Experiencing Haiti

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Dear Friends and Family, Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â

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As our trip leader Jeff VanderMolen often says, “Experiencing Haiti is like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant.” How true. So much to see, ponder and process – grinding poverty, malnourished children, deforestation and open sewage. All this in flawless Caribbean weather with some of the most beautiful mountains and landscape you will ever see.

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Our drive from Port-au-Prince (Haiti’s capital) to the rural village of St. Martin was one we will never forget. From the overcrowded slums of the city, down “paved” roads, to the final bone-jarring 20 miles, it was sights and sounds like we have never seen. Haitians drive very fast – the rule of the road is that the bigger vehicle has the right of way – from semis to bicycles this is the rule. The horn is a constant signal that we’re coming through. On the final two miles of our journey the road literally disappeared as we entered the village of St. Martin – no road, no electricity, no plumbing, no services. Hard core poverty in a village.

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We slept on cots in an old school and church building with the roar of the ocean trying to lull us to sleep. However, sleep was hard to get with all the excitement, as well as the parade of chickens that regularly clucked their way past our cots.

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On Sunday morning our group was asked to prepare a song. We chose an Eastminster favorite, “Jesus, be the Center,” and hastily translated it into Creole. It was beautiful as the Haitian congregation joined in with their dissonant harmonies.

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Sunday afternoon we broke up into teams of 4-5, took translators and walked through the brush and hills to visit villagers. Most folks we very friendly as we asked about their houses and daily life. Houses were one room with as many as 8-10 family members. Every house had an outdoor “kitchen” in the back, often with chickens, goats and pigs lying around. A trip to market was a 2-3 hour walk or a Tap Tap ride. Tap Taps are the official taxi or bus of Haiti. Very colorful, rusty pickups trucks and vans.

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The week was spent working on a school. This was intensely hard physical labor overseen by a few Haitian “bosses” who we paid to make sure everything was straight. We dug up rocks, wheel barrowed sand, gathered water and mixed the cement. We poured a 100’ porch floor the entire length of the school. Our bosses expected this job to take two days – I’m proud to say we persevered into late afternoon and finished it in one. The rest of the week we worked on the actual church building. We built a foundation, walls and rebar columns for an entrance. It was a 3-foot step up into the sanctuary, which is particularly hard on the older church members.

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For many of us, Tuesday morning was the “teachable moment” of the trip. As we waited for supplies there was a break in the work. The village well pump was broken, so I thought it would be neat to walk with the ladies to collect “their” drinking water (we drank Culligan water). As in much of the world, the women carry jugs of water balanced on their heads. I gathered our group around and stated, “Keep in mind how long it takes you to get safe drinking water at your house.” I had no idea what was ahead. We walked and walked and walked. Two miles in 92 degree heat. That was with the empty jugs! We finally came upon a two-foot wide pool of water – a natural spring. The only water for miles that does not cause diarrhea –which in the 3rd World can kill you. It took us an hour to fill up and another hour to make it back. We now understood what it means to just survive, what it means to live day-to-day, and also how important it is to have clean water. It also gave new insight into John 4 when Jesus asks the woman at the well if she would like “living water.” Yes! The well is literally the source of life in a village, whether it’s Haiti or Africa or the Middle East. It is stunning.

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Our time in the village ended with hugs and gifts. We donated a guitar to the church, and the pastor kept hugging and hugging saying, “Merci, merci.” More than once during prayer times the Haitians would say, “Lord, we are sorry we have nothing to give our American friends.” They were so wrong! They gave us their friendship, opened their houses and community, and shared with us how much of the world lives. TV is one thing, but real life is unbelievable.

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Our team was intergenerational and interracial and fun! I asked one of the missionaries who had been there for 20 years if there had ever been an interracial work team from the U.S. He scratched his chin for a second and said, “I’ve never seen a team of blacks and whites here together.” That made us smile.

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Finally, thank you for your donations and prayers. Your generosity allowed our diverse group to make this trek. Thank your for sharing this journey with us. Your generosity was such that we actually exceeded our fundraising goal for this trip! We plan to use the extra funds to repair the broken well in the village of St. Martin, and donate the remainder to Haiti H2O (ww.haitih2o.org), the fantastic organization that took us on this life-changing journey. Merci!

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In Christ,

Ted Melnick