By Dale Minnich
Twenty members of McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren were among 33 participants in a mission education conference in Mirebalais, Haiti, sponsored by Haiti Medical Project from July 19-23. The five days in Haiti were spent learning about needs of communities served by the Haiti Medical Project. Participants were eager to meet Haitian leaders and members of the communities served.
One of the key educational programs of the Haiti Medical Project is mothers’ clubs, where pregnant women and mothers of young children meet monthly with nurses and other resource people. In our visit to the rural community of La Ferrier we were touched by the sight of more than 100 women and about that many infant children meeting under a cloth shade with four of the project’s nurses, learning about ways to improve the children’s nutrition.
To look out on that sea of babies and mothers especially touched me because we are actively involved in combating high infant mortality. If the present patterns in such communities were to persist, we could expect that seven or eight of those children would not make it to age five. In this case, however, the staff is doing vital work by increasing access to clean water, taking away a lead factor for infant mortality. By the end of next year, nearly all of the communities related to the Haiti Medical Project will have access to this precious life saving resource.
The last day, as we prepared for our return flights, some leaders from the Croix des Bouquets community came to thank the McPherson congregation for providing the funds for a new reverse osmosis water project in their community. McPherson currently is supporting five water projects and expects to find funds for at least two more.
The pattern for the educational experience was to take a field trip each morning to a community served by the Haiti Medical Project, followed later in the day by sessions for debriefing, assimilating more information, and getting to know one another and our Haitian hosts.
A highlight for many was attending Sunday worship in one of three congregation of Eglise des Freres D’ Haiti (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti). Another was a panel of four bi-vocational Haitian pastors telling the stories of the start and development of their congregations.
Beginning with 1 congregation in 2003, Eglise des Freres now has 26 congregations and several thousand participants. The Haiti Medical Project serves these communities and four others--a total of 30 communities widely spread across Haiti.
We had a good experience that touched and challenged us in many ways.
-- Dale Minnich is volunteer staff for the Haiti Medical Project. Find out more at www.brethren.org/haiti-medical-project .