Haiti - Construction 2013

Haiti - Construction

Dates:  SPRING: May 10 - 19, FALL: October 26 - November 3
Ministry Partner:  Greg Barshaw of Connect 2 Ministries
Ministry Focus:  Rebuilding church destroyed in earthquake

Since the earthquake in Haiti nearly three years ago, the evangelical churches there have grown in size. However, most of the church buildings are still in ruins, with the local pastor having no way of rebuilding it. This team will again be involved in the rebuilding of Mission Baptist Church in Delmas, Haiti. Basic construction skills are required for this team.

Updated Monday, November 4
After an unexpectedly long return trip, re-routed through New York, the team arrived home safely last night.  Here is the final update from Monisha, which arrived over the weekend - thank you for for praying for our team!

It has been an amazing week here.  When we first arrived, we thought we would need an extra day (Saturday) to complete our project.  We not only completed it, but we were hours ahead of schedule!  Truly, a God thing!  We thank you for keeping us covered in prayer throughout our trip here – we felt it every day whether at “home”, at work or on our various jaunts through town. 

Today, we visited Cite Soliel.  It is a city that was essentially built on top of trash being pushed out by the existing cities.  The environment is a lot to take in (even though some of us have been here before during previous visits) and your senses are assaulted on every level. Children run barefoot on streets where raw sewage flows freely; animals eat from piles of garbage lining the streets; locals shop for fruit vegetables and meat (unrefrigerated) at the open-air market.  The smell of it hits us as we step out of the van. Yet, through all of this, the children greet us at the door and a few just hold on to your hand.  All eager to be held and spoken with and, well, just loved!

This community of 400,000, is plagued by Cholera.  Without treatment, one dies by dehydration – a body loses fluids faster than it can be replaced.   According to Pastor Greg, it requires a relatively simple treatment (antibiotics) to get rid of it.  However, this hasn’t happened to date and is now probably too late because Cholera has invaded their water supply.  3 years ago, approximately 6000 people died of this disease. 

We visited four churches today and were blessed to meet each of the pastors.  The smallest of the four churches, approximately 480 sq. ft., is the first church that Greg built in Haiti.  Over 200 people worship at this church.   It still stands and Pastor Greg wants to help the pastor (Pastor Saint Jean) build it out a bit more.  A feat indeed especially as space is not plentiful in this community.  But, Greg reminds us that God will provide.

We came back to Adelphos (the compound in which we stay when in Haiti), ate lunch and went to the orphanage on the hill – Fermathe.  Greg has 66 children here who he feeds and shelters.  The drive up is a pretty one.  The hills are lush and green and the mist lies low on top of the hilly terrain.  We also notice beautiful mansions that Greg tells us belong to corrupt officials.  A stark reminder that there is the very rich and the very poor and hardly anything in between. 

Once we arrive at the orphanage, we are bombarded by little ones - sweet smiles, runny noses, chilly little fingers and huge hearts.  A couple of them linger in the background not wanting to get too close too soon.  The others will sit on you, beside you, around you…anywhere they are able to get close.  This is a tough one for us all and, I venture to guess, especially for the newbies on our team.  We scarce can take it in! It’s tough to see them, especially those who may not ever be adopted.  So, we love them as much as we can in the hour or so that we are in their presence.  It’s heartbreaking when we have to say goodbye.

We made our way home and attended to business and had our final debrief session.  Then, Greg challenged us, yet again, during our devotion time. Now that we know the need in Haiti, how will our lives change so we may help fill the need? He reminded us that having the heart of Jesus means it is impossible not to respond to the needs of the poor.  Coming to Haiti is an option, it’s not mandatory.  Being obedient to Jesus’ command of “loving thy neighbor” is my responsibility, it’s your responsibility and it’s a lifestyle!

Tomorrow, we head home after church.  Please pray for safe travels and good health and cheer. We are tired physically and emotionally.  Please pray for protection over each of us as this is when the enemy will try to show himself.  We thank each of you for lifting us up in prayer! 

Updated Saturday, November 2 - Two updates
These before and after shots of the church give a sense of what the team accomplished this week.  The walls and roof will be added later by our Haitian friends.  Praise God for answered prayer!


E-mail from Monisha
We have been able to accomplish so much in these last days.  When we first arrived, we didn’t know if we would finish the church before we left for home.  But, by God’s grace, we are on schedule! We should begin to hang trusses tomorrow and the skeleton for the roof should be in place.

We finished cutting gussets today (I know this is getting repetitious, but there were a whole lotta gussets that we needed to cut!).  Beverly took charge of the saw and has now become an expert!  Judy organized and delegated jobs to the young (and not so young), Rick and Ron were the project managers on the “BUILD THE TRUSS” project.  Troy and Chuck worked on the beams!  When we left the site this evening, all of the beams were hung and we have 6 trusses ready to go!  Just accomplishing these two things took most of the day because there are so many pieces to the puzzle.  But, it’s getting done!

There were many little ones who helped us and hung out with us during the day. They helped move lumber, hold down plywood, draw the patterns on the gussets… We were even taught how to say a few things in Creole. They are so sweet and ready to jump in and help when asked – and sometimes even when they aren’t being asked…lol

After work, we went to Pastor Modil’s church (you readers who have followed us during previous trips know that he is the pastor of the church we just completed in May). Pastor Modil lost his church, his home and his beloved wife in the 2010 earthquake.  Today, he is a changed man and goes around saying “I AM SO ‘APPY!”.   It was lovely to see old friends and to see the building in which God touches so many. 


Today day at the construction site was a wildly productive one.  Chuck and Ron lead one team in building trusses.  The other team was headed up by Rick and Troy.  We finished building 14 trusses before lunch and the last one was completed just afterward.  Each truss weighs about 300 pounds and contained approximately 150-200 nails.  Needless to say, hammers were at a premium today.  Put yours down, even for a minute, and there was no guarantee that it would be waiting for you when you returned.  Actually, that’s just how it is whether it’s a hammer or a carpenter’s pencil.  But, you do what you have to and get things done.


Once all the trusses had been put together, we began hoisting them.  Some of us lifted and hoisted the truss in a see-saw type motion.  Ron and Troy would lift the side of the truss on to the beams placed on either side of the church.  The truss hung like an inverted triangle until we pulled the peak into position and then the truss sat with its peak pointed to the sky.  We continued all afternoon until we finished setting 7 trusses in place.  We are planning on finishing up the last of the trusses tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a voodoo holiday so many of the children will have the day off school.  Pastor Greg said it used to be a pretty wild scene – drinking, language, other things, etc.  However, it has lessened as the years have gone by.  Many of the churches were holding services to “ward off” the voodoo from their churches, homes, etc.  It may be an interesting day tomorrow.  So, tomorrow, please pray, pray, pray for protection and safety all day and night. 

Now, we are headed off to bed to rest, rejuvenate and ready to rebuild! Thank you for each of your prayers!

Updated Wednesday, October 30
E-mail from Monisha

Well, we just completed day 3 in Haiti!  After a long, hard day of work, we had a lovely dinner and now some of us are in the dining room waiting for the hours to go by.  In our minds, it’s still 4:34 p.m….way too soon to go to bed. 

Day 2 was quite eventful as we learned a couple of valuable lessons.  One, drink a ridiculous amount of water during the day even if there is a deceptive breeze blowing.  Second, put the tarp up as a means of shade…quickly!  We learned those two lessons because a few of us did succumb to dehydration.  We are all up and running today, by the grace of God!

Much of the work that began yesterday was in preparation for putting up support posts.  A lot of digging was needed as the soil here is hard and filled with rocks.  But, as we have navigated unplanned territory before, we persevered and the posts were put in, the concrete was poured and voila, the changes begin already.  We also began drawing and cutting out patterns for the gussets that will soon adorn the trusses.  Ladies, at this juncture, I must tell you that gussets and trusses are not just for making dresses apparently. 


Day 3 was a good day as we got into our “groove”.  We were teamed up and assigned our tasks.  Chuck and Troy continued setting posts and beams; Rick and his team of Haitian helpers cut out the various parts of the trusses; Judy and her band of Haitians painted plywood, drew out nail patterns and played 20 questions; Beverly and I did nothing all day but trace and cut out the million pieces for the aforementioned gussets. 


While working this afternoon, a few UN soldiers showed up as they did yesterday.  Apparently we work in the area they generally patrol as part of their peacekeeping mission.  They spoke to Rick and Ron yesterday as they were curious about what we were building.  They showed up today again and visited with a few more of us.  They were friendly and they posed for pictures.  It was fun and their visit broke up a bit of the monotony of the afternoon a little.  I’m sure they will be back tomorrow with a few more of their comrades. 

As on previous trips, I am reminded of the persevering spirit I see all around me this time too.  The perseverance of the Haitian people is obvious and is stark.  They sit at their vendor stands from morning till night, everyday hoping to sell enough to feed their family.  Most of them dressed in well-worn clothes, with well-worn faces and bodies without much hope of changing circumstances. Sadly, the unemployment rate remains 40% or higher.  The kids march off to school every morning in the whitest whites, uniforms spotless and shoes brightly shined, ready to learn what is being taught…but the illiteracy rate here remains above 50%.    What is it that motivates each person to keep going even thought their circumstances change incrementally or not at all?  Is there even an option for them not to meet each day with hope? 

 I am humbled every time I am here because the small things in life that I count heavy are feather light or non-existent in comparison.  This lesson in perseverance is one that each of us must heed if we want to “run the race” that is set before us. 

 Grace to All of you and thank you for being our Prayer Warriors!

Updated Monday, October 28
E-mail from Monisha

Today was our first day in Haiti.  After arriving safely in Port au Prince this morning, we were whisked off to Pastor Eddie's place.  We ate lunch and off we went to visit the handicapped orphanage, the new construction project site and Pastor Modil's church (the church we completed during our last visit here). 

This time around, we have two new members of our team, Beverly Miller and Troy Lehman.  It is refreshing to have a new set of eyes look with wonderment at some of the things that we "veterans" may not pay attention to anymore. 

 Our first stop after lunch was the Handicapped Orphanage "Maison des Enfants Handicapes". The children are loved by Greg, the staff and by "Marie" who is the lovely woman who has dedicated her life to caring for them. We had a chance to see old faces and note how quickly so many kids are growing up. 


Next, we went to see the church where we will begin our project tomorrow. It is located in a tent city with a population of 20,000. What is a "tent city"?  According to Wikipedia, a tent city is a temporary housing facility made using tents or other temporary structures. Seem pretty bland...until you witness it for yourself. This tent city is permanent, dirty, plagued with poor roadways, water shortages, and lack of power.  But, the residents soldier on every single hour of every day.  A hardship that you readers (and us) probably will never have to endure.      

Chuck and Rick, along with Pastor Greg, have mapped out what the week ahead will look like.  We were able to meet Pastor Jacques as well. Tomorrow, our team will begin to demolish the existing structure.  Over the course of this week, we will also build trusses, gussets and beams & do some light painting, etc..  Conservative estimate - 3 days just to build the 13-15 trusses we will need.  We will have plenty to do over this next week, so please pray that we will be able to accomplish what it is we came out to do. 

Our final visit was to Pastor Modil's church, which we rebuilt over our last 4 trips.  It was so heartwarming to see a few old friends.  The physical building remains a light on the hill in a community that needs to hear the Gospel!  We said our hellos, loved on some more kids, took some pictures and made our way to our surrogate home.

After dinner, we had a low-key devotional time.  Well, that's how we started out anyway.  Then, Greg shared heart-wrenching statistics:  35,000 kids dying of starvation annually, 800K orphans out of a total population of 11 million, children who pass away from such easily curable ailments such as asthma only because they don't have proper medical care.  

He challenged us by asking the question, How could you defend God's justice, mercy and kindness to a mother who had to choose one of her children to die in order to save the rest of her brood?  Clearly, that hit us hard.  We are still thinking about that one! He reminded us that pastors need to build relationships with his community.  To that end, teams come along side Greg to support the Pastor and his staff.  In turn, they are energized because the community responds to him and not to us. These pastors know the language, culture and lifestyle of those who they shepherd.  Each is a light in a community that is shrouded by voodoo and its darkness. 

 Our first day has been quite thought-provoking on so many different levels.  I can only imagine what else this week has in store for us…. Stay tuned!  And thank you for your prayers!

Updated Sunday, October 27
Our Fall Haiti Construction Team arrived safely this morning in Port-au-Prince.  They will prepare to tackle a new project, the construction of a church building in the midst of a tent city full of people who are still displaced due to the earthquake that took place over 3 years ago.  Your prayers for their ministry are appreciated!

Updated Monday, May 20

The Haiti team wrapped up its project over the weekend, and returned safely to Santa Clarita last night.  The picture below gives a good sense of the fruit of their work, as they built the second floor of the church, including a platform and podium, which will serve as the worship center.

Thanks for your prayerful support of this team.  And we invite you to continue to pray for them, as most of them will be part of a second Haiti Construction team that will travel this Fall.

Updated Saturday, May 18
E-mail from Monisha

Our last two days on the construction site have been so fruitful! Relationships were built and some continued from previous visits. 

This trip, for me, evokes nostalgia.  Not sure how else to describe it.  Perhaps it’s the knowledge that for a week we will be working with old (and some new) friends. Maybe it’s the excitement of finishing up this project that was started so long ago.  Maybe it’s just the contentment to know that each of us has been called to fulfill whatever God wants us to do and each of us has answered that call.  Maybe it’s all of the above!  

Yesterday (16th), we arrived at the site and everyone gathered on the almost-complete 2nd floor.  Pastor Modil and Pastor Greg prayed over the 2nd floor before we began the day.  Their prayers were even more significant this morning because this second floor will be their place of worship going forward.  The space below will be used as a school. 
After prayers, we received instruction from Chuck as he assigned tasks to teams of two and three members.  Off we went to our different corners.  Some of us finished laying down the rest of the actual floor.  Some continued building the staircase and railings around it.  Yet others began building a platform where, possibly, a podium would rest.   

As Pastor Modil watched us working, he and some of the other workers, broke into singing “Alleluia”.  They were so happy to see the work that God is doing in their church and in their community.  I suspect that those who work beside us have a sense of “usefulness” as they help build their church. 

The day wore on and the second floor was completed.  Suddenly, communication from the first floor was “cut off” from the second floor. Over these last few visits, we were always able to see what was going on below from above and vice versa.  Not anymore.  This building, which seemed always to have endless space, now seemed contained.  The second floor is light and airy and, I’m sure, will make worship time even more of a delight. 

Our last day of construction was a short one.  In fact, we finished up around 1 p.m.  The last of the railings were put in and then some aesthetic work needed to be completed.  Knee-braces (which are essentially braces to keep the upper part of the building from shifting) were cut so that we could reposition them higher than they were.  Of course that was not only an aesthetic choice, but, one for safety. 

 A few of the team members completed the stage and even built a podium at which Pastor Modil could stand while preaching this Sunday. Actually, Pastor Modil and Pastor Poyis (Poy-ees) broke into “Blessed Assurance”.  They sang in Creole and some of us accompanied in English.  Then, Pastor Modil took to the podium and gave thanks to God for His goodness to him.  Those close to him note that he is not the same man he was when the first team arrived to being rebuilding this church.  They first encountered a man who was depressed and did all he could to just get out of bed in the morning.  But, he kept going.  His faith in God kept him going.  Today, he greets us every day with a smile and throughout the day, encourages us with “My heart is happy”! Today, he has a vision of what he can accomplish through this church, in his community, with God’s help. Now the body of this church can be “the light on top of the hill” for all those around them.  This church has the potential of touching not only the congregation but the community that surrounds them. 

God is working in every nook and cranny of Haiti.  We, as a team, are truly blessed to have been given the privilege of helping these wonderful people by being tools in His mighty hands.   Tomorrow, another adventure awaits.

Updated Wednesday, May 15
E-mail from Monisha

 Well, here we are, already 4 days into our trip. How quickly time flies!!

God continues to show us His amazing grace.  The Haitians continue to work beside us with smiling faces, cheerful dispositions and willing hearts. The weather has been pleasant with a beautiful breeze in the afternoon to make our work even “easier”.  Each of us are healthy, are safe and come to our surrogate home feeling even more accomplished as each day goes by.  

Yesterday was our first day on the construction site.  We spent much of the day measuring walls that looked square but, well, were not – that looked level but, were not! Rusted rebar that protruded from the walls, pillars, etc., had to be sheered.  Pieces of plywood had to be painted and of course, more beams had to be put together.  Throughout the day, some of the beams began taking their final resting places atop the walls and pillars.   

Today, we got to the site a little late.  The Tap-Tap driver who we hired decided to take in a few more fares before he came by to pick us up.  As we drove to the site in a van, we saw him drive by with a full cargo and a bewildered look on his face.  Actually, it was quite funny.   

Once at the site, as we do every time, Chuck gave us the game -plan, we prayed and off we went to work.  The last of the beams were coming together.  Wood was cut for the beams, joists and blocks.  All the gentlemen, Haitian and otherwise, helped hoist beams that weighed about 200 lbs. each, nailed wood into place and generally juggled many different jobs.  The girls, Judy and yours truly nailed wood, wrote down measurements, organized tools, fastened A-35’s (new lingo that we picked up on the field), nailed blocks between joists and had a grand ol’ time doing it!  

On another note:  As we drove up to the church this morning, we saw a man crawling on his hands and knees over the gravel filled roads.  We learned later that this man was not only disabled in that way, but, he was also deaf.  Pastor Greg often asks the high-school kids who come to visit, why they think God allowed them to live in the US and why a man like who we saw this morning, was allowed to live here. Tough question even for us to answer.  It’s tough to think of God being fair because to our human minds, this could be thought of absolutely unfair.  Pastor Greg reminded us that, again, each one of us is in a place where we can find Him!  That is a sobering thought.  But, Greg will introduce this man to Pastor Modil.  From there, God will surely continue to draw this man closer to Him. 

Romans 1:20 – “For is invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” We continue to be reminded of all God’s mercies to us as individuals and as a team!  We each are so thankful for everything that God has done and continues to do.  God is working and even in Haiti’s “harshness” we can see His hand in it all!

Updated Monday, May 13
E-mail from Monisha

 Hello All at Grace :)   Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms who are reading this!! Well, it has been a couple of pretty hectic days already. So, please forgive the tardiness of this report.  

We arrived safely in Haiti yesterday afternoon. We have seven original team members (Chuck Miller, Rick & Judy Jamieson, Keith Jones, Dan Riordon, Ron Lawler and Me) plus a new member, John Gilchrist!   

There are many things that have been "upgraded" since our last visit in Sept./Oct. of last year. Our first clear sign was that the terminal at the Port-Au-Prince airport has been completed.  Where it was old and dingy, it is now light, bright and airy.   It's a lot less chaotic than usual as well.  As you exit, the corridor is decorated with pictures of what Haiti could be like - pictures of Hibiscus, the ocean, tropical landscapes, shells, etc.  Perhaps a more hopeful look for their future.  

Once we gathered our luggage, we piled high into the "new" van (not new but, new to Greg and to all of us)!  Seat belts, cushions, air-conditioning and a smooth ride awaited us as we were whisked off to Pastor Eddie's place. As we left the airport and drove down the first couple of streets, we noticed that the street lights have all been converted to work off solar power.  The center median are adorned with giant stone flower boxes and the edging on the curbs are taxi-cab yellow.  

Yesterday, we went to Pastor Modil's church, our construction site, so Chuck and Rick could take a look at what needs to be done this week.  After that, we went to "Delmas 75".  This is a tent city with a population of twenty-thousand. Water, already a scarce commodity, is even scarcer in this place.  Children do not go to school some days so they can bring water home to their families.  A church has been built in this city by the local pastors.  They feel that Christ needs to be known in this tent city and so have taken on the responsibility to do just that. God is working!

Today started with worship at Pastor Modil's church.  The sermon was about giving our troubles, no matter how big or small, to God. I looked around and thought about those sitting around me and what their troubles may be.  I thought to myself about how "big" I tend to think MY problems are.  I continue to be reminded of God's grace and how I have so little to complain about and how much more humble I need to be.

After a lovely worship time, we met old friends and met those who would be possibly working with us during the upcoming week.  Our next stop was at the handicapped orphanage ("Delmas 31").  We were fortunate to meet Marie who runs the orphanage for Pastor Greg Barshaw.  She immigrated to New York and worked as a Special Ed driver for 18 years.  She moved back to Haiti and started a hardware business but all the while observing the plight of the handicapped children in her country.  She decided to close the hardware store because she saw how badly treated they were.  Marie went to the local hospital and asked them to show her were all the "unwanted children" (handicapped) were held.  She was led to a room marked “ROOM OF ABANDONED CHILDREN”.  There were 22 children.  She took them all.    Where was she to house all of them?  She rented a house from a couple who lives in the US, but who intended to move back to Haiti after retirement.  He died before he retired and she didn’t want to move back to Haiti without him.  She gave the house to Marie.  God is working! 

After lunch, we went to another orphanage. This one in the hills of Fermathe – a city in the hills of Haiti.  This orphanage houses 58 kids (at last count).  Many of this little ones have grown since our last visit.  We distributed candy, covered them with hugs and kisses and plenty of love, laughed and took pictures.  It was good to be with them again, though always difficult to say goodbye.   

A young couple, Charlie and Emma Shutts are running this orphanage for Greg. They have two children of their own, Jamin and Patience and have one on the way.  They moved here in March, from Idaho, and have set about making a home for themselves in a country that God has definitely called them to.  With Connect2Ministries, they will train orphanage staff and provide assistance to church rebuild projects in the Port-Au-Prince, Haiti area.  They do need prayer to walk continually in the spirit and not in the flesh as well as for complete reliance on God!

So what else has been going on in Haiti since our last visit, you ask? 

*Last time, I reported that Pastor Greg had challenged 42 Haitian pastors to build schools for the disabled. 11 schools have been built with more to come!  God is working!!

*In April, 2013, he and his team distributed 190 wheelchairs throughout various churches in City Soliel and Silo.  They did this in 5 days! God is working!

*A village was started by the Red Cross to house 385 families who had a disabled person in their family. However, once the village was up-and-running, they left.  The families had no support.  Pastor Greg and his team have distributed 82 wheelchairs in this village as well.  The community will plant a church there so that yet another church can build a school for the disabled. This should happen within the next six months. God is working!!

We ended both our days with a daily debrief and of course, devotion.  This time we are doing things a little differently. Our team members have consented to share their testimonies – partially or completely.  I feel privileged and touched that we all get to know one another on a deeper level. Ron and John have shared their lovely stories with us. Tomorrow is my turn.  Will write soon with more of the amazing ways in which God continues to work in all our lives – team members’, Greg’s, Haitians’, etc. 

Good night, All and God bless.