Students Sing At School Dedication
Pastor Joel and Daniel Vestal Dedicate New School
Mother And Child By Their Tent Home
"Rubble" House Under Construction
The five of us had been invited to Grand Goave for the celebration and dedication of the school being rebuilt after the Baptist church and school were destroyed in the January 12, 2010 earthquake. The local committee had decided it was most important to rebuild the school first, so that the children could once again study in a new and safe environment. The children, “precious in His sight” are the future of Haiti. We went to see how much had been accomplished, thank God for his presence through it all, and ask ourselves, both national partners and foreign, “where do we go from here?”
The trip was long with the first part over mountainous roads full of potholes and switchbacks. The views were spectacular and almost worth the bumps and dips. The warm valley air where we live suddenly turned cool and refreshing as we drove up and up. As each curve was rounded one couldn’t help but praise the creator for all that He has made. The views included layers and layers of mountains, each a different color. Some areas were lush green, others barren and stark, evidence that there is still much to be done in the area of reforestation.
After about an hour of climbing we started to descend into a valley where we passed a washed-out road and bridge, both damaged a few years ago when Hurricane Jeanne brought flooding and destruction to the town of Gonaives and surrounding towns. Much work has been done but still much of the road is in disrepair.
Once past Gonaives, we passed through the Artibonite Valley where the cholera epidemic started in October 2010. Although there are still cholera treatment centers, the number of cases has dropped drastically and ongoing preventive education and treatment are firmly in place thanks to efforts of many health-care workers and public service announcements heard daily on the radio.
Our little group talked and laughed along the way. As we approached the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, we could see the sobering sight of year-old tent cities everywhere. It is hard to imagine how people can endure these small, temporary shelters that have now becoming a long term “home.” The hillsides are barren with no trees for shade, just miles and miles of blue tents. Some of these desolate settlements even have police stations making them seem as if they are now recognized towns. Huge efforts are underway by many Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) to rebuild, but there is still so much to do to bring safe housing for the estimated one-million+ residents still without permanent homes.
We stopped briefly in Port au Prince to drop off some supplies. The traffic still moves at a snails-pace due to road crews and hundreds of small commerce stands with women selling products and produce. I asked myself, “How can anyone rebuild a city with people everywhere?” There has been some progress since our last visit in August 2010. Rubble has been removed, some buildings have been repaired, and children are back in school. The question remains in many of our minds, “ how safe are these buildings in which people are going to school?”
After what seemed like forever, our truck finally arrived at the Siloe Baptist School and Church in Grand Goave. The Haitian team, members of the Haitian Baptist Convention, and the US team, CBF/ABC-US partners, were beginning to gather for a planned supper. The stars shone brightly overhead as we sat at dimly lit picnic tables for a delicious meal prepared over charcoal fires in the nearby school kitchen by Mme. Moise and her crew.
CBF missionaries Mike and Brenda Harwood and their team had been planning for months for this occasion, and it was evident. The transition from disaster relief to development at the school site has occurred. The one-story school building is expanding to include more classrooms so that soon the whole school will be new. Five completed classrooms are in use and more being built by Haitian and American teams.
Sunday morning we gathered under a tarp for a service of thanksgiving and dedication of the new school. Many of the students and parents attended. It was truly a time of rejoicing for what God had done through His people. In just one year, here was a tangible sign of hope. Without government assistance here was evidence that people and churches, Haitian, American and Canadian, working side by side, can make a difference! Much, much work and sacrifice have gone into this continuing effort. I wish I could name every person who labored under the hot sun, slept in tents, and contributed energy and faith to this effort. The list would be in the hundreds including many of you who sacrificed financially to this rebuilding work.
Over the next three days we were able to see and hear about what has been accomplished in Grand Goave since the earthquake. We toured some of the completed “rubble houses” (spearheaded by Conscience International), and we dedicated a soon to be finished home by laying hands on the house as a blessing. The recipient, an elderly woman who lost her home and some of her family in the earthquake, prayed with those of us gathered.
Our visit to Grand Goave was also a time to pray together for the future, not only for this effort but also for other efforts in the areas affected. Daniel Vestal, the CBF Executive Coordinator, asked our Haitian brothers to share their vision for the future. We sat together in one of the new classrooms to pray, listen, and share.
On our last day, we drove back to Port au Prince to the City Baptist Church to meet with Paul Romeus and three women who had been identified by CBF as leaders in their communities. These leaders had attended a three-month training program in Ethiopia where they learned how to start micro-finance groups (Self-Help Groups or SHG) that enable women in poverty to earn an income and save money to help support their families. This method has been used all over the world and is making a difference in poverty stricken areas. The team said they felt honored to have had the experience of going to Ethiopia and are eager to share with others what they learned. Paul and the women reported that the Haitian churches with whom they have spoken since their return from Ethiopia are eager to learn how to begin SHG's in their communities.
Our group of five said our farewells at the church in Port, climbed into our truck, and began the long drive back north feeling grateful for our time with those who had come to celebrate, and grateful for the signs of hope in the earthquake epicenter of Grand Goave as lives, schools, and homes are rebuilt.
Thank you for your help with the rebuilding here in Haiti through your prayers, your love, and your financial support. Your gifts do make a difference!
Steve & Nancy James