Diaspora

SHARE THE LIGHT: Blount couple maintains mission to help Haiti – Maryville Daily Times

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A Haitian girl receives food from Share the Light, a ministry founded by Jennifer and David Reece.
Food distribution is one component of Share the Light ministry in Haiti.
Children and their families gather for a meal at Share the Spirit in Haiti.
Children sit during a school session in Haiti.
From left: Gabe Lindor, Raylee Lindor, Lucas Reece and David Reece, one of the founders of Share the Light. Gabe works with the ministry in Haiti.

A Haitian girl receives food from Share the Light, a ministry founded by Jennifer and David Reece.
Food distribution is one component of Share the Light ministry in Haiti.
Children and their families gather for a meal at Share the Spirit in Haiti.
Children sit during a school session in Haiti.
From left: Gabe Lindor, Raylee Lindor, Lucas Reece and David Reece, one of the founders of Share the Light. Gabe works with the ministry in Haiti.
When David and Jennifer Reece made their first trip to Haiti just one year after the devastating earthquake that occurred in January 2010, they had some idea of what to expect.
The nation was crippled by the natural disaster that registered a magnitude of 7.0; it is a Third World county that already struggled with abject poverty. Hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced. David said what he experienced was life changing.
“We saw people living in poverty that we couldn’t even comprehend,” this resident of Blount County said. “People were living in everything from pallets leaned up against broken down walls just to get some kind of shelter. Groups of people were sleeping on the ground, wherever they could. It’s very hard to even put into words.”
As this couple spent time there, they developed relationships with the Haitian people, Jennifer and David explained. There were organizations from around the world that came to offer assistance early on. Many have since gone home, now more than a decade since the earthquake. But this husband/wife team felt their work was far from being finished.
The Reeces started their own ministry, called Share the Light and the two have been making trips to Haiti on a regular basis since. The physical location is in Croix des Bouquet in a community called Santos.
There are those who would say we have people in this country in need, and that we should focus our efforts on them. David said he agrees, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help both. So he and Jennifer started with a simple question for the Haitian people.
“What do you need?”
The couple said they soon learned the most important things were basic needs like food, clean water, shelter and clothing. David said they were hearing how families were being separated because parents couldn’t afford to care for their children.
“There are orphanages all over Haiti,” David explained, “not because parents are deceased. They are there because parents can’t afford to take care of their children with basic needs. So we started working toward keeping families together.”
The Reeces drilled wells so clean water was available. They began distributing food to those without. They helped get children enrolled in school, which requires paying tuition. And that work, started years ago, continues.
Those efforts take money, so David and Jennifer hold fundraisers to help. On Sept. 17, they will be hosting one at their church, Monte Vista Baptist, from 9 a.m.to 2 p.m. in the church parking lot. The Market Place will have room for vendors who want to sell yard sale items, crafts, etc. Food trucks are welcome, too. Set-up fees will go to Share the Light. Sellers can keep their own proceeds.
This Market Place may become an annual event, Jennifer said. She has done yard sales in the past for Share the Light, but never a community event on this scale.
Jennifer said they haven’t been able to go to Haiti for a couple of years due to COVID and also the political unrest that has amped up since Haiti’s president was assassinated. They have a Haitian pastor there who has been overseeing the ministry, she said.
Over the years, Share the Light has helped build a church and provided work for Haitian construction workers. In addition, the Reeces have donated hundreds of Creole Bibles through this ministry and lead spiritual training for more than 200 pastors and church planters.
Service to others wasn’t anything new to this couple. Jennifer said she has been to places like South Dakota, inner city Chicago, New Orleans and beyond, sharing God’s message of love while also providing relief efforts. She said most of the work done stateside is more of a quieter side of the ministry.
When you witness someone bending over to drink from a ditch, it changes you, David said. He said Share the Light wants to bring the biblical message of salvation to people in Haiti, but those basic needs have to be met first.
“We can go down there and preach the greatest message in the world, but if they are hungry and homeless and not educated and sick because they are drinking nasty water …..”
Voodoo is practiced in Haiti, one more reason some argue that country isn’t to be visited. David said there is voodoo, corrupt politicians and poverty beyond belief.
“That is why we go there,” he said. “That is why we call our ministry Share the Light. Bring light into darkness.”
David stated out doing missions work when a friend and mentor, Joe Hill, invited him along on a trip to Alabama to help with electrical work. That was back in 2006. Then in 2017, Hill got to visit Haiti and see the work David and Jennifer had started.
“That’s one of my favorite stories because he invested me and then got to come see how his investment is paying off,” David said. “You never know what you are going to sow in somebody’s life if you take a minute.”
Jennifer and David Reece, founders of Share the Light, will host The Market Place, a fundraiser, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17 in the parking lot of Monte Vista Baptist Church, 1735 Old Niles Ferry Road, Maryville. Those who wish to participate as vendors (yard sales, crafters, food trucks) may email Jennifer at jtalleyreece@gmail.com. Vendor fees will go to Share the Light. Vendors keep their proceeds from the sale.
Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.
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