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« Update | Laura Silsby's Very Big Vision for Haitian Orphans | Main | Woman Suicide Bomber Attacks Iraqi Shiite Worshippers »
Thursday
Feb042010

Laura Silsby | The Art of Doing God's Work in Haiti

‘Who is Charisa Coulter?’ I asked myself. ‘Does she run an orphanage in the US? What are her credentials? Who is this church? Does Charisa Coulter travel the world, as a flying-squad Mother Theresa for chidlren in trouble?’

Two Haitian police officers sit next to Charisa Coulter as she rests Monday on a cot at the University of Miami’s field hospital near the Port-au-Prince airport. Coulter, who is diabetic, initially thought her insulin had gone bad in the heat, but now she believes she suffered either severe dehydration or the flu.It’s been well over a decade since I headed north out of Boulder towards Laramie, Wyoming.  Without an iPod, I relied on radio for entertainment and sense of ‘place’, heading out into God’s country.  On that day, I was stunned to see just how much America changes in the course of an hour, based on talk radio.

We think of the bible belt as being in the southern part of America. But I quickly understood that memories of family vacations in Yellowstone Park needed some redefining. The recent death of Matthew Wayne Shepard — tortured to death near Laramie, Wyoming because he was gay — was fresh in my mind. 

Forget my being a New Yorker, parking my winterized, rented SUV in front of a small-town cafe. An hour out of Boulder, I might as well have entered a foreign country.

Reading about kidnapped orphans in Haiti, concerned Christians in jail, and a giant misunderstanding over paperwork, I decided to dig into the subject via Idaho, not Haiti.

Learning about Charisa Coulter, who lives in Boise, Idaho and nowhere in Wyoming, my impressions of that north to Laramie day returned vividly. Especially the AM talk radio stations reminded me that America is a vast, complex country, and its citizens disagree on many subjects.

Charisa Coulter

When Mel Coulter says that his daughter Charisa was in no way kidnapping 33 children out of Haiti, there’s no doubt in my mind that he means it.

“Outrageous,” said Mel Coulter, an Idaho Department of Transportation spokesman who lives in Kuna.

Anyone who knew or saw Charisa Coulter get ready for that trip would know it was a “complete humanitarian effort,” he told the Idaho Statesman. via Idaho Statesman

Charisa Coulter’s journey began a year ago as Charisa, now 24, and Laura Silsby, 40, a Boise woman who also attends Central Valley Baptist, began thinking about ways to help Haitian children, Mel Coulter said.

Coulter works for Silsby as a nanny and shares her vision of creating an orphanage on nine acres in the Dominican Republic, Mel Coulter told the Idaho Statesman.

“We are a family of deep faith,” Charisa’s hometown website Kuna Melba News reports. “We believe that you answer when God calls and that because Charisa was responding to that call, God will take care of her. I am convinced that He will deliver her and turn ashes into jewels.”

Speaking again of his deep faith, Mr. Coulter told the New Statesman, “When you are called by God to do something, you cannot say no if you are truly committed to following him.”

In fact the mission of Charisa Coulter and Laura Silsby’s Central Valley Baptist Church is clearly stated on the church’s landing page: “Connecting people to God and His family so we can grow in our faith and serve others in ministry as God’s kingdom multiples.”

XV. The Christian and the Social Order

All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.

Following their vision and Christian duty, Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter visited Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2009  to firm up details for a Haitian orphanage to be located on nine acres there.

When the Haitian earthquake hit Jan. 12, 2010, their plans went on fast forward, according to her dad.The two women and eight others, set out to do God’s work in Haiti.

Days later, they would be jailed, while authorities tried to sort out whether their flouting civil authority and international laws around trafficking in children was an accident or intentional. (Note to readers: The group of 10 was charged with abduction minutes after this post. Read short post and NYTimes article.)

From my perspective, I believe it’s fair to ask if the Christians were acting on behalf of a higher authority than civil law.

Watching the progression of the health care debate in America, it’s clear that following God’s law is a higher mandate than following the civil laws of national and international law. We heard and reported these words many times in the last few months.

Writer S.E. CuppWe have civil law and God’s law. Anyone who knows America understands that two laws are operating. Just now, Fox News writer S.E. Cupp, author of “Losing Our Religion: the Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity”, reported  about President Obama speaking before the National Prayer Breakfast this morning. Ripping President Obama to shreds and questioning every motive, Ms. Cupp says:

And nothing complements a good populist creed like a few shout-outs to the Almighty. After all, in times of struggle, what do all those common folk in the square states do? They git out thar’ guns and thar’ religion! So after months of virtual silence about the man upstairs, the president’s spin doctors have undoubtedly assured him it’s time to get back on the God bandwagon.

Never mind that the president skipped last year’s National Day of Prayer, covered up religious insignia at Georgetown, canceled the flyover at “God & Country Day,” and gives regular shout-outs to atheists whenever it is, in fact, least appropriate.

Like today. During his speech at the Prayer Breakfast the president was sure to point out – again – that not everyone in America believes in God. He’s right, of course, but wouldn’t you think that at a prayer breakfast, he’d direct his remarks primarily to the population that prays? The humanist salute to solstice does not, in fact, count as a “prayer.”

While today’s speech was perhaps the president’s most muscular discussion of faith to date, it was rife with incongruities and contradictions that reveal just how incomplete his understanding of American faith actually is, regardless of what Ms. Kornblut (Washington Post writer) tells us an unnamed adviser said.

The worst misstep of today’s speech? When the president said that “God’s grace” is expressed “by Americans of every faith, and no faith, uniting around a common purpose, a higher purpose.”

Uh, no it isn’t — unless my definition of atheism is different than his. Most atheists insist that God’s grace most certainly is not expressed through them, and that there are no “higher” purposes. While we may all come together for “a purpose” – like relief work in Haiti, poverty, AIDS, or world hunger – no atheist I know would consider this God’s work.

Is the situation of the Idaho Christians somehow embroiled in this belief system — that as humans we are mandated to follow a higher order, no matter what laws exist in civil society?

Or — is this entire Laura Silsby orphanage idea a scam — better a job in a really bad economy?

Driving into God’s Country in the winter of 1998/99, I smiled over one reality.

Wyoming and New York share a common vision. We have strong convictions about our beliefs and can correctly be called bull-headed. We’re also darn sceptical of institutions and folks telling us what to do, and we don’t shy away from opening our mouths.

Being blessed with a whole lotta street smarts, I set out this morning to learn more about Laura Silsby.

Thank goodness that Ms. Silsby doesn’t live in New York City, because in this town, the New York Post would print a front page headline, saying ‘SCAM ARTIST’. Her geography will hopefully protect her from liberal rage and false accusations.

Thankfully, Laura Silsby is from Wyoming, and she’s carrying out God’s work in Haiti — not trying to save her butt from debtor’s prison, which is how jaded, beyond-salvation New Yorkers could theoretically read the situation.

Making a penny of change from Haitian orphans is the last thing from Laura Silsby’s pure-minded mind. Only liberal degenerates living on the East Coast are guilty of these kinds of travesties against humanity.

Who Is Laura Silsby?

Visions of a young Charisa Coulter working as a nanny for Laura Silsby imply a household of financial substance and typically — although not always — a working mom.

My fingers wandered over to Google, before reading the press. Google searching Laura Silsby before the Haiti earthquake, she is the CEO of PersonalShopper.com and was named the ‘2006 International Businesswoman of the Year’ by eWomenNetwork, the fastest growing network of more than 15,000 women. Impressive.

PersonalShopper.com has been online since 2001 and has an Alexa.com rank of 914,767. The website has a bounce rate of about 50%, meaning that visitors hit a single web page and don’t move to a second. (By contrast, Anne of Carversville’s bounce rate is about 20%, an abnormally low figure reflecting our high-quality content and interested readers.)

Testimonials from Joan Lunden, Dr. Phil, Dr. Gadget on the Tony Danza Show and Delia Passi, CEO MedeliaCommunications appear on the PersonalShopper.com website. Job openings are listed as of 2007, suggesting that the business isn’t current.

My own experience on Laura Silsby’s website searching for 50% off deals, in jewelry brought up this page, When I clicked on the smartbargain.com aquamarine ring, I got the page below. In fact, the same Roll Over Red Rover dog toy comes up on any jewelry visual I choose on this award-winning page.

In New York City, we call this very false advertising. I’m not sure about Idaho.

Did no one check out this woman before buying into her business skills to run an orphanage? How about any experience in social work? A PhD in philanthropy, perhaps? A Board of Directors? Let’s hope she has one with credentials.

 

Based on my own business experience online, I would say that personalshopper.com was/is an affiliate of smartbargains.com, meaning that when the customer buys one of the products from smartbargains.com, Laura Silsby’s company receives a commission %. We have such a relationship with Amazon.com.

Business is full of consultants who incorrectly assess a business situation, and with no inside knowledge of PersonalShopper.com, I can only say that things don’t appear to be going well at Laura’s award-winning business.

For certain, if I want to buy the expensive jewelry advertised, I must settle for a Dog XX plush instead.

In my business exprience, an Alexa.com rank in the 900,000 would prohibit serious revenue from the website PersonalShopper.com. Bottom line, I’m wondering if Laura Silsby has financial problems in this dreadful economy.

Moving to today’s post in the Idaho Statesman, it seems that Laura Silsby is a talented women in the art of self-promotion, based on testimonials on her awards and testimonials. Good for her.

Frankly, I’m both respectful and jealous of anyone who can get Dr. Phil to endorse her website.

Laura Silsby also has a history of flouting the law, if you believe that you’re obligated to follow the laws of civil society — the topic under debate in my head.

When you’re following God’s law, you don’t have anyone breathing down your neck, unless you happen to fall into the company of authorities who believe in enforcing civil laws. 

Today’s Idaho Statesman writes that ‘Laura L. Silsby has a history of failing to pay debts, pay her employees and even failing to follow Idaho laws.’

Laura Silsby’s Finances

Issues reported today by the Idaho Statesman:

Fourteen claims filed against Personal Shopped for nonpayment of wages between Mar 14, 2008-July 21, 2009

Nine liens against Personal Shopper Inc for $21,460 in wages and $6,000 in penalties

Delinquent payments of $22,016.65 to a single Personal Shopper employee Robin Eagle

A claim for Beer & Cain, a Boise law firm, for $4,526.59 inn unpaid legal fees.

On Feb. 12, 2009, Farm Bureau Finance Co. sued for return of a 2008 Yamaha YFM 25 RXL ATV, valued at $2,740, from the home where the New Life Children’s Refuge was based. A default judgment was entered May 7.

Laura Silsby bought a house at 2828 S. Alfani Way in Meridian on Nov. 10, 2008. On Dec. 7, 2009, MetLife Home Loans foreclosed on the $358,500 house, according to the Ada County Recorder’s Office.

Laura Silsby’s marriage to Terry L. Silsby, a real estate agent, ended in divorce in Jan 2007, according to marriage records.

Silsby logged numerous traffic infractions. She was cited four times for failure to provide insurance/failure to register annually (1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001; the latter was dismissed). She was cited four times for speeding or driving too fast for conditions (2000, 2005, 2006 and 2007).

(All legal details via Idaho Statesman: Laura Silsby, a local missionary to Haiti, left trail of financial woes in Idaho.)

In New York City, we would say that Laura Silsby could be broke. West of the Mississippi, Laura Silsby is a good Christian, doing God’s work. Personally, I’m impressed with her moxie but wonder how the heck she thought she would pull off this venture in the name of God.

Paperwork is an unfortunate part of corporate and philanthropy life, even for God’s best workers, ones with hearts of platinum, forget the gold. There’s no doubt in my mind that Silsby has me outdistanced on the road to heaven, by peaks taller than the Rocky Mountains.

Also, God bless Charisa Coulter, who shares Silsby’s vision. I didn’t research her too much, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Coulter. She’s a diabetic and I pray that she has insulin. Her father says they are taking care of her in Haiti.

Let’s just hope this mess all works out well for children, who were destitute and desperate in Haiti, before the earthquake.

I can’t help wondering if Laura Silsby has a Haiti telethon scheduled for later this month.

If it’s alright with readers, I’ll check out this possiblity and give you a head’s up. Forgive me for having my sorry-ass New York woman mind working overtime here, but after all, millions of us care about Laura Silsby’s kids, not only good Christians in Idaho, and that’s no matter what that Fox woman S.E. Cupp writes about us. Anne

Update 2-5-10:

Update | Laura Silsby’s Very Big Vision for Haitian Orphans

More reading: Missionary Case Illuminates Plight of Haiti’s Orphans Wall Street Journal

 

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (10)

Interesting story isn't it ? I'm an Okie by way of Kansas City, but I can tell you there are plenty of us out here in the bible belt who know a scam artist like Silsby when we see/ smell one. She was seeing $$$$ for adoption fees on those chillen.
Saw your comment at the NYT. Thanks
Doug

February 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Hill

I'm dying to know.. is Charisa related to Ann in any way?
Fear not. AM radio in the intermountain West does not represent the views of everyone here. I'm in Montana, and I'd estimated the wacko proportion here are 20 percent of total population and probably double that in Idaho. Maybe fewer now. Silsby's fraud victims have likely left the fold.

February 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJAYoung

I feel bad for the 9 people that went with laura silsby..I believe the 9 people are innocent and Laura Silsby is guilty...They should free the 9 people..Laura got the 9 people into this mess..since it said in the newspaper that laura knew she needed papers, the rest didn't know. If I was one of the 9 people who went with Laura to Haiti not knowing what Laura was up to, I'd be really pissed off at her..if I were them.

February 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranchovy

Thanks for comments. The first connection I Googled was Ann + Charisa Coulter. On the face of it, the search wasn't productive. But I'm also dying to know if there's a connection and am following the search thread. Big media is also on the unseemly side of the story now, so if there is a connection, it will surface.

Agree also about the 9 people, but what astonishes me is that we're talking small town America here. In New York it's easier for snake oil salespeople to drift into the cracks. All Sisby's financial problems had to be known in a small town, if people only asked a few questions.

I, too, feel really bad for the other nine people AND for those poor kids who are taken through yet another trauma.

February 5, 2010 | Registered CommenterAnne

Wow, at first I though this was a joke, but I got more and more depressed the longer I read and realized it was in fact real. The amount of mis-information about Haiti and the role of development (I would start by looking into Westerner paternalism and the "The White Man's Burden" to start) is shocking. Good Intentions are Not Enough is not only a useful and rational website (I would suggest checking it out), but words to live by in the development world.

This rhetoric makes me very, very nervous...

February 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiving on THIS planet

I don't feel sorry for any of these people, what were they thinking? You just don't go into an country, especially one that has just had a major disaster and steal children. They were stealing children. They should throw all of them in jail.

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Myself being a christ calls me to forgive.What ever happened to Forgiveness.Thankyou so much for your article

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

sorry for mistake i am christian

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I don't know if this is a fair analogy, but I kind of think of it this way. Let's rewind back to Hurricane Katrina.

Would it have been okay if foreigners from another country came to New Orleans and relocated needy children to Canada or Mexico without the consent of anyone or without bothering to find their parents?

What it have made it any better if these foreigners were relocating kids from a devistated New Orleans for religious purposes?

What if we found out that the kids were told by the foreigners that they were going on a holiday in this other country to get away from all the turmoil and devistation?

This is what happened in Hati. The Baptist Group were the foreigners in this case.

Supposedly the Baptist group's leader Laura Silsby was going to stick these kids in a hotel for six months at a rate of $7000/month while she raised the money to build them a Christian orphanage.

From what I understand they literally rounded up 33 kids off the street when the Haitian orphanages turned them away. There's more to the story, but I don't believe these folks were "ignorant" of what they were doing.

Either way I find it ironic that the Christian Right is asking the supposed devil-in-the-flesh Obama for a "bail out" via big government intervention because of a situation they brought on themselves. On top of that, this group's church is accepting hand-outs to pay for legal fees. Who's acting like dirty socialist liberal now?

February 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Would it not be Interesting to find how many who are pointing fingers have: traffic tickets, unpaid debts, and of course, no one in this economy is having business trouble. Or - let's see how many have had a divorce?

Wouldn't it be interesting to read the 'real' news - that which tells actually unbiased stories with all sides of the truth, not just that which sells papers?

Wouldn't it be interesting to know who and how many chartered flights whisked children away both before and after this highly publicized event. We're told thousands - but do you really think those kids who's been allowed out had passports? I doubt it. Do you think any of these other kids who have 'disappeared' were bought and paid for? Likely many.

Sad the paperwork was not in order, sad that the part about the school has been largely ignored and somehow the possibility of making thousands of dollars off these orphans has been fantasized about. You people are gullible.

Explain to me how a supposedly broke woman, using what resources were available to her, attempting to assist kids in need, should be criticized when there's no way we have the whole story.

I feel sorry for those who are throwing stones at someone who can't defend herself. Pretty easy to make a judgement about someone you know little to nothing about when you sit in your warm home, on your computer or playing your video games. Yea, that's right - let someone else take a chance to do something good. That would be too hard for us. After all - the nice hotels aren't available in Haiti right now. We'll just send money. Did you?

If you're quoting papers - don't forget they write stories to get people riled up so you'll BUY their papers and subscriptions. The stories are not to 'inform' you - they are bilking you of your money. Hum....I don't remember Laura Silsby asking us for money?

Come on - where is the REST of the story? What IF - they were trying to help? and the 'advice' they were given was 'post arrest' to make the stories better? What IF - the stories are not 100% true?

Let's jump on the wagon and start the witch trials all over again! Let's just burn them at the stake - be careful what you wish for and for heavens sake..... DON'T make a public mistake!

February 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterValentine

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