Jean Caceres-Gonzalez said she received a “calling” from God in the late 1980s to open a home for children who needed one in the United States, but she was unconvinced that she was the one to fulfill the request. So she asked God to make it crystal clear.
After becoming “lost” on a road trip from New York to Miami with her sister and a few friends, the wife and mother of three said the group realized that they were never actually off course, but were led directly to the confirmation that she’d requested.
“His House” had become a part of the women’s vocabulary while they were on the trip, after Caceres-Gonzalez shared her vision with the group in New York. They’d even window-shopped for furnishings and toys for the home that, at the time, only existed in her mind.
“Everything we saw was ‘His House’ this, and ‘His House’ that, talking about it as if it existed,” Caceres-Gonzalez said.
The trip passengers, who had fallen asleep, were awakened by Caceres-Gonzalez’s sister, who was driving. Just ahead of them, in huge gold letters on a burgundy colored, non-descript building in Columbia, South Carolina, were the words “His House; a Christian Ministry.”
The women got out of the car and took the picture that is now framed and hanging in Caceres-Gonzalez’s office.
The message from above, she said, was crystal clear.
During an interview this week with the South Florida Times in her modest office adorned with soothing art, Caceres-Gonzalez, founder and executive director of His House Children’s Home, explained the journey that resulted in her opening the non-profit agency.
Founded in 1989, His House provides residential care for abused and neglected children, according to its website. The goal is to restore the emotional and physical well being of children through an array of services in a loving and nurturing environment.
Today, as many as 140 employees and over 50 children live on the sprawling Miami Gardens campus, where Caceres-Gonzalez, 48, and her family also reside.
Among the His House residents is Baby Jenny, who was separated from her mother in Haiti after a magnitude-7 earthquake struck the island nation on Jan. 12.
Several days after the earthquake, Jenny was pulled from the debris and taken to the United States for treatment of head and arm injuries and a collapsed chest.
The parents learned their baby had been rescued, and began searching for her. A DNA test proved their parenthood, and they have since been reunited at His House.
Nadine Devilme mourned for the daughter that she presumed was dead, not realizing that Jenny had been rescued and whisked off to the U.S. for treatment.
Devilme said that as soon as she learned that a bubbly, brown-eyed baby had survived the earthquake, she knew Jenny was hers.
Jenny and her parents, Junior Alexis, 24, and Devilme, 23, have been living at His House since their April 5 arrival to claim their daughter, who receives physical therapy twice a week as she recovers from her injuries.
The couple told the South Florida Times through an interpreter that they are extremely grateful for the support and care that they have received since arriving in the United States.
Devilme singled out (as Alexis nodded in agreement) Caceres-Gonzalez and a few others when she spoke about the reception and hospitality that they have experienced at His House.
“They’ve done so much for us,” Devilme said, who held Jenny throughout the interview as Alexis sat close by.
When asked whether the baby needed time to warm up to her parents after being separated from them for three months, Alexis laughed.
“The baby recognized us immediately,” Devilme said.
“I picked her up and she didn’t want to go to anyone else,” Alexis added.
The family has been granted humanitarian visas and, thanks to the International Rescue Committee, will be moving into a furnished apartment on Friday, April 30.
To Caceres-Gonzalez, the fact that His House would become a part of one of the most heartwarming stories to come out of Haiti since the earthquake seems, well, divine.
His House is licensed by the state, and contracts with Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc. to act as a child placement agency, and to provide residential services.
His House was also selected by the federal government as one of several organizations to help expedite the adoptions of over 400 Haitian children that were initiated prior to – but were stalled by – the earthquake.
His House church liaison Hugo Carballosa offered his perspective: “One of the observations that I saw from the parents that came for their adoptive children …was their faces, the glow, the laughter from seeing their children in a place where they were cared for, where they were treated with love.”
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Jean Caceres-Gonzalez