Elsie Lherisson had a good life. She lived in a fancy apartment in New York City, she was a jet-setter, and she was always out at cafes and theatres with her friends. Yet, she admits, she wasn't happy.
Now Elsie lives in the slums of Haiti, loving and caring for the poorest of the poor and yet she is filled with joy and peace.
Elsie was born in Haiti and attended a private, religious school growing up. "I was taught about God but I got the wrong feel of God from all these teachings," she says. "I never saw Him as a loving Father when I was a child. I was afraid of God. I was afraid to approach Him because I felt like He was a judge, always ready to punish me for the least little mistake."
After her high school graduation, Elsie moved to New York. There, she attended Banking and Finance School. "New York was fascinating to me – all those skyscrapers," she laughs.
Yet, even though she was on the fast track living a dream life, Elsie shares: "Inside I was so empty, so miserable."
Elsie longed to know God and she had many questions for Him such as: "Where are You? Are You real? Why is it that I don't know who You are?"
One day, she felt prompted to read her Bible. "The presence of God just consumed me. I said, 'God, I have sinned against you, what must I do?' As I closed my eyes and opened my arms, the words of the Sinner's Prayer [a prayer asking God for forgiveness and expressing allegiance to Him], which I have never heard, came from my mouth.
"After the prayer, I felt awesome, I felt new, I felt ten thousand feet tall, I felt clean! 'God,' I said. 'Something happened to me. What is it?' He put a name on my heart and said, 'Call that person.'"
So Elsie called up a friend and asked if she could go to church with her.
Elsie had never been to a church like her friend's before. "It was just incredible. First of all, I've never been in such a church setting with such diverse kinds of people – people of all colours, of all races. The sound of worship and praise – the vibrancy ... I felt like I was in heaven. I knew that was the place for me to be. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was in that place and I wanted to be where God was."
Later, Elsie felt that God was calling her to move away from New York. "But I resisted that call," she recalls, "I was very shy. I didn't feel qualified and I felt so insecure in a new environment. I love New York!
"So I said to God, 'If you show me where, I will say yes.'"
Elsie felt Jesus was calling her back to her homeland.
Today, she has been in Haiti for over twenty years, ministering to children and youth.
"I work with the very poor, the poorest of the poor," she tells. "These children, they live in very shoddy towns, they live in one home made of mud and sticks and oftentimes one little bed. They have a hard life. Many of them don't get to attend school. I feed them a good balanced meal twice a week and I provide medical assistance for them. I sponsor them in school, which is a tremendous help for them and their families, otherwise they would never go to school."
Elsie is very passionate about the work that she does but knows that she would never have started it had it not been for the gentle prompting of God. "I can see that if I had not said yes to God I would not have experienced the blessing of being part of their lives, touching the children's lives and making a difference.
"Now I can say that nothing can compare," she smiles. "It is indescribable – the joy that God gives. To know that we can make such a difference in someone's life. God has helped me do some amazing things that I never thought were possible and it all started the day I said, 'Yes, Lord.'"•