Dean (L) and Paula (R) visiting a family
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells the parable of the talents. This is a great story and typically focuses on the one steward who did not multiply the money, but rather returned only what he was given. I don’t want to focus on the one that failed to multiply, as I want to focus on the one given five talents and doubled his bags of gold. It says in verse 16, “The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.” At the end of the story, the master says in verse 29, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” As I reflect on Kingdom Talents and how they have been used to multiply the ministry of Many Hands for Haiti, I can’t help but come back to Dean and Paula Van Roekel, who have been working in their Kingdom talents for the last two decades in Haiti.
“One look around the campus and the fingerprints of these two can be seen in so many places.“
Dean and Paula started going to Haiti in 2001, first going on a trip with Virgil and Dorothy Dykstra and Meredith Drive Church in Urbandale, IA. Then, they started to lead trips from their own church at Sunnybrook Community Church in Sioux City, IA. After leading their own teams for a number of years, Dean and Paula, in turn, passed on the gift and got Hope Reformed Church in Spencer, IA involved (2006) and later, the Reformed Church in the Meridian and Cherokee areas. It was during the first Hope Reformed trip in 2006 that they connected with Craig and Christi Gabhart, who eventually moved to Haiti in 2014. Just a few years ago, Dean introduced us to Jeff Gargano, the pastor at Tarrytown Reformed Church in New York, who then led his church on a mission trip to Haiti and then built a house for a family in need. Can’t you just see those bags of gold multiplying?
When people walk onto our campus in Sylvain, they are blown away with the beauty of the scenery and the design, aesthetics, and layout of the structures. “It is like an oasis in the middle of chaos,” are words I’ve heard spoken. This didn’t happen by chance, as the entire campus was laid out and designed by Dean. Before retirement, Dean spent most of his adult life designing church structures and other large buildings across the country, as an architect with FEH Design. In addition, he did a large-scale project in Africa in the mid 2000’s. All this talent and hard work came together, laying out a highly functional and visually beautiful campus for us in Haiti. And Paula, a registered nurse, picked up the ball with our young ladies and staff, mentoring and guiding them, encouraging them as they work in Haiti. One look around the campus and the fingerprints of these two can be seen in so many places.
Paula Van Roekel assesses a sick man
Many Hands Campus, designed by Dean Van Roekel
“I knew they were working with me, not against me, and we were going to do this together.“
My favorite Dean moment, showcasing his core value system in action, is the story of a 16 foot, 1×12 piece of wood. One day while in Haiti, Dean was tired of sitting on less-than-quality, uncomfortable chairs. Going out to the woodshed, Dean figured out how to take this ONE 16 foot, 1×12 piece of wood and create a beautiful, strong Adirondack chair. Nothing went to waste and each cut was exact, transforming this simple piece of wood into something magnificent. It was necessary, it was industrious, it was skillful, and it was beautiful. Now we have a complete set of 10 for our small groups to use as they unpack the day during nightly devotions.
Some of the beautiful Adirondack chairs created by Dean
A Kingdom Talent that Dean and Paula have given me is the gift of their blessing. As I’ve grown in my leadership and influence, they have encouraged my ideas, counseled my spirit, and most important, followed my lead. From that first Iowa meeting in 2007, they were strong individuals, yet, they relinquished power to me as God continued to reveal His vision over time. For being someone quite their junior, this was important, as it gave me confidence and credibility, as Dean and Paula had my back. I knew they were working with me, not against me, and we were going to do this together. It might sound simple to write, but trust me, it isn’t simple in reality.
Dean working with a welder on a convertible bench table
Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of Dean and Paula Van Roekel, who use their Kingdom Talents beautifully, multiplying their bags of gold every day for the Master, Jesus Christ. As it states in Matthew 25:21, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”
Many Hands stands on the shoulders of Tim and Lucia Van Maanen, whose sacrificial “I’m with you” spirit forever set our organization on God’s path.
Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of Pastor Francois Romelus, who is our angel on earth, gently guiding us with wisdom, courage, and love.
Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of Karmen Brown, who shows us how to love others with the love of Jesus.