Revelife editor-in-chief Rebecca just returned from a week-long mission trip to Haiti. This week, she will share with you a taste of what she experienced and learned.
"You make beautiful things out of the dust."
-- Gungor, "Beautiful Things"
What would a short-term mission trip be without a little construction project? As I said yesterday, The 410 Bridge mission is to work with the people, not for the people. The leadership counsel in Bohoc, Haiti, chose two projects for us to take part in: a church construction and a road expansion.
When we arrived at the site of the future Three Brothers Church, Pastor George and his team greeted us and explained what our work would be. For two days, we would be gathering up rocks. And there were a lot
Construction projects in Haiti always seem to start with gathering rocks, but this is because the people of Haiti have learned to utilize what already exists in their surroundings. The land is covered with rocks, large and small, and these are gathered into buckets and wheelbarrows and poured onto the foundation, then covered with sand to fill in the gaps and finally covered with a thin layer of concrete. The process cuts costs considerably, as cement is not cheap but rocks are readily available.
The whole thing sounds pretty easy at first, but a couple hours of gathering rocks in the heat and sun can be really exhausting for someone who rarely does work like that. The Haitian women put us "blancs" to shame. One woman carried buckets of sand on her head while carrying her infant child. Remind me never to complain about my job ever again.
At the end of the two days, we saw what little progress we had made. We'd filled one room and part of another. It seems like so little for so much work, but the people were so appreciative of our help. I look forward to going back and worshiping our God in that church.
Our second project was even more challenging. We drove out to a dirt path and walked down it for a while until we arrived at the site of a work crew. They were working to widen the footpath into a road, but they didn't start at the place where it met the existing road like you would expect. The people far from the main road who need the road have banded together and started the project on their own land, and one by one the residents on the path are giving up their land to help with the project. The last people to comply will be the people on the main road, because they don't need the footpath widened, but they will sacrifice the land in order to benefit the other people who have put so much work into it.
Widening a footpath doesn't sound so difficult, but if gathering rocks is hard, then what do you expect from road construction? The process requires removing the cacti that line the path, cutting away at the dirt with pick-axes, covering the ground with -- you guessed it -- rocks from the surrounding area and then covering the rocks with the dirt removed from the sides of the path. There were plenty of jobs to go around, but none of them were easy.
This was perhaps one of my favorite moments of the trip, though, because as the men and women labored in the midday sun, they sang songs and worked to the beat of them. They sang about the prophet Jeremiah, and they sang about the church. They even sang a song that was about not touching old people! The time and work flew by, and in just a couple hours, we had about 20 or 30 feet of new road carved out of the dirt.
All of our work seemed so small, but as one of my teammates put it, "This is just one verse in the story." Regardless of how much we were able to put into the construction, we were, in some small way, a part of it. So when we go to that church or we drive down that road, we can say we had a hand in it and a respect for the people who continued to work after us.What sort of construction projects have you done on missions trips? What was your reaction to the work you had accomplished? Did you feel like you'd done something great, or did you feel like you could have done more? What has become of the projects you did?