Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
On the road in Haiti
Thirteen of us stuffed ourselves and more than two dozen suitcases into one truck for the ride between Port-au-Prince and Croix-des-Bouquets, 8 miles northeast of the capital city. We were ready to install cabinets in the kitchen at Hope House and paint the depot.
Although there was a break in the taxi strike, there was a possibility of demonstrations and burning tires along the way. So a police escort rode with us. Sheer bumper-to-bumper traffic was more the obstacle than disgruntled tap-tap drivers, angry at the government for raising gas prices.
That wasn’t the only problem; the World Food Program that had distributed rice in Haiti for so many years is now overwhelmed by the volume of Syrian refugees running from ISIS. Since the 2010 earthquake, Muslims have been active in relief work, building schools on this island nation; it is estimated 3,000 to 5,000 Muslims are in the country where voodism is still practiced by 90 percent of the population. Glad I brought along a few French tracts of Adha in the Injeel and the Connecting with Muslims book from Crescent Project. Resident VOH director Bert Anderson told us 80 percent of the rice in Haiti is imported. There is concern that importing cheaper rice could negatively impact native rice farmers just like the U.S. supplying subsidized chickens in 2012.
The Village of Hope School has reduced the serving size of their rice and beans meals to deal with this new challenge. Still in the days following our arrival, there were signs of hope – more cows, goats and chickens; growing number of wells; widening roads and concrete sidewalks and a garbage truck! On an island that still burns trash, the garbage truck was a welcome sight. Plus Roberta Anderson took us to a new supermarket but we still purchased avocadoes and plantains from vendors on the street.
About 640 children attend VOH with full-time elementary school teachers and part-time high school teachers. Donated school supplies included: 1,480 pens; 1,849 pieces of chalk; 491 toothbrushes and 115 tubes of toothpaste; 1,576 colored pencils and 1,277 crayons. Many thanks! The children also enjoyed the Valentine’s cards.
There also are plans for establishing a library and computer lab. Borrowing books is a new concept for Haitians, who are used to owning books. Computers need cool, dust-free and secure room. So both of these projects may take awhile, but just a few more signs of positive things to come.
The health clinic next door serves many patients suffering from high blood pressure, parasites, malnutrition, scabies and malaria. A mobile medical team arrives quarterly to serve about 600 people within a 5-mile radius. At present, there is no stroke rehab facility. However, infant mortality has dropped from 20 percent to 17 percent, a very encouraging medical indicator.
Traveling along National 9, we visited the mass grave where 50,000 were buried after the devastating temblor with an epicenter near the town of Leogane. The memorial remains unfinished but at least we were able to pray for those who had lost their lives. We had worshiped just that morning at a new mission church with a sermon based on Ephesians 4:11 “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.”
Moving on to Little Children of Jesus orphanage, we met Missionaries of the Poor, a new order of monks established in Jamaica in 1981. The brothers normally have 3-year assignments and these14 monks took over from staff of Food for the Poor in July 2014. On the morning of our visit, many of us fed the children breakfast, while others cleaned beds.
VOH field director Debbie Berquist joined us after attending funeral for her husband Wilner in Deschapelle. We met her two brothers before they flew back to Canada. She made a special rice and mushroom dish for our dinner. We also had Haitian pumpkin soup to celebrate the people’s independence and freedom.
We did not go near the Carnival celebration. A singer seated atop one of the floats hit an overhead electric cable causing a sudden large flash that triggered panic among a crowd of spectators. Seventeen were trampled to death. Haitian President Michel Martelly declared three days of mourning. He has yet to call for elections after parliament dissolved in January.
Our departing flight was cancelled due to snowstorm in Northeast. On that extra day in Haiti, some of us napped, others read, journaled or played dominoes. The team from St. John’s included: Linda Anderson, Liz and Tom DeMik, Richard and Sarah Finger, Jim Lofgren, Ken Lorang, Yvette Moy, Christine Payne, Greer and Scott Putnam, Deborah Wegman, Saron Yohannes. These represented eight churches from four states. Our servant trip began during Epiphany and ended at midnight on Ash Wednesday – some very blessed days and evenings together.
March 7, 2015
The daily blog written by Sarah Finger and Jim Lofgren may be accessed with this link: http://stjohnshaititrip.blogspot.com/
Thanks to contributing writer- Yvette Moy for this post.