HOPE IN HAITI—Children surround their new friend, Jeanne Hathcock of Yukon, an Oklahoma Volunteer In Mission who served in the quake-ravaged country in early November. The gate sign at top identifies the guest house, where the VIM team stayed, which is operated by the Methodist Church of Haiti.
Seeking hope in Haiti
One year ago this month, an earthquake struck Haiti, in the Caribbean, and the horrific results jolted people worldwide to provide aid. Among those responding to the unprecedented disaster have been the people called United Methodists.
The needs remain acute for the Haitian people. And among the ways Oklahoma UMs continue to minister is through Volunteers In Mission (VIM) teams.
In November, Jim Jones of Enid led one such team.
Rev. Jones initially traveled to Haiti in May, with VIM officials from several states. Due to the conditions there, Rev. Jones explained, no one can lead a VIM team to Haiti unless that person has been to that nation since the quake.
Jones described both trips as sensory overload for him. In November, he also witnessed signs of hope. He writes here about the November experience.
Oklahoma Volunteers In Mission pledge ongoing service
By Jim Jones, Pastor, Enid-Christ UMC
Living in Oklahoma, we have seen our share of disasters. Yet even after the May 3, 1999, tornado, you could travel a mile or so away from the destruction zone and life was back to normal.
With the quake in Haiti, there is no normal.
How can people survive in such adverse conditions? How can they live when all seems to be lost?
My return trip took us to Thomas. Most of the people had stories about the quake and what they had lost—family, friends, houses, jobs, etc. But they were finding ways to survive. They found ways to feed their children and, in many places, they came together as a community to help each other.
The profound affect on me was to witness people who lost everything but haven’t given up hope. The churches and people we worked with knew that God was with them, during the quake and always.
When we arrived in Thomas on Nov. 1, it was a national holiday (All Saints Day). Schools were closed and businesses shut down. At the church, there was a praise service taking place. We discovered they had been worshipping since 8 a.m., and the service would last until noon. Four hours of praise and worship. And on a holiday!
In terms of my personal spiritual journey, I was moved at the depth of their faith, despite all the hardships of life. I am challenged to be as joyful as they are in the midst of difficult circumstances, and I am challenged to be as faithful in my daily walk.
Our work was to move the rubble from a wall that had fallen during the quake. We used buckets and wheelbarrows to move this from the back of the church to the front and side, where it was used as filler for concrete. We also worked on pouring a slab to be used as a basketball court and to keep the mud away.
While there, we were able to assist in pouring about 25 percent of the concrete, and the Haitian workers we employed were finishing it. By now, the slab around the church should be complete, and the kids can now play basketball.
Our mission with the people of Haiti is multifaceted. The most obvious is to help rebuild structures lost in the earthquake.
Yet with each VIM team limited to 10 persons, due to transportation issues, the reality is we can’t get much done in one week. So part of the project money is used to hire local workers. Our goal is to pay two Haitian workers for each team member. Thus each team should be able to employ 20 locals, to work side-by-side.
I can’t say what I saw in Haiti was the poorest I have ever seen. But the level of poverty across the nation is so disturbing. In Haiti, I saw firsthand how systems keep an entire nation of people downtrodden.
here are signs of hope for Haiti. From May to November, the amount of tents I saw had declined in the Port-au-Prince area. There is still high fear of more quakes, and many people are still afraid to go into buildings.
But some buildings that were still structurally sound are now being used again. Housing is becoming available.
I experienced the people of Haiti as people of hope.
I sensed deep desire in the people we worked with to change their country. They feel the way they can change is to get an education. Hope also is seen in the large number of aid organizations from around the world. People from across the globe have gone to Haiti, to help them rebuild.
UM Volunteers in Mission have been active in Haiti for over 30 years, although Oklahoma teams had not been scheduled there for some years. Because of the scope of the crisis, the denomination’s VIM office is coordinating all teams that serve there, working with the Methodist Church of Haiti.
ext steps for Oklahomans: n Each of the eight VIM team members will schedule a mission for 2011-12. Cost will be between $1,700 and $2,000 per person. Part of the amount is for the overall $3,500 project fund, which is matched by UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) for a total of $7,000 per team.
Always keep the people of Haiti in our prayers. We are fulfilling our pledge to the Methodist Church of Haiti to work on their priorities. In Thomas this year, teams will finish work that began over a dozen years ago.
My church has been very supportive for both trips. Funds were raised to assist me and L.D. Rapp, and for supplies to take to the Thomas church. There have been lots of prayers.
Other members of the November team were: Ray Crawford of Claremore, Stephen Hale of OKC-Chapel Hill, Margie Van Oostrum of Altus, L.D. Rapp of Enid-Christ, Paula Kelcy of Chapel Hill, Jeanne Hathcock of Yukon-Good Shepherd, Kristen Brown of Blackwell, and Vicki Spurgeon of Lawton.
Among the most challenging aspects of working in Haiti are the conditions on the ground. In Haiti, there is nothing others haven’t experienced on mission trips across the globe, but the earthquake brought together a perfect storm of conditions.
In person in Haiti, you see the devastation and destruction; you can smell, taste, feel, and hear it. The noise seems to be constant, and smells change in an instant—you smell the scent of flowers and, in a split second, it changes to burning trash.
In both of my experiences, the end of the mission brought a level of sadness and depression that is not always a part of mission work. In so many of our short-term missions, we leave with a sense of accomplishment. We complete a project and leave with a happy family or church and new friends.
I have faith that each team member who went with me in November will return and continue the process of assisting Haiti in rebuilding.
A 10-year-old boy sat outside with us one evening. He asked if we knew Jesus. So to each in the circle of people there, we asked the question.
Do you know Jesus? Yes. Do you know Jesus? Yes.
Finally, we asked the boy the same question, and he responded with a great big smile.
"Yes! I know Jesus. He is my Savior!"
I hope I can have that same joy as this young lad, and that joy never goes away. It is easy to get so burdened with responsibilities that we lose the joy of knowing Jesus.
|Above, Oklahomans and Haitians work together on a concrete project at the Thomas church on the island in November. Bibles in hand, below, the men gather for worship and study. Photos provided by Jim Jones