By June Mathews
To hear that a suburban couple and their children are moving to a new home isn’t all that unusual.
But to hear they’re moving from the comforts and conveniences of a place like Mountain Brook to a third-world country is altogether different.
Most families would never consider taking such a step, especially when school-age kids are involved. John and Bethany Rooney, however, are committed to going wherever God leads, as are their two youngest children, Anna, 16, and 10-year-old James. And God is leading the Rooneys to Haiti, a poverty-stricken country in the Caribbean.
The family first learned about the overwhelming needs in Haiti through Mountain Brook Community Church, their church home since 2008, and its global missions partner, Vapor Ministries.
“We didn’t have any specific ideas of what volunteer needs might exist at Vapor, but we were very impressed with their simple mission of alleviating poverty and multiplying disciples in third-world environments,” said Bethany. “We have always had a heart for this type of ministry, and we felt called to be a part of what Vapor was doing.”
As they explored the possibilities, the Rooneys discovered that Vapor was in need of someone with a construction background to oversee the building of its new facilities in Haiti and the maintenance of existing facilities. With 30 years in construction and a degree in electrical engineering and computer science to his credit, John easily qualified for the job.
So the church’s mission pastor, Walter Arroyo, put John in touch with Josh Firth, a former member of the church who now serves as Vapor’s vice president of finance. Plans for the Rooneys’ relocation began to take shape.
Once the move is accomplished and John begins his new job, Bethany, Anna and James will begin learning about their new home and becoming accustomed to the Haitian way of life. Other than that, exactly what they’ll be doing remains to be seen.
“Although we don’t have any concrete plans, we anticipate that God will reveal to us where we belong and how we will best be able to serve our new neighbors and the community,” Bethany said.
Originally from Wisconsin, the Rooneys were excited about moving south when they came to Alabama, and now they’re just as excited about moving even farther south. While working with an organization like Vapor has long been something they counted on doing one day, they didn’t anticipate it would happen so soon.
“We still had several things we wanted to accomplish and didn’t expect to get involved until all of our children were grown,” said Bethany. “But when this opportunity presented itself, we both knew immediately that this was God asking us to trust and follow him.”
The Rooneys’ marriage 19 years ago created a blended family with his two children, Joseph and Alexandra, and her son, Jadon Schmidt. Within the next few years, Anna, then James, came along. The three older children, now in their 20s, will remain in the U.S. while the two younger ones accompany their parents to Haiti.
“We’re hopeful that Anna and James will gain a better understanding of what it means to serve others and, specifically, what it means to serve in the community,” their mother said. “Our desire is for them to come to the realization that the young boys and girls there are children of God and very much like them. In time, we hope they will aspire to respond to God’s call and serve independently of the family’s prompting or influence.”
The family has not committed to remaining in Haiti for a specific time frame; they simply plan to stay as long as they feel called to serve.
“We believe that this experience will challenge us each in different ways and make us more reliant on God,” said Bethany. “We are eager for the new learning experiences and friendships that each day will bring, and we anticipate the overall experience will be positive and fruitful for the kingdom of God.”