SPRING HILL — While many churches and religious organizations reached out to help after the January earthquake in Haiti, the Rev. William Chery felt the Haitian people's pain in a personal way.
Chery, a native of Haiti who has been living in Spring Hill for the past few years, was concerned about the Mission L 'amour de Dieu (Loves of God) nondenominational Christian ministry he began there 20 years ago. It includes two orphanages, three churches and two schools in Cite Soleil in Haiti.
"When I heard something happened to Haiti, I could not believe it," Chery said. "My two pastors' houses, one church and the two orphanages were destroyed by the earthquake monster. Thank God, no one was killed."
It took a week before Chery could contact Jacques Colo, the minister he left in charge in Cite Soleil.
"He told me, 'Well, pastor, it is impossible (to explain). People die for lack of fish in the water.' He couldn't describe it. It was so bad he couldn't even talk about it. I went in March to inspect what was going on. I'm still in shock."
Chery, who was born in Port-au-Prince 60 years ago and has a deep love for his people, said he has been praying for years for a way to help his impoverished homeland. He said he saw the earthquake as a way to open doors toward that end.
"I go to the Bible and I make a search. I say, if this building is down and that one is down, there is something with powerful hands doing this," he said. "I'm a frank believer. When I went back to Haiti, I do believe the hand of God is on it, according to what I see. The destruction I saw, I went and inspected and saw the hand of God was on it. I believe without God, Haiti will go no place."
Chery has lived in the United States and Canada off and on over the past several years to provide for his wife, Simone, and their four sons, and he's learned new skills to take back with him to Cite Soleil. Now he's hoping to rebuild the two orphanages for the 225 children who are now homeless.
But that, he says, is not his top priority. He is hoping to find some "true believers" who will help establish businesses in Haiti.
"I have a dream for my people in Haiti, especially the deprived children," he said. "I believe I can solve some of the children's problems and be able to stay in Haiti. But I need some help."
Chery said his country has received financial and spiritual help from countries like the United States, Canada and France for many years.
"There has been preaching in Haiti for a long time. Why do you think the country is the way it is? Because we do have faith, they are true believers, but there is nobody to show them how to put together their faith. They give them fish every day, but nobody shows them how to fish. That's the problem."
Chery's dream is to have businesses from the United States that are owned by Christians establish factories in Haiti. He does not want his people to receive help in the form of gifts; instead, he wants to see them learn to work and have the opportunity to earn their own income.
"This is the way I will solve it, with one verse in the Bible as my guide," Chery said. "Your faith without your works is no value."
Alan Halladay, owner of the Bypass Garage in Brooksville, is a strong supporter and friend of Chery. Halladay has been instrumental in helping to raise funds for Chery's trips back and forth to Haiti through his business and his church, Christ Lutheran, where Chery has spoken.
"He's looking for an entrepreneur who would like to have people in Haiti assemble a product of theirs," Halladay explained. "They can probably do it for pennies on the dollar. It wouldn't be a huge output of capital, I'm sure, to get it started."
Halladay met Chery about a year ago when Chery asked if he could learn mechanics from Halladay by watching him work.
"He helped me with house chores at the shop while watching and learning," Halladay said. "He wants to teach the people of Haiti to work and be better educated, to give them hope and pride."
Halladay said he and his family found Chery to be "infectious."
"We have a small group Bible study that meets in our home, and he and his family have come," Halladay said. "I believe this is a true man of God and his interests are pure of heart. I want to help him and the people of Haiti any way I can."
While he is learning what skills he can in the United States and helping with his ministry, Chery drives a bus for Hernando County. Although he exhibits a cheerful disposition, he says his heart is heavy.
"I'm not feeling well these last couple of weeks when I look at what's been happening to my country and my people," he said. "I've been calling every day. I know what I can do, and I cannot do anything. That hurts me so much."
Halladay is hoping help is not far away.
"I'm sure if the right person reads about this (need), the Holy Spirit's going to grab them and it's going to take off," he said. "And that's what he's trying to do — get the word out to as many people as possible.
"We just pray that the right person sees this and it can make a huge difference down there. That would be fantastic."