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Mountain travel challenges Haiti mission team

Staff writer

Barb Akers of Marion knew ahead of time that traveling to a mountain village in Haiti would be hard for her to endure.

Two pastors prayed over her before she and her husband, Wayne, and five other people from Marion’s Emmanuel Baptist Church headed out from Port Au Prince on a mission to finish a church building in the mountains of southeast Haiti.

Traveling in a passenger truck along with two supply trucks, the 28-mile trip to a seven-house village took four hours.

There were no guardrails as the road wound through the mountains. It was rocky, gravelly, and narrower than a two-lane highway, but traffic was going both ways.

Akers said she survived the ordeal by keeping her eyes closed during the most treacherous parts of the journey.

“It was the most terrifying thing I’ve experienced in my whole life,” Akers said.

“We sometimes had to pull to the side or back up to where someone could pass us,” Wayne Akers said.

The truck wasn’t the best either. Akers said a young member of the group, David DeForest, had reported later that, if it had been parked in the Emmanuel Baptist parking lot, people would have thought it might not make it to Gambino’s.

Five days later, after accomplishing their mission, the group made a return trip, and Akers once again survived by keeping her eyes closed.

Even the plane trip to Haiti and back was a challenge. She said she sat in the middle aisle and kept her eyes off the windows.

“I said later that God has a cruel way of trying to cure somebody of heights,” she said. “It didn’t work, but I made it home safely.”

Mission accomplished

Vince and Vickie Schroeder organized the trip. They had been to Haiti many times before as partners with Haiti Lifeline Ministries.

Pastor Josh Wesner and Jared Hett were the other members of the team. They arrived in Haiti on Feb. 3 and returned Feb. 12.

After spending a few days at Haiti Lifeline Orphanage, they headed to the mountains.

While at the village, they slept on mattresses and air mattresses in a schoolhouse. They had brought their own food, water, and generators and had use of a “brand new” outhouse.

Their mission was to put a roof on a church building, which they accomplished in short order. Villagers painted the building after it was finished, and a dedication service took place that weekend. People came from a wide area, arriving on foot, donkey, or motorcycle and dressed in their finest.

“They sat through a three-hour service and nobody got irritated,” Barb Akers said. “Children didn’t fuss. It was such an important thing that they were happy to be there.”

Pastor Wesner addressed the congregation. An interpreter translated the message from English to Creole. The two languages blended together as everyone sang, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

“It was a different culture, but skin color didn’t matter there,” Barb Akers said. “We all were alike. The children hugged us, and we hugged them.”

She said the climate in the mountains was wonderful. The people are largely subsistence farmers, each family living on one acre and growing potatoes, carrots, and other root crops, along with a cow, a few sheep, and chickens. All work is done by hand, using hoes and machetes.

“Everybody seemed content,” Akers said. “It was good to be away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.”

Emmanuel Baptist plans to stay in contact with the 120-member congregation.

“I’m glad I went,” Barb Akers said. “I probably will not go back, but under the right circumstances, maybe I would. It was good for my growth, and the people were so grateful.”

“It was rewarding to do something that will last for generations and help a lot of people,” Wayne Akers said.

Last modified March 21, 2018

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