JOURNEYS

From Song to Action

Singer-songwriter uses voice for children in the poorest areas of the world

Jeremy Willet, front man for band Willet, poses with children in Haiti. With wife Kathleen, the two look after 3,000 orphaned Haitian children and seek to try sponsors for them. With activities of his band and Willet Missions organization, efforts are in place to give poor children a better chance at life. © Willet 2010

The Willet family visits with Genet (in front), an Ethiopian child they chose to sponsor instead of exchanging Christmas gifts for each other. Sponsorship has been close to Jeremy’s heart since visiting Ethiopia and directly seeing the hurt there. © Willet 2010

Kathleen poses with one of the 3,000 Haitian children that she looks after. © Willet 2010

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Prov. 31:8

If God has given me a gift with music and lyrics, then I must use that to be a voice for those that would otherwise go unheard. This is the conclusion I made once I was willing to take the time to get to “know” the poor.

Two years ago, my brothers (Justin and Jordan) and I traveled to Zeway, Ethiopia as a band to learn about that particular poverty-stricken village. This trip was part of a vision trip with Food for the Hungry. Originally, we had no intention to get involved, we just wanted a glimpse of the conditions there; however, after discovering that hundreds of children that were begging us for food on a sidewalk also had to sleep on that same sidewalk, we knew we had to respond. Suddenly, record sales, tours, and “success” as we knew it in the industry didn’t seem so important, not when those children we walked past had nothing. On that trip, we replaced dreams of success as artists with dreams to help thousands of children.

Seeing the poor conditions of the Ethiopian children right before our eyes changed our lives in such a way that we could not stay silent about the poverty we had witnessed. The Bible is full of verses showing that God’s heart is with the poor, the lost and the broken, and if we want to experience the fullness of God, we are to live for those people.

I was so moved at that moment seeing the Ethiopian children, I penned these words (that appear on the album “Virus”) as part of the song “For orphans and the King.” The chorus of the song says: Till the poor will have hope / till the broken find peace And the hurting will know there is help on the way Till the hungry are fed / till the children go free We can’t sleep; we are for orphans and the King

Through our music and concerts and a special partnership with Food for the Hungry, we have been crusading for child sponsorship, which puts children through a special development program and allows sponsor’s to pour love into them through letters and photographs.

In 2009, we had the opportunity to travel back to Ethiopia with a team to see the progress that had been made since all 1000 children from Zeway, Ethiopia were sponsored! My family and I had the privilege of meeting Genet, a girl we decided to sponsor last Christmas, a choice we made instead of exchanging gifts amongst ourselves. Genet is an orphan living with her aunt, and she has great dreams for the future.

Following our work in Zeway, we were asked to help another village called Belo, also in Ethiopia, This was a community of about 500 children. One of the many reasons that we partner with Food for the Hungry is they believe in helping one community at a time through child sponsorship. This allows us to keep our audience engaged in the transformation process of the communities that we work in. God is putting so many different communities on our hearts and equipping us with the ability to help them! In August of 2009, myself and the other members of Willet had the opportunity to travel to Haiti to spend 10 days with a group or orphans there. As in Ethiopia, we honestly had no intention to get involved with Haiti, especially because we had so many commitments in Africa already…. however, God had other plans. Following that trip, I came home and told my wife about the children that I met. We began to pray as a couple, and after a week, it was very clear as to what we needed to do. The next week, my wife quit her job, and in November of 2009, Kathleen accepted a full-time volunteer position in the country of Haiti to care for these children. Both of our lives changed even more, along with hundreds of thousands of others when the tragic 7.0 earthquake hit the country on January 12th, 2010. Kathleen was with the children during the quake while the band and I were on tour in New Zealand. By God’s grace, Kathleen and the orphans survived! After the earthquake, the Lord has moved me to be even closer to the hurt—literally. I now live in Haiti with Kathleen among 3,000 orphaned children, traveling back and forth in between Willet tour dates. Kathleen now serves as the Community Development Facilitator for Food for the Hungry in Haiti. Yet one more community…at the beginning of 2010, right before Haiti, we learned of a place called Gorongosa in Mozambique. This is a place where 25,000 people share one clean-water well! We are flying there as a band in October to learn the needs of the community, and will follow-up that trip with a huge Christmas tour in support of child sponsorship for Gorongosa.

As I continue to fight for the hurting, I think back on the lyrics that were made in Zeway, from the song “And Shout from the Rooftops” off the album “Somewhere In Between.”

When poverty and wealth collide, it hits harder than a plane crash And spreads love to the lost and forgotten places. I found God today; He was right where He said he would be. Here in the brokenness, here in the brokenness.

God is indeed in the brokenness, moving through us to reach those children ---

Jeremy Willet is the lead singer and oldest of three brothers who compose the band Willet and also the co-author for the book, carried. Learn more about Willet and the band’s efforts to help orphan children around the world at www.willetmissions.org/