Missionaries in Haiti got a big lift from home

July 25, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

When 12 missionaries from Carroll Community Church flew to Haiti to do mission work two weeks ago, their entire congregation of 270 gave them wings.

"I am convinced we would not have been as successful without the help from home," said the Rev. Joe Duke, pastor of the Eldersburg church and leader of the missionary group.

"Everyone did a terrific job. We took meals prepared here and the support of 24-hour coverage from our prayer team at home."

The Carroll group worked with Short Term Evangelical Missions in the Caribbean country. They mixed their freeze-dried meals with bottled water and relied on the prayers for their safe return. Prayer-team member Debbie Perrine said the supplications placed her there "in spirit with my husband and 13-year-old daughter."

After a dinner invitation, Mrs. Perrine learned how committed others were to their prayer time slots. Minutes after clearing dishes from her table, the hostess excused herself.

"She told us to entertain ourselves. It was her 30 minutes to pray," said Mrs. Perrine.

Mr. Duke said the missionaries crammed as much work as possible into their 10-day stay.

"The trip stretched all categories of our perspective tremendously," he said. "We didn't go to change a whole country. We went to expose people to God's love and to help them physically."

Although Haiti immediately shows visitors that "the world is apainful place," the pastor said it also introduces them to a people with hope and genuine joy in their lives.

"They know there is a value to life and they long for God," he said.

Sundee Simmons said, "These people have so little to live on, yet they are so hospitable. Here, we worry where we might eat tonight. They wonder if."

While the poverty and pollution shocked her, Ms. Simmons said she found the people resilient.

"Even in what many called a hopeless situation, the Haitians are still a hopeful, prideful people," she said.

If not for the "huge tarantulas," Ms. Simmons said she would return to Haiti. She and her husband are planning to do more mission work after he completes theological studies.

As they traveled through Port-au-Prince on the back of a flat-bed truck, the Carroll County residents were themselves a spectacle.

"Little children ran up to the truck smiling and yelling 'blanc' [white] at us," said the pastor.

Harry Perrine, a church elder, said that as he made his way around the country he never found any reprieve from crushing poverty.

"There was a constant mass of people, many living on the streets," he said.

For Rebecca Raub, 15, a trip to Hope Orphanage -- where she worked with disabled children -- made her see how fortunate her life here is.

"We have so much more," she said. "I would like to go back again as a missionary."

Ms. Simmons said the orphans had been abandoned a few months earlier. Many would have perished if Ruth Zimmerman, an American missionary, had not rescued them and established the home for them.

"Now there is one volunteer for every five kids," she said. "The children are thriving, too."

Two days into the trip, the visitors became a construction crew to add a roof to a village church. Even the youngest visitors, Anna Perrine and Rebecca Raub, assembled roof trusses.

"The day we finished, the villagers gathered for a worship service in their new church," said Mr. Duke. "Their gratitude made it the highlight of the trip."

Along with interpreters, the missionaries hiked through the mountains and "met with anyone who would talk to us," he said. "Each one of these people matters to God, and we were thankful to share his good news with them."

Missionaries, even those who stay briefly, offer rays of hope to the Haitians, Mr. Duke said.

"There is little hope for the country, but for the grace of God and the missions there. You go to give of yourself and you get a blessing for yourself. We made a difference in their world."

Mr. Duke plans to show slides of the trip during worship services at Liberty High School today.

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