By Carolyn Fitzkee
A highlight from a recent mission trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic was a time of prayer on the border between the two countries. Two groups of volunteers traveled to the DR in December and January to help build a church in La Descubierta, with funding from Global Mission and Service, Brethren World Mission, and both volunteer groups. Located near the border with Haiti, La Descubierta is a community primarily of Haitian immigrants.
The group from the Chiques Church and Rockford Community also helped provide a one-day medical clinic at the largest Church of the Brethren congregation in Haiti on Jan. 9.
Coordinated by Earl Ziegler, a group of 12 volunteers from the Lititz, Lampeter, Curryville, and Conewago congregations in Pennsylvania completed latrines and a concrete roof during the week of Dec. 7-14, 2013. The second group of 18 from the Chiques congregation in Manheim, Pa., and seven from Rockford (Ill.) Community Church of the Brethren led by Carolyn Fitzkee and Jeff Boshart, traveled from Jan. 4-11 and helped complete the concrete floor, paint the interior walls and ceiling, and begin work on a cistern.
Both groups also spent time with the children of the community. The first provided crayons and coloring books based on Psalm 23. The second group, in partnership with Dominican pastors Anastacia Bueno (San Luis) and Cristina Lamu Bueno (Sabana Torsa), provided an abbreviated three-day Vacation Bible School. The pastors coordinated the songs and spiritual content, while the US group led games and crafts. The first day 50 children attended under the pavilion next to the church. The second day at the local school 300 children attended. On the final day 60 children–including some not affiliated with the congregation–came to the church for activities and worship that featured a Spanish language puppet show on the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
Gran Bwa medical clinic
The group from the Chiques Church and Rockford Community also helped provide a one-day medical clinic for 339 patients at the largest Church of the Brethren congregation in Haiti on Jan. 9.
The Gran Bwa congregation is in a remote mountainous area of Haiti near the border with the DR. A winding and rocky path provides the only access. The group rode on the back of Daihatsu pick-up truck up a very rocky, steep road for two-and-one-half hours, and then hiked for another hour-and-three-quarters to get to the church. A group coming from the Haiti side spent nearly a day getting to Gran Bwa.
Part of the Haiti Medical Project, the clinic was coordinated by Jean Altenor of the National Committee of the Haitian Church of the Brethren, pastor Duverlus Altenor, and Ilexene and Michaela Alphonse. The US group provided a doctor, Paul Brubaker of Chiques, and four nurses/ The Dominican church provided an optometrist, pastor Onelys Rivas of Betel Church. The Haiti Medical Project provided two Haitian doctors and a nurse, plus translators and supplies.
Altenor said it was hard to put into words how much it meant for this community to be ministered to in this way, knowing the sacrifice of those who volunteered. He said the church was “hungry” for this clinic, which was very evident from the turnout.
For those from the United States, being able to serve alongside and minister to brothers and sisters in Christ was truly a mountaintop experience.
A prayer for peace
The prayer was for peace between the two countries, Haiti and the DR, which have historically been at odds. A recent court ruling threatens to strip Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship. It was also a prayer for Christians to model Christ’s love for all people, no matter their differences.
The moment of prayer on the border grew out of the experiences of the Chiques and Rockford volunteers growing closer with members of Iglesia de los Hermanos in the Dominican Republic as they worked together on a church construction project and an abbreviated Vacation Bible School for the children of a Haitian immigrant community in the DR.
They grew even closer when 38 were physically squeezed together in the back of a pick-up truck with a 12-foot bed for a long, bumpy ride up the side of a mountain, and then continued on foot on winding rocky and sometimes muddy paths to reach Gran Bwa, the largest Church of the Brethren in Haiti to provide a one-day medical clinic for 339 people.
As the group worshiped together throughout the week, singing and praying in English, Spanish, and Kreyol, God had been teaching us that we were “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12). As we prepared to cross back into the Dominican Republic at the end of a long day, it felt right to kneel together in prayer at the border of the two countries to pray for peace and unity.
–– Carolyn Fitzkee recently was appointed an officer of Brethren World Mission, where she serves as financial secretary.