In February, the Amherst Bible Church completed another mission trip to Haiti.
The team of 12 drove to O’Hare Airport in Chicago Tuesday, February 4, for a non-stop flight to Port au Prince. Pastor Lavaud Cheristin welcomed the group upon arrival and safely gathered their belongings into the waiting van that transported them to Hinche, approximately 50 miles north.
The next morning, Marlene Plank and Jayne French met with their Haitian translator, Fednel Alcide. Fednel would assist Marlene in her two-day presentation on sewing machine maintenance and repair. The classes were scheduled for Thursday and Friday, February 6 and 7. While the two met with Fednel, the rest of the team prepared 500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to distribute at the prison.
After lunch, the group visited approximately 500 inmates at the prison. Fednel assisted Pastor Derek Nett at each cell as Pastor Derek shared how Jesus Christ loved them and paid the price for their sin debt. Jesus went to the cross and died in their place. Jesus rose from the dead, and explained that they too, can have newness of life through Jesus, as they trust Him as their own Savior. Several of the inmates thanked Pastor Derek for sharing God’s word with them and asked if they could receive Bibles. The sandwiches were handed out, and the group left humbled at their freedom.
When they returned from the prison, a truck had arrived with crates that were made in and shipped from Amherst several months earlier. The crates were loaded with supplies for the visit, including 13 sewing machines that were to be used at the future sewing center and classes at the school. The arrival of these crates showed God’s provision, and the group was thankful for His miracle of delivery at this exact time.
While unloading, Pastor Derek was called upon to begin his marriage seminar at Pastor Lavaud’s church. He taught on “Principles of Dating and Marriage,” and 40 people attended the two-hour evening session.
On Thursday, February 6, ten adults arrived for Marlene’s class. Fednel translated and showed personal interest in learning as Marlene explained the function of the machines.
(Side note: Oftentimes the translators who assist the group have no other income than translating, so they were delighted that Fednel showed such interest and could possibly take on a new venture to sustain his livelihood.)
As Marlene was teaching, other members of the team traveled three hours to a remote village called Paytwan, where a long-time friend, Sylveus Joseph, had grown up. There, they shared a Bible story, songs, coloring papers, and sandwiches with the village. The day was full. On their return, they sorted through supplies from the crates that would be used at the school, the orphanage, the Teacher’s Party, the Ladies that cooked for them three times daily, the translators, the sewing center, and many others.
On Friday, February 7, more sandwiches were made as they planned to visit Damougue, another village about two hours away from Hinche. Upon arriving, the students were in school. Five different age groups were being taught under one tin roof.
Amber Birling’s granddaughter, Megan Guzman, shared the story of how Zaccheus had met Jesus, his Savior. Singing songs and coloring were done before sandwiches and candies were handed out. We made it back safely, just in time for Pastor Derek to continue his marriage seminar at Pastor Lavaud’s church. That evening, the participants had questions and wanted to understand more fully the “unity of marriage.” The session ended with prayer. Gifts were given to the 40 guests who attended.
On Saturday, February 8, the team was up at 5:30 to attend a volleyball game at the center of Hinche. Several of the team’s members joined Pastor Lavaud in a game against a Hinche team. Afterwards, Samantha Wierzba, another of Amber’s granddaughters, shared her story with the opposing team of how she came to know Jesus in a personal way.
Later, the team walked back to the school, discussing the plans for the teacher’s party for the evening. More than 70 teachers from Pastor Lavaud’s schools would attend the party. Margie Vander Heiden, Amber’s sister, had planned the dinner several months in advance. Oriental rice, chicken, plantain, pickaleeze, and fruit were on the menu. Margie and the ladies worked tirelessly in Pastor Lavaud’s kitchen to prepare for the party. At 5 p.m., guests arrived, and everything looked lovely. Games were played for door prizes and, after the meal, each teacher received a bag of food, a personal gift bag, and two extra gifts. This year for the first time, the teachers honored Pastor Lavaud and Amber with song, applause, and a gift. It was wonderful to witness this heartfelt appreciation to them.
Sunday, February 9, church services began at 8:15. Pastor Derek preached as Pastor Lavaud translated for the congregation of 400.
The Amherst group enjoyed the fruits of Pastor Lavaud’s newest endeavor, a building inside the gated area that was a water purification operation and store. A helper brought cold water to the third floor for the team’s lunch.
Later that day, they visited the orphanage where Pastor Lavaud has established a transition home for the older teens from the orphanage. Teenage females are living at the area where Amherst team stayed, while the male teens are housed on the third floor at the school near the orphanage. A tour of the facilities showed the beautiful workmanship of the rooms. The group stayed on the third floor and played games with the orphans for the afternoon.
Pastor Lavaud has a sponsorship program for the orphans. Lynn Snyder, a member of the Amherst group, said, “I was delighted to visit with my 14-year-old, Ileter Joseph. Through the program, he is cared for by the orphanage and attends Pastor Lavaud’s school. Ileter is very good at gardening and had to show me his garden of pepper plants. I was impressed! They were flourishing! It was a blessing for me to watch Ileter’s face as he walked me through his plants. Perhaps Ileter will grow to be an Agriculturist someday!”
On Monday, February 10, the team organized what they were leaving behind, then visited the high school classes that were being held on the grounds within the gated area. The group’s teen members took this time to share their stories of how Jesus has impacted their lives. Eric Guzman, Amber’s only grandson who traveled with her this year, did a great job. Ashley Buckton, Amber’s youngest granddaughter on the team, shared with the students also.
As the group packed for their departure, they gave gift bags to the ladies who cared for them all week and had become very dear to them. The ride down to Port au Prince was filled with songs of gratefulness to God for fulfilling the many details that He had brought to completion throughout the team’s stay.