May 8, 2013 // Local

Mission work impacts life of Bishop Dwenger student

Jake Malmstrom makes friends with a young Haitian at the Mission of Hope Haiti.

Jake Malmstrom plans summer internship back to Haiti

By Tim Johnson

FORT WAYNE — On the surface, Jake Malmstrom is a typical teen. A senior at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne and a parishioner of St. Charles Parish, Malmstrom enjoys track, cross-country, sings in choir, is enrolled in National Honor Society and cherishes time with his friends. But Malmstrom has a story to share with his fellow classmates at Bishop Dwenger, one that touches the heart of this young man who has served as a missionary in Haiti.

For one year in 2011, the Malmstrom family, Jake with his dad Rick, a paramedic, and mom Liz, a nurse, and brother Zach, now a freshman at Bishop Dwenger, relocated to Mission of Hope Haiti to assist the people there after a devastating earthquake in January of 2010 dislocated so many in this impoverished Caribbean nation.

And soon after graduating from Bishop Dwenger in just a few weeks, Jake Malmstrom will return to Haiti to serve an internship this summer at the Mission of Hope. And he is seeking funds to pay expenses for the internship.

Mission of Hope has long-term staff and short-term mission trips that come from the U.S. and Canada and serve in outreach, construction and smaller short-term tasks.

“As an intern, my job will be as a liaison between the short-term missionaries and the mission,” Malmstrom noted. “I would escort them into villages, and just really be their leader — brief them, debrief them, make sure their trip is smooth.”

Those wishing to financially assist Malmstrom may send a check directly to him or they can go online to the mission website,, click the “donate now” tab and then when filling out the donation form type “Jake Malmstrom, intern 2013” in the “comments” section.

Jake Malmstrom assists in building houses in the Haitian community of Laveque. The goal was to build 500 concrete homes. Malmstrom helped paint, hang doors and check the locks on doorknobs in the community.

Malmstrom describes Haiti as a country that “really grabs at your heart.”

“The people (of Haiti) are so great, but they are given so little,” he noted.

While the Malmstrom family lived at Mission of Hope Haiti, “we were staff on that mission,” Malmstrom said.

For his studies, “I personally took classes online through Indiana University,” said Malmstrom, who was in Haiti part of his sophomore and junior years. “All the credits I took online transferred to Dwenger credits, so I am still on track to graduate the same as before.”

Malmstrom’s brother, Zach was instructed by an American teacher.

Malmstrom will leave May 29, the Wednesday after his May 24 graduation from Bishop Dwenger and will be in Haiti through Aug. 3. A week later, he will begin his studies in mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

The mission year impacted Malmstrom significantly. “I would love to return to Haiti for the rest of my life,” he told Today’s Catholic. “The atmosphere, the entire society is very different from the U.S.”

The Malmstrom family likes to share that when people comment the family was doing a great thing by helping the Haitian people, “in reality, they are helping us more than we’re helping them,” noted Malmstrom.

“We’re providing them with what they need: education, food, water,” he said of the mission work. “But in going there you get such a view of the world that you would never understand in America. We are very, very privileged here in America.”

“The most important thing we take for granted here is not the food and water,” Malmstrom said, “it’s the education.” He said when the Haitians get education, it is their dream to move to the U.S. or to Port-A-Prince.

Malmstrom helped his parents at the clinic with medical-emergency type situations. He also spent a lot of time in various villages of the area “just getting to know the people.”

At 6 feet, 3 inches, with light hair and skin, Malmstrom did stick out a bit in the Haitian culture. The energetic Haitian children wanted to run to Malmstrom, climb all over him, grab his hand and “drag him all over the place.” “They’re not all that shy,” quipped Malmstrom.

Malmstrom said he felt it was important to make relationships with the Haitians, and to let the Haitians know that people are there to care for them. “When you make those relationships, you make friendships,” he said. “Not only do you make a drastic relationship in their lives, but they make a drastic relationship in your life as well.”

Jake Malmstrom, left, applauds with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at an assembly at Bishop Dwenger High School in April that explored the work of Catholic Relief Services throughout the world. Malmstrom, in a talk with students, shared his mission work experience in Haiti.

Malmstrom, immersed into the Haitian culture, learned Haitian Creole very quickly — within three to four months of living there. The language, he said, is a blend of French with the native languages of the island. Malmstrom, a Latin student of four years in high school, felt Latin provided a good base. Learning Creole was back-and-forth. The Haitians wanted to learn some English and Malmstrom wanted to learn some Creole.

“They don’t expect any white person to speak Creole,” Malmstrom said. “When you can actually speak the language they become very excited because you obviously care and you spent time there, you know the culture, you know the people and they love to see that.”

The biggest project that Malmstrom worked on was called the MOH500. Mission of Hope sponsors a refugee village called Laveque and has a goal of building 500 concrete homes, which are about half the size of a Bishop Dwenger classroom. The mission built a church and a community well for clean water. Each house, he said, has an outside lavatory and shower, a garden and a banana tree. Malmstrom’s tasks were to paint the houses and check doorknobs to ensure the keys worked.

Malmstrom calls the people of Haiti very loving and “it’s not as dangerous as many people make it out to be,” he noted. But he also cautioned some commonsense when visiting.

The people, although they have so little, “are so open and faithful about their faith,” noted Malmstrom. He noted how the Haitians love to sing at their church services. “There is so much energy and so much excitement. And people want to come to church. They don’t go because they have to go every Sunday,” he said. “People want to be there. People want to express their love for God. It is truly amazing to see faith that great when they are given so little. It’s an eye opener.”

Since the family’s return to Fort Wayne and their home parish in December of 2011, Malmstrom and his brother have not returned to Haiti, but their parents have.

Malmstrom’s words of wisdom are “feel blessed with what you have.”

“If you ever have the chance to do a mission trip anywhere, it doesn’t have to be Haiti. If you have that chance, take it. It will change your life. I guarantee it,” Malmstrom offered.


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