On February 22, Joe and I began our annual trek to the Artibonite Valley of Haiti to help fine-tune Cornwall Church’s partnership with a ministry called “Maranatha.” Along with two other members of the Maranatha Board and the pastor who oversees our ministry, we endured a red-eye flight from Seattle to Miami, and then met up with two other board members in Port as Prince the following day. Our hope for the week was that we could encourage the indigenous leaders, provide accountability for the funds donated through Cornwall Church, and together with the Haitian staff, make plans for the future of the ministry. As always, we began this trip with a king-sized to-do list but also with the determination to accept the inevitable changes in our plans if God revealed an itinerary that was different from our own.
It had been over a year since the huge earthquake hit Haiti. I’d heard that little had been repaired since then, so as we drove out of Port au Prince I expected to see buildings that had pancaked on themselves, like we did last February. But that wasn’t the case. There was nothing I could identify for sure as earthquake damage. Just buildings in the typical state of disrepair that is Haiti. But, then, our route does skirt the heart of the city. I’m sure there’s still unimaginable devastation downtown.
The tent cities, however, have grown. Some stretch for miles, masses of blue and white tents or make-shift shelters made of tarps or plastic that’s been wrapped around poles. Here’s one we saw in the hills north of Port au Prince (photo courtesy of board member Dave Veenbaas). Out in the country like this, there’s room to spread out. But, in the capital, the tents are literally end to end.
There’s now a memorial at the mass burial grounds north of the capital, where thousands upon thousands of victims were buried. Heart-breaking.
We had an opportunity to survey the kids in our ministry areas, 50 miles north of Port au Prince this time, and we asked what effect the quake had had on them. To my surprise, the it had damaged most of their houses. I don’t know to what extent. Many live in mud huts, so I can easily picture chunks breaking off with the shaking, but a couple of the kids said that their houses actually fell down. Thankfully, most of them reported that their homes are repaired now. Below are examples of typical homes in two of the areas where we do ministry. The first is constructed of mud and stone and is located in the village of Timonet. The second is of mud and straw and is located in Bertrand.
Last Easter Cornwall Church dedicated their entire weekend offering toward rebuilding Maranatha Orphanage, which had been damaged by the quake. The outer shell is nearly done now, and we’re praying that the kids will be moved in by Easter this year. This is what the outside of the new orphanage looks like. The building will have a girls’ dorm and a boys’ dorm, separated by an open, covered common area.
Here’s a view from the inside:
Our Haitian contractor will be working hard to get the windows, doors, and floor tile completed by April 1st so that a mission team arriving in early April can complete the interior walls, build bunk beds, and fit the beds out with mattresses and sheets, ready for use. A very ambitious goal, especially in Haiti, where everything seems to take ten times longer than it would here. It’s a goal, or perhaps a God-sized dream, that will only be completed with His help. (To give you a feel for how difficult even simple things can be in Haiti, half of our group went to the bank one day to try to add someone to our checking account. It took nearly ALL day!)
Our group did a couple of things to prepare for the completion of the orphanage. We gathered the needed information for the design of the interior walls, and we arranged for our contractor to purchase the needed materials and have them on site when the team arrives.
Also, several of the guys signed an agreement with our contractor for the windows, doors, and tile:
Here’s a sample of the screens that will go on the windows. Nene, our contractor, will build the heavy-duty, red screens that will keep the rats away, but future mission teams will build the fine mesh screens that will offer protection from mosquitoes.
Meanwhile, until the new orphanage is complete, the kids are sleeping in tents inside a pavilion that was erected on the foundation of the old orphanage building after the quake.
Below is one of the two tents set up inside the pavilion to temporarily house around 30 orphans. One’s for the boys and the other’s for the girls.
The pavilion was constructed both as a temporary shelter for the orphans and as the future kitchen and dining area for the school at Terre Noire. The kitchen, on the left side of the building in the photo above, is actually in use now, but it will be a while before there will be enough tables and benches so that the school kids can be seated in the open area to eat their lunches.
The inside of the pavilion is so breezy and cool! A wonderful respite from the intense heat of the Haitian sun, and a great place for the orphans and visitors, like Jeff and Dave below, to hang out.
The school kids also like to hand out in the pavilion after their classes are done for the day, especially when there are guests.
This girl is examining a photo, as Dean and others look on. Pictures from sponsors are treasured by these kids, and they’re passed around from child to child. It’s not unusual to be greeting by a kid who is carrying your photo, and it might not even be the kid you sponsor!