The time spent at the worksite building the school was genuinely satisfying. Every day, as the walls got bigger and bigger, I could picture the students sitting in them learning from their teachers the skills they would need to better themselves. And I could picture the students eagerly listening to their teachers share with them the love of a God who understands suffering and pain, and overcame it for them.
As I said in an earlier blog, most of the skilled workers at the worksite are also members of the congregation. They have a vested interest in this building and we worked hard alongside them, getting more comfortable with each other as the days went by. Pastor Bernard told us that the Haitian workers wanted to know how we happened to get such “experts” to come and help. The fact is, many of our team have great skills working with their hands and are also quick studies. The Haitian workers estimated that we accomplished in 4 days what would normally take them about three weeks.
When we left Saturday the building was approximately 70% complete. It will take the workers a couple of more moths to complete laying the blocks and putting the roof on. But we have no doubt it should be ready to be dedicated early in the Fall and have students in every classroom.
Speaking of students, every day we spent to the school in Leogane the number of children who came to the worksite grew. After school they would walk to where we were and just sit and watch. At some point, each member of our team took time to interact with them. One day the ladies of the team put together an impromptu VBS and there were about 75 kids there who participated. They did crafts with them with some supplies they had left over from earlier in the week. Each child made a bracelet with different colored beads, each representing a blessing of God’s love for them. We also shared with them snacks, sang songs, and they formed a circle where they sang some Haitian songs and danced.
This week we learned a song in Creole, the native language of Haiti, that we sang in church on Sunday. And when that song was sung, most all of children chimed in. Among the children who were at the worksite were those who will attend this school, along with some who had gone to the school that was there prior to the earthquake. All-in-all, while the work was gratifying, interacting with the children, and the adults who were at the worksite, helped to build relationships with the people of the community and hopefully, will lead more people to the church and school, and ultimately to Jesus.
When we left the school on Saturday we also left work gloves, hats, shoes, and other items with the men we labored with all week. They were smiling from ear-to-ear for their new treasures. It was touching to see our group give those small things away and see the reaction of the recipients. They were truly grateful for the gifts, but we were the one’s blessed knowing that our labor, though still unfinished, would not be in vain. We know that God will complete it.
The rides home each day were memorable. The companionship of each other, the sharing of this experience, and the making of new friendships helped compensate for the true difficulty it is to travel in Haiti. On most days we literally spent as much time on the bus to and from the worksite as we did at the worksite. Over the past week we experienced three overheating of the engine of the bus, 5 flat tires, and nearly zero air-conditioning in the hot weather. The smells that we encountered as we traveled with the windows down, either made by our own sweaty bodies, or the trash burning alongside the road, or the odors that emanated from the different towns through which we passed, are smells we won’t soon forget.
Neither will we forget the “near misses” we saw as we drove along (including our own), nor the mishaps along the way. We saw several bad accidents. One was a concrete pole that had fallen on top of a truck. Another was a head-on collision between a big panel truck and an SUV. And we saw people who just stopped on the street, open the hood of their car or truck, and began automotive repairs. Odd to our eyes! The driver and security guard who accompanied us everywhere were simply fantastic. We will fondly remember “Luc-do” (sic) the driver, and Noel, our security man!
Sunday worship was quite the experience. It actually stressed me out because it was like we were planning the worship service right before it was to begin. But it was a special Sunday with nearly 30 people from Indiana, and another group of 10 from Michigan, Tennessee, Washington (state), and Wisconsin. They were working on an addition to Good Shepherd, Port-au-Prince, another classroom that will be dedicated to a philosophy class that will be advantageous for students who will go on to attend college.
During the service Pastor Ahlemeyer preached, Pastor Currao and I served as lectors, both groups presented musical offerings, and the group from Seymour presented the congregation with a beautiful altar cross that will be a longtime remembrance of our life lived as brothers and sisters in Christ under the cross of Jesus.
Also during the service Pastor Bernard presented each congregation represented by a member of the mission team with a plaque to bring back to their congregation as a remembrance of our work together. Then he singled out Timothy Ahlemeyer and told the story of how, ten years ago, he and his sister were baptized in that same church by him. It was a very emotional time for our team and for the congregation – a treasured memory for the group.
I would be lax if I didn’t let you know that the service lasted over 2 ½ hours. The choir of young people during the service presented some awesome hymns; we sang congregational hymns together – many of which were familiar tunes; we were absolved of our sins; confessed our faith together in the creed; prayed together the Lord’s prayer; and received the benediction of our mighty God.
After church and greeting the members of Good Shepherd, we were treated to some delicious sub-sandwiches and drinks. We visited with each other and stayed at the church until the time of the dedication of the library took place. That event, which started about 45 minutes later than it was scheduled (a cultural thing that really worked on my patience), was attended by more than 150 people.
During the dedication some of the students of the school presented several skits, poems, songs and other “artsy” offerings. The Haitian people are a passionate people and the facial expressions and voice inflection helped us to understand what we didn’t understand from the words. It was a very moving service.
The ride home brought another very memorable event that I’m sure will end up in a sermon sometime. Others who are blogging are sure to share this.
Today, as I sit in the airport, I’m wondering when we’ll return to this land and what our next project might be. Some of the original group are up for a new adventure here in Haiti. Others have “been here and done that”.
We’ll see what happens in the future. In the meantime I am so glad to have been a part of this mission trip. I am so proud of how this group represented our community, our churches. And I am more proud of how they represented the body of Christ, sharing their talents, gifts, and their very selves with people who they may only see next time in heaven.
Please continue to monitor this blog. And please add your comments. Our group looks at it every night, and we will for a while. Blessings to you all in Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory forever and ever.