I just got back from Haiti. It was a short mission’s trip to do some destruction on some of our fallen buildings, as well as some construction work on new buildings. I got to work on one of the construction teams – what a joy! Haiti is a very incredible place. It’s hard to believe a place so close to the US could be so different! I found it crowded, dirty, noisy, chaotic, but the people were kind and gracious and generous and loving. Especially the members of our church down there.
Cheryl and I joined a small Free Methodist church some years back you may know, and we have quite a church going on in Haiti. There are about 35,000 members in the Free Methodist church in Haiti, with many schools down there that have children sponsored by families in the US. In total, we have about 8,900 kids in schools (almost all at churches) down there who are sponsored. Some perished in the quake, some of our missionaries perished in the quake as well.
The church I worked on was in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Port Au Prince. It’s all old sugar cane plantations around there, long disused (over 200 years!). It’s mostly swampland during the wet season, and permanent swamps less than a mile down the road. The trucks never stopped rumbling by carrying load after load of rubble, dumping it into the malaria infested swamps where the children play. Across the road from our church, the UN was putting up a camp for about 6,000 folks. They never stopped bringing in load after load of fill material, filling, grading, rolling, then filling, grading and rolling some more… We built a house with 6 apts for 27-30 people during that time, and we put a roof on the church, part of the church was damaged in the quake, so the church was expanded – partly to deal with the new influx of folks expected with the new UN camp! And we also helped with the new school building, the old building having been too severely damaged by the quake, it was still occupied but in need of being torn down.
It was quite an experience. Our big church down there, next door to our headquarters building, was not damaged at all. The building next door – a trade school, with about 500 people in it at the time of the quake, was completely destroyed, all 500 or more perishing in the quake. There were still around 200 bodies in the rubble, they had not gotten to the bottom of that yet. Our main headquarters building (Friends Of Haiti Organization or FOHO) also collapsed killing 6 (3 missionaries, 3 natives). The guest house and apartments next door were undamaged though. The quake damage seemed so random, it’s hard to try to wrap your brain around it, how some survived and some didn’t.
This is actually the first time I’ve tried to write it down. I wrote a status update to Cheryl and my sister a week ago or so, but I didn’t have really any coherent thoughts about it – we were so tired from working so hard in the heat and the humidity. We slept in tents on the roof of the guesthouse. Some slept inside the building, including the women who went with us. We all worked hard for 8 working days, and we got a lot accomplished, but there’s much to do still. We’ve had teams there continuously since the quake, drilling wells, cleaning up, doing medical relief, delivering food, anything that needs doing, folks have been pitching in and doing it pretty much.
One other fellow from CO went with me, the others were from all over, mainly Michigan, as the team leader was from Spring Arbor FM Church, and he had a couple of folks with him from that church. I was totally blessed by folks at my church, we raised every penny that I spent on the trip, so it didn’t cost us anything! I will therefore go again. I just don’t know when or how quite yet. I do have a $100 travel voucher on one of the airlines I used, they made us 4hrs late coming out of Haiti, everyone on that flight missed connections, and we all spent the night at the Holiday Inn in Ft. Lauderdale together pretty much.
I met a fellow on that flight as a result of that fow-paw, very fortunate to have done so. He’s Canadian, but down there in Haiti working on reforestation. That is what Cheryl and I want to get into, we’re very interested in the reforestation of Haiti, it’s the only real way to bring them back from the brink of total poverty where they are now. Flying over the island is heart-breaking, you see only brown hills and mountains, muddied streams and dead reefs, soil running off into the ocean. It’s tragic. The people are all hungry, even the wealthy have to admit the earthquake damaged almost beyond repair any sense of economy that they had left. The area where we worked, those folks are happy to get one meal a day. Life is very hard in Haiti, they live in survival mode. When you live like that all the time, you don’t sit around and mourn the dead — you simply go on.
Our church is employing quite a number of locals to help with the tear down of fallen buildings, and rebuild new ones. We took much of the rubble from the old buildings and used it to make foundations for the new buildings. This was something that our Bishop had said we would do. Best of all, we encouraged our brothers and sisters down there, and we agreed we are all in this together. In turn, we were greatly encouraged by them to continue our efforts, never to give up. The spiritual battle already has been won by Jesus Christ. Our daily struggles to lift our brothers and sisters up is changed somewhat by this earthquake, but the goals remain the same: To see hearts and lives impacted by Jesus for His Kingdom here on earth! Hallelujah!