Local family that started a mission in Haiti reacts to migrant crisis in Texas

Jay and Jan Nielsen operate Missions International of America.
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 5:44 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - More than 14,000 migrants have surged the border in Texas over the past week. Many are from Haiti, a country devastated by a massive earthquake and political upheaval. We reached out to a local couple who has dedicated more than a decade of their lives to helping the people of Haiti.

Dr. Jay Nielsen and his wife Jan run a non-profit mission there. The two are just back from their latest trip to the Caribbean country. Jay is a retired family physician. He and Jan began helping the people of Haiti after he went on a mission trip nearly two decades ago.

“I spent 8 days working in a clinic. To this day, it is the worst clinic I have ever been part of in terms of how sick the people were. There were babies dying in the parking lot waiting to see me. It was heart-wrenching.”

Not long after that trip, the Nielsens began building Missions International of America. Among other things, the non-profit operates a school, a free medical clinic, a sewing center and an agricultural training center. Jan says the Haitian people never cease to amaze her.

“They’re hard-working, resilient, and have great attitudes. They cooperate with one another and take care of each other in the face of adversity.”

So as they watch the scene play out in Del Rio, Texas, Jan says they see those traits in action.

“Watching how they have built things out of nothing is remarkable. They are taking reeds, grass, sticks and they are working together to build houses with people they may not know. That is the way so many people in Haiti work. Even if they don’t have much, they are willing to share with others.”

The Nielsens say watching people on horseback try to move the Haitians proved their point.

“They weren’t violent, they moved out of the way, but they didn’t give up. They kept trying to get around the horses. I do want to say that I am not for illegal immigrants, whether they are Haitians or anyone else. However, I do wonder about why we seem to be picking on the Haitians,” says Jan.

The Nielsens say their focus remains steadfast on the people and country they’ve grown to love. They will continue doing all they can to help the Haitians rebuild their homeland.

“I hope they stop coming here. I hope they realize this will not turn out well for them. We want to keep helping them improve their situation in Haiti.”

If you would like to help the work of Missions International of America, click here.

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