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Beyond the Paved Road

April 13, 2018
By Dawn Wieking

Beyond the Paved Road

Just one week in Haiti can change a life - on both ends of the equation - Americans to Haitians, Haitians to Americans. The Spring Break Mission Haiti Team was blessed to experience the various aspects of what Mission Haiti does for the village of Ti Riviere, and to the greater community in southwestern Haiti.The moment the plane landed in Port-au-Prince, our senses were heightened by the smells, the sights, and the surprises of this island nation.  From the instant heat and humidity (after leaving Sioux Falls in a blanket of snow) at the airport, to the overwhelming sights of roadside open markets with Haitians carrying supplies on their heads, to the evidence of extreme poverty in the tin sheds many call home, Haiti greeted us warmly.

Lauren delivers a care package to a family that she sponsors.
SFC student Lauren Heethuis meets with the family of a child she sponsors.

The coastal/mountain terrain of Ti Riviere revealed a village that has felt the impact of Mission Haiti. We were able to visit many of the homes of sponsored children, who are able to attend school due to the support of people in the United States. The visits were both exhilarating and heart-breaking. The joy on the faces of children as they met people who pray for them and support their desire for a Christian education, moved us to tears, as did the squalid conditions of some of the “homes” where they live. Seeing homes that have been built through the efforts of Mission Haiti gives hope for those who need a safe place to live.

Baptisms in the ocean made a powerful impact, increased by the four members of the Elderly House who made a public witness of their faith in Jesus Christ. As each elderly gentleman was escorted waist-deep, bracing against the waves that nearly bowled them over, they were carefully “buried” and “raised” by the Pastor in the name of Jesus. We were later blessed to share a time of praise and worship with the elderly residents in their “home.” This is a place where they are tended to with the love and care as one would give their own family. We will not forget singing songs of praise and dancing with precious brothers and sisters in Christ.

A Haitian wedding is a wedding to experience, especially when 13 couples are married at one event. The village and Mission Haiti work together to provide a ceremony and reception for the couples to mark this special occasion. Two students worked as wedding photographers, while others help decorate  for the reception to follow. As hosts, we served the guests their food and offered our gifts to commemorate the day.

The JAK Academy not only was the venue for the wedding reception, but also provided a space for sorting shoes and visiting the students in French class. It is a privilege to see the school in operation after envisioning the dream for so many years. To see Haitian teachers leading the classes in French lessons and seeing 2nd grade students and Pre-K students sharing what they have learned was truly amazing. The dream of a Christian academy in Ti Riviere is a reality - and we are blessed a be a part of the story.

Girls dancing together after an afternoon of playing volleyball.

Many other experiences defined our time in Haiti, like visiting the children’s hospital in Le Cayes, hosting a volleyball tournament for the girls in the village and surrounding area, an Easter Sunrise Service on Cub Scout Mountain. Most importantly, we were able to connect with believers from a different culture - going beyond the paved road.

Dawn Wieking