Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Haiti Team Journal (Part 2)

Friday, March 22 

We were up bright and early and enjoyed a pancake breakfast. Then the first half of our group left with Jason at 6:30 a.m. as Jason had a flight to do before he could fly us out to Pignon and we didn’t all fit in one vehicle. The second group left with Will at 7:45. 

It felt like we had to fight our way through Port au Prince’s traffic to get to the airport! There we waited for an hour and a half for Jason to return from his flight. When some of the men working at the airport saw us packing some French Bibles into boxes they asked if they could have one. They were very happy when we complied and sat down immediately to read them. 

Once Jason returned from his flight we were lead outside to the tarmac and boarded two MAF, 6-seater airplanes, for the 25-minute flight to Pignon. 

Once in the air,

the scenery changed from rows of houses and tents,

to high, bare mountains with the occasional scattering of houses. 

After landing and bumping along to the end of the grass airstrip, we were picked up by a driver from the United Christians International mission in Pignon. We crowded into the back of a Toyota Land Rover for a 30 minute ride down a rutted dirt road to the compound. 

Upon arriving at the compound we met JeanJean, a big-hearted, big-voiced, and big-of-stature Haitian, who grew up in Pignon, Kristie, his American-born wife and their two daughters Tawna and Kerri.

They are the founders and heart of the mission compound know as United Christians International.

After throwing our bags into our dorm rooms, Kristie gave us a tour of the compound. It consisted of 16 acres – including the once-dirt-floor-house where JeanJean grew up. In 2005, when they came back from training in the United States, there was nothing on this compound. Now there is JeanJean and Kristie’s house, a guest house, an elementary school, teachers’ dorms, a large church, a university, student dorms, a cafeteria, and various houses. 

The elementary school enrolls 300 students from preschool to grade three and has ten teachers.

Recently, they added a second story to the school, which was in various stages of being painted. 

Families must pay tuition for their students to attend this school, which can be an obstacle for some very poor families. For those families, there is a scholarship program in place, but if families take advantage of this, they are expected to contribute to the work on the compound in return. JeanJean and Kristie believe strongly that the people need to “work” for what they receive, as it empowers them and provides a sense of dignity. 

The church was fairly new, and had been built with “open walls,” with the idea of drawing people in when they heard the service beginning; they felt that the openness of the structure would be welcoming to those who were hesitant to join the service. 

The university is in its first year of operation, and has 30 enrolled students – both from the surrounding countryside and from Port au Prince. There is a scholarship program in place for university students as well, with the same guidelines. 

Professors come in to teach their 3-hour course once a week, mostly from Port au Prince; they sometimes stay overnight in the guest house before taking the 3-hour drive back to the city. The hope is that these students will eventually be such professionals as teachers, doctors, and pastors, and that they will return to their home communities to work there for their betterment. 

It is JeanJean’s hope and prayer that most of these students will be able to spend at least some time abroad in various countries and so gain a greater understanding of the world. 

After touring the compound, we were provided with a delicious lunch prepared by the Haitian women that worked in the nearby kitchen. 

After a break, we walked out to the new home site in the proposed village to see several workers sweating as they pick-axed and dug the foundations for the footings. 

A couple of our guys pitched in to help, and soon had blisters forming on their palms. 

The rest of us cleared a large area of stones and piled them up for use in future construction. JeanJean then showed us the brand-new well that was still under construction. Riley climbed a palm tree to grab us a coconut. 

Later, with the help of various children, we carried the benches back into the church as it had just been cleaned; this was our first real contact with the children, and so we got to experience how friendly they were, how hard they worked and how much they loved our iphones!

After dinner, we played volleyball until we could no longer see the ball (Kristie loves volleyball!) and then showered and crawled in bed and fell asleep to the sound of roosters crowing.
Written by M. Roseboom

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