The HCDF ministry began with the Thomas family, which has lived in Fond-des-Blancs, Haiti since 1982. Jean was born in Gonaives, a town in central Haiti. His father was a noted Baptist pastor in the area. Jean attended Carver Bible College in Atlanta, Georgia and Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. After seminary he taught at Carver for two years and then worked with John Perkins at Voice of Calvary Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi. This is where his passion for Christian community development began and grew. Joy grew up in Oregon and while in college at George Fox University, she volunteered for a summer at the Voice of Calvary. Eventually, Joy moved to Jackson to work full time with the Voice of Calvary. It was here that Joy and Jean met. They were married in 1981 and have three sons: Lemec (January 26, 1985), Jacques (September 5, 1987), and Josiah (February 21, 1991).
John Perkins developed three guiding principles for Christian community development, which HCDF adopted: Three Rs: Reconciliation, Relocation, and Redistribution. Jean and Joy’s hearts have always been for ministry in Haiti and where they could put these three principles to work. In cooperation with Jean’s brother, Paul, they selected Fond-des-Blancs as the area in Haiti which was best suited for an intensive effort at Christian community development. Contributing factors in the selection of Fond-des-Blancs were the great physical needs of the area combined with the cooperative spirit of the local people (a concept Jean Thomas refers to as “Haiti Freshness” — unspoiled by a dependency concept of living).