Gearing up for a mission in Haiti

There’s a reason they call it mission work. Ten members of a Germantown interfaith group resembled some kind of elite unit as they got ready for their coming trip to Haiti one week ago.

Excitement pulsed through the small Gribell room at First United Methodist Church of Germantown as they scrambled to hand in the correct insurance forms, health records and copies of their passports, while going over the packing list for the March trip. It will be just over a year after the country’s devastating earthquake; the group is going there to lend a hand with the still profound rebuilding efforts.

Home away from home

Team leader, Beverly Lucas, looked calm yet her passion was clear.

“I’m looking forward to just being in Haiti. I consider it my second home,” she said. For 20 years, Lucas, an East Mt. Airy resident, has been traveling to Haiti volunteering and working on different projects. She first went in 1991 to document human rights violations with the Washington Office on Haiti. Later she traveled with Fonkoze, the micro finance bank for Haiti’s organized poor. She helped to found that bank. “If I’m not there once a year I have withdrawal,” she said. It’s been over a year and that much time away has Lucas itching to go. But Lucas has also not seen her second home since the earthquake, and so her sense of urgency has intensified.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief has sponsored Lucas and the other nine members of this interfaith mission group. UMCOR postponed the original trip to Haiti in January for both safety issues and the sheer logistics of not being able to travel through hotspots with high levels of violence after the country’s election.

Even with delays like this, Lucas is not deterred. That kind of fortitude is part of what inspired FUMCOG to recently honor Lucas with it’s Social and Racial Justice Award. For her, getting back to work in Haiti really isn’t a mission, it’s more like living out a connection.

“Haiti isn’t dangerous, it’s just different,” she said. “There’s a beauty about Haiti regardless of the poverty, such an indomitable spirit.”

Unfortunately the change of plans left a hefty amount of airline cancellation fees for this new group, and most of the fundraising money (about $4200) went towards those payments. Immunizations cost about $300-$400 a person, and still everyone stuck with the project.

“Mission work is expensive,” Lucas said. “But we open these trips to anyone who has mission at heart. We fundraise for people who can’t afford to go.”

 

Ready for anything

The group has about a month to figure everything out. They leave March 1 and return a week later after helping a community with a certain project, which is determined by local need. At this meeting they don’t even know the details of that project, but they’re trying to be prepared for anything.

They pack three sets of tools – for building walls or removing rubble – whatever the community wants them to do, they will do. UMCOR has also hired 20 Haitians to work alongside the group, wherever they may be.

“We don’t know exactly where we are going yet,” Lucas said. She then added confidently, “We don’t really care where we go. We just want to get there and start digging in.”

Each member of the group has useful experience to bring to Haiti. As Lucas put it, the group consists of two young people and the rest are 45 to 60 years old. Some have lived or visited third-world countries before. Others have already been to Haiti or on other service trips. There is a physical therapist and a skilled construction worker. Combine this with Lucas’s extensive knowledge of Haiti and secure leadership experience there and the result is a group ready to tackle its mission.

“We’re more deed and need than creed,” member Terri McNamara said when asked if this is a religious trip. Everyone agreed and continued talking about how to treat their clothes to prevent mosquito bites. They discussed hiking boots, water treatment and medications while Lucas interjected helpful hints about the inner workings of Haiti.

“In Haiti, everything is dirty. If you have a nail biting problem, fix it or do what I did,” Lucas said. She then showed off her bright red fake nails which will prevent her from biting her real ones. She kept interrupting herself saying they will have to discuss culture at another meeting, but it was obvious that she had so much more to say about the place that has become her second home.

 

Mission details arrive 

Several days later the team got word about the mission. They will travel to a rural village called Fond-Doux , near the coast of the country.

“We’ll be staying in Petit Guave, west of Port-Au-Prince,” Lucas said in an email. “We’ll be working to install a roof [and] doors to the village church.”

Now, all that’s left is to get there.

 

The group is still looking for simple donations for it’s trip, things like granola bars and Nalgene liter water bottles. For details about how you can help contact Beverly Lucas: bejlucas@aol.com.

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