Growing to Heal: Building for the next generation
During the 2010 Haiti earthquake, all Ralf Etienne BA ’16 had were his prayers while he hung upside down from a falling building by just his leg. Eight agonizing hours passed where he promised God that he would spend his life learning and serving Him. Once he was safe, Etienne knew that God wanted him to go to America, get an education, and help the people of Haiti.
After graduating from Anderson University, Etienne was ready for his next step. He founded an organization called Rebuilding Haiti in Banllieu, Haiti. The mission of the organization “is to help facilitate an environment where Haitians can create a valuable and successful business that does not depend on donations.”
Etienne felt a strong responsibility to make sure that the community of Banllieu was provided for. There was a time he was working more than 90 hours a week to help his people. He knew this amount of work was not sustainable and something needed to change.
Etienne learned that the people of Banllieu needed empowerment rather than one man trying to accomplish everything on his own. He says that to demonstrate empowerment, “you have to believe in them.” The people of Banllieu are equipped to become leaders. When that growth occurs, more opportunities that further promote sustainability are made available.
Over time, the church has grown immensely in Banllieu. Etienne explains that this growth is due to God-given opportunities. “The ministry that was growing was not mine,” he says with a smile on his face. It was the people of Haiti and God.” They were able to start restoring the community by building businesses and farms.
Their new project is to build a community center for children. After learning how to empower the adults in the community, Rebuilding Haiti is now focusing on empowering the children. The center will provide a space for the children’s ministry to grow and to develop leadership skills.
Etienne praises AU for helping him get to where he felt God meant for him to be. He calls Indiana “God’s country” because of the ways the people always support him. Etienne has stayed in contact with many peers and faculty from AU who care for him and believe in the mission he is living out.
In February of 2019, Etienne was asked to speak during a chapel service at another university. He received this opportunity through an AU alum. AU has allowed him to connect with others and to reach a broad audience to help his people in Haiti.
Written by Cassie Sanchez ’20, excerpted from the Fall 2019 issue of Signatures magazine.
Anderson University is a private, liberal arts institution in Anderson, Indiana with a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service in the church and society. Anderson University is recognized among top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, Colleges of Distinction, and The Princeton Review. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, the university now offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music education, and theology.
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