Eleven orphaned girls in Haiti are getting fantastic opportunities in life because of a Manitoban couples ministry.
"We had been in Haiti for a number of years, working out of an orphanage. During that time we saw domestic slave kids, street kids. We were seeing so much of that and we just felt that's where God was calling us to go," says Gary Unger. He and his wife Mavis founded a ministry in Haiti called Beauty Out of Ashes.
After living in Manitoba for most of their lives alongside raising their three children, the Ungers decided to uproot and move to Haiti.
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"We got our home church on board in Landmark, Heartland Community Church along with a really strong board of directors, love for the girls, and a strong vision for what they wanted to see us complete through this process. It's been really good these last four years."
The Browns see this ministry mirroring a long-term foster care program. They also have been working with the local social workers and child and family services so everything they do is legal.
"We moved to Haiti in 2015 and we've been here ever since. The first time we came out for a short visit to work at the orphanage. Both my wife and I fell in love with one of the girls there and that was the start of our journey. We pursued adoption."
At that time the Unger's home was still in Manitoba. Amidst lots of paperwork and red tape, they were met with challenges that wouldn't allow Mitchella to move to Canada. So the couple moved to Haiti to be with and raise her.
"We'll be here for some time because we've got some fairly young girls [in the Beauty Out of Ashes program] to raise up until they get married or move on, whatever they do," says Unger.
Essentially, these 11 young girls are being raised in a loving family setting run by the Ungers.
"Our ministry is to show these girls the love of Christ, teach them about Jesus, and give them a very strong education so they have every chance possible to succeed in life. We want to be able to help them recapture their childhood. Many of our eleven girls have had a horrible past filled with a lot of trauma."
The girls that live with the Ungers in the Beauty Out of Ashes program range from eight to 16 years old.
"Our youngest girl Marlene, when our social worker found her she was four years old and living on the street with probably the mentality of a 12-year-old. Definitely headed toward prostitution because she fended for herself. This girl just begged off the street, and you know where that ends up. When a girl turns 10 or 11 and they still need food, it's not a pretty picture. Now, she giggles all day long, and she loves life."
When the girls are not in school, they may be playing soccer on the huge field nearby or studying the word of God. Beauty Out of Ashes recently partnered with another Manitoba ministry, Give the Word.
"We met Ryan Rempel and Rob Wiebe with Give the Word originally at the last MissionFest before the pandemic. When they found out what we do they got really excited. They got together a bunch of Kreyol Bibles. This last time we were home, they gave us Bibles for our girls called Inspire and they're the kind of Bible you can doodle in."
The Ungers hand out Bibles on the street or in the orphanage, in Haiti's National language, Kreyol. Unger says that since his girls received these Bibles, the oldest girl spends roughly two hours a day reading it.
"She is on fire for the Lord. She will tell anyone she meets, no matter if the person will laugh at her, she will share her testimony."