MFI's slogan is that they "stand in the gap." Their missions vacation and travel policy enables MFI staff and their families to see and experience the other side of the gap. Pilots probably unload building supplies with every flight, but when in-country they can finally see how those supplies have been put to use. It deepens the meaning of what they do.
Shortly after Kevin started with MFI they were in the process of using some of the earthquake relief funds sent their way toward building houses in the Port Au Prince area and Kevin went on a work team for one of those projects. That trip, along with the occasional overnight, have been it for his in-country experiences. The boys and I had never been.
We had no idea what to expect.
Kaden definitely didn't know what to expect. A few nights before we left he asked if there'd be a hot tub where we'd be staying.
A hot tub in Haiti. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
We told him we weren't even sure about hot water for showers. We told him, Haiti is hotter than Florida so we not even WANT hot water for showers.
Mostly we tried to get the point across that this was not a vacation. For this trip, our goal was to be helpers and learners.
Originally Kevin thought we might visit an orphanage. If we were going to take a trip with our kids then playing with other kids as "ministry" would have been an easy enough project, but he never could get a hold of that group. (But within 30 minutes of being in Cap Haitian we ran into a family that works there!)
Next Kevin thought of Matt McCormick with Paulos Group. We weren't exactly sure what Paulos Group did, but Kevin had met Matt in the MFI hangar, seeking him out because he was so excited about Matt and his wife Pam's project with the Jesus Storybook Bible. This is our favorite children's Bible and Pam translated it into Haitian Creole. The publisher took interest and well, here it is on Amazon! Matt was in the MFI hangar that day overseeing a new shipment of the books.
But Bible translation is not a primary function of Paulos Group. Community development is.
And there's is a unique vision for community in Haiti.
They have purchased a large land plot outside of Fort Liberte, a northern coastal city about 45 minutes east of Cap Haitien and not very far from the Dominican border.
They are building 600 to 1,200 square foot houses. Multi room. Kitchens. Running water. Flushing toilet. Solar panels for reliable electricity.
This is NOT typical Haitian housing.
Their web site explains: The Paulos Group is building and field-testing a variety of residential models. These units are engineered to reasonably withstand earthquakes and hurricanes as well as be energy efficient and utilize passive cooling designs and technologies. The houses will include electricity, water and sewage. We are working to determine the threshold of affordability that includes everything listed above while at the same time staying within reach of any family earning consistent income (we are also working on several initiatives to help those not earning income). Buyers will be able to purchase homes through a monthly repayment plan and a homeowners association will determine community standards. Paulos Group personnel will live in this community to help diversify and strengthen the scope of the development and its long-term successfulness.
There is a new university between Cap Haitien and Forte Liberte. When it begins to see graduates will these students be happy with the single room shack homes across the country side? How will Haiti ever retain nurses, teachers, and other professionals if it does not offer real housing opportunities?
Paulos Group currently has six houses built. On site they also have a garage/workshop and a playground. Currently they have three American missionary families in three of the houses, two Haitian families in two of the houses, and the sixth house has been used for guests. It's where we stayed.
Yup, we had our own furnished two bedroom house. Wait - if you aren't sleeping on cots or a steel bunks, can it even be considered a mission trip? Kevin DID help build a new trellis. And Kaden and I helped plant some bougainvilleas.
Ok. So not a lot of work :-) I told the boys we were going as learners and helpers but we did more learning than helping. We also did lots of playing. Lots of talking. Lots of cat torturing cuddling.
Paulos Group doesn't do much work with "teams" anyway. What does it say to the local Haitian community about their confidence in Haitian work if they bring in Americans laborers for every project? When professional skills are needed that aren't available locally then the hope is to still work alongside Haitians to pass along the skill set. While we were there, a group of 5 men from a Pennsylvania church came to do some modifications to the purple house.
So what did we do?
Our Day to Day
Hmmmm. I think I'll save that for the next post :-)
Here I'll close with Kaden's words from our first day. (I gave him and Blue new little notebooks to take on the trip and write about what they saw and learned.)
People in Haiti are very poor. They speak Creole. Their traffic is crazy with no signs or lines. They also have many fruit trees and bananas the size of your thumb.
In other words - it was different. With crazy things. And sad things. And beauty.
Haiti. With kids. Talk about your spring break adventure.