MISSION AIDS HAITIANS
By Mardi Ford
There are missions and then there are missions.
Traveling into the unknown, working from faith, one year ago sisters Jennifer and Katrina Wiseman, La Grande, joined a Christian mission group going to a small village in the remote northern region of Haiti.
Plagued by political violence throughout its history, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the second poorest in the world. From day to day the culture is one of extreme political unrest and poverty, combined with continual economic instability. The primary religion in Haiti is voodoo.
No Christian mission had ever traveled as far north from the capital city of Port-au-Prince, as the sisters say their group did. The goal was to construct a multipurpose building to house a church/school/orphanage for the small, poor Christian community and run a Bible camp for the local
From that mission, the two young women say they came away with more then they gave, from a people who had nothing to share.
"They have so little and, yet, they're so happy," Katrina says with awe.
For example, Jennifer tells how grateful she became for something Americans take for granted Â— a smooth, well-planned infrastructure of roads.
"You have to understand," the 21-year-old shakes her head remembering, "the people just take off and drive anywhere. There are some gravel roads and paved ones in Port-au-Prince, for example, but out where we went, the potholes were as big as our car. It took us three hours to go 45 miles."
The experience strengthened their personal faiths and convictions to serve when they came home to
La Grande and Faith Lutheran Church where their father, Sam, is the pastor.
"I didn't want to leave," Jennifer says strongly. "The minute we got home, I wanted to go back."
The young women agree there is nothing they could have done to help them prepare for the Haitian mission Â—no previous experiences to draw from.
"No mission team had ever been there before," Katrina, now 19, explains. "You hear a lot about other missions Â— to Mexico, for example, but they're organized and have been
Faith Lutheran Church has been financially assisting the Haitian church for some time. In June, money donated by local children during the church's vacation Bible school program was also designated for the Haitian church.
The gulf in monetary value between the U.S. and Haiti means that even the few hundred dollars raised during this summer's VBS will pay to lease the land the multipurpose building sets upon for a year and a half. There may even be some left over to buy more construction materials.
By Haitian standards, the structure will be luxuriously sound and solid. Many buildings are left unfinished or don't have a foundation, a concrete pad for a floor, or often, walls.
"But you can't just send money down there," Pastor Wiseman explains. "It will get stolen."
So, they wait until someone is traveling to Haiti and send the money with them. Perhaps a Lutheran pastor from Indiana who will soon go down, Wiseman says, will hand deliver the money for them.
If not, though, Katrina will be going back in January for a different mission.
So moved by her experience last year, the sophomore at Pacific Lutheran University has signed up for an agricultural class through the ECHO Fellowship Program. She will learn to teach the techniques and philosophies behind sustainable agriculture to Third World countries. The class, for which she will pay dearly, includes a 14-day trip to Haiti for some practical application. And will Jennifer go back?
"I'd like to," the senior at Whitworth College in Spokane says. "I want to go on a lot more missions."