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Kesny Saint Louis lost all hope when a fire took both of his arms—until he met Jesus Christ
  • Nancy Huffine
  • May 8, 2024

Moody Bible Institute graduate Kesny Saint Louis


In the impoverished village of La Grange, Haiti, survival is a day-to-day struggle.

Rutted, weathered roads make travel difficult. Historically, the village has had few resources and no professional medical facilities. It’s an area that some say has two seasons: drought and rain.

Kesny Saint Louis MA ’14 grew up in La Grange. The sixth of 12 children, Kesny experienced mild seizures in his adolescence. “I didn’t fall down,” he says. “I just sort of looked ‘out of conscious’ or would look like I was sleepwalking.”

In 1999 when Kesny was 14 years old, he experienced a different level of seizure. “I walked to my aunt’s house and went into the kitchen,” he says. “They had been cooking, and there was a wood fire on the floor in the kitchen. I had a seizure there and fell into the fire.”

No one was in the kitchen at the time, but a street vendor who was selling rice walked by the kitchen door and saw him on the floor. She found his aunt, and Kesny was carried to his home nearby.

Life hanging in the balance

Kesny’s family tried to treat Kesny with home remedies, including the use of toothpaste to heal the burns. His father called a witch doctor to speak incantations over him. Kesny’s condition deteriorated. Along with excruciating pain, he remembers feeling that his fingers and hands were beginning to rot away. Infection was raging.

There was no hospital near La Grange that could treat Kesny’s life-threatening burns. “Typically,” Kesny says, “you have to go out of the village, walk miles, and then get a motorcycle to a place where you can get a taxi to get to the city. Or there's a river that runs through the village. You take the river by boat to the sea and then follow the coast.” Three agonizing days after the accident, Kesny and his family began the journey to the hospital in Saint Marc.

“That boat ride is grueling,” says Ann Hume, a missionary to Haiti. “I’ve taken it before. It takes five hours to get to Saint Marc from there.”

Notified by friends about a burned boy in the hospital, Ann would become one of Kesny’s hospital visitors and, eventually, a longtime friend.

‘I wanted to give my life to Christ’

The severity of the burns and the level of infection cost Kesny both of his arms. “I lost hope,” Kesny recalls, “and I didn’t want to live.”

Two Christian men who came to visit him shared the gospel and invited Kesny to trust Jesus for his salvation.

“I wondered what I would do if I didn’t have something to give my life purpose,” Kesny says. “I knew that I wanted to give my life to Christ.”

Ann Hume had been running an orphanage in Haiti for several years. Kesny had spent six months in the hospital when Ann brought him to her orphanage to continue healing. Several more months passed, and Ann obtained permission to bring Kesny to her home in Michigan for therapy and training in life skills. Kesny began trying to write by holding a pencil or pen in his mouth. He also practiced using his feet to feed and bathe himself.

Kesny checks out a village garden behind his house in Haiti.

Garden Walk. Kesny checks out a village garden behind his house in Haiti.

Kesny spoke no English, and Ann spoke only a few words of his Creole-French language. Kesny began trying to read street signs and watch movies to learn a little English. He watched the movie Home Alone over and over and began picking up words and phrases, although he didn’t always understand the words he was learning.

“My first complete sentence in English was, ‘Merry Christmas, you filthy animal, and Happy New Year!’” Kesny laughs. “I would say it to everyone who came to the house. I had no idea what it meant, but it would crack people up all the time.”

‘I wanted to be like D. L. Moody’

During Kesny’s time with Ann in the Haiti orphanage and at her home in the US, she observed not only Kesny’s intense struggles but his strong spirit. “Kesny is so determined,” Ann says. “At one point, he sat in my bathroom just practicing turning the light switch on and off with his face.”

When Kesny’s six-month visa expired, he returned to Haiti to finish his education at a school built by Christian missionaries. His body’s healing process was slow and painful, and he sometimes struggled with dark periods of sadness. Reading stories of Christ followers who struggled with life’s adversities brought Kesny not only inspiration but hope, and he had two favorites: George Müller  and D. L. Moody.

“I wanted to be like D. L. Moody,” Kesny says. “Part of me felt that D. L. Moody was like me. He didn’t really have much education, but he had a fire for God and for preaching the gospel. I thought that my story would give power to my preaching. I used to go up in the mountains every Friday and Saturday (in Haiti), praying that God would bring me to Moody.”

Pursuing a college degree at Moody

In 2010 Kesny’s prayer was answered, and through the generosity of donors he began his studies at Moody’s Chicago campus. His determination was evident.

“My feet are kind of like my hands now,” he says. “At times I would write class notes with my mouth, but other times I would use my computer or my iPad, typing with my feet. Professors would give me extra time to take a quiz, and some would say, ‘I’m amazed by you,’ or ‘I’m glad you’re in my class.’ That was always encouraging.”

One of Kesny’s favorite classes was “College Writing” with Professor Jill White. “She had a method of teaching that I loved so much,” Kesny says. “She would hand [writing assignments] back and say, ‘Go fix it.’ And you would not get a final grade until you fixed it and got it right. I think I have a passion for writing because of her.”

Dr. White loved having Kesny in her class and has fond memories of his work ethic, his gracious spirit, and of something else.

“What I remember most about Kesny during his time at Moody is his smile,” she says. “I truly can’t picture his face without it. His joy and optimism are palpable. Even in the middle of a stressful semester he was unfailingly serene, joyful, kind, and gracious. He brought a real warmth to the classroom.

“He is one of the most diligent and hardworking students I have ever taught at Moody. I have very fond memories of seeing him at his security post in the parking garage, studying from a book balanced on his feet!”

Kesny found encouragement from his fellow Moody students too. “They were really supportive,” he says. “I would go to the cafeteria and sit at the table, eating with my feet. They would sit with me and have no problem with that.

“Moody was the best experience of my whole life. I think it was the place where I felt there is hope, there is love, there is connection, and there is friendship.”

Kesny graduated from Moody in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Pastoral Studies. But neither his education nor his determination stopped there. He went on to obtain a master’s degree in Christian Formation and Theology from Wheaton College in 2016, and he needs 15 more hours to finish his Master of Divinity at Moody Theological Seminary. He’s also considering the option of a dual learning focus that would culminate in a creative writing degree.

Founding a church and ministry

Along the way Kesny founded a children’s ministry and a church in Haiti. “The church is called L'Église de la Grande Grâce de La Grange (Mighty Grace Church of La Grange),” Kesny says. “I have a younger brother who is a pastor in the church, an older brother who is helping, and a sister and another friend working with the youth.”

Kesny speaks to students in his old high school in St. Marc, Haiti.

Testimony Time. Kesny speaks to students in his old high school in St. Marc, Haiti.

The current church building consists partly of sticks, mud, and tin. Its small size cannot accommodate the current congregation. Through Mighty Grace Ministries, Kesny hopes to raise the funds to not only improve the building’s construction but to increase its capacity as well. “It is just not big enough to hold all of the people,” he says.

On a personal level, Kesny is also looking for a job that will allow him to be more self-supportive as he serves the Lord. His good friend Ann Hume has the highest hopes for Kesny, and she believes he could excel in several career paths.

He could be “an assistant pastor in a church or a teacher at a Christian high school or in a Christian college,” Ann says. “Kesny never gives up. He’s strong. He’s determined. He could sit and feel sorry for himself, but he does not. Jesus is his life.”

Kesny currently serves as a preacher in a nursing home ministry and is taking a break from his Moody courses to write his autobiography. His faith and love for writing are evident in his personal newsletter and his occasional blog posts.

In one post, he wrote, “I can go on and on about things I can be thankful for, both the blessings and the disappointments. I learned to find God’s love through it all. ‘For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content’ (Philippians 4:11). Therefore brothers and sisters, thank God in every season, whether it be good or bad. His goodness never fails. He is worthy to be praised.”

About the Author

  • Nancy Huffine

Nancy Huffine is a long-time freelance writer for Moody Bible Institute and Moody Alumni & Friends magazine.