There is a plumeria tree planted at the LiveBeyond base in Thomazeau, Haiti. Many of the trees planted on our base have been dedicated in the name of a friend or family member of someone who is connected to our ministry – but this one is a little different, a little more special.
This tree was dedicated in honor of Roberta Edwards, the administrator of Sonlight Children’s Home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who was killed in Haiti in October 2015. As we celebrated World Humanitarian Day on Aug. 19, I wanted to take this occasion to remind everyone of her story. World Humanitarian Day is a day dedicated to recognize humanitarian personnel and those who have lost their lives working for humanitarian causes. Roberta dedicated her life to provide for the needs of children in Haiti. This Humanitarian Day, I honor her memory.
A dedicated humanitarian
Roberta was a dear friend, a fellow missionary and a dedicated humanitarian. Through the Sonlight Children’s Home, she cared for 20 orphaned or unwanted children in her own home. These children were not just children she cared for. She adopted each of these children into her family. She also directed a nutrition center that fed 160 children twice a day, each day of the week. Roberta was also involved in multiple development projects in Haiti, including programs under the U.S sponsored-Healing Hands organization.
Roberta was born in Hawaii when her father was stationed there for military duty. Her family later moved to North Carolina, where she attended Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College. She served as student government president and homecoming queen, graduating in 1982. She moved from North Carolina to Haiti in 1995 and had been there ever since. She was a missionary from Estes Church of Christ in Henderson, Tennessee, which had overseen her work since 2002.
On Oct. 10, 2015, Roberta was returning from a trip to the nearby gas station when her car was blocked in at the Croix-des-Bouquets district. Two gunmen opened fire on the car and killed her. The two teenage boys traveling with her were able to escape and run for help, while 4-year old Jonathan “Jojo” Paul was abducted and wasn’t recovered until early November 2015. The senior pastor at Estes Church of Christ, Dr. Jesse Robertson, expressed shock at what happened, saying her death is a great loss to their organization. “Roberta was remarkable. She had an unwavering love of God, her children and the people of Haiti,” he said. “We are absolutely devastated by her loss.”
Plumeria tree blooms in her memory
We at LiveBeyond were also devastated when we got news of Roberta’s death and knew that we must do something to honor her legacy. We knew that plumeria trees were one of her favorites, as she had a huge one growing in her compound in Port-au-Prince, so it was an easy decision to plant a special plumeria tree in her memory at our own compound.
I cannot say that I knew Roberta well, but I was privileged to visit her home just a few months before she died. I got to meet her family and see the impact she made on her community. She was a true servant of the King of Kings, and the light of Jesus in her reflected on all of those around her. We will never forget her sacrifice and commitment to the children of Haiti, and I think of her every time I see a plumeria tree. May we all serve with Roberta’s same humanitarian mindset wherever we work in the world today.
Devin Vanderpool is the director of communications for LiveBeyond, a nonprofit humanitarian organization founded by David and Laurie Vanderpool in 2005 dedicated to providing sustainable solutions for poverty in Thomazeau, Haiti.
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