Our team of eight, Rev. Tim and Laurie Harnter, Richard “Hutch” Hutchinson, Chris Seruga, and Aaron Simek (St. Paul) Rev. Tony and Cheryl Masinelli and Helen Roenfeldt (Gloria Dei) left Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday afternoon. We were joined by John Rougeux, (Faith, Eustis) on Sunday afternoon.
After getting settled at the Creol Star Guest House and having a great night’s sleep in our air conditioned rooms, we went to worship service at Faith Lutheran Church in Gonaives. The service was wonderful. Aseline Volcy, the worship leader, did her usual amazing job of leading the congregation in powerful worship. One of the wonderful parts of Haitian worship is their time of prayer. Everyone prays out loud at the same time, as the leader cues the congregation on the focus of the prayer. It ends with a time of praise. Do you think your congregation could praise God in prayer for 10-15 minutes, staying focused on the greatness and majesty of God?
We enjoyed the afternoon with the boys from Faith Boy’s Home. We had lunch with the boys then played soccer and other games with them for several hours. Each boy left with a gift from the team; a beach towel, journal, pens, a Gospel coloring book, crayons, flashlight, hand sanitizer and a new ball cap.
The soccer balls, journals and pens for the boys came from the FL-GA District Sr. Youth. The crayons were a donation from Publix and other items were donated by individuals. Orphans are on the lowest rung of Haitian society. To be singled out for attention by adults is a great boost to the self esteem of the boys, Pastor Benoit told us. Thank you to all those who donated the special items we were able to give the boys.
The team had four focus areas during the week.
One focus was Pastoral training. Pastor Tony and Pastor Tim spent 9am-1pm Monday –Wednesday teaching on Church History, Pastoral Practice, and Personal Wellness. The Haitian pastors are so appreciative of the opportunity to learn and grow. After the final class Pastor Benoit brought Pastor Matthew to meet us. He is the founder of 5 Baptist churches in Haiti and he wanted us to know that he has attended the last two seminars and after meeting with Pastor Benoit, he had decided that Lutheran doctrine is scripturally correct and he is bringing all 5 of his churches into the Lutheran church of Haiti. What a blessing!
Additionally, from 9am -1pm each day another part of the team went to the medical clinic with 600 pairs of reading glasses supplied by RestorVision, an organization that Hutch Hutchinson connected us with through Mr. Ron Gitlan. In three days we gave out 301 pairs of reading glasses to students, businessmen, vendors, teachers, pastors, grandmothers and grandfathers. One pastor told us that he had not been able to read his Bible without great difficulty for some years. A math teacher was so pleased that he would be able to read textbooks far more easily. He brought back his wife, a preschool teacher and his father to get help with their eyesight also.
The earliest focus of this team, was to build a school in Ophelia, a very poor agricultural community outside of Gonaives. The community lost its entire school building for 125 children in the flood of 2008. The school has been meeting in the Lutheran church there and unless the school moved into its own building it would lost its accreditation by the government and the students would not be able to move on to higher education. St. Paul, Weston raised the money to pay for the foundation and blocks for the building. The Lutheran Church of Haiti provided the sand and block at a very minimal price and the community provided part of the labor. Several members of the team helped out on Monday and Wednesday in extreme heat. Our real troupers who took on some real labor intensive building were, Aaron Simek, Hutch Hutchinson, Chris Seruga, John Rougeux, and Tim Hartner.
Probably the most enjoyable focus of the week was Vacation Bible School. From 4 -6pm daily the team presented story, music, crafts and a snack at the Lutheran Church in Ophelia. Pastor Sail told us that as much as half of the 250 children attending each session were from Voodoo families. Vacation Bible School is a wonderful outreach to the families who desperately need to hear the Gospel. Cheryl Masinelli put together a wonderful VBS in a suitcase with props, backgrounds and costumes. A member of St. Paul’s and her daughter donated some wonderful rhythm instruments for the children and they were a huge hit! Every day each child went home with a craft that reinforced the Gospel lesson of the day and on the final day they received a 20 page coloring book in Creole that tells the story of the life and mission of Jesus along with a box of crayons. So the Gospel went home in the hands of children to more than 250 families, many who will hear and see the Gospel through the eyes of a child.
The temperature was extreme and because of vehicle problems the team had to travel everywhere in the back of a little red Mazda pick-up truck. It was a hardy and cheerful team, always ready to pitch-in and help where ever necessary.
Most of the team left Haiti on Friday after a day of decompression and renewal at Kaliko Beach. John Rougeux and I (Helen Roenfeldt) stayed behind in Port-au-Prince to meet research for a team from Shepherd of the Coast, Palm Coast in October. We participated in a Saturday Children’s Bible program, checked out a guest house and other places for the October team and future ministry opportunities.