An update from Zach Farris’ recent trip to Madagascar! Thanks for giving to the trip!
Didn’t get an email out yesterday because we had such an awesome busy day. We spent the entire day at the orphanage interacting with the kids. In the morning, we finished painting the two rooms we started the day before by enlisting the help of the children. Attached is a picture of Kristen with one of the kids showing what we did. We had 4 colors (red, yellow, blue, green) and we let the kids pick a color and then we painted their hands and let them put their handprints on the wall. By the end, we had a border of handprints all the war around the room at about waist height. It took the kids a little bit to understand what we wanted them to do, but once they figured it out they had a blast decorating their classroom.
We also taught one of the classes the Hokie Pokie. Our translator sang it in Creole as we danced and did the motions. The kids were skeptical at first (as are many new Hokies), but they warmed up quickly to our shenanigans.
After school got out at around 1:00, the kids had free time until 3:00. During that time, the kids that didn’t live at the orphanage went home or were picked up. When there were just orphans left, we participated in a game time with the orphans. We played or watched them play several games including a few relays, London Bridge, and a Haitian version of Marco Polo. The kids had so much energy and so much love. The kids just love being picked up and held – being at an orphanage, it’s not something they have the chance to experience all that often. There are only two ‘house mothers’ that stay at the orphanage and look after kids, so they don’t get nearly as much one-on-one attention as a normal kid would get. Josh and Jesse quickly became jungle gyms as the kids realized that they could climb all over us. At one point each of us had 4-5 kids hanging from us. It was pretty challenging to stand steady and not drop or squish any of them, but it was so much fun playing with and loving on the kids.
That was yesterday (Thursday). Today (Friday) we spent the morning at the orphanage again painting the outer wall. It’s a concrete wall and wasn’t painted when we started. It was also very challenging to paint with rollers because it had a very coarse finish. We weren’t able to finish because we left at noon to meet Deliris at her apartment for a closing evening of relaxation.
Deliris lives half way up the mountain to the south of Port-au-Prince. Her apartment is the apartment that Jesse and Rebecca stayed in last year with the VBMB collegiate group. It has an amazing view of the city that is particularly breathtaking at night. We had the wonderful opportunity to share lunch with Deliris as well as Andre and Jutta (the new missionaries from the UK) and relax and reflect on the week.
Looking back at the week, we have accomplished a lot and built some great relationships while we were down here. We have made new friends and reunited joyfully with old friends. We have seen destruction, but progress in cleaning up and rebuilding (which is very encouraging!). We have also seen widespread and often abject poverty. But most amazingly we have seen joy and hope in spite of these conditions. And we have seen with our eyes and know in our hearts that this hope and joy comes only from the Lord.
Tomorrow our flight leaves at 2pm and we will leave the complex at 10am to make it there in plenty of time. We fly through La Guardia (NYC) and then to Richmond. We are supposed to land at 10pm in Richmond. Pray for safe travels!
-Jesse, Josh, Rebecca, Rebecca, Kristen, Nichole
Yesterday was a pretty tough day so we skipped a day on the emails. We worked at the same job site as Monday. We worked on the concrete floor in the same house the we put the roof on. We helped 2 Haitian workers to do this – not the same workers that were there on Monday, though. We mixed concrete (beton in creole), put it in buckets and carried them ~40 ft up to the house where we dumped them out on the floor. One of the Haitian workers stayed in the room shaping, leveling and smooth the concrete floor. We also got the experience of hauling 5 gallon buckets of water up the road, something Haitian women do on a regular basis. We did finish the the floor though, which was very fulfilling. It was also very relieving to be done since it was exceptionally hard work. The high yesterday was about 100 degrees with a heat index of about 104. We were definitely all tired and worn out by the time we got back to where we are staying.
Today (Wednesday) we spent the morning seeing a different side of Haiti. We drove up the mountain side to the Haiti Baptist Mission, which was started by Wallace and Eleanor Turnbull in the 1960s. It is now a central part of the Haitian mountain community and control has been turned over to the local community. It’s really a great example of how godly dedication and devotion can impact a community in a positive manner. The weather was much more pleasant in the mountains – the temperature was only about ~75 so it felt comfortable and breezy. The drive up the mountain was also very exciting. We drove through Petionville and saw a lot of destruction, but also a lot of busyness and rebuilding. We passed a city park that was cleared out and was being brought back to its former glory. It was very encouraging to see that it was nearing completion – it actually looked like a park!!
We spent the afternoon at the orphanage and repainted two kindergarten rooms. Jesse took a little time off of painting to help with some mechanical issues and was able to help in fixing a washing machine and one of the old trucks that has trouble starting. We got our first taste of working around the kids and a couple of us (Rebecca Williams and Kristen) immediately got sucked in to play time. We plan to be back there tomorrow to finish the painting and help with classes and playtime.
Tonight we’re having devotion with Jutta and Andre, two missionaries from the Baptist Mission Service. They arrived here about 2 weeks ago and plan to be here for 3 years. They are staying at the orphanage right now and are currently establishing themselves and looking for a place to live. They are not sure what their role will look like going forward, but they are here to assist the orphanage and the church in whatever capacity they are needed.
I’ve attached some pictures of our adventures today – enjoy!
Today was much easier and less labor intensive than yesterday so we have been able to get some rest and are ready to play with the kids tomorrow.
Until then, Bondye bene’ou and au revoir,
-Jesse, Rebecca, Rebecca, Kristen, Josh, Nichole
Jesse Alley is helping lead a team of Virginia Baptists in Haiti this week. This is the first in a series of updates from that team.
We’ve completed our fist work day on the island and we are now waiting for dinner at the compound. Today we helped three Haitians put up the roof over a newly constructed home. The home is indeed humble – 2 rooms each about 10’x10′. But it will provide shelter for a family (not sure how many people). In the picture “Homeowner” you can see the lady that will be living in the house.
I’ve attached some pictures from our day today. One shows the worksite. All the construction is cinder block and concrete. In the “Worksite” picture you can see attenna-looking things coming up from the ground. This is rebar that is included in the foundation. That has already been poured. Each rebar tower will become a corner in the building.
The roof is corrugated galvanized tin. They use 2×4’s for rafters spaced about 3′ apart and the tin laid directly onto the rafters. Not exactly load bearing, but it will keep the water out and provide shade. You can see a little bit of the roof in the “Josh Helping the Haitians” picture. We are working with 3 Haitians, 2 of which we know from previous trips (Jaffa and Elder). In the picture, you can see Jaffa on the ladder.
Per the norm, it was brutally hot today – mid nineties and clear. And the sun is especially strong on the island. We’ve been taking care to drink water constantly and seek shade when we’re not do anything. We made it through alright though and now we’re ready to pound some awesome Haitian cuisine!
In the process of working today, we learned some Creole words/phrases. Some were things Me and Rebecca learned the last few times we were down here, but the group also learned some new things:
Mweh – me
Ou – you
Bonju – good morning
Bon soir – good afternoon
Oui – yes
La – there
Glu – nails
Met – measuring tape
Bon – good
Bien – good
Bondye – God
Jezi – Jesus
Renmen – love
Travi – work
ampil – a lot
tifi – little girl
Como ou’elle – what is your name?
Mweh elle – my name is….
Como ou’ye – how are you?
Mweh bien – I am good.
Bondye Beni’ou – God bless you.
Bon travi – good work.
Trey bien – very good.
Merci ampil – thanks a lot.
I’m sure we’ll learn more vocabulary as we go along – we’ll be sure to pass along what we learn!
Tomorrow we expect to work with the same people in the same area, but we will be working with concrete on the floor. This may mean laying the foundation for another room or beginning to lay bloc for another room. We’re not sure, but we’ll find out tomorrow.
We are very excited about working in the orphanage later this week. We got a preview of what that may look like this morning during our meeting there. When we arrived for our brief meeting this morning, the children were very excited. We will begin painting some rooms for the kindergarten children and just getting the amazing opportunity to love on them and give them some attention that they so greatly deserve. During previous trips, Rebecca made friends with a little boy named Olivier who now attends school at the orphanage. She is holding Olivier in the “Jesse, Rebecca and Olivier” picture.
That’s it for today. More will come tomorrow or the next day. If any of you would like to send a message to someone on the trip, feel free to reply to this email and I will pass it along.
-Jesse, Josh, Rebecca, Rebecca, Kristen, Nichole
This is the main line of communication that we’ll be using to keep you guys and everyone else up to date on how we’re doing and what’s going on. Feel free to forward this email to whoever you would like. I think the team has put together a pretty good list, but we may have missed someone.
First some background: the trip was organized through the Virginia Baptist Mission Board (VBMB) as a follow-up to a trip last summer. Two members of the current team were on the trip last summer – Jesse and Rebecca. The team is composed of 6 people:
- Jesse Alley (me) – Virginia Tech
- Rebecca Williams – Virginia Tech
- Josh Hickman – Virginia Tech
- Rebecca Warren – Virginia Tech
- Kristen Slade – Bluefield College
- Nichole Prillaman – VBMB
The team arrived safely in Haiti yesterday (May 27) after 7:00 am flight out of Richmond. Getting through customs was a bit of a zoo, but we all made it through without any hiccups. We were met at the airport by Deliris Carrion and Ronel Mesidor. Deliris is a full-time missionary living in Port-au-Prince, originally from Puerto Rico. Ronel pastors two churches in Port-au-Prince and coordinates with the VBMB to facilitate missions teams. We were all exhausted from traveling and did little more than eat and sleep after arriving.
We are staying in an area called Delmas 19 in a large complex managed by the Florida Baptist Convention. It is just down the road from where the Me and Rebecca Williams worked last year. It is a large complex that can house >50 people. Right now there are probably ~20 other people spread across 2-3 other groups that are staying here at the same time as us. We are slowly getting to know the others and have shared the past 2 meals with two older gentleman named Bud and Bill. They have come down a few days ahead of the rest of their group to round up materials and make preparations. They have been very helpful in getting us oriented to the facilities. They will be here until Friday, so it will be great getting to know them better.
This morning, we attended Pastor Ronel’s church in downtown Port-au-Prince. We arrived in the middle of the group praising God through song, and although we couldn’t understand a word of it, we could feel their happiness and passion for Jesus amid all the poverty in the area. That was a wonderful sight to behold. They sang many songs in the service and had a special group of girls visiting that evidently travel around singing songs telling the wonderfulness of the gospel, and we heard from them as well. A guest speaker also spoke the sermon, who also travels proclaiming the word of God. He spoke from Matthew 16:24 about how everyone has a path in life. We have to pick up the cross and follow Jesus, and that’s a decision we have to make daily. And when we carry that cross, we also have a responsibility to not do bad things. When we follow Jesus, we have to turn from the ways of this life and basically forsake ourselves. He told a bit of his testimony about how when he decided to follow Jesus, his entire family disowned him, but he couldn’t let that stop him. All of this was in creole, and we had translators with us translating all of this to us as the service was happening, and that was awesome to be able to interact with them. The service also ended up being two and a half hours long, which at home would have been a catastrophe, but these people would have been glad to be there all day and we were enjoying ourselves just as much. It spoke to all of us in different ways but it was definitely awesome to witness the worship of God in a place so desolate and see how much hope and joy these people have.
After that we went to a local supermarket and bought groceries to make our lunches this week; we’ll be taking them to the job site with us. Then we came back to the house for the rest of the evening and just enjoyed a good dinner and had a devotion and some guitar playing/singing.
We’ve talked about how the things we’ve seen have impacted us differently so far, and it will be interesting to see how much God changes our hearts and minds as the week unfolds. You’ll hear back from us today or tomorrow with an update on how the week is going.
Until then, au revoir!
-Jesse, Josh, Rebecca, Rebecca, Kristen, Nichole