The Lord Provides: An Update on Our Sister Church in Haiti
During the past year, the whole world has experienced many struggles and challenges. Never before have we been so united in facing the same unseen enemy yet so separated due to pandemic restrictions. And Haiti was no exception. They too experienced the same uncertainties, but in a very culturally unique way. In March 2020, as the new coronavirus began to spread around the world, Father Jean Madoché Vil, the priest in charge of all 10 of the La Gonâve Haiti Partnership churches and schools, wrote, “We keep in faith and pray so that we are not overwhelmed by this Coronavirus. We are a fragile nation. We do not have the resources to protect and defend ourselves.” Now, almost one year later, Haiti and La Gonâve are still reeling from the impact of COVID. It has taken its toll with sickness and death, though thankfully not nearly what was feared (even though actual numbers are hard to verify). Schools were closed, the ferry boat quit running, and the fragile supply system to the island was shut down for four grueling months. Unlike here in Charleston, there was no Amazon or pizza deliveries or food pantries!
Then you add the pressures on food supply caused by tropical storm Laura last August, coupled with the ongoing drought that began in January. Below-normal harvests and continued high prices for staple food products such as rice and beans are indicating possible food shortages on La Gonâve. Just recently, the UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) issued a food insecurity warning for Haiti until May 2021. The whole island of La Gonâve is rated at emergency level. Also there is increasing political unrest due to an unpopular president who refuses to step down or allow an election. It is complicated.
Literally, without our partnership, the members of St. Jean Baptiste may be without hope for a future. But thanks be to God there is hope. Thanks to your prayers and your financial support, we do have good news to share with you.
For example, a brand new program has begun. The Kid For A Kid school curriculum began in January! On Tuesday, January 26, we received the news that goats have been distributed to students and their families at St. Jean Baptiste in Plane Mapou.
The local agriculture agent, Jean Thony, who was educated through our partnership, manages the Kid For A Kid Program. He collects information about the student “beneficiaries” and their families. A file is prepared for each student. There are two criteria for selection: the family has the most children in the school and has the oldest parent. There will be at least five students from each of the nine rural schools. The goals for the new goat program are twofold: to help the most vulnerable families in the community and to teach a livelihood skill to students.
We are so thankful for this program and the goats that can help sustain our community through the difficult drought times. Let’s pray that the goats will flourish and the children will love taking care of them and will become proficient goat herders!
Another vital program that helps our community is our school lunch program. The group who packaged the food for our schools was no longer working due to the pandemic--they lost all their volunteers. But God provided once again, and we are now joined with Reach Now International in Oklahoma and Feed My Starving Children out of Minnesota to provide meals to students and staff for only 25 cents a meal. The vitamin- and mineral-fortified rice received each school day may often be the only meal for the 110 students and 13 teachers and staff of St. Jean Baptiste church school. And now an additional 16 older adults are receiving a hot, nutritious meal when attending adult literacy classes. So our school meal programs are alive and well and critical to the well-being of our community.
One of the school cooks prepares the hot lunches
These are just two of the programs making a difference and providing hope as well as sustenance at our sister church and school. There are also the health and nutrition programs, microfinance programs, water catchment and purification programs, and the spiritual leadership of the church and school all working together to bring life and joy to our brothers and sisters of St. Jean Baptiste.
Unfortunately, we will not be able travel in person to Haiti again this year. This will be the first time ever that we have had to skip two years in a row. So we are going to get creative. You will be hearing more about our “virtual” mission trip! We plan to make a short two-minute video of St. Philippians saying hello to our brothers and sisters in Haiti and hope to share it with them over the internet. It will not be the same, but it will be one more encouragement. They continue to pray for us and we pray for them. Even in the hardest of situations, God finds a way.
Thank you, each one of you who has prayed for or financially supported our sister church, St. Jean Baptiste. Your prayers and gifts are making a difference––to God be the glory.