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.
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.
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.
The Reading Extravaganza was held during the month of March with a theme of Reading is Sweet! Elementary students were encouraged to set personal and class reading goals. The Extravaganza was a success! The students read a combined total of 485,642 minutes during the four weeks! To celebrate their hard work, the students and their families were invited to a family pizza/bingo/book fair night held at the school. During that evening, students ran a concessions that raised $400 for a Mission Haiti classroom. Some of our younger students were able to enjoy being read to and encouraged to keep making their reading goals by Wilbur the Coyote during the month. Also, Jim Oliver returned again and performed a hilarious puppet show for all of our elementary classes. The setting of the puppet show was a library and there was circus that was performed in it! Throughout the month incentives that are mainly donated from the community are given out to students to keep encouraging them to crush their reading goals. Any student that met all four of their goals during the month had their name put in the grand prize drawings, which were an overnight stay at the Ramada and a Sky Zone party package. The month ended with the students dressing up as book characters and the top six classes having a pizza party in their classrooms!
About one Saturday each month, a group of students and a couple teachers head to Rosebud for the day. When we get to the church we use, we clean it as a "thank you" for letting us use their space. A few vans go out to different areas and pick up groups of kids. We spend the next hour playing with the kids. We have been blessed with wonderful weather. When it is nice, the kids love playing tag, jump rope, drawing with sidewalk chalk, soccer, and about any ball game we bring up. The afternoon is filled with giggles. Then we head inside the church for a short Bible lesson and worship songs. We've been using VBS material so we have a theme for each Saturday. We use that theme to design a craft for the kids to do. After the craft, we feed them supper. Nachos has been the favorite lately. After supper, they play games until it is time to pack up and leave.
It's a full packed day with about 8 hours in the car, but it is so worth it. To see where these kids come from and then to see the joy on there faces make it all worth it. Our students are affected more than they anticipate as well. We often take many things for granted and choose to complain, but spending the day in Rosebud can shift their perspective, fill them with love, and make them grateful for the simplest things.