March 14, 2011

Haiti 2011 Part 3: The Schools

Esther Orelien has a really tough job. Not only is she the director of the orphanage, but she’s also the “superintendent” of the Maranatha Schools in the area. She oversees four primary schools, a secondary school, and a professional school, with a current total enrollment of around 700 kids.

Here are some of the primary school students at Terre Noire:

8a lunchtime copy13 hanging out in the pavilion (formerly the old orphana (1)8b lunchtime copy

Here are some secondary school students at Terre Noiret: (Notice the different uniform.)

90 Piterson copy91 Shedly copy97 Widnel copy94 Evans copy

A peek at classes in session at the primary school in Pont Sonde:

4 class in session inside the school copy

And at Bertrand’s primary school:

55 inside the school at Bertrand copy

And, finally, at the primary school at Timonet:

40 the Maranatha school at Timonet copy

One of the things that’s very hard for Esther to do without a vehicle is to make sure that meals are being served in all four of our locations each school day, as our sponsors expect.It’s even harder for us, back in Bellingham. But, on this visit, we were happy to find the cooks hard at work at every school, cooking rice and beans.

Kids eating lunch at Terre Noire:

8 rice and beans for lunch copy 6 lunch at the Maranatha school in Terre Noire copy

Lunch being cooked at Pont Sonde:

5 the school kitchen copy

Rice and beans cooking in the kitchen at Bertrand:

57 the school kitchen copy

Passing out the bowls:

56 getting ready for lunch copy

Cooking at Timonet:

43 cooking lunch for the kids copy

Our dream has always been to help Maranatha reach out to the community with the gospel, and we’ve pictured that being done through the churches, with the church at Terre Noire at the hub.

On Sunday morning of our trip, we attended worship services at two of the churches. First we visited Pont Sonde. Held in their modest little dirt-floored, mud school/church building, the service was alive and vibrant, in spite of the lack of musical instruments.The pastor was engaging, and the singing was beautiful. I felt humbled when the entire congregation began to pray fervently for us “missionaries” in the Haitian way: individual prayers, out loud, all spoken at the same time.

This is the church/school building at Pont Sonde:

3 the Maranatha school and church in Pont Sonde copy

The service at Terre Noire, on the other hand, was disappointing. Cornwall erected a new, larger building for this church several years ago to replace one that was dangerously close to collapsing. But this church at Terre Noire, a church that once planted 28 others, is obviously struggling. We’ve agonized for quite some time over the decrease in attendance and have wondered what we might be able to do to help.

On this trip, however, Pastor Dave helped us to redirect our efforts. Why not focus, instead, on what’s working? The school system is thriving and growing. Some of the schools are practically bursting at the seams. So, why not equip Maranatha to reach out into the community through the school kids? Food for thought, and definitely something to consider. One immediate result of this fresh insight is that the April mission team is now planning to do a Vacation Bible School in all four of “our” communities. Not the kind that uses a lot of “stuff.” But rather, one that uses games and stories and songs and techniques that can be reproduced by the teachers as they do daily devotions with the kids in their classrooms. Another result of this discussion was a renewed determination to get Bibles into the homes of all 700 of these school kids. We had begun this process when the earthquake hit. But in the aftermath of that tragedy, Creole Bibles become unavailable, and our plans had to be put one hold.

Another school-related task we’d hoped to accomplish while we were in Haiti this time was to gather information that might help us to develop a plan to provide post-high school education for those orphans graduating this spring, as well as one who has already completed high school. But, as with many things in Haiti, planning ahead for this turned out to be next to impossible. We discovered that a government exam taken after graduation determines one’s university choices. And because each college major costs a different amount, and each university offers a very limited choice of majors…Well, we gave up on this one, at least for this trip. So much for our idea of raising money in advance!

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