Advance Magazine
Spring 2024

Full-Circle Prayer

At an evangelistic meeting that retired Haiti missionary Ruthie Shelpman attended in Florida, the speaker encouraged attendees to pray for their sons to become preachers of the gospel. Ruthie had no biological children of her own, but she had plenty of sons: orphans she raised during her years in Haiti. Which would she pray for? One stood out in her mind, an unlikely young man named Ti Jo.

Joseph Pierre-Louis, nicknamed Ti Jo, was the most indifferent of any orphan that Ruthie and her late husband, Roy, helped raise in Grand-Goave, Haiti. Ti Jo was so rebellious that he was eventually expelled from the orphanage. In God’s sovereignty, what seemed like a hard break for an orphan turned into the best thing that could have happened. Ti Jo was sent to live with one of the Shelpmans’ college-bound orphans named Ti Cedye who promised to take care of him. In his new home, Ti Jo was required to attend Hosanna Baptist Church where he was deeply touched by the messages. Ti Jo contacted Ruthie and said, “Mom, I want to go to seminary even if I have to pay for it myself.” Although Ti Jo had received the Lord as a small child, Ruthie believes that this timeframe was when he was genuinely saved.

Ti Jo enrolled in the Haiti Baptist Seminary of Theology started by BMM missionaries and now led by Haitian leaders, including Hosanna Baptist’s pastor, Dieupie. During this season, Ti Jo fell in love with a beautiful girl named Fabie, whom he married. After Ti Jo’s graduation in 2023, Pastor Dieupie presented Ti Jo and his family to the congregation of Bethany Baptist Church, and he now serves as their pastor.

The Lord answered Ruthie’s prayer of faith, but it wasn’t the first remarkable prayer in Ti Jo’s family. Long before Ti Jo was born, his father, Patrick, made a desperate but reckless decision. He and his wife, Josette, were raising three children on the meager income he could scrape up in his fishing village. Patrick decided to sell two of his three cows and use the money to travel to Miami. Maybe he could make a better life in the US and bring his family there. 

Sadly, the man Patrick hired to take him took his money and abandoned him on a sandbar far short of Miami. Sweltering under the hot sun, Patrick prayed, “God, if you get me out of here, I will serve you.” To Patrick’s amazement, the US Coast Guard picked him up and took him to jail. After feeding and dressing him, they returned him to Haiti. 

Patrick’s bid for a new life left him worse than before. After being roughed up by Haitian police, he left with no shirt and only a pair of old underwear and jeans. By this time, his wife Josette was pregnant with Ti Jo’s older sister Dadie, and now Patrick had another mouth to feed. But just as with Ti Jo, Patrick’s tough break turned into the best thing. His friend Tony heard about their plight and gave his family the only place he had available, a leaky bedroom in his house. Another friend, thinking he was helping, sent Patrick to a voodoo priest who promised him a job if he would give up his wife or one of the children. When Patrick refused, the priest asked, “What about the chick in the belly?” (Dadie). Seeing no other options, Patrick agreed.

Patrick walked home, hopeless and unsure of how he would tell Josette. Yet hope was waiting for him. Tony was a Christian and he was holding a church service on his porch when Patrick arrived. The message opened Patrick’s heart, and afterward he shared with Tony the story of how he promised to serve the Lord. Patrick asked, “Would the Lord still take me now?” Tony gladly assured him that He would. Dropping to his knees, Patrick gave his life to Christ. Immediately, he wrapped his arms around his wife and said, “I am a new person! I now belong to God. I have His Spirit who can take care of us and who can lead us. Now we give our problems to God.” Josette also eagerly accepted Christ’s salvation and exclaimed, “Now our baby will be God’s baby!”

Ruthie’s missionary coworkers, Rachel and Evelyne Metzler, hired Patrick to work for them at Grand-Goave and help them build their camp. Patrick honored his desperate promise to God, and he became the pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church in Grand-Goave, started by the Metzler sisters and four other BMM missionaries: Leo and Gloria Sandgren and James and Leah Wooster. During those years, Patrick and Josette added Ti Jo to their family. Tragically, Patrick and Josette died when Ti Jo was young, but the Lord used the Metzler sisters and the Shelpmans to raise him.

Patrick’s prayer and Ruthie’s prayer—God used them both to bring Patrick’s family full-circle, first for salvation and secondly to raise up two generations to serve the Lord.

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