When one is blessed with the opportunity to serve on a mission team there are typically a great many memories that you live with for a long time if not a lifetime. My memory of several Haitian children, staring at our team with great amounts of inquisitiveness and wonder, while we moved gravel, mixed concrete and generally tried to survive several days with heat indexes of up to 105 degrees, will always be with me. It is especially engrained in my thoughts that many of them would rub their tummies, put their hands to their mouths, or point at near empty water bottles to indicate they were hungry or thirsty and we had little to share with them. But the happy memory will be that they laughed when we tried to be funny, or poked them in the belly, showed them digital pictures of themselves and just simply smiled at them or gave them a hug.
This is one of the memories of the eight members of the Peninsula-Haiti Mission Team that went to Haiti on October 9, 2010 for several days reconstructing a church that had been destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. The eight team members: Mike Bockart, Pastor Beth Mallozzi, Calvin Peacock, Stephanie Manos, Penny MacLennan, Marie Van Der Wall, Pastor Benita Harris and me represented six separate churches in the Conference. Four from Delaware and four from Maryland we were a team with significant amounts of past mission experience trying to do a small part in helping the Haitian people and also to gain specific Haiti experience so we could take later teams there to help.
We flew into Port Au Prince and stayed one night in the Methodist Guest House before traveling two hours southwest to another guest house in Pettit Goave. From here we went daily to the church site at Fond Daux and spent our hours moving gravel and sand, mixing concrete, and generally functioning as “go-fers” for a couple of skilled Haitian masons and their helpers who laid block. It was a joy to see the walls of the church going up, to see the walls of the cistern completed and to be able to interact with the Haitian construction crew that was being paid partially by the $3500 contribution that was raised through various conference sources and matched by UMCOR. While our team had to be very careful in the extreme heat I believe I can say we all came away from this project feeling confident that later teams will finish the job and that soon the community would once again be able to worship in their church.
For those that might wonder the situation in Haiti is certainly bad. It will take years for the houses to be repaired so people can move out of their tent cities. There is almost no infrastructure so trash collection and sanitation is non-existent and the recent Cholera outbreak reflects the desperation of this condition. But we did see a ray of hope in that the people seem resilient, hopeful and faithful for the most part. Perhaps because they had so little to lose they seem to have recovered as well as can be expected and are certainly surviving. Because of the great need I am personally hopeful that many churches in this conference will sponsor teams to go to Haiti in the next year. There are certainly many places in our country and world that need help but I personally can’t imagine any need being greater than in Haiti.
Pen-Del Haiti Conference Team