by Gene Gentry
August 2-10 six people from various churches in the Northwest went to Haiti to build desks, tables and chalk boards for the school at Grand Goave, Haiti. The January 2011 earthquake completely destroyed the Siloe School. Since that time with the help of Haitian crews and many volunteers from across the United States 13 rooms have been nearly finished. There remains only the addition of the doors and windows made of rebar for the last seven rooms to be finished. Our team was asked to make 30 desks, 30 tables and 14 chalk boards for the last seven classrooms. That was the amount of money available to get students into the class rooms for fall start-up of classes. In reality that was all that we had time to complete during the time we were in Haiti. A team from Colorado and Haitian volunteers joined us to accomplish that task.
As we left Spokane we were concerned about the weather. There was a possibility that Tropical Storm Emily would cause a problem. We decided to press on as planes continued to fly into Haiti. Emily slowed and eventually dissipated near the Dominican Republic. She provided us with two or three cooler days. What a blessing that was.
When we went into Haiti we carried enough nuts, bolts and screws to build 100 desks along with our tools. Our task was not only to build desks, but to work along side of Haitian volunteers to help them understand the power tools they were not familiar with. One of the most significant jobs as far as I was concerned was to teach the two volunteers who were chosen to use the paint sprayer. An important task in maintaining a sprayer is to clean it thoroughly after each use. EJ (Elisabeth Jane) has worked as a professional sprayer. Her primary task was to teach proper use and cleaning of the sprayer. The first day that we sprayed chalk boards I told the two volunteers that the sprayer had to be cleaned before we broke for our noon meal and break. The next day near the end of the day the older volunteer, Precois, who is also a carpenter said, “We have to clean the sprayer before we go home.” He had grasped the importance of cleaning so that this piece of equipment can be used time and time again.
Some of the most significant times for the team were the spontaneous interactions we had with our Haitian brothers and sisters. On Saturday afternoon we had the opportunity to assist in conversations at the Christian English School. I had the first year students and did some very basic stuff. The other volunteers were in higher-level classes and the conversations took very interesting twists. Several of the volunteers were asked why they were Christians. Adam who had numerous tattoos was asked if he was a Christian. The volunteers had to address questions that they had not anticipated which made them think about their relationship to Jesus.
Much interaction took place as we worked together with the Haitian people. We also developed some good relationships with the team from Colorado that had come to build rubble houses. I was blessed to see friends that I had made during my previous trips to Grand Goave. This is my fourth trip in two years. Many of our experiences came during unplanned times.
One day my grandson, Brolin, was not feeling very well. We were working on table legs. He took a break. After a while I wondered what was going on. I asked someone where Brolin was. He was teaching German to someone. He had studied German the past year and was using that skill. One night I went up on the roof of the volunteer house to see what part of the team was doing. Most of the team was sitting there while my son-in-law, Ben, taught Jean Pierre Hebrew. Ben grew up in Israel and they spoke Hebrew in the home. As I reflected on this Hebrew class I recalled seeing some Hebrew on a chalk board while I was in Haiti last year. Jean Pierre is very interested in languages and took advantage of every opportunity to use and learn them.
I want to thank those churches and individuals who made this trip possible. Several churches and individuals enabled volunteers to make the trip. Others made significant contributions to desks, chalk boards and tables. Park Heights did yeoman service in getting hardware together for 100 desks. Deer Park Open Door and Immanuel Baptist in Spokane enabled us to take tools that had been requested for the tasks to be done. hanks too, to Charles Revis, the Spokane LLC and others in the Region of the Northwest for getting the word out.
God is good. He blessed all who went on the trip. We were also a blessing to those we encountered in Haiti. Some couldn’t go this year who wanted to go. Some want to go again. I’m expecting more opportunities in the future.
P.S. If interested I will volunteer to visit and share with your church about this trip. I have already shared our experience with my Deer Park church. Perhaps this way interest may be built for the next trip. You can reach me through the ABCNW Region Office.