Workcamp Aids Haitian Brethren in Rebuilding Effort

The Haiti Workcamp helped to build a new church in the village of Ferrier, in an area where Brethren Disaster Ministries has rebuilt 21 homes destroyed last year in hurricanes and tropical storms. The workcamp group also helped rebuild homes, provided leadership for a Kids’ Club event, and worshiped and fellowshiped with the Haitian Brethren. Click here for a photo album of the Haiti Workcamp. Photo by Jay Wittmeyer

A workcamp sponsored by Brethren Disaster Ministries took place in Haiti on Aug. 7-16. The workcamp volunteers spent more than a week helping with disaster relief and rebuilding of homes following major destruction on the Caribbean island nation caused by four hurricanes or tropical storms that hit Haiti last year.

The group also worshiped and fellowshiped with Haitian Brethren, and arrived in Haiti in time to join in a special worship service of ordination and licensing of the first ministers of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (see story above). The service took place on the last day of a theological training for the Haitian church that was held on Aug. 3-7.

The workcamp was led by Jeff Boshart, Haiti disaster response coordinator, and Klebert Exceus, a Haitian consultant from Orlando, Fla. The workcampers were David Bradley of Lebanon, Pa.; Steve Ditzler of Lebanon, Pa.; James Eby of Litiz, Pa.; Ecclesiaste Frederick of Miami, Fla.; Wanda Lyons of Glade Valley, N.C.; Joel Postma of La Porte, Ind.; and Brad Yoder of North Manchester, Ind. The group was accompanied by members of Exceus’ family, and two Brethren pastors from the Dominican Republic–Mardouchee Catalice, who is of Haitian background, and Onelys Rivas Florentino, who is of Dominican background.

The teaching team for the theological training seminar was led by Haiti mission coordinator Pastor Ludovic St. Fleur, pastor of Eglise des Freres Haitiens in Miami, Fla., and also included Pastor Catalice and Pastor Florentino along with Andy and Laura Hamilton of East Canton, Ohio. Andy Hamilton is pastor of Akron (Ohio) Springfield Church of the Brethren and serves on the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board. Ilexene Alfonse and Michaela Camps of Miami, Fla., helped translate for the teaching team.

Following the special worship service with the Haitian Brethren, the workcamp went on to a variety of disaster rebuilding projects working alongside Haitian Brethren and local Haitian communities.

One project for the group was to finish the rebuilding of a home for the widow and family of the late Pastor Delouis St. Louis, a Haitian Brethren pastor and church planter who died unexpectedly of illness in late May. His family had been one of those who lost their homes in last year’s storms. Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships, reported that Louis’ life and ministry continues through the work to build a church for the Haitian Brethren in the village of Ferrier, in the Mirebalais area, where he had founded a preaching point.

Workcampers spent part of a day helping to build the church in the rural, mountainous area where Brethren Disaster Ministries has completed 21 homes. Impetus for the project came from the local community who, according to Wittmeyer, was impressed that homes were built for non-Brethren families in a place where the Haitian Brethren had only a simple lean-to as a preaching point. Another impetus to construct the church in Ferrier came from plans to hold a Kids’ Club there, according to Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

The Church of the Brethren’s Emerging Global Mission Fund provided funds to purchase the land for the church, Winter reported. Local people gave of their own time and money to start construction of the church building, and the workcamp group joined in to support the effort.

While the workcamp was in the area, a community gathering was held to dedicate the 21 new homes, and community members were given a chance to speak. “The community obviously had never done anything like this,” Wittmeyer said. “It was a recognition of all they had done. It was up in the mountains. They had to carry water. They had to carry cement…. And the houses look great.”

In addition, members of the workcamp helped lead the Kids’ Club, an event similar to Vacation Bible School. A Baptist group joined the Kids’ Club, Wittmeyer said, and hundreds of children participated over two days.

The workcamp then spent a couple of days in the city of Gonaives working on more homes affected by the storms. Brethren Disaster Ministries has a goal of rebuilding 60 homes in Gonaives. Ten have been completed and 20 more are currently under construction, Winter reported.

Children’s programs continued in Gonaives as well. In addition, the workcamp group took a collection for a woman living in the tent city there–a widow who lost her husband in a hurricane last year, just after she became pregnant. The sum that was collected will be administered through the Haitian church, Wittmeyer said.

The workcamp offered a powerful testimony in Haiti, Wittmeyer said. Haitians told him, “We see many white people coming to look, but we don’t see them come and work.”

Winter, for his part, celebrated the involvement of Dominican Brethren in the workcamp. “It’s a good connection,” he said.

“I am forever changed because of the opportunity to serve in Haiti,” said workcamper Wanda Lyons in her evaluation of the experience. “I was pretty much involved with the kid’s club throughout the entire trip…. The children were such a blessing to me. How appreciative they were of everything we did for them. Seeing the happy smiles on those precious children and the hugs and thanks for the little things that seemed to make them so happy amid such difficult circumstances.”

A second Haiti workcamp is planned for Oct. 24-Nov. 1. Registrations are due Sept. 22. The group will be led by Jeff Boshart and Klebert Exceus, and will help rebuild homes in the coastal city of Gonaíves, visit the completed Brethren Disaster Ministries project in the Mirebalais area, worship with the Haitian Brethren, and help with programing for children. The workcamp is limited to 15 participants. Cost of $550 includes all in-Haiti expenses. Participants purchase their own round-trip transportation to Port-au-Prince. Requirements include excellent health, stamina for hard work in a hot climate and two-mile treks up mountain paths, a passport, appropriate vaccinations or medications, and sensitivity and flexibility in regard to cultural differences. Participants must be at least 18 years of age. Go to  for a detailed itinerary and registration. For more information, contact Brethren Disaster Ministries at  or 800-451-4407

Major grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund are supporting the disaster relief work in Haiti, with a total of $370,000 in grants given toward the effort so far. Go to  for more about the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries in Haiti. Go to  for more about the Emergency Disaster Fund.

Go to for a photo album of the Haiti Workcamp.

The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contact  to receive Newsline by e-mail or to submit news to the editor. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

Brethren in the News

“Faces of Faith: The Rev. Tim Speicher,” Reading (Pa.) Eagle (Aug. 26, 2009). A profile of pastor Tim Speicher, who has served Wyomissing (Pa.) Church of the Brethren for 18 years. A photo features the pastor in his study, with favorite baseball memorabilia.

Obituary: Thomas D. Irvine, News Leader, Staunton, Va. (Aug. 23, 2009). Thomas Davidson “Tommy” Irvine, 79, passed away on Aug. 21 at Augusta Health. He was a member of Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren in Crimora, Va. He worked in sheet metal, and was a supervisor with Wayne Manufacturing, working on ship interiors. He retired from ACME Visible Records in Crozet. He was preceded in death by his wife, Louise Benson Irvine.

“Thieves Target Four Area Churches,” Times-Union, Warsaw, Ind. (Aug. 22, 2009). North Winona Church of the Brethren in Warsaw, Ind., was one of four area churches to suffer break-ins on Aug. 21. At the North Winona Church, a day-care worker discovered a cabinet open and glass broken in the building, cabinets and desks were rifled through, but nothing was stolen.

“Church will sponsor workshops to help local job seekers,” Canton (Ohio) Repository (Aug. 21, 2009). Hartville (Ohio) Church of the Brethren will hold a series of informational and training workshops aimed at helping people in tough economic times.

“A new perspective,” McPherson (Kan.) Sentinel (Aug. 20, 2009). An interview with Michael Schneider, the new president of McPherson (Kan.) College, by staff writer Todd Flory who has worked previously as a Brethren Volunteer Service worker at the Church of the Brethren General Offices. Schneider is a 1996 graduate of McPherson and most recently served as the college’s vice president of advancement and admissions.

“Man of faith brings cows, hope to war-torn Europe,” Springfield (Ohio) News Sun (Aug. 16, 2009). It didn’t matter that he was a pig farmer who lived on Detrick Jordan Pike. When Fred Teach boarded the American Importer on Aug. 12, 1953, bound for Bremen, Germany — with heifers under the deck — he became one of the Church of the Brethren’s “Sea Going Cowboys.”

“A stitch in time…” Franklin County (Va.) News Post (Aug. 14, 2009). Columnist Charles Boothe remembers the quilting bees of his childhood, and compares them to the artistry of the quilts sold at this year’s World Hunger Auction at Antioch Church of the Brethren in Rocky Mount, Va. Some quilts sold for upwards of $700 or $800, with proceeds benefiting a variety of programs for hunger relief.

“Not Just a ‘Spare Tire.'” Daily News Record, Harrisonburg, Va. (Aug. 12, 2009). At age 92, longtime pastor Olen B. Landes puts a variety of talents to work for the faith. Landes describes himself in the humblest of terms. “I’m just a spare tire,” he said. His simple assessment refers to the years he’s spent filling in for fulltime preachers at Church of the Brethren services–“supply work,” as he calls it.

Obituary: Jimmie D. Conway, Salem (Ohio) News (Aug. 12, 2009). Jimmie D. Conway, 74, died on Aug. 10 at the Hospice House in North Lima, Ohio, after a battle with cancer. He was a member of Woodworth Church of the Brethren in Youngstown, Ohio. He was employed at McKay Machine Shop in Youngstown, Borden Dairy in Boardman as a milkman in home delivery, retiring after 43 years as a distribution manager; and while working for Borden received his Ohio Police Officers training and became a police officer for Beaver Township, ending his tenure as police chief. Survivors include his wife, Barbara (Lewis) Conway, whom he married in 1955.


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