Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dedication of the New Croix des Mission Methodist Church in Port au Prince, Haiti, February 16, 2014

At the old Croix des Mission Church...

we receive blue and yellow ribbons to wear for this festive occasion.  Joe Perrigo from our New Hampshire church looks proud to be a part of this celebration.

We join the congregation for a dusty walk of a few blocks to the new church.

Banners welcomed the congregation to the neighborhood.

Families joined us as we passed their homes.  The crowd grew.

And then we saw the new building!  It was an inspiring sight.
The church was decked out with plants, flowers, and ribbons.  The people were in their Sunday best.

On the portico are two bricks from Court Street United Methodist Church of Flint, Michigan. Symbolically, these 125 year old bricks are laid at the threshhold of the sanctuary.  The people of Court Street Church bought the land for this new Croix des Mission Church in 2005 and continued to support the building each year until it was completed.
The Reverend Gesner Paul, President of the Haitian Methodist Organization, cut the ribbon as Bob Parker watched.

The crowd processed into the new sanctuary.  More than 400 people found seats or stood in the aisles.

The celebration included some liturgical movement by young girls of the congregation.

The Reverend Marco Depeste, District Superintendent of Port au Prince Circuit, said a few words from the new pulpit.  The cross in front is from the Inglewood United Methodist Church in Florida.
Five choirs sang including the Youth Choir of Croix des Missions.
Bob Parker received a plaque from the congregation
                     Honor and Merit
                              go to
                      Mr. Bob Parker
               for his generous contribution
                     of the new temple
       "Methodist Church of Croix des Missions"
The children of Croix des Missions church sounded wonderful.
Communion was offered to all.

After the celebratory service was over, the ladies of Croix des Missions Church offered beverages and food to the crowd.

This plaque is on the wall of the sanctuary, thanking Court Street United Methodist Church of Flint, Michigan, Lebanon United Methodist Church of New Hampshire, and Brother Robert Parker.

        16 Fevrier 2014

Friday, August 23, 2013

Another VIM Team Last Day

When we arrived this morning, surprise, the grounds were trash free.  And, the rubble on the church floor was completely gone.  The church had been completely swept.

Picking up the grounds required some effort and several people.  Sweeping the church floor is another step or two higher on the effort scale.  The neighborhood does not have brooms as we think of them, nicely made with heavy duty nylon fiber.  Haitian use a 'broom' made from plant leaves which is not too sturdy.  And, after to control the dust, the workers sprinkled water on the water.  They did a good job.

Today is performance day.  Yesterday, Stevenson worked all morning with the children preparing for today's Vacation Bible School performance.  The children sang in groups, there were solos, and there were dance routines.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the two hours watching their sons and daughters, friends and neighbors, showcase their talents.  The children had a very good time.

Lunch was served to over 200 people.  I never get used to hungry people.  As Cindy ladled the meat and broth onto the rice and beans, she said, "I have to keep my head down when I serve.  I do not want to see their faces.  If I do, I may recognize some one and give a slightly larger portion."  This is an important observation.

These hungry people are very observant as to the amount of food everyone is receiving.  Seeing some one receive more feed, even if slightly more, can create resentments.  In order to try to control the adults, we instituted a number system that Michelle could control.  As numbers were served, others came to receive their food.  Of course, there were always people crowding around the food, but nearly as many.  Everyone received food that we tried to uniformly serve.

We also banned pot and pans that were being brought from homes.  Some people were taking food home.  This also caused some minor irritation.  Unsolicited feedback indicated that the people liked the number system and the banning of the pans.  According to Gilbert, the people thought that it was a more fair way to serve the food.

This VIM team left $1500 with Gilbert to pay for medical care.  There are many medical issues that need to be addressed; $1500 is just a drop in the bucket.  He and the community will select people for care and pay their medical bill.  (Last February, we left $500, and nine people were helped.  Most came to the church to express their gratitude.)

Last February, a teen aged girl helped Stevenson when he was teaching us and the children a couple Haitian hymns.  She had such a very good voice that I thought she was one of his students.  She wasn't.  Sadly, a few months ago she died of appendicitis.  In our country, rarely does one die from appendicitis.  No money, no health care.  (Remember, even to get free care from the National University Hospital, one must pay for transportation.  No money, no health care.)

There are so many problems.  At the same time, the friendships that have been nurtured have been very rewarding.  The Haitians are such loving and grateful people.  We will not be able to erased their problems, but we can continue to show Christian love.

Benito, the new lay pastor for Croix des Mission, says that he will initiate children's Bible study each Sunday afternoon.  This will be the first direct out reach to the community.  Even though we have been building a church, the church is the people.

There will not be any more building teams for Croix des Mission.  About $35,000 is required to finish the building and furnish pews.  Dedication is set for February 16, 2014.

Thank you.  Many of you have sweat equity in this church.  Many of you have contributed to its construction.  You have fed the hungry.  After the earthquake, you helped repair homes.  With your donations, you have clothed the poor.  Collectively, we have been God's servants in Croix des Mission.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tuesday's Drive to Petit-Goave

During the past couple years, I have been collecting used eye glasses to take to Haiti.  Five different optical shops in our area determine the prescriptions before I pack a suitcase full.  Including this trip, I have delivered about 1800 pairs of used eye glasses to the Haitian Methodist Church.

I have been wondering what an Haitian eye clinic looks like.  Today, we drove to Petit-Goave to visit a Haitian Methodist eye clinic.  The drive was about two hours, much of it along the coast.  As we passed through some towns and villages, the street markets were just as interesting as in Port-au-Prince.

The Petit-Goave eye clinic's main building was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake.  That building is being rebuilt.  However, we were able to see how the staff has adjusted in order to continue seeing patients. Haitians are very flexible and resourceful.

As we asked questions, here are some more interesting facts.  There are three Haitian Methodist Church eye clinics.  At Petit-Goave, about 500 pairs of glasses are prescribed annually.  The glasses are sold for the equivalent of US $2.50.  About 25% of the glasses are given freely to those unable to pay.  This clinic has evolved into a general medical clinic.  Occasionally, it even has a dentist.

I was surprised that the staff depend on consultation fees for their pay.  Since the earthquake, the clinic has had fewer patients.  Thus, the staff has had to cope with reduced pay or no pay.  We were told that the staff had not been paid for three months.  Why don't they go elsewhere?  There are not any jobs, or they would go.  Now, they just hope to eventually be paid.

Although I did not see any glasses that I had brought with me, I did see some glasses very similarly packaged in zip lock bags.  So, I am not the only one bringing glasses for the eye clinics.

On the return to Port-au-Prince, we stopped at a sea side restaurant that also had a beach.  It was fun watching the bathers and the small fishing boats trying to sell items to those in the water.  One boat was a bar with beer and rum.  Another had fresh coconuts.  These boats were only a few feet from those in the water, but they did not seemed concerned about their safety.  I would have!

Meanwhile back at Croix des Mission, Stevenson worked with the children all morning until lunch.

 (We called to check.)  Tomorrow's performance should be fun.

This evening, I finished making the pictures.  There are about 125 of them.  So, I have over 50% of our average daily attendance including adults.

Tomorrow is our last day.  Bob

Last Day VBS

Even though we have two more days remaining, today is our last VBS day.  As is becoming usual, the day did not go as planned.  About the time Michelle was concluding the Bible lesson, Stevenson arrived early perhaps to make up for skipping Saturday.

Stevenson spent the morning and early afternoon auditioning the children for a show to be performed on Wednesday. He has the patience of Job.  Before the earthquake, Stevenson taught music at the French School.  He is a gifted teacher and works well with the children.

One of Stevenson's students is a very good dancer including break dancing.  About 18 children were selected to learn a dance routine.  The dancer is also a very good teacher.  It was fun watching.
For this VIM team, I bought a small, portable photo printer.  While the children were sitting listening to the auditions, I photographed many of them.  Tonight, I spent about 2 1/2 hours making 4 x 6 pictures to be distributed on Wednesday.  This Canon printer produces a very good image.

Tomorrow, we take a trip to Petit-Goave to visit an eye clinic.  Bob

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Two big surprises this morning.  The first had to do with the traffic.  Usually, it takes 1 1/2 hours to drive about 15 miles.  This Sunday morning, it only took 35 minutes.

The second surprise, 31 children walked to church with us.  We arrived at the new church at 8:10am and waited for the children.  One by one, they came wearing their best clothes.  Even after we began walking, a couple more joined us.  We must have been quite a sight, these 'blancs' walking down the road with all these kids and a couple Haitian adults including Gilbert, the neighborhood leader.

Upon arriving at the church, I was asked to conduct children's time.  I had about an hour to think about it.  And, it went well.  Michelle translated.

Cindy's sermon was well received with congregational amens.  Instead of Michelle translating, Rev. Chrisnel, the Jeremie Circuit Superintendent who was visiting, translated for Cindy.

After the 2 1/2 hour service, the children were served refreshments.  This has never happened before.
 While I was being asked to conduct children's time, I was also asked if I would fund the refreshments.  Of course, I did.

After church, Madame St. John, whose family is the church property caretaker/security, took me to see her husband in their small, one room house on the property.  His foot still has not healed properly since the surgery a year ago.  (I paid $425 for his treatment.  Thank you for your discretionary donations that allow me to do this.)  Then, he asked me to pray for him.  All the family, myself, and Johnny, the driver/translator held hands and prayed.  Everyone should have that faith experience.  I gave them some transportation money in order that he might be seen and determine the cost of treatment.

Before returning to the guest house, we went to Croix des Bouquet.  There is an artisan area where several metal artists work.  It was very interesting watching an artist use his hammer and punch.  He was super skilled.  But, after viewing many art pieces in three buildings, I did not see any metal art that actually appealed to me.

In two previous VIM trips to Haiti, I have purchased two beautiful pieces of metal art.  Not only all they beautifully cut and punched, both are painted.  Seldom are Haitian metal art pieces painted, just buffed with wire brushes.  To me, the painted art is much more expressive.

Back at the guest house, it rained again this evening.  With the exception of one evening, every other evening/night it has rained.  This is unusual.  Fortunately, we can use the church for VBS.  Otherwise, it would be difficult since the ground in the back of the church turns into a thick mud that cakes on one's shoes.  The guest house maintenance man, Eric, also commented on the unusual rain.  Climate change may be the cause.

Tomorrow is our last VBS day.  Tuesday, we visit an eye clinic in Petit-Goave.  Wednesday, the VBS children perform for their parents.  Thursday, return home.

Hope you had a great day.  Bob

Saturday VBS

Where Friday was so smooth, Saturday had a major glitch.  Stevenson stopped by to say that he could not conduct the music session with the children.

The previous evening, we went to the Coconut Club, a newly opened Italian restaurant, to hear Stevenson's band entertain.  He has four fabulous vocalists.  They are good.  We only stayed about 1 1/2 hours and enjoyed ourselves.  I had every expectation that he would show up the next morning.

It seems like another church wanted to borrow his audio equipment for Saturday afternoon, and he had to take it and set it up.  In the USA, spending time with us and, then, going to another later engagement would not be a problem.  Since traffic is such a problem in Port-au-Prince, Stevenson could not do both.   Two hours to travel 15 miles is not unusual.  However, the VIM team practiced with the children the songs that we were planning on singing Sunday.

We asked the children, "How many of you will go to church with us tomorrow?"  All raised their hands.  Last February, about 15 actually went with us to church.

Many people are asking for all kinds of help: medical, food, shoes, education, etc.  Politely and respectfully, I have to say, "No."  This is hard to do so.  If I help one, I have to help them all.  These conversations are taxing.

Last February's VIM team left $500 with Gilbert to help with medical issues.  He was able to help nine people receive medical attention.  Yes, most good medical attention has to be paid for.  These people do not have money for food, much less doctor and surgery fees.  Before we leave on Thursday, we will leave again money for medical purposes.

Tomorrow morning, how many children will go to church with us?  Bob