The Ripple Effect

by | Apr 19, 2018

Steve Ross (center back) on a trip to Haiti, 1986

It was July 28, 2013, and I had just finished preaching at the Red Rock campground outdoor Sunday service. During this message, I shared Moses’ burning bush call and interweaved this with our call into Haiti. I shared our beginnings, the movements since those humble beginnings, and the future calling God gave us for our work in Haiti. After the service, Wilbur Van Ryswyk, an elderly man, came up to me with tears streaming down his face, and said, “I had no idea why God sent me to Pignon, Haiti in 1984. I’ve often wondered this. But to hear you speak today and share this vision, and to know my trips in the 80’s helped create this vision…” His voice cracked and overcome with emotion, cried out, “My trips mattered. I’m so humbled to have been used by God.”

Wilbur was introduced to Haiti by a man named Steve Ross. In the Pella area and with many nearby churches in Iowa, the involvement in Haiti can point back to Steve. On that morning, I asked Wilbur to give me more of the history of how Steve got involved in the Pignon area. Here is what Wilbur told me.

In 1984, Tony Campolo came and spoke at Central College. Tony had just returned from visiting Haiti and he was amazed at the hope of the Haitian people. In the audience that night was Steve Ross. Recently, Steve’s brother had tried to commit suicide and was in a dark place. Steve, knowing his brother needed hope, told his brother about Tony’s story and how Haitians, despite their hardships, were full of hope. Hope was possible for all. Steve’s brother took this as a literal invitation to go to Haiti, as he wanted to be in a place with hope. Steve’s brother got out of the hospital and took off for Haiti in search of hope. While in the Central Plateau of Haiti, Steve’s brother became very ill and landed in a remote, small hospital called Hospital Bienfaisance de Pignon. Steve received word his brother was very sick, so he jumped on a plane to go get his brother. While in Pignon seeing his brother, the founder of the hospital found out Steve was an industrial engineer and wanted his help with a building project for the hospital and a windmill project on a nearby farm. Steve confessed, he had no desire to return to Haiti after his first trip. But, return he did, soon bringing his wife and many others from around the area.

“I’m in awe of God’s faithfulness and how the Holy Spirit moves through people who barely know each other”

Steve and Deb founded CHRIST in Haiti, a non-profit foundation to support the work in Pignon, standing for Christian Haitians and Responsive Iowans Serving Together.  For many years, when politically possible, Steve and Deb would lead two to three service trips into Pignon, introducing hundreds of people to the good work the Lord was doing. Guess who was part of those trips with Steve and Deb? Denny Brand in 1986 and myself in 1998. I don’t end up in Haiti without Steve and Deb Ross.

As I reflect on this story, I’m in awe of God’s faithfulness and how the Holy Spirit moves through people who barely know each other to carry out His purposes. The Many Hands mission statement reads, “Transforming Together, to be love in action, in this broken world.” Before researching this article, I had no idea CHRIST in Haiti existed in Pella. Reading the description of the foundation, Christians Haitians and Responsive Iowans Serving Together, sounds extremely similar to “Transforming Together, to be love in action, in this broken world.” God’s spirit in this mission has always been about transforming together, where Haitians and Americans work together to glorify God, bringing healing through our brokenness. And what God originated, God will orchestrate, despite our shortcomings.

It pains me to know Steve and Deb did not finish the race as they had dreamed when first starting CHRIST in Haiti. But, the vision didn’t die with them, as God anointed others to carry this vision when they couldn’t run the race any longer. I’m humbled this vision has been passed on to Many Hands for Haiti and we will steward it in obedience to God, for as long as He can use us to be His hands and feet.

Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of Steve and Deb Ross, who laid the foundations for Iowans and Haitians to work together in the Pignon area, to bring hope to thousands of people. I’m thankful for my first trip in 1998 with the Rosses, as it planted a seed for God to grow in the future. We rarely know the ripple effects of our actions, but sometimes, God gives glimpses to remind us of His faithfulness.

Quotes taken from: “Mercy arrives from Iowa”. Des Moines Register, Simbro, W. (1994, November 20). Retrieved from

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