Catherine W. Idzerda" />

Haitian children soon will join Rock County families

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
— In less than a week, a handful of orphans fleeing the devastation in Haiti will be safely ensconced with new families in Rock County.

Their arrival is the result of expedited visas—and a local church’s long relationship with several orphanages in Haiti.

“It was really frightening for us for a while—waiting to hear what had happened,” said the Rev. Craig Zastrow, executive pastor of Beloit Central Christian Church. “But then we heard that the people we knew were uninjured.”

Their orphanages—which include House of Hope, the Lamb Center, Walter’s Kids and Good Sheppard—were destroyed or too unstable for safety, and the children are sleeping outside.

Shawn and Katie Banker of Janesville attend Central Christian Church, and they had been anxiously waiting for news of the teenage boy they had adopted.

On Monday, Shawn headed for Haiti to pick up his son.

Next Monday, Sue Witt of the Lamb Center Orphanage Haiti will be bringing another group of children. Three of those children will be going to the Beloit home of Matt and JoAnne Ruch, who already have a Haitian child, Montgomery, 4.

He’ll be joined by Moses, 4; Johanne, 13, and Equento, 14.

The adoption officials in Haiti approached the American embassy and asked for the children’s visas to be expedited, and embassy officials agreed.

The Ruches are delighted but a little overwhelmed.

Instead of having four children arriving over several years, they’re going to have four children in less than four months.

“It’s catching us very much by surprise,” JoAnne said. “We’re going to have to borrow a van so we can pick them all up at the airport—we don’t have a vehicle big enough for all of them.”

But they’re also incredibly grateful their new family is alive.

“It was horrifying,” JoAnne said.

Matt hated the helplessness of being unable to do anything and not knowing his kids were OK.

Both Matt and JoAnne have spent time in Haiti with the four children that are now officially apart of their family. They’ve known the two 4-year-olds since they were in diapers.

One year, JoAnne was able to take a sabbatical from her teaching job to live with the kids in Haiti.

Montgomery is excited, too.

“He’ll have two brothers and a sister,” JoAnne said. “He’s been singing and dancing all day.”

The Ruches are among 12 families at Central Christian Church who have adopted children from Haiti.

The church’s relationship with the orphanages started in 2001, when 13 church members went down as missionaries. Zastrow’s wife, Cathy, already had connections in the area. Her foster mother, Sue Witt, was a missionary in Haiti and ran an orphanage there.

Over the years, the relationship between the church and the orphanages prospered, and Craig Zastrow estimates that between 75 and 100 church members have been to the country.

Debbie Fischer has been there nine or 10 times and helps with the church’s “Bless the Boys” sponsorship program for orphans.

She spent a terrified few days after the earthquake waiting to hear from the orphans.

Fischer was relieved to hear from the kids.

“I just wanted to hug them all,” Fisher said.

She’s still fearful about their ability to get the food and water they need, and she knows that the quake will create many, many new orphans.


Central Christian Church in Beloit is collecting donations to help Haitian orphanages rebuild.

“I heard something on CNN that said you shouldn’t trust anybody who says 100 percent of the money will go to charity,” said the Rev. Craig Zastrow of Central Christian Church, Beloit. “But in our case, it will. We have the means to get it there.”

The church has connections to orphanages they have been supporting for years. The congregation has also been on numerous mission trips and has helped with a hospital there, too.

The orphanages have been almost completely destroyed and will have to deal with new influx of orphans.

Checks to support the orphanages and children can be made out to Central Christian Church with a note in the memo line that the check is for Haitian orphanage. Donations should be sent to Central Christian Church, 2460 Milwaukee Road, Beloit, 53511.

The church also offers the opportunity to support a child in an orphanage for $25 a month.

For more information, call the church at (608) 362-7663 or go online to

Last updated: 12:37 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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