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Mission group sees poverty

News editor

On a nine-day mission trip in Haiti, 10 members of Marion Presbyterian Church saw poverty unimaginable in the United States: thousands of people lived in tent cities and there was no running water or sewer systems even in permanent houses.

But Jeannie Wildin can’t wait to go back.

“We couldn’t change the nation, we couldn’t change the situation, but we could change the situation for one family,” Wildin said.

The group helped build a concrete-block house for one family and painted 10 other houses between May 25 and June 2. The idea for the mission trip came while the church collected 140 supply kits for victims of the Jan. 10, 2010, earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation.

“Haiti is one of those countries that the more you know about it, the more it tugs at your heart,” Danielle Lange said.

It was the poorest country in the western hemisphere even before the earthquake devastated the country. Wildin said she was bothered by how quickly national news outlets stopped covering the recovery efforts in Haiti.

The Rev. Jeremiah Lange said it was good for people to provide financial support for recovery, but it takes people acting as the hands and feet of Jesus to accomplish improvements.

“Followers of Christ are called to be doers, but we tend to forget that,” he said.

The church group worked in Repatriot, so named because it is home to Haitians who were expelled from the neighboring Dominican Republic. The 288-square-foot two-room house the group helped build — with no kitchen and no plumbing — is above average in Repatriot, Jeremiah Lange said.

Their project was planned by Haiti Outreach Ministries, which has several church/school compounds in Haiti. Danielle Lange said that as a parent and educator, she was affected by what she saw of Haiti’s school system. There were no public schools, only private schools. She said parents knew that their children needed an education to have a chance for a job and they appreciated education. So few are able to afford it on their own, although a mere $360 per year pays for school, two uniforms, shoes, daily breakfast and lunch, and one health and dental checkup annually.

Jeremiah Lange said the trip affected at least one change in him that he hopes is lasting, “It encouraged me to complain less.”

As an example, he said complaining about mowing feels wrong considering multiple Haitian houses could fit in the yard.

Wildin and the Langes said they were amazed by how humble, gracious, and hospitable the Haitians they got to know were, and how generous they were with what little they had.

“Coming back to our area, our poorest people are rich compared to these people,” Wildin said. “I came back feeling spoiled rotten.”

While at a cathedral in the capital, Port-au-Prince, a woman offered to sell her child, Jeremiah Lange said. He said he hoped it was just an attempt to generate sympathy and get a handout of money.

He said the group doesn’t have specific plans to return to Haiti yet, but one detail is certain: they won’t be going in May and June again. The heat exhausted group members. It gets hot even in winter in Haiti, but then the nights are cooler, he said.

Church members who traveled to Haiti May 25 to June 2 were the Langes, Wildin, Brad Wildin, Paula Barta, Tim Costello, Bill Darrow, Mike Moran, Cheri Ochs-Wheeler, and Cindy Riedel. For more information on Haiti Outreach Ministries, visit http://haitioutreachministries.org.

Last modified June 21, 2012

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