- Last Updated on 08:24 AM 12/13/12
- BY The Gazette-Virginian
It was one overseas trip seven county residents will never forget.
Don Gainey, Jerry Crockett, Bill Haley, Gail Haley and the Rev. John Eure, all of Ash Avenue Baptist Church, along with Harvey Payne and the Rev. Dan Ward of First Crossroads Baptist Church recently traveled on a missionary journey to the tsunami ravaged and impoverished country of Haiti.
They were joined by members of First Union Baptist Church in Richmond on their journey to what they described as “the deepest poverty you could ever imagine.”
Their calling took these faithful missionaries into uncharted territory during the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 6, a land where the hot is almost indescribable and air is filled with a never ending dust, constant burning smell and unspeakable odors of raw sewage.
“We left the short, rocky road that we walked each morning to reach our work site, and on that walk, we passed a wide hole filled with waste and water that seemed a permanent reminder of what maybe an earthquake can leave behind,” said Gail Haley, who often gets emotional when speaking of her weeklong experience.
“Our passports carried us to a country where voodoo worship is commonplace, and on this little rocky road in front of our compound, a group of voodoo worshipers chanted for more than four hours on that Wednesday evening we were there,” she added.
Despite their intimidating surroundings, within their compound surrounded by razor wire, concrete walls and armed guards at the entrance gate, members of the group said they felt completely safe.
During their time in Haiti, they were escorted by missionary guide Deliris Rosa each time they left the compound. Puerto Rican born and educated in the United States,Rosa loves the Lord and the people of Haiti. Her degree is occupational therapy, and she helps others in this capacity.
Rosa’s mission is Touch of Hope, and her office is located within the Source of Light orphanage the group visited.
“I witnessed her love for the children there as she hugged and cared for the orphans whose home is on the third floor of the building,” said Haley.
The orphanage, constructed by Virginia Baptists, is where the missionary team worked each day.
“We were able to put a fresh coat of paint on the outside walls and on 90 percent of the classrooms and dorms. We thanked God for the strength to work physically in over 90 degree temperatures,” Haley shared.
The highlight of the week for the group occurred on Thursday evening when they went back to the orphanage after their evening meal and were permitted to spend several hours with the 30 orphans.
“They were all seated in their places when we arrived. John began our time with prayer followed by Jerry playing several songs with his new instrument,” Haley said.
Pastor Ronell’s daughters led the children in recitations and songs before the missionary group sang three action songs in English with them.
“They automatically recognized ‘Deep and Wide.’
“We then had them do thumbprint beetle bug identity cards and personalize them as they wanted,” she added.
Pastor Dan Ward told a story and play about Zachaeus with the help of Harvey Payne who played the role of the tax collector, and the two Baptist ministers acted as trees.
The children gathered together for pictures and more hugs and attention before the group gathered supplies and headed back to their compound.
Haley described their last day in Haiti as “God orchestrated.”
Some of the men were able to ride with Rosa and Moise to the village and church plant at Piallant in the mountains, that Eure had visited over 20 years ago. There they met the pastor and his wife, discussed the progress of the church and school and then enjoyed a meal with them before returning to join the group.
While they were in the mountains, the rest of the team had an opportunity to revisit the children’s classes and help the children with more crafts, leave backpacks donated by Halifax County Middle School students that had been filled with supplies, books and keepsakes for the students.
“We interacted with the kids and gave more hugs, smiles and love.
“This was a real blessing for those of us who spent time, as it was our last opportunity to see them. We said our goodbyes, thinking of a possible return trip one day, if it’s God’s will,” Haley said.
During their time in Haiti, the Rev. Eure urged those in the group to use their senses of smell, sight, touch and hearing to make the missionary trip more memorable.
Haley did just that, and memories of what her senses experienced linger with her months after her return home.
“For me it was the smell of the smoldering burning smoke-filled air, especially in the evenings, the sewage smell as we walked the road to the orphanage each day and our Off bug repellant-fragrant soap we used at the end of each day.
“In my sight was the crowded landscape as we flew into and out of the airport in Haiti and the overflow of traffic on the busy street of Port au Prince when we went to church on Sunday. There seemed to be no rules of the road. My memories are of the sea of humanity packed on those streets trying to earn a living. But what stands out most vividly in my mind was the filled-to-capacity sanctuary we visited and worshipped in for over two hours. It was hot, humid and uncomfortable, and I couldn’t help but compare it to our air-conditioned, often-times empty pews back home.”
Haley also recalled the “adequate accommodations and morning and evening meals prepared and served by sweet Haitians with broad smiles and Bonjours.”
“It’s difficult to forget seeing the armed guard who stood at the entrance of the compound and the razor wire that laced the top edge of the concrete walls of protection surrounding our compound,” she added.
She has strong memories of their daily trashy, rocky, dusty, waste-filled walk to the orphanage as the group dodged chickens with their biddies, nanny goats with their kids, dogs, cars and people on the sides observing the group, some speaking Bonjour, some not, some wearing smiles and some with simply empty stares.
“After passing all these, in our sight was the orphanage — our haven for the week, not the building itself, but the contents we looked to see each day. The contents being all the children of Haiti ebony, with their pearly white smiles and big
bright eyes that must have seen the possibility of a break in their routines when they eyed us,” Haley said recalling the way the children greeted them each day.
“I remember the touch of their hugs, taps on the arm, making thumbprint beetlebugs with them, pressing their little thumbs on the ink pad and their little butterfly kisses on the cheek,” she added.
“I remember hearing two words -- ‘Virginia Baptists’ -- being shouted by our guide when she arrived at the airport to pick us up.
“I remember the desperate voices of the men with the red shirts who almost claimed our luggage if we didn’t hover over it. They wanted our dollars for survival.”
Haley also vividly remembers the many hellos from the staff, the many conversations their team had from beginning to end, especially the evening devotions that were more akin to worship services, and the morning devotions that began each day.
“I remember hearing the roosters crow in the early morning. We sang and sang, and when we sat on the screened porch, even the guards recognized songs like ‘Because He Lives’ and ‘Amazing Grace.’ I remember the singing voices of the children, the ringing of the handbell to call us to dinner each evening and the Haitian woman’s sales call as she walked down the rocky road with her goods on her head.
I remember the sweet sound of Jerry’s newly found instrument playing ‘Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen Nobody Knows But Jesus.’”
While in Haiti, Haley said the group spoke the language they knew.
“We attempted to speak some French Creole,” she added.
As missionaries in a foreign land, Haley and the group prayed their eyes spoke of God’s love, their working hands spoke of God’s love, their busy feet going spoke of God’s love, their arms hugging spoke of God’s love and their smiling lips spoke of God’s love.
Haley said it was that love of God that called the group to make the trip to Haiti, that love of God that strengthened and enabled them, and that love of God that provided for them to have planned and accomplished their first international mission trip.
“We hope it’s the beginning of more to follow if it’s God’s will,” she added. “We give Him all the praise, honor and glory for the opportunity, the timing, the team that worked so well together and the accomplishments made.”
She urged the community to join this group in praying for Haiti, for each man, woman, boy and girl that she described as “a people less fortunate in many ways than Americans, but blessed in a common way, in that the same Jesus who died for us, died for them too. And He has His protective arm around them.”
Some may question, “Why go to Haiti?”
Haley and others who made this missionary journey have found their answer.
The Word of God says, “Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor andneedy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
“We who are called should go so that all may know,” Haley concluded.