands of dollars have been infused into the local economy through KONBIT.”
Remarkably, the Coleman family also assists in raising three teen boys who were orphaned when their mother and grandmother passed away. They provide help with school, food, housing, and lots of conversation and love to help them navigate life as young men.
“Their names are Djouly, Djouby and Steve,” Rachael Shirley Coleman said. “We love and miss them dearly. They were a mess when we told them we had to leave for a while. It broke our hearts.”
An unexpected Holy Spirit moment happened when the Coleman family landed in Florida. The Coleman’s grandparents, the Rev. Mike and Sue Shirley, began a new Sunday School class at the Maggie Valley United Methodist Church last year, and “from the beginning,” said the Rev. Shirley, “Beth and Roy Childs were faithful members. They are members of the Maggie church while here and are now back in their home in Fort Pierce.
“The mission plane from Haiti flew over the Childs’ Florida home when landing in Fort Pierce and guess who showed up at the airport to provide encouragement to our family?” said the Rev. Shirley. “The care package our family received, and the breakfast was much appreciated, but the love and support are even more important. In our family’s time of crisis, our Maggie Valley friends provided that support, and our family knows in a deeper way that they are not alone. As I see it, this is the love of Christ in action.”
Returning to America with the Colemans was staff member Jenna Donavon. She joined the staff of KONBIT as a full-time missionary in August after receiving her intercultural studies degree from North Central University and had been in Haiti with the Colemans for many summers before joining the staff full-time.
For now, the family and Donavon are living in a Missouri home on loan to them. They connect daily with their Haitian staff and plan speaking engagements. If things work out, they hope to stop in Maggie Valley on their return trip to Haiti in January.
“Our goal, lofty as it may be and God willing, is to raise the funds for the assisted living home,” Rachael Shirley Coleman said. “We will also continue to organize, through our Haitian staff, feeding programs as food prices have skyrocketed due to supply chain disruption. We accomplish this through the support of local churches, organizations, and individuals.”
A link for donations and additional photos of their ministry are at www.konbittogether.org.
The heartbeat of their Haitian ministry is to connect with community members, meet physical needs, and be there to speak to their spiritual needs by sharing Christ.
“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” said Rachael Shirley Coleman, quoting Saint Paul’s words in his letter to the Philippians. Philippians 1:6
Reach the Rev. Richard Ploch at ploch@charter.net.

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