A Call to Hope: HPU student shares God’s love in Haiti
by Courtney Wilmoth, Howard Payne University junior
Most students at Howard Payne University recognize Clay Tyner as the Baptist Student Ministry worship leader, perhaps the lead singer of Christian band One Less Stone or maybe even “that guy with the dreads.” Tyner’s peers may identify him by one of his many endeavors, but he plays another very important role and one that has become particularly close to his heart – a Hope Ambassador to Haiti for the interdenominational ministry Hope for the Hungry.
Tyner is a senior practical theology major and music performance minor from Lampasas. Through his involvement with the BSM, he travelled with Go Now Missions to Haiti on his first trip. Clay has travelled to Haiti three times in the last 10 months, and after his trip in March he became the first-ever official Hope Ambassador.
With a love for the Haitian people and culture and a fourth trip planned in December, Tyner's involvement in this tragedy-stricken country has become a clear calling on his heart. Haiti is still struggling to rebuild from the January 2010 earthquake that left thousands homeless, and is also working to recover from a cholera outbreak in October of last year.
Tyner’s travels to Haiti have been to the same village each time, the small remote community of Guibert, which is home to one of two orphanages Hope for the Hungry sponsors in Haiti. Although his first trip was primarily spent with his American team renovating a school in a nearby village, Tyner was able to make a promise.
“Before I left, I knew I’d come back as soon as I could,” he says. “I told the boys at the orphanage, ‘I’ll be back.’ I promised them, so then I had to go back.”
Two and a half months later, Tyner was back in Haiti, this time building a mission complex from the ground up.
“They were the most prehistoric construction techniques,” he recalls. “We poured a huge foundation by one five-gallon bucket at a time, and leveled eight feet of ground and rock with just pickaxes and shovels. When we left, we were really proud of where we were with the project.”
“The Dream Trip” is how Tyner refers to his third and most recent trip to Haiti. He and his team held a “God is Love”-themed Vacation Bible School for children in Guibert.
“I really like working and doing the construction, but at the same time this trip was about investing in people’s lives, hanging out with kids every day,” Tyner says.
On the second day of VBS, when talking about all the ways God cares for His children, Tyner asked his class of 40 second-graders a question: “Can you tell me a time when God has taken care of you?”
“Some of them said different stuff,” he remembers, “but there were several who came up and told about God protecting them in the earthquake and protecting their family.”
Tyner says with utmost certainty, “I know that all the children in that class know God loves them now. On the last day I asked them if they are confident that God loves them and if they love God. They were all screaming, ‘Yes!’”
Graduating in December, Tyner credits Howard Payne University with providing him with his initial opportunity to visit and work in Haiti, and also preparing him for mission work.
“My theology and especially my mission classes helped me know how to be culturally sensitive while working in and sharing God’s love in a foreign country,” he says.
As a Hope Ambassador for Hope for the Hungry, Tyner’s job is to raise support for Haiti. Hope for the Hungry is involved in 16 countries around the world and has a non-competitive sponsorship program, in which all the money that is sent to sponsor a child goes into a general fund for all of the kids.
Tyner heads One Less Stone Ministries, which is primarily a music/worship-leading band and has partnered with Hope for the Hungry.
“We want to do more than just play music. That’s something that everybody in the band is really passionate about – doing more and using what we’ve been blessed with.”
In addition to Tyner (guitar and lead vocals), members of One Less Stone include Tony Marquez (bass) from Lampasas; Zach Huckabee (lead guitar and vocals) from Burnet; and Colton Davis (drums) from Marble Falls. More information about the band can be found at onelessstoneministries.com.
Any time One Less Stone leads worship or has a concert, the band offers sponsorship packets for the kids and even some of the teachers in Guibert. Tyner says, “It is an incredible opportunity to set up our merchandise table and our Hope for the Hungry table and have people come look at photos of the boys, because I do know them. I know where the money is going; I can tell you stories about them.”
Tyner also wrote two songs about his time spent in Haiti. “Rebuild” was written after his first visit, and “Berry’s Smile” was written after his second. Both songs will be included on One Less Stone’s next album, but these solo recordings can now be purchased on iTunes.
“My trips have really influenced a lot of the songs that will be on that album even though some of them aren’t expressly about Haiti,” Tyner says.
His travels to Haiti have taught him many things.
“I learned a lot about having faith in God, especially on my first trip,” he says. “This last trip was confirmation that I am supposed to be going to Haiti, and I will continue to travel there every few months.
“I learned that love is the only true agent of change, really the true hope for the world.”
Tyner plays with the Haitian children during the “God is Love”-themed VBS in July.
Tyner organizes the Baptist Student Ministry’s Student-Led Worship.