Day 6 – Port au Prince

October 30th, 2011

I think I will just let the pictures do the talking and will describe the work at the school in Port au Prince in another posting.  Please pray for the people of Haiti


Life continues to move forward in Haiti and in Port au Prince.  There are definitely signs of progress but still tremendous challenges.

  • Pastors want education and to grow in the Lord and knowledge of the word so they can rightly divide the word to their congregations and help raise up leaders to minister to the community.
  • Christian ministries need to be able to train leaders, they need volunteers, they need funding.
  • Schools need teachers and supplies, uniforms, buildings
  • People need shelters, food, jobs, education, hope
  • Towns and cities need repaired infrastructure, safety for people, sustainable and reliable power,, effective law enforcement
  • The Government needs leaders that are not corrupt and stand up for the people, wisdom in managing the reconstruction

And much more…

May this be the prayer of the Christians of Haiti

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14

Day 6 – Pastor Absolum’s School

October 29th, 2011

We woke up this morning earlier than usual (the rooster still crows from midnight to about 6:30 am) since we are heading into Port au Prince and want to beat the traffic and get started on the work.

The project is to put walls on a structure that already as a roof.   The room is about 35 feet in length and about 25 feet in width and abuts to the current concrete structure.  We are building walls out of plywood and hope to finish in one afternoon.  We gave $500 from the funds raised by the Women’s ministry to this school to buy the plywood and supplies necessary to finish this room which will be for children in the first through about fourth grade (I think)  It is a little confusing as we talk or attempt to talk to the pastor and some men that work with the school.  Ladies thank you so much.  This will be wonderful for the kids and it is a great ministry to the community.

Our communications are kind of interesting.  Alan asks for some clarification from the local project supervisor in Spanish, the Haitian supervisor then tries to answer in Spanish or translates the question in Creol to a Colombian missionary who is working with the EFCA team hear in Haiti, who then translates to French or back to Portuguese for either Alan or I to try and understand….  It is definitely an international project but one where we get by with a lot of discussion, searching for words, pointing and drawing.

When we arrived at the school, we were introduced and got a quick tour of the classrooms and the children.  The rooms are small given the number of children in each class but they make do and there were 7 classes that we stopped in to see from about 5 years in age to somewhere around 12 to 14.

We fortunately were working in the shade today, which was great as it was another warm day in Haiti.  We did take breaks frequently and I was surrounded at “recess” by a group of the girls.

We finished the walls around 4:30 that afternoon.  It was a bit longer than we had anticipated but definitely a great project to be able to give this school more room and the children a better structure in which to study.

This was the last project that we were working on and we were definitely tired.  The next day we would be finishing up the trusses at the Bethel Church (cementing the rebar) and then in the afternoon we would go over to Greg and Jasmine’s orphanage to deliver their supplies.

God is truly great and His ways certainly above our ways.

Day 5 – Wednesday at Bethel Church

October 29th, 2011

We started a bit earlier in the morning hoping for a bit less heat and also to make sure we can get through setting the last three trusses and securing them to the building.  It was an ambitious agenda but we had gotten through most of the trusses the day before and just had to finish up three more and then cut some rebar (iron rods to hold the trusses to the building and pour some concrete).  The children like to come over on break from class and talk to us or at least laugh at us and giggle.  Our “system” for getting the trusses up is beginning to work well and we get two of the trusses up before lunch.  Since we are close to the Haitian Queen we go back for lunch.  We have been going back each day this week and having left overs from the night before.  We may have to go on a diet when get home.

After lunch we get the next two trusses up in a little less than 2 hours and just had to secure the last truss to the outside wall.  We also went down to get a rebar cutter from the Christianville Health Clinic that was just rebuilt a few months ago just up the road from the Haitian Queen.  The day was hot again, well over 100 but less than it had been the day before.

At dinner a couple from the Christianville mission came over and we had a short visit.  They met here in Haiti and were married just a few months ago.

Day Four – Hot, Hot, Hot

October 28th, 2011

We are still working at the Bethel Church and it is HOT.  The heat index is about 115 and there is no shade…

We want to get four more trusses up today so we can be in a position to finish most of the work on Wednesday so we can help with some other projects.

The project is located next to a school (about 4 feet to the side of the church and the kids like to stop by and laugh at us while we are working.  One of the young girls said she would like to see Allen dressed up in a suit like for a wedding.  Who knows he may have a proposal or two before he leaves, lol.

The weather started out very warm even at 8:30 in the morning.  There were no clouds and we were dripping within about 10 minutes.

The first day getting a couple of the trusses up helped us to work out a reasonably good system where we would swing this 35 foot truss to one side (the church is only 30 feet wide) then we would lay the truss down and pick it up so the gable (pointed part of the roof) was pointing down and the straight rafters were up in the air.  We then lifted one end up on the wall (10 feet or so high) and push it far enough past the wall so we could pick up the other end of the rafter and then put it up on the wall.  The trusses weigh somewhere between 400 and 600 pounds.

It continues to rain on and off on us but usually the duration is very short.  Today we were praying for a little rain after lunch and we finally got clouds around 3:00 pm.

We did manage to get four more trusses up and we were feeling a little ambitious and thought we might just be able to hang one or two more trusses and have them ready for the the next day.  Sounds great in theory but things started going “south” almost immediately as we discovered there was a weak joint in the truss.  We were able to manhandle it against an end wall while Mario crawled on top of the wall to secure the truss.  This effort took us about 35 minutes and at the end we had one truss hanging upside down, but at least secure against the one of the main walls of the building.

So much for some of our bright ideas but in the end it was a good thing as we were able to find the weak joint in the truss and repair it.  Thank you Lord for providing your ways to help us finish this project well.

Day 3 – Monday – Bethel Church Project

October 27th, 2011

We began the day with the usual roster alarm.  The night is very warm and we are actually sleeping inside the “Haitian Queen” and using the indoor toilets! Wow!  The EFCA team has finished most of the house and so they can accommodate about 15 team members inside plus their normal staff.  There are six people here total, 3 from our group and 3 from a church in Indiana.

We got up around 6:30 (or so we thought) and got ready to go up to our work site and found out the clocks were off an hour.  So we had a little extra time to plan out our day.  Oh well.

The first project for the week is to put the roof on a church just about a 20 minute walk up the hill from the Haitian Queen.  Fortunately we drove since we had a good bit of equipment.  The ministry actually has a new truck which is great and allows us to ride fairly comfortably and carry a good bit of equipment.  The church has built a new structure with the church providing a good bit of the funds and the EFCA team providing labor and some money here and their.  Our goal for the week is to get the roof trusses installed and the next team over will put the team on the roof.  The church has to raise this money first as it will cost about $5,000 and is quite a bit of money here.  The building is about 60 feet long and about 35 feet wide and each of the trusses probably weighs about 400 to 600 pounds and requires a lot of labor just to get it in position.  It would be great to have a crane but we worked out (with the help of our engineer) a method to get them in place relatively easily.  We anticipate it will take us until Wednesday afternoon or Thursday to get this project finished and then we will go into Port au Prince to help finish a building for an orphanage.  We will visit Greg and Jasmine’s orphanage either Thursday or Friday depending on how the projects go.

We arrived at the church about 7:45 and after unloading our equipment we began by getting the first truss attached to the building so we can anchor the next truss, etc.  The process is methodical and getting the first truss in place would have made a great video but we did not have any extra hands.  So you will just have to trust us that it was a very interesting process.

It was probably 100 by 10:00 and 100% humidity and we were dripping!! The humidity was also very high.  But just another day in Haiti and just the way we like it.

It took a while to get the first truss in place and and just as we got the second truss in place it began to pour.  We finished up and then ran into the school next door to get out of the rain until it quit.  It normally just rains 15 or 20 minutes at a time and then becomes very humid.  We finished the third truss around 4:00 and called it a day.  We were beat.  After loading all of our equipment we went back to the house and crashed.  It was a productive day and fun to listen to the kids in school, which is located about 5 feet from the church, as they sang and played.

It was also great to see the senior pastor of the church as he came in to look at the progress.  He was grinning ear to ear, shaking our hands and saying thank you, thank you.

Day 2 – Bon Dimanche – Good Sunday

October 24th, 2011

Sunday arrived with a cock a doodle doo….that began at about midnight….  I think this rooster thinks he lives somewhere in Europe.  We will either get him a watch or eat him before the week is out.

So we did wake up early.  The night was not too hot and the morning was cool, again relatively.  We dressed and got ready to church and then walked down to Christen Ville. 

It was cool when we got to church since the was the first Sunday that they were able to get back into the building.  The earthquake had significantly damaged the building and required a totally new roof.  It was a wonderful time to hear the people sing with such joy.  The service lasted about 2 hours (Pastor Charles, please don’t get any ideas :-) ).

The singing, even though we did not understand, was beautiful.  You can certainly understand the spirit of the people if not the language.

When we got home we did a little planning for our building project and got ready to head over to the New Horizon orphanage.  We first met Pastor Christian and the New Horizon orphanage last year.  This is the same ministry where we built the small two room “school” out of 2×4’s a tin roof and a blue tarp for sides.  I was really excited to see that it has held up well over the first year.   The New Horizon ministry/orphanage has been in business for over 10 years and has about 25 kids currently at the orphanage.   The orphanage has made a good deal of progress since last year.  When we first met them the couple running the orphanage lived in a small tent with the kids in makeshift shelters or tents and holding class under a tree.  The orphanage still has many needs.  The two room school only holds about twenty at a time and there is a tremendous need for a second building.  They are also teaching the children crafts and skills, but materials are expensive.  Due to the tremendous work of the Women’s ministry we are going to be able to help them build a second building and also acquire some raw materials such as yarn and cloth that the children can in turn produce products such as uniforms for school and clothes. 

After we left the orphanage it was dark.  We went back to the Haitian Queen for a dinner of Mac and Cheese, devotionals and to plan a bit for tomorrow.

Keep up the prayers as tomorrow we begin work on the Bethel Church roof which promises to be quite an interesting project.  We will most likely be working on this roof through Wednesday or Thursday and then hopefully move to work at another orphanage in the heart of Port-au-Prince on Thursday or Friday.

Day 1

October 23rd, 2011

Team:  David Zozaya, Alan Tonissen and Steve Smeltzer

Where: Gressier, Haiti (just outside of Port au Prince)

When: October 22 to October 29

We left for Port au Prince, Haiti on Friday at about 11:00 from the church and headed to LAX for a 2:30 pm flight to Miami where we spent the night and then we got up at 7:00 this morning (Saturday) to catch our flight on to Haiti.  Wow this was much better than the red-eye.  I think we have found a new process for getting to Haiti where we are not to tired as the week begins.

We arrived in Haiti at about 10:30 this morning.  The airport was much the same as last year although we got through customs very quickly.  Baggage claim was the usual scramble for bags.  You kind of have to see it to appreciate it.  :-)

Miguel was waiting for us along with a couple of young men from the area that had a Touch Global sign for us to recognize them.  We almost walked right by them as we were not expecting such a formal welcome.

The ride to the Haitian Queen took us about 2 hours and portions of the road are much improved over last year although the traffic is still bad.  You have to appreciate it is only 18 miles from the airport to the Haitian Queen (where we stay) so you average about 9 miles an hour….but look at it this way you get to see the people up close and you are not just flying by.

You can see improvements from our last trip.  The roads in some of the worst places have been repaired, but there is still a tremendous amount of congestion and very few roads for people to use.

We did see a man wearing a long coat while he was working.  I guess when things get down into the lower 90’ss or mid 80’s it must seem cold to some of the locals.  When we arrived at HQ we picked up another of the Haiti team and we went up the hill (near where we were building latrines last year and shelters) to a church call Bethel.  The local church members have built the foundation and walls for their new church and we are here to help put up the roof.  The building is about 60 feet by 30 feet and the trusses probably weigh around 200 to 300 pounds.  So the question is how should we do this,  so we took the advice of “BYOE” or in other words, when attacking a structural problem Bring your own engineer.  So Allen, our engineer, is working up how to get the trusses (which the last team built) up and mounted to the 12 foot walls in order that the next team can put on the roof.  When we arrived at the church the rain started coming down…we took shelter under a classroom the community had built and the noise on the tin roof made it a little difficult to hear. You can watch the rain video on my facebook page:

We will be at Christian ville tomorrow for church and then spend the afternoon planning for the weeks work.

Be praying for safety, strength, wisdom and humility and that we will be able to connect to the people here in Haiti.

Back to Haiti

October 16th, 2011

We leave again on Friday, October 21 to Miami and then on to Port au Prince, Haiti Saturday morning.  The team consists of David Zozaya, Alan Tonissen and Steve Smeltzer.  We will be working on a roof for a church in Haiti, putting walls on a building at one of the orphanages and helping with other tasks as the Lord leads.  The roof for the church and the walls for the building at the orphanage are being funded by the money raised by the Women’s Ministry and CCCLH.  Thank you so much ladies.

We will also be taking various supplies to one of the orphanages and discussing with local leaders how we can better help in the future.

Please pray

  1. for safety for the team and for the long term EFCA staff in Haiti
  2. sensitivity for our team as we work with the local people
  3. guidance as we support various ministry activities
  4. leadership from our wonderful God as to where and how He wants us to support Haiti on an ongoing basis

We covet all of your prayers.

God bless,

Steve

Vendredi – Blessings and Opportunities

August 22nd, 2010

It is hard to believe it is Friday already.  The week has gone by so quickly.  Today we again are breaking into two groups with one group going with Garret to the Conference in Port au Prince and the other group will be working on another shelter for Rosetta (who also cooks our evening meals for us Monday to Saturday).  Rosetta walks back and forth to the Haitian Queen about 2 miles everyday, returning to her home when it is just getting dark.  She helps us by negotiating and purchasing our groceries and then has one of her daughters help her cook our evening meal six nights a week.

After we finish at Rosetta’s we will be going to orphanage run by Greg and Jasmine that we met in May and then we are planning on a short trip to the beach to relax a couple of hours before coming back to the Haitian Queen to get ready to leave.

Garret and his team had to leave early, 6:30 am, in order to be able to get to the conference before 9:00 am.  The other team got ready and after our daily devotional we gathered our equipment and drove a little way up the hill to and parked our truck.  We then unloaded and walked a mile or so off the road to get to Rosetta’s house.  We walked through a very beautiful valley and rolling hills that had a small stream running through it.  We admired the scenery and waved at the various people bathing in the stream (nothing like a close community).  We arrived at Rosetta’s house and saw that their original house was very heavily damaged and the family had moved out of the house after the earthquake into the chicken coop and they moved the chicken coop into the house.  Their current shelter was a mix of tents and tarps on the side of a hill underneath some trees.  The family has Rosetta and her husband, who is also a local pastor (his church is on the very top of one of the nearby hills) and their four daughters.

The family had cleared and leveled a “pad” for the shelter which was assembled and ready for the roof.  We sent three people up on the roof and had the roof installed in about 40 minutes.  We then visited a few minutes with Rosetta and then prayed with her and her daughters.  Her husband was at work.  As with the other pastors he has other jobs he performs besides being a pastor in order to support his family.  It was great to be able to give back to this wonderful family for all of the blessings she has been able to give us.

We said our goodbyes and then hiked back to the car and then drove back to the Haitian Queen and unloaded our supplies.  Afterwards everyone got ready for the beach and we gathered a few tools to take to the orphanage where they had some problems with their generator.  Greg and Jasmine’s orphanage depends on the generator to supply all of their clean water, which is most critical, and then also to provide power for lights, a refrigerator, computer etc.  There had been several large rains lately and the old generator had flooded and although it would run it was not producing electricity.  The EFCA Crisis Response team had an old US army generator that had been given to them and they had taken that over a few days before and we were wanted to be able to get this generator up and running (the orphanage had borrowed a generator after their generator was flooded but needs to return it soon).  The generator only had outlets that we saw that were 120 plugs and we need to get 240 volts from the generator and wire the generator to an inverter that charges an array of batteries which in turn provides the power for the orphanage.  None of the team are electricians and our “handy man” skills were being severely challenged so I used my “phone a friend” and called Jeff Fetters for some advice.  I caught Jeff on top of a roof in LA and asked him if he had a couple of minutes to help us walk through the wiring.  We had spent about 40 minutes getting things ready and trying to figure out the wiring before I called.  Jeff was able to easily tell us exactly how to wire up the generator (although it took a few dropped calls to be able to complete).  We then plugged in the generator to the inverter and as you would expect, we now had a problem with the inverter.  Nothing is every simple in Haiti.  We worked a little bit longer on the project and Greg was going to keep working on it to see what he could do and Wes was going to ask another EFCA Crisis Response team member who had set up the inverter at the Hatian Queen (and who is arriving in Haiti on Saturday) to come over right after he gets in to help fix the problem.  Jeff thanks for helping getting the generator going and helping getting the generator up and running.  The 30+ orphans, Greg, Jasmine and the helpers greatly appreciate it.

Now we are off to the beach for a little last minute R&R.  To get to the beach we drive through “downtown” Leogone which was the epic-center of the earthquake.  Almost 90% of all structures were destroyed or severely damaged and unusable after the quake.  There has been quite a bit of progress since May in clearing rubble but there is still a tremendous amount to still be done.  We leave town and drive down a narrow road leading down to the beach where we spent a couple of hours just relaxing.  We did not sit on the beach, but waded out into the water and just stood around talking.  The water is probably about 90 to 95%.  After our “dip” we loaded back up and started back to the Haitian Queen.  When we came through the first time we noticed the narrow road was very muddy in a couple of spots and as we were going through one particularly muddy spot we got stuck and it took about 2 hours to get out.  We used the time to get very muddy trying to get the van out and also decided to have a time of prayer for the community around us.  We had to wait for the truck from the Haitian Queen to come to get us out, but again in Haiti that is just the way we like it.

After we returned to the Haitian Queen several local young men came over to sit and play and sing worship songs.  A lot of the team sat on the porch singing and talking with them and I listened from inside and worked on “the blog”.  It was great listening to these young Haitian men lifting up God’s name and praising Him for all the good things he does.  God help us to remember, like these men that you are good and that you are constantly at work in our lives.

Jeudi – Shelter and Training

August 22nd, 2010

Thursday….Wow the week is flying.

The team headed up the hill, into Marshall, to the same area we installed the latrines in May to help with the transitional shelters.  The material for the transitional shelters have been provided by Samaritan’s Purse and is a 12X12 structure that includes a low table, three 12 foot shelves that are assembled like a bunk bed and can serve as places to sleep and/or to store food and other belongings.  The shelters are made of treated lumber, to last better in the damp climate, a tin roof and a blue tarp that wraps then entire building to provide the external wall.  Samaritan’s Purse has a compound where they assemble the four walls and this “kit” is picked up by teams and assembled on site.

The EFCA Crisis Response team has developed strong relationships with local pastors and with the local community and work through one of the local community leaders to identify those in most need of the shelters.  The EFCA team has worked with Samaritan’s Purse and the local community to train a number of local Haitian teams to assemble the shelters and then the EFCA Crisis Response team comes and puts on the tin roof.  After the roof is installed another Haitian team will come around and install the blue tarp wall.

Since June the EFCA Crisis Response team has assembled some 375 shelters and will has plans to assemble around 1,000 shelters working with local ministries in communities in the areas relatively near the Haitian Queen.

We drove to an area the EFCA team named the “sports bar”, due to the TV that was brought out and placed under a tree to play the “football” matches during the world cup, parked the car.  We met several of Haitian’s friends and then split into two “roofing” teams to work on the shelters in the area.  The shelters we were working on were a bit off the road so we loaded up our supplies and walked to the first area.  Our team had a Haitian man named Kenz leading our installation effort and he showed us how the tin is attached to the structure.  It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to assemble a roof.  The sun was shining brightly and most of the shelters were in mostly sunny areas.  We began work on the first shelter around 10:30 and we had 9 assembled by 12:30 when we walked back to the car and drove back to the Haitian Queen for lunch which was a great treat (normally we have energy bars for lunch along with water or a sports drink mix).  Part of the team was going with Garret into Port au Prince for the conference and the rest of us would be working on additional shelters in the afternoon.

After lunch the team split into two groups with one group going into Port au Prince for Garret to lead a counseling time with Pastors and church leaders and the rest would be working on transitional shelters.  Garret had to drive about 2 hours each way to get to the place where he was speaking.  He was speaking on helping pastors and church leaders to better lead their flock through teaching on counseling and the importance of equipping ministry leaders.  The conference was organized by Pastor Joseph Absalom, whom we met when we were here in May. Absalom shepherds two Baptist churches in Port au Prince, including one congregation of 350 – this is large for Haiti. The EFCA Crisis Response team has been working with Pastor Absalom since shortly after the earthquake to help him deliver aid to the community and also identify additional areas where the EFCA Crisis Response team might be able to work with local pastors to help them minister to their congregations.  This conference was a direct result of Pastor Absalom’s desire to provide counseling training to leaders of the churches in the area.

The other part of the team returned to the same area and hiked in about half a mile from the main road to work on more shelters.  We built four additional shelters in the afternoon and spent time visiting with some of the local community that had come to watch.  At one of the shelters we had maybe thirty or forty people watching us.

After we built each shelter we would gather with the family that was going to live in the shelter and pray with them and dedicate their shelter.  We took turns praying for the family’s and it was very touching to see how the family’s responded to us.  Many of them had very poor shelters consisting of small tents, tarps over polls, tarps over partially destroyed buildings or other types of temporary structures.  The shelters are designed to be temporary in nature but given the situation in Haiti many of these shelters may have to last for several years for these families.  We finished 11 shelters today which will house over 110 people.  This brings the total number of shelters assembled by the EFCA Crisis Response team to approximately 390 and housing approximately 3,000 people.

Continue to pray for the EFCA team; for wisdom on working with the church and community leaders.  The shelter project is hugely successful but is not designed to provide new shelter for those that have adequate shelter already.  As you can probably imagine it is difficult to determine who will receive shelters and who will not.  The team will be finishing the shelter project in the Marshall area within the next week or two and moving to other areas, including Leogone, which was the epicenter of the earthquake, where families desperately need help.  Pray for strength and wisdom for the church leaders and community leaders that are developing the lists of the neediest families.  Pray for continued strength and wisdom of the EFCA team in working with these leaders and pray for the future teams that continue to support the shelter project and other efforts to help restore these communities physically and spiritually.

From Garret: The team is excited at the multitude of promising ministry opportunities – not only in the area of compassion and mercy, but in the ministry of the Word to encourage and assist in the equipping of local pastors. Earthquakes don’t discriminate by profession; because pastors are seeing their roles expanding in the crisis aftermath, their time and resources are being spread thin – particularly in regard to their time with family since they are now looked to as community leaders.

One of the highlights of this week for me was the moment I prepared to speak before our brothers and sisters in Port au Prince. Absalom came up and lead the group in the hymn “Be Still My Soul” – in French understandably. To hear the sound of their voices was so beautiful to me – knowing that the Lord is at work in his people across the world. I love the church in Haiti, and it is my prayer that God might continue to use resources from our church to edify his church there – for the glory of God alone!