"There was something about these (Haitian) children that changed my heart," recalls Schut, who lives in Rockford. "I wanted to hug them continually."
These days, Schut's hugs are expressed in a number of ways. She is the founder of the nonprofit ministry Loving Kay Refij (LKR), which in Creole means "house of refuge."
To the glory of God
LKR has a multi-prong mission. It includes coming to the aid of orphans, widows and the community at large in Montrouis, Haiti "with the intention of helping them become more sustainable all to the glory of God," says Schut, "not just helping them physically but helping them as well spiritually."
LKR's Moringa Shop offers "super food" products from Haiti that promotes nutritional health and provides Haitian families with an income. People may purchase on Schut's website 30-day packets, which comes in capsule or powder form, and costs $12. Its health benefits are said to include building a strong immune system and promote heart, brain and liver wellbeing.
Schut's nonprofit is also in the throes of constructing a large store adjacent to the Kay Refij orphanage, which also shares the same name Kay Refij but operates independently of Schut's outreach, with the intent of providing food supplies for smaller stores, restaurants and other orphanages.
Focus on discipleship
Discipleship is taking center stage this year as well.
"My board this year said we've got to do better and we need to focus on discipleship so this year our focus is on discipleship," says Schut, who attends Lake Effect Church in Northwest Grand Rapids. "We've added a new person to our team, a discipleship trainer. He drives to the most dangerous places in Haiti to get training and actually saw someone die in front of him. After three months of training he has come back and is training mangers and security guards and the manger's wife and caregivers at Kay Refij. They will be spending 2 ½ hours in discipleship training to further the kingdom of God."
Schut was drawn to Haitians' plight following a short-term mission trip her carpenter-builder husband, Jim, and daughter made with their church in 2012.
'Calling our family'
"He fell in love with the people there and they fell in love with him," says Schut. "My daughter realized she was going to make it her life's journey to be a missionary. I started thinking God was calling our family to some kind of ministry."
Schut's memories of her first trip to the Caribbean country will forever be etched in her heart and mind, particularly the children at the orphanage she immersed herself in.
"When I was holding them (orphans) I noticed a lot of them had skin problems," recalls Schut. "They all had scabies. I said to myself regardless or not if they had scabies that's not going to stop me from holding them. Holding them brought me great joy and peace and I could tell the kids loved the interaction and to be loved.
Schut pauses, and then adds: "My intention is to support orphans and widows in Haiti with the intention of helping them become more sustainable all to the glory of God. Not just helping them physically but helping them as well spiritually."
Sweet treats also in the mix
"My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents all owned the bakery and it's in my blood I've been doing it pretty much all my life," says Schut. "I use that baking part as part of my ministry as fundraisers like cakes for the holiday. I sell baked goods inside a bakery named Bridge Street Ministries, also an outreach ministry. We split the profits between my ministry and theirs."
Schut's favorite confection is butter cream icing.
"You would think working with something day in day out get I would get tired of it. I don't," affirms Schut. "I think some of it too is almost like a nostalgic feeling when I was a child with my parents' bakery."