Abandoned at birth, Joel was adopted and grew up fishing, hunting, and enjoying beautiful Canandaigua Lake.
At age thirteen, his parents accepted a job managing a hotel away from the Lake, Joel loved. They left the boy in an empty house, next door to his grandmother to finish eighth grade.
By the time he was sixteen, Joel’s anger led him to drugs and burglaries that brought NYS Troopers to question him. The officers warned Joel “Not to leave town”. Clearly arrest was soon to follow, so Joel ran away from home hitchhiking south.
On his first night in Erie, Pennsylvania, Joel saw addicts shooting drugs and the near death beating of a black man. Evil and fear stalked him and before midnight his shoes and clothes were stolen. Barefoot and penniless he wondered, “Is this life in the world?”
Erie loomed darker when Joel accepted LSD; by sunrise, the 16 year old runaway sheltered from rain beneath a bush on the riverbank. Joel considered ending his fears in the river; but reasoned he was too strong a swimmer to drown and the cold river would only magnify his pain. Instead he returned to hitchhiking.
This time he thought he was going west to Colorado, but was really on I-75 North. Still hallucinating from LSD, barefoot in the rain, matted long hair, amazingly a small red Volkswagen beetle pulled over for him.
Inside the VW, John, Susie, and Carol had the three biggest smiles Joel had ever seen. The torrential downpour forced John to park on the shoulder and turn on the emergency light. Joel’s hallucinations intensified as emergency flasher bathed the car’s interior in red lights.
Susie looked at Joel and proclaimed that God told them to pick him up, and that Jesus loved Him and wanted to come into His life.
John asked Joel, “Would you like us to pray with you for Jesus to come into your life?”
Joel told his rescuers he was high and that might be a problem. They answered together, “Jesus loves you just the way you are, right now, right here.” Next the Jesus freaks led Joel in a repentance prayer to receive Jesus into His life.
Lost Joel felt God’s presence for the first time and miraculously LSD disappeared from his body. When Joel opened his eyes from praying, the emergency light beamed normal rather than distorted images that had minutes before been so distracting.
Joel asked, “What just happened to me?
Susie said, “This is the beginning of a new life; you have been born again!”
“Now what? Where do I go? What do I do?”
Susie answered, “You can live with us in our house in Detroit and begin your life in Christ with us!”
Minutes later the VW bug turned into a diner where Susie, John, and Carol passed out tracts and told people that Jesus loved them. Joel joined in proclaiming that Jesus is real!
Joel lived in a Christian commune with his friends and other “new” Christians. It was the 1971; the “Jesus Revolution” a sovereign outpouring was sweeping across America transforming young lives from Bill Bright’s Campus Crusade for Christ in California to David Wilkerson’s Teen Challenge in New York. The second morning of Joel’s new life in Christ, he opened a Bible and read in John the description of his salvation.
Joel’s commune friends invited him to an Alice Cooper concert at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Joel refused, until it was explained “We are going to tell people about Jesus!” Four days old in the Lord, 16 year old, long hair Joel was standing on a garbage can preaching to other young people.
At the “Lost Coin” prayer room that following week, Joel sang, “I have that joy joy joy down in my heart”, and “we are one in the Spirit”. When everyone else left the prayer room, Joel lay prostate asking for all God had for him. He says God turbo charged his faith and his prayer life.
When Joel accompanied his Christian friends to West Virginia to be baptized, he decided to turn himself in and share his faith with his family. While hitchhiking to NY through Ohio, a Ravenna Ohio Police officer picked up the long hair hitchhiker. When he ran Joel’s name, the Thirteen States All Points Wanted Bulletin came up and born again Joel was extradited to New York.
Joel spent the next eighteen months in NY jail and detention program where he got his GED and was released. When he witnessed to his probation officer, he granted now 18 year old Joel’s request to go to Florida for work. Upon arriving in Ft. Lauderdale, Joel moved into a bible school street ministry where he studied the word and learned ministry for the next two years.
One Friday night after a ministry service, Joel prayed, “Lord, what do you want of me? Anything You ask I will obey”.
Moments later, Joel heard God ask for his motorcycle. The next morning, the twenty year old’s 1972 Yamaha RD 350 was for sale and sold the same day. Joel presented the $350.00 for the bike’s sale to the Bible school director as an offering.
The director smiled and said two missionaries just prayed for $350.00 to fly to Haiti and Santo Domingo. Thrilled that God used him to answer someone’s prayer, Joel turned to leave when the bible school director said, “Joel, maybe someday you’ll get to go to Haiti.”
On September 12 1975 sent to fix a mission motorcycle and help with a crusade, 20 year old Joel went to Haiti for the first time. One night while giving his salvation testimony through an interpreter God spoke to him, “The same way I changed your life I will change Haitian lives if you allow me to use you.”
This month September 2023 marks 48 years of Joel’s ministry to Christ in Haiti. In these almost five decades, Joel has given himself to prayer and the ministry of the word according to Acts 6:4.
Joel spent his first years in Haiti living in shacks and mud huts; there he learned Haitian culture and fluent Creole. He also contracted near fatal typhoid and hepatitis which God healed.
In 1977, Joel married Yvonne who always wanted to be a missionary and brought her to Haiti; they lived in a concrete house without running water, a kitchen or a car for five years. Two of their four children were born there. Joel ministered in local churches, outdoor meetings and daily on the radio.
By 1981, Joel and Yvonne together founded a mega church, The Center of Faith where services seven nights a week for seven years drew over 5,000 Haitians a night until Duvalier’s fall brought violence and the church closed.
Joel returned to outdoor evangelistic crusades and continued daily radio ministry developing followers that recognized his voice and called for prayer nightly. In 2005, Joel felt the Lord wanted him to expand his media pulpit to a 30 minute Creole TV show shot on location. Joel and Yvonne began filming La Bonne Nouvelle, The Good News; and TV stations in Haiti and throughout the US began airing it. The response has been overwhelming.
In 2011 after a 7.0 quake destroyed much of Port au Prince and death toll soared, Joel hosted an evangelistic crusade that brought 100,000 Haitians to worship near the collapses National Palace.
La Bonne Nouvelle is aired free of charge and commercial free on television stations from Montreal to Martinique, and on national television in Haiti. The show is Joel and Yvonne’s pulpit to win Haitian souls with the good news of what God is doing in Haiti through His church, the government and relief organizations. Joel and Yvonne visit a different village in each episode and the shows are named for the village. Millions of Haitians tune in to see the country’s beauty and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Creole language instructors for the US DOS even use the show to train foreign service candidates for Haiti. In Haiti and US Haitian viewing markets, Joel and Yvonne have 75% facial recognition and in 2016 a La Bonne Nouvelle featuring a young entrepreneur got him elected as Haitian president!
Today as Port au Prince’s destabilization threatens citizens and a UN peacekeeping force is debated by UN Security Council, Joel and Yvonne continue to produce The Good News and Haitians in Haiti and around the world tune in to repent and worship God!
From his humble beginnings in a small NY town to a national celebrity in the world’s first black republic and poor nations, Joel never forgets that his repentance and obedience glorify God and bring all His promises to pass. Today 47 years later, Joel prays the same way he prayed in Detroit when he asked God for all that He had for him; and the same way he prayed in the Ft. Lauderdale street ministry” I’ll do anything You ask of me.”
Each time God faithfully responds, and leads Joel to allow God to use him to change Haitian lives as miraculously as God changed his life.
“There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.”