Bonjou! Our team of 19 arrived home Sunday night at Midnight, sunburned and tired, but full of hope from the progress we witnessed in Haiti. Pastor Dave and Josh Sweeney left Thursday morning with a group of 23 youth and parents, to continue working on the projects our team began. It is a busy month for Fondwa and ALOM clinic with Drs. Vlad and Merline.
Speaking of Dr. Vlad, he sent me this picture of our youth team hard at work this morning. Keep them in your prayers!
The structure you see is the new Alpha and Omega Clinic that St. Luke's has been instrumental in supporting financially. While in Haiti, my team was able to take a tour and learn more about the services that ALOM will be offering. They will be the only clinic in the area that will offer 24 hour health care. This picture of Dr. Vlad was taken inside the surgery center. ALOM will invite American doctors to come with their teams and perform surgeries for a week's time.
In Fondwa, our team of 19 worked on three projects: painting the new home for the Sisters of St. Antoine, helping build a new home for the Florence family and installing a water purification system at the Fatima Orphanage.
The Spiritual Director for the Sisters of St. Antoine is Sister Claudette. In November, she led a St. Luke's team to their previous home that was destroyed after Hurricane Matthew swept through Haiti. That house had replaced their previous home that was destroyed in the Earthquake in 2010.
This house is sturdy, well built and is going nowhere! The team worked to get a start on painting the house so the Sisters can begin to move in to their home. Part of the funds donated after Hurricane Matthew to St. Luke's went toward building this home. Check out Sister Claudette's special message here.
When we take teams to Fondwa, we are sure to not put Haitians out of work with our involvement in building projects. In the case of building the Florence house, we actually contributed to the economy by hiring 19 Haitians one day and 25 the next day to help us carry large rocks down to the house for the foundation. The location of the new home is about 200 yards off the main road down a foot path. Where the rocks were delivered on the main road was UP the mountain from where you turned on the foot path about a half mile. It was GRUELING work. The Haitians we hired were instrumental to getting the job complete. My 8-year old son, Nathan was on the trip too. When he was carrying rocks up and down the mountain in the hot sun, he said, "I didn't sign up for this!" I think he was saying what we were all thinking!! Nevertheless, we pressed on and finally got all the huge rocks down to the house so that the foundation of the house could be finished. Of the workers we hired, some young kids received a pay check for the first time. Some of the workers were women who left the clothes they were washing to make a day's salary. One mom carried her rock on her head so her 2-year old could hold her hand. Only in Haiti!! Here is a picture of the rocks, the footpath and house foundation.
The third project we worked on was a gift from our youth and UMW. During Lent, the Middle School and UMW worked to raise money for a filtration system that we installed at the Orphanage. This picture is of John and the filtration system that will hold clean water for the 55 kids who live at the orphanage. John is a 16-year-old living at the orphanage who was trained to maintain the filtration system.
As you can see, we accomplished a lot! But, even if we had gone to Fondwa and never picked up a paint brush or heavy rock; that would have been okay with me. When we go to Fondwa, we go to learn from the culture. We go to slow down and think about what God created us to be and do in this world. We go to renew our faith and hope in a world that continues to desire to build relationships and understand each other even if we are from different countries and speak different languages. We go to be present and remind our Haitian friends that they are not forgotten. Each trip I hear the same things from our group members.
"The Haitians reminded me what was really important in life."
"I never knew I could go a whole week without my phone!"
"I wish I could replicate this slower pace into my life at home."
"The spirit of the people offers me hope."
We spent the week focused on Luke 4 - when Jesus proclaims he is the One who has come to set the prisoners free, to bring sight to the blind and to offer release to the oppressed. We were challenged to not think of ourselves as the ones who would do this work for the Haitians, but to reflect on what areas in our life made us blind and kept us from being the people God created us to be.
The blessing is that God does not require us to go to Haiti to reflect on these questions. We all can think about this from our living rooms, our morning walks or our quiet time. What is blocking your vision to be God's servant in this world? What is making you blind to see who God has truly created you to be? No passport needed to discover these answers.
See you Sunday,