Seven congregation members of Statesboro First Presbyterian Church, one Georgia Southern University student and two pastors journeyed to Haiti in mid-June to assist with the ongoing rebuilding efforts of the earthquake-ravaged city of Port-au-Prince.
Dan Lewis, pastor of First Presbyterian, and Clark Scalera, another pastor friend who has prior experience in Haiti, led the team from Statesboro and partnered with the Haiti Outreach Ministries on site.
“Perhaps more importantly than the building projects, we came to learn from our Haitian brothers and sisters what it means to have faith in the midst of adversity,” Lewis said. “Christians are called to be in solidarity with all who suffer and to seek out the face of Christ in the faces of the forgotten.
“The real miracle happens when we discover God powerfully at work in these difficult places, bringing hope out of despair and new life out of death. The Haitian people teach us this.”
Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010 and continues in its struggles to recover. Team members joined Haitian workers to construct a simple family home, paint, and build chairs and desks for the school and a dividing wall for a large supply-storage area.
However, Lewis said the mission team felt these projects were secondary to the connections made with the Haitian people in and around the work site and on the days they weren’t working.
“The Haitian people are so welcoming, so thankful,” said team member Doty Dunn. “They have very little, but yet have so much joy.
“The children were delightful. They wanted to touch us, rub our hair and skin — they were so engaging.”
Dunn describes an incident in which children surrounded her, pressing in to get closer and closer, shouting in Kreyol.
“When we asked the interpreter what the children were saying, he answered, ‘They’re saying, “Look at me! Look at me!” ’ ”
The mission team had the opportunity to worship with over 1,000 Haitians while on the island.
“The children come to church dressed immaculately,” said Dunn. “Sometimes the older ones come to church first, then go home and give the clothes to the younger ones, who come later.”
Dunn, who was slightly nervous about the trip prior to leaving until she realized God was saying to her, “Just trust me,” said, “This was the most amazing trip I’ve ever been on.”
Barbara Price, another team member, agreed, adding, “I believe for each of us it was a life-changing experience, as we were allowed to touch a little piece of heaven, because we saw God’s love at work.
“From the school to the pure water and food distribution to the health clinics to the adult education — every activity that we took part in had a positive impact on the Haitians’ lives.”
Price made a personal connection when she got to interact with the family of five whose house she was painting.
“It was such a joy for this grandmother to hold their 6-month-old and see the love in that family.”
Pastor Lewis hopes his church members will continue the relationship with their new friends in Haiti.
“In a sense, the entire congregation of First Presbyterian Church went with us,” he said. “They gave their time and energy to fundraising and then prayed for us while we were there.”