At the moment much of the sports world – particularly outside of the United States – is focused on the World Cup.
For Ricardo Pierre-Louis, his soccer skills are being put to use in place he knows well which needs all the inspiration it can get: his native Haiti.
Pierre-Louis grew up west of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince which was decimated by the Jan. 12 earthquake. During the quake his parents were in the U.S., but it took weeks before he was able to confirm his three sisters and brother we’re safe despite the widespread damage in their home city of Leogane.
“Most of the city was destroyed, there wasn’t anything left,” Pierre-Louis said in a telephone interview with Everyday Christian. “For some reason the Spirit touched us and nothing happened to our family.”
Pierre-Louis grew up playing soccer in the streets of Leogane until he was discovered around 10 years old and advanced the ranks to Haitian club teams and international competition.
“I went to Catholic school and we were in class from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” he recalled. “We would play soccer after school, study for a little while and then play more. On weekends I would pretty much disappear with my friends and play all the time.”
His play and his faith eventually led him to play soccer at Lee University in Tennessee, from where he was drafted by the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer for whom he played a year and a half. Currently he coaches for an elite soccer club in Cleveland, which is a far cry from the environment he grew up in.
“The club trains high school players and kids of that age who are looking to advance to the top levels of soccer,” he explained.
Along the way, Pierre-Louis has remained steadfast to his Christian upbringing. He is returning to Haiti this weekend to conduct soccer camps in tent cities near Port-au-Prince to inject a dose of normalcy and Bible basics into the lives of aspiring young players like he once was.
He is representing OneHope, a ministry which produces a condensed version of the Bible focusing on Jesus’ ministry to bring the God’s Word to Haitians in French and the native Creole which so often is the conversational language of the country.
“From a faith standpoint, the kids are not educated well enough,” he said. “I didn’t have all the possible information about faith and many other things growing up. That has been one of the great things about being educated and living in the United States. … This is a way for me to give something back to Haiti and to help kids understand that they do not have to live in the dark, that God loves them.”
Pierre-Louis also has his own personal ministry, The Restoration Project, which he operates with his wife Nica. It raises money to put new trees in the hands of Haitian children to plant and slowly rebuild the country’s stripped-bare environment. Most of Haiti has been deforested by centuries of exploitation of natural resources. The ministry puts a Creole Bible in children’s hands as well, with the hopes of teaching them to be faithful stewards of the land.
“This (earthquake) has been very sad,” Pierre-Louis said. “I think what can happen is that Haitians can see things differently and work together to build something better. On the back end of this, there are positives that could happen.”