Embraced by Love in Arcahaie
by Erin G. Gearhart, Volunteer
On Wednesday, August 25, 2010 nine men and women representing five churches from the Winchester (VA) District embarked on a journey with God and each other to be the hands and feet of Jesus with the people of Haiti. We weren't exactly clear on where we would be working, what our accommodations would be, and what tasks we would be performing. God's plans for our trip and experience far exceeded any of our loftiest expectations. Our adventure began with the sweltering heat hitting us immediately as we began the process of exiting the Port-au-Prince airport. Among the chaos of fellow travelers, porters, and customs agents, we quickly realized we would not be in control of our trip, but had to trust in God and let God lead the way.
Following our orientation at the Guest House in Petionville and some welcome sleep, we dropped off some medical supplies we had brought for the Guest House, and loaded the rest of our luggage for the trip to Arcahaie (Ar-ky'-yay). How far to Arcahaie? Oh, about 45 minutes!
Three hours later, we arrived at the family compound of the local Methodist Church lay leader. On the way, we experienced the torn-up roads, the press of so many people and vehicles, the newly formed "tent cities" hugging the hillsides, and all the sights, sounds, and smells we could take in!
The task assigned to us was to assist the Haitian workers in the construction of a church near the coastal city of Arcahaie. The welcome we received from our host, Moless, his four generation family, and our interpreter, Montass Joseph, communicated to us on many levels that we were guests in a very wonderful Christian community. Most of the actual construction work on their church was contracted to skilled Haitian workers who were welding steel beams for the roof supports and artfully smoothing a finishing coat of cement on the entrance-way steps and interior walls. Our part of the work was the design and construction of church pews--actually very simple long benches made from pine boards. The materials and supplies for the benches were slower coming together for us, so we happily spent our time cleaning up around the work site, spreading gravel for a future walkway, playing games with the children, doing crafts with the children (bead necklaces we had brought), distributing school supplies, experiencing their local "market day", and getting to know Moless' extended family. When the materials did arrive, the Haitian workers joined with us in a "church pew" assembly line: cutting, assembling, sanding, and varnishing. Eleven pews were assembled as we worked side-by-side with our Haitian friends, learning from each other.
Our living conditions were adequate for our needs: simple cots and steel frame beds, pit toilet, shower area with a 55 gallon drum of rainwater and a bucket for pouring, a tarp over our table, plenty of shade from a beautiful tree, and two rooster alarm clocks who began their day (and ours!) at 3:00 a.m. The food was plentiful, delicious, varied, and very healthy. Our primary challenge was acclimating to the heat, so we rejoiced in plenty of bottled water, powdered drink mix, an occasional breeze, and two rainstorms.
Worship on Sunday morning and Tuesday evening (a special service to thank our team) was both spirited and spiritual, with lots of praying, singing, and preaching by two of our team members. We were so blessed by God's presence and the people's appreciation. In a few months, they will be in their new church!
Our team worshipped together each morning and evening, and in the evening we asked each other, "how have you seen God today?" Our responses were overwhelmingly about relationships: the faces of the children, in the joy of Moless telling us he is engaged, listening to Joseph share his story of hope, the children singing "Jesus Loves Me", as we prayed for those who would sit in the pews we all had made, when our plans were replaced by God's better plan....
Thanks be to God for the privilege of serving others in Jesus' name.Gearhart was a member of the Jay and Harriet Hanke Haiti UMVIM team that served in Haiti in September 2010.
Date posted: Oct 28, 2010