God’s Work in Haiti

Thanks to Jack Kauffman, one of our deacons, for this report on the recent missions trip to Haiti:

Jacmel, Haiti  January 22-29, 2011

Our trip down to Haiti went very smoothly.  Both the truck ride over the mountains and the single engine planes were an experience.  Rural Haiti is beautiful from the air.

On the ground it is a different story.

It is hard to describe what we have found in this country.  We have noticed that it is hard to see where the devastation from the quake ends and the perpetual poverty begins.  It is beyond definition.  There are no dumps.  The natives throw their trash anywhere-outside their doors, in all of the creeks, on the beach and of course, in every vacant lot.  Broken buildings and abandoned cars line the roads.

Today we worshiped at our host church, Hosanna Baptist.  The auditorium was full and the overflow sat in the courtyard.  We sang “Faithful Men” which was well-received by the Haitians.  Pastor Baun pointed out that we should have sung it in French.  Maybe next time.  Then I did the message through our interpreter, Pastor Solomon who did a fine job and added a few touches of his own.

In the evening we worshiped in the mountains-a 45 minute ride in the back of the cattle truck.  It is said that the church began to grow when a women witch doctor renounced voodoism and became a Christian, burning all of her idols and demonic fetishes.  As you probably know, voodoism is a major “religion” here.

The Haitian people are not overly demonstrative at first-they are rather straight-faced and don’t display emotion at first (except for the children) until they get to know you.    The language, of course, is also a barrier.

PROJECTS

Our main goal was to finish a motel-style row of homes know as “motel 6”.  Because of the building trade knowledge that we brought with us, that project was finished by Wednesday morning.

Some of us went to a small church near the beach and built an office/storage building while the rest went up into the mountains and finished the house that the pastor of that church will live in with his family.  When we finished, we formed a circle, sang and prayed together.

The five families who will live at motel 6 area, the poorest of the poor, living in tin shacks, wearing shredded clothes and eating whatever they can scavenge.   They were having a Bible study with Sarah Bennett when the earthquake hit and lost what little they had.  When we were leaving this morning, they came to thank us and sang the only English song they know-“Happy Birthday to You”

A hubcap salesman would starve in Haiti-the roads are so bad that they would never stay on the wheel.  In other respects, it is much like any other third-world country–only worse.  The dogs, horses and cattle are bone-thin and mangy.  The children are half naked.  People go to the river to bathe.  Clothe are optional with the men and children.  While there, they do their wash, clean their vehicles (if they have one) and graze their goats and donkeys.

CHICKEN WASHING

The goat and the chicken seem to be the prevalent animals here, probably because they can find their own food and fend for themselves.  In that respect they are like the people–despite 50-80% unemployment, they make do by living off the land and scavenging.  We were able to witness one man, the owner of a fine rooster, fill his mouth with water and then spit it out on him.  I assume it was a fighting cock.

REBUILDING

Aid societies are everywhere down here, both religious and secular.    Most of the cars and SUVs on the roads are the UN or other aid societies.   On the surface they seem to make little difference.  Rebuilding is painfully slow.

The Haitians for whom we are building aren’t in any hurry and some aren’t too interested in helping, preferring the shade of a nearby tree.

There is one exception-I am putting up doors and they are very interested in helping me and pointing out my errors.  Their doors must swing to the right so they can get a better view, and so I’ve changed a few of them.  In all fairness, there is the language barrier and a different skill set.

SIGNS OF HOME

The people wear hand-me-downs from the US.  A boy bicycled past out house with a “Catasaqua Soccer” T-shirt.  The local fire company has trucks from Taiwan and Litchfield, New Hampshire, neither of which work. And of course, Haiti has the universal soft drinks, Pepsi and Coke.

SLEEPING

Sleeping is “hit or miss”.  The first rooster crows about 1:30.  A few others take up the chorus, then they all settle down again.  Then there is usually a dog fight.  Soon afterwards, a baby cries, then the roosters wake up again and begin crowing.  Soon all the roosters in the neighborhood are going at it.

By this time, the heavy metal gate that protects the compound is opened (it needs a good greasing) and you are awakened again, and then the trucks start rolling.  They mostly drive in low gear because of the loads they are carrying and because of the condition of the roads.  Well, you can get a few hours sleep–more if you use the sleeping pill.

PLAYING CHICKEN

There are no stop signs and only one traffic light here, but that’s okay.  You only have to honk your horn at an intersection and then speed through, dodging the many motorbikes on the roads which transport whole families around town.  No one seems to care if you pass them or blow them off the road.

Two vehicles approaching one another usually play “chicken” until the last minute when one is forced to hit the shoulder.  The smaller vehicle usually gives in.  It’s a pastime I guess.   I actually got to drive on Thursday night and managed to get to the local dairy bar without hitting anyone or anything and was able to pass and use the horn like the rest of the Haitians.

Getting out of the driveway here is a huge issue-there’s a rut about 2 feet wide at the bottom of the drive and you must get a running start to get in or get out.  Sometimes you get stuck in the rut and hold up traffic.  Then the horns start.

SCHOOL

Schooling is a big thing in Haiti since the earthquake.  There are many religious schools and some secular as well.  Each has its own colors and uniforms.  The girls’ uniform consists of a skirt and blouse but doesn’t stop there.  They wear beads and ribbons and lace anklets of matching color.  They may go home to a dusty tin shack after school but they look as good as any rich kid in a private school in New York City during the day.

THE WHITE MAN

Once the kids discover you have anything to eat, forget it–you have to fork it over.  They can spot penny candy a mile away and watch white people because I guess they have learned we carry it. They also spend a lot of time mimicking the white man and laughing at our funny ways.  They yell, “Blanc, blanc!” when you go by and have a good laugh. When I whistle while working, they join in and then laugh a lot.  They watch us and try to get our attention.  We’ve seen hardly any white people down here.  Even the  UN  and other aid workers are of different nationalities.

IN THE DARK

We are far ahead of schedule and actually do not have enough tools and materials to keep going some days.  Then again, many of our projects require screw guns and, because they turn the electricity to the city off every day for 4-6 hours, it’s hard to keep the batteries charged.  It usually goes off between 3 and 5 AM and comes back on sometime later in the morning or early afternoon.  We get up, get dressed and eat breakfast in the dark or by flashlight.  The water in the house is never heated so the showers are cold no matter when you take one.  Also, the showers have no heads so you take it under a stream of water.  It’s very exhilarating.

TRAFFIC JAMS

The morning traffic is amazing-the streets are literally chocked with motor scooters.  There is a steady stream of them-many taking children to school.  They also line up, waiting to fill their tanks at the few filling stations in the city.  I went inside the local Texaco minimarket:  no coffee!

SARAH BENNETT

Sarah Bennett , our hostess and the moving force in “Mission for Haiti” is hard not to love.  She is 67 but not old.  She is very feminine and demure but very much in charge.  She is an excellent hostess and goes out of her way to know everyone’s names and to make us feel at home.  She has such a heart for the Haitians and much patience with them as well.  She comes here regularly, often for weeks at a time without her husband and manages things. She feeds us well with authentic Haitian cuisine made by native women in her kitchen. She wears a straw hat and reminds you of Audrey Hepburn’s character in The African Queen.

THE LOTTERY

There are lottery huts on almost every corner.  It’s a national pastime.  I thought it would be a good idea to pool our money and buy some, then if we win, we would give half to the church and split the rest.  The other team members didn’t think it was an idea fitting a deacon so I didn’t pursue it.

THE BEACH

We took three wonderful swims in the warm Caribbean and were thoroughly refreshed, even though we shared the beach with some cows.  It was one of the highlights of the trip.

Well, despite all of these things we are having a great time and are finding humor even among the poverty and devastation.  The spirit of God is definitely in this place and with us.  We’ve gotten to know each other better and have had excellent fellowship among ourselves and the” Mission for Haiti” people.  We’ve begun each morning with devotions and song.  I am impressed that I see each man having personal time with the Lord each morning or evening.  Everyone is journaling.  We saw a young man come to Christ who worked with us. The men have meshed together as a team, found their places in the pecking order and have gone at the job with great energy and enthusiasm.    I am very proud to be associated with them and they have been an excellent testimony for the Lord, the church and the USA.

We ended our trip giving personal testimonies of how God has changed our lives and of how we came to know him.  The trip has been a blessing that will probably not sink in fully until we are home and can reflect on it.  Then we will miss Haiti and the people we have met here and have come to know.  When we hear about the country on the news, we will identify a little more  with its people and their problems and thank the Lord for the opportunity of spending time here.

One Response

  1. Thank you for that informative update. What a joy to hear of how well our team worked together for the glory of God and these dear Haitian people. After hearing their pastor teach in our Sunday school class and then hearing him preach, and now reading your update, it gives me a renewed burden for this country.

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