Trip to Haiti
April 16-24, 2010
Bill and Paul Ussery
Paul and I had an opportunity to travel to Haiti in April to work with the Joy House Ministry in Gressier, Haiti. We left early Friday April 16th from XNA. There were four of us on this flight and we met up with the other members of the team in Miami. There were a total of 13 plus Joe Patterson, co-founder of Joy House. Most of the team members had never met before this trip. We had a contractor/part time pastor from East Texas, a pastor and his assistant from Mena, Arkansas, four people from the church at Pinnacle Hills, Rogers, AR, five people from First Baptist Springdale, AR (one an RN) and a Paramedic from South Georgia.
When we arrived in Haiti, Norma Patterson, wife of Joe, met us at the airport. Just getting through the airport was quite an experience. The airport in Haiti is relatively small and was damaged by the earthquake. We rode a bus to a large warehouse where our suitcases were in a giant pile. We had to find ours and push through the crowd to get to our bus. The trip through town was very depressing. There is massive destruction from the earthquake and tent cities everywhere with 1,000 tents or more in some locations. There are between 3 to 6 million people that live in Port Au Prince the capitol and most of the people are now living in tents. Joy House is about 20 miles from the center of town and it took us close to an hour to get there. The roads were terrible, with most not paved and all very rough. When we first arrived we were overwhelmed by the poverty and destruction. In the area we were in 80% of the homes were damaged or destroyed by the earthquake.
We arrived at Joy House and selected which tent we would be staying in. The tents we slept in were located on the roof of Joy House. The meals were flavorful and nutritional and we always had fresh fruit. While Haiti is a very poor country it is also very beautiful with many banana, mango and coconut trees.
We started each day with breakfast around 7:00 a.m. We were up early since the roosters, chickens and goats were our alarm clocks. They usually started up around 3:00 a.m.
Saturday we started building our first house. It was for a pastor whose house had been destroyed by the earthquake. We had to clear part of the rubble to make a place to put the house. It was a learning experience for all of us as we tried to make sense of the drawing we had for building instructions. We figured out what talents each one had and came up with a plan on how to use them. There were at least twenty or more Haitians that came by to check out what we were doing. There were a large number of children that just hung out with us. Several of the guys on our team played soccer with them while we were waiting on supplies. We got most of the house built by the end of the day.
Sunday we went to church in the morning. The Joy House church was destroyed in the earthquake. The old building had been leveled before we arrived by a mission team that came from Oklahoma. They leveled the lot and built a temporary church that had a tin roof and tarps for the sides. There were about 150 or more there Sunday morning and they spilled out of the building. Pastor Donnie from Mena did the sermon. Sunday afternoon we rested and planned for the week. We came up with a practical design for the houses and a game plan.
Monday we finished the first house. While 4 of us worked on the house the medical team – one RN and a Paramedic and one helper went out into the town. Paul helped with them most of the time. They went out and visited new mothers on a follow up plan that Joy House had prepared. Two of our members played soccer with the kids while we finished the house. They just gave the children some attention they desperately needed. They also handed out tracks to the kids in their language (Creole).
While we were finishing the first house a couple of the guys were making a saw station for cutting the lumber for the houses. They cut all of the lumber for the next house in short order once they got the jig set up. Once we figured out a plan to do the houses they went up quickly. The last house we built on Friday took 4 ½ hours from cutting the first board to hammering the last nail. The last house was our best.
I helped build houses all week. Paul usually went with the medical team. We build 5 houses, added onto the tent church so the side and back flipped up to more than double their space and let the air flow through to keep them cool. Most of the houses we built were for pastors of the local churches. Some were for church members. They were made out of wood and were the sturdiest structures around. There is no question these will not only help keep families out of the rain but are also a real testimony for the church. They all know who built these houses.
We had a revival meeting on Thursday with well over 200 people in attendance. There were at least 60 or more that raised their hand to indicate they had received Christ during the invitation.
Over the course of the time we were there we completed 5 houses, set future teams up for success with jigs and building plans along with tips to make the process as quick and smooth as possible.
The medical team was able to minister to a large number of people with at least 44 people accepting Christ as their Savior. The evangelism team lead over 100 people to Christ and ministered to many others. They also worked with the local pastors and are set to do on-going training with them.
This trip was life changing. Even after several weeks I am still trying to get my head wrapped around all we saw and did.
When we first arrived in Haiti I was not sure there was any hope for these people. When I left I knew we had brought hope to one village and that it would be on-going after we left.
One thing that really impressed me was the way our team was full of very diverse backgrounds and yet we worked together like a well-oiled machine. There were no bosses or “in-charge” people – we all did whatever was needed. It was a very real picture of 1 Cor. 12:12 about how the Body is made up of many parts but works as one unit. We saw God move in our hearts as well as those we went to minister to. It was also a blessing to get to spend a week with my son and see him grow and be an integral part of the team. Paul had decided before he left Haiti that he would be coming back.
Looking back on the trip the major items accomplished, apart from the many Haitians that came to Christ, were leaving Joy House in a position to be more successful and the making of many lasting, even eternal relationships. We are grateful for the opportunity.
Paul Ussery, Springdale, AR May 27, 2010