Early Friday morning five of us gathered in the dark at the parking lot of Johnson Ferry, ready to begin our journey together. None of us had ever been to the remote village of Southern Haiti called Fauge. Two members of our team had never been on a mission trip, anywhere. There was anticipation, yawning, praying and coffee! We joined Jean, one of the founders of Torch of Hope Foundation, Inc., (referred to as TOH), at the Atlanta airport. After landing in Port of Prince we joined with other members of our team, totaling 12. Off we went in a van with luggage strapped on top--we were a sight to behold!
Haiti is known as the poorest nation in the entire world but it is one of the most beautiful! While you could certainly focus on the poverty, “lack-of” this and that, it was easy to focus on the beauty of the ocean, mountains, lush green foliage and people while driving through the mountains to the village of Fauge.
Often we were in “throwback” years as we saw donkeys carrying people side saddle with bags of necessities draped across their backs, people herding cows, goats, sheep or pigs and roadside markets selling beautiful produce. It was the season for star fruit, pineapples, mangoes, coconuts and more!
Our mission was to assist TOH in constructing the second phase of their school in Fauge alongside local workers, to teach Creation to Christ in the school to 200 students divided into 6 classes for one hour each day and assist in evening evangelistic outreaches where more than 300 people came for three nights singing, praying, listening to testimonies and the Word of God and watching a video on Creation to Christ in Creole.
The week began in worship at the Baptist church that Jean attended when growing up in the city of Camp-Perrin, (located about 10 miles North West of Fauge). He had not attended in 17 years. His mother and brother were on the team, so to experience this reunion with them was a blessing! We even saw the house and school that he grew up in before coming to the US. That afternoon we hiked up a rocky mountain road that only a donkey could traverse, unless one was walking, that was surely like the Garden of Eden. People were picking up mangoes and peeling them with their hands and eating them! A man scampered up a coconut tree and cut with a machete coconuts for us to drink the milk and then eat! The true treasure was meeting his 99-year-old grandmother who lives there and watching her greet her family and our team with much excitement and expression! We were able to see the school and prayer walk the property, praying for God to allow us to experience our time there through His eyes.
Monday morning began the four days of our mission work. The men were quickly “glistening” in the heat and sun while they physically moved concrete blocks to the masons. They were measuring and designing the second phase of the school, building, cleaning up, removing piles of rocks from construction so a soccer field could be laid out, building a lock box for storage of equipment among many other jobs. The women, with Jean’s brother as our interpreter, began teaching the children.
Our goal was for each child to learn to tell the story of the Bible beginning with creation, on to Moses, the life of Christ and His teachings, crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension--all to understand that we have a Father in heaven wanting to receive each of us with His open arms.
The children were hungry for education and affection, very loving and had big bright eyes that were filled with hope. The evenings were a sight to behold as people appeared seemingly from the darkness of “who knows where” to the school yard and were delighted for the preaching, singing, village gathering and a video shown on a bed sheet (that served as a giant TV screen) that had been attached to the front of the school building.
Thursday closed with our hearts broken and stirred up, the Holy Spirit using us as vessels to speak through, children earning certificates because they could recite the Creation to Christ story and were already sharing it with people in their families and neighbors, walls up and forming classrooms in the new building with over 2,000 blocks laid, hundreds of children and adults hugging and waving good-bye to us, and our hearts full. We drove 20 minutes to the ocean to walk the shore and some just dove in to savor the moment!
Our journey home on Friday was an adventure in itself clearly because Satan was so distraught over all that God accomplished while we were there! It started before dawn when our drivers called to say they would be late due to an issue with the van, the van actually breaking down when we stopped for a stretch break (thank you Jesus we were stopped in a parking lot and not going down a mountain), to Jean finding another van and driver within 10 minutes. Our race to Port au Prince airport included us getting behind a funeral procession, a road check stop point where our driver was fined for film on his side windows (really??), dropping off some of our team members where their journey was continuing, a new driver jumping in, two men (not our team) riding on top of the van to further secure the luggage, a policeman yelling at our driver while we were throwing off our luggage and running into the airport only to be stopped by a drug sniffing dog (really??), two security points, arriving at our gate within five minutes of boarding, sitting on the tarmac in Miami until we had to run through customs and arrived at that gate with eight minutes to spare to landing in Atlanta. We made it home with full hearts!
Thoughts for future work in Fauge: the students have asked for ESL; a roof for the new building; desks for the new classrooms; a garage for the TOH van that stays in Fauge to be locked up along with other essentials; pediatricians, eye doctors and dentists for check-ups for the children; discipleship training for men and women in smaller groups; door to door evangelism outreach; solar panels as there is no electricity at the school; PRAYER.
If you have become interested in TOH through this writing, please know that Torch of Hope Haiti is a “not for profit.” 100% of the donations are used for the school. Jean and Nanslie live in Jonesboro, GA, and have jobs to support themselves. He is a Biomedical Engineer and she is a high school teacher. Jean also just received his Degree in Divinity on Saturday from New Orleans Seminary. He is in our US Reserves military. If you want to read his story go to www.torchofhopehaiti.org.
Suggested donations: $1 buys one concrete block; $25 buys a uniform for a student; $90 pays one school teacher for a month; all donations are appreciated and receive a tax donation receipt.
Thank you for participating by praying for our team and reading this follow-up. Please consider being a part of TOH.
JFBC team: Claire (leader), Jeff, Sam, Dennis, Janet
Article by Claire C.