Dan Kramer, AS '92, is a man of amazing faith. As a missionary with The Vine, a nondenominational ministry in Haiti, Kramer teaches rooftop and container gardening skills to people eking out a meager existence in a poverty-stricken city. Along the way, he shares his beliefs with those he meets.
How did this history major end up in Haiti? Kramer says it wasn't his plan. It was God's.
As a member of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a worldwide student organization with a UD chapter, he signed up for a two-week mission trip to Trinidad in his senior year. The trip changed his life.
"It was a three-pronged mission trip. We worked at some construction sites, did door-to-door evangelism and-because the schools are required to teach religion-we also went into the schools to teach," he says.
Going door to door in a foreign country does require some bravery, Kramer concedes, but more importantly, "you have to be a committed believer. You have to know what you believe and be able to express it."
Sharing of that faith on the mission trip, he says, is designed not only to reach the resident population but also to increase the faith of the team members who go along.
Before he left for Trinidad, Kramer mailed applications to a number of graduate schools, planning to pursue the love of history he first discovered as a student in the University's Parallel Program.
He found the mission trip so overwhelming, however, that on the plane coming home, he felt as if his world had been turned upside down.
"I said, 'Well, God, I've just sent out these graduate school applications. If that's the path you want me to go and if you provide the money, that's what I'll do. If you can't provide the money, I'll go into missions.'"
The request didn't seem unusual to Kramer. He had offered similar prayers for financial aid all through his undergraduate years. If you ask him how he got through college, he doesn't say "scholarships," he says "prayer."
Kramer was eventually accepted at three graduate schools, but received no offers of financial aid. After more prayer, he decided to pursue his calling to the mission field.
He considered going to seminary, but had doubts. After all, he had only been on a mission trip for two weeks; maybe he needed more experience.
A short-term mission project-one that lasted two years or less-seemed the answer.
As a first step, he enrolled in a six-month leadership development course in Haiti through STEM, an organization that supports short-term evangelical missions. There, he learned how to lead visiting mission teams, like the one that originally brought him to the Caribbean. He also learned how to raise his own support for a job that is totally dependent on "faith funding"- contributions from people and churches back home.
Things worked out so well for Kramer that, at the end of his training, STEM offered him a job. He worked for the organization for five years, leading numerous mission teams on trips in four countries. Participants ranged in age from 12 to 80, and one of those teams was from UD. He eventually ended up directing STEM's Haiti operations.
Eventually, Kramer says, he came to realize that all of his work in Haiti had been with the American mission groups, never really with the Haitian people.
"Because my focus was always on the team members, I had never really learned to love the Haitians," he says. "I remember driving through a marketplace and hearing God say to me, 'If you learn to love the Haitians, you'll learn to love Me.'"
And so, he decided to stay in Haiti and find an organization that would allow him to work with the people. The Vine Ministry Inc. provided him that opportunity.
With some background in gardening, Kramer easily fell into The Vines' small-space gardening program in Port-au-Prince.
In the crowded urban landscape, he teaches people to grow things inside old tires, in milk jugs and on roof tops. His focus is on growing foods rich in nutrients.
"If you'd asked me in college if I ever thought I'd end up being a missionary in Haiti, I would have said, 'yeah, right,'" Kramer says. Now, he says he foresees working in missions for at least the next 10 years and perhaps enrolling in seminary somewhere along the way.
Whatever the future holds, he is confident that he will end up just where he is supposed to be.
"It's the journey. That's much more important than where you're going," he explains.