Clarke and a team of four others will be visiting Haiti Jan. 4-11, to work with two orphanages. They will be building bunk beds, tables and benches for the dining area, painting rooms and playing with children, as well as working with the Haitian Health Foundation, constructing water filters to install in the remote mountain villages.
For Clarke, this will be his fourth trip to Haiti in the past 18 months. Other than Haiti, he has also traveled to Israel, South Africa and Kenya.
"I've always loved to travel and experience how God transcends culture," Clarke said. "It's a pretty amazing thing to experience that common thread of Jesus' love no matter what country you find yourself in."
Clarke had no intention of getting involved in Haiti when his church was looking and praying for an opportunity to provide clean drinking water to somewhere in the world. Gene and Shelba Pollic of Men for Missions International came to speak to the church about their work in a Haitian orphanage.
"As he was setting up his display, I noticed a small plastic container that looked like some sort of water filter," Clarke said. "As it turns out, he was involved in making low-cost water purification systems in Haiti. We had the answer to our prayer."
After that night, Clarke and two others knew they were supposed to go to Haiti. In June of 2010, they went for 14 days, doing various maintenance jobs at the orphanage, learning the water filter construction process and building relationships while playing with the children.
In January, the Pollics spoke at the church again, telling the members about their most recent trip and describing a severely under-resourced orphanage.
"There were 60 kids sleeping on bare concrete floors in a rented building that wasn't big enough for half that number," Clarke said. "They were fortunate to get one meal a day of rice and beans."
The Pollics had been praying for someone to "step up and sponsor" the orphanage.
"As I looked around the room that night, I knew that God was calling us -- our little house church of about 15 families -- to be those people," Clarke said.
In March, a group visited the orphanage and assessed the need.
"What we found was beyond description," Clarke said. "Our hearts broke as we saw sickness, signs of malnourishment, lack of sanitation and a general feeling of hopelessness. My first thought was, 'This is too big ... where do we start?'"
That's when the idea for a non-profit organization came to be. Restoration Alliance's goal is to build alliances with people in individual spheres of influence to provide the necessary resources to feed, educate, clothe and provide hope for children.
"We are still in the organizational stages as we continue to learn the needs of the orphanage and build an infrastructure of relationships that will help us accomplish our goals," Clarke said.
For now, Clarke's church, River Redemptive Community, has been providing the funds for the orphanage. Once Restoration Alliance is fully running, Clarke said they would schedule speaking dates to area churches, schools and civic groups to raise awareness and resources for the children.
River Redemptive Community began in 2008 when a group of friends came together out of a "traditional" church setting and started meeting in their homes.
"Since we don't have a building -- and have no plans to pursue a building -- we have the freedom to use our resources for projects like this," Clarke said. "It has always been our philosophy, as a community, to help people go where God is calling them. In addition to the financial support for the orphanages, we've also paid the way for several people to go to Haiti who wouldn't have the funds to go otherwise."
Clarke's church isn't the only organization showing support toward the upcoming trip. Dr. Gary Staade, Brazil, donated 150 toothbrushes to give to the children. Northview High School Family and Consumer Science classes are sending articles of clothing that were made during the classes. Clarke said there are others who have donated money to buy various toys and candy for the children.
"Most everything the orphanage needs is available in Haiti," he said. "They just don't have the funds to buy anything. Buying local gives the kids what they need, plus it supports the local economy."
Clarke explained he didn't have any plans to go to Haiti, and it wasn't until the second week of his first trip that he thought he would ever go back.
"I was in the middle of preaching in a church in Jeremie when I felt like my heart burst open with love toward these people," he said. "I can't explain it other than to say I felt at home there, and I felt an intense love for the people as well as an intense desire to come alongside them in their struggle."
Clarke has been on a total of three trips, with the one in January being his fourth.
"I've seen trust grow and we've been accepted as a part of their family," Clarke said. "It all starts, though, with building trust and building relationships. It doesn't take money to love these kids."
The trips are not limited to people from Clarke's church.
"I'm always looking for more people interested in going on a short-term trip," he said. "I love introducing them to these beautiful people. If anyone is interested in going in the future, I would be happy to talk to them."
For more information on how to support Restoration Alliance or how to go on a trip to Haiti, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.