My last trip brought back afresh the great need for us to partner with others to make the difference in the lives of those crying out and those silent because of fear. Though this was not my annual scheduled trip, I took the invitation to join Pastor Bill Cannon (missionary pastor to Haiti) in the country of the Dominican Republic. The two countries border each other on the island of Hispaniola. I did not know at the time that translation from French Creole to English would fall to me; no one else knew both languages sufficiently to do so with confidence.
The plight of the Haitian people in the Dominican Republic can only be spoken of in private circles because international knowledge of it would only worsen their experience as aliens. Yes, many are there illegally but that is true of many people of the Dominican Republic in Puerto Rico/US territory, as they too seek better economic and educational opportunities. But what must be endured there by Haitians speaks to blindness or hardness of the heart so few only know of by sporadic news coverage of other countries. Most think: not in the tropics, not in the Caribbean.
Among the hardships, children born to Haitian parents are country-less and unaccounted for. Not being allowed to declare Dominican Republic citizenship, they are not able to claim Haitian birth. The cost for going across to Haiti is also too expensive and the return financially impossible. For this reason public education is denied to this group. I was able to visit a school built by missions support that houses 63 students. They meet at two different intervals during the day to separate them by age group. The elder students, 6-15 year-olds (Haitians and those of missed heritage) have never been schooled and did not know how to spell their names. One level above being a squatter building, the land where the school is located is unused government land with no access to water or a sewage system. One thing is also sure: there will be no trash pick-up in the area because it is understood to be inhabited by Haitians. Trash therefore is constantly burning. Pollutants and dangerous chemical reactions from these fires are not a concern since the smoke serves to be a perpetual insecticide against the ravages of dengue and other mosquito carrying diseases. The school is teaching English as a life skill so that employment requiring dual or tri-lingual persons would be gained by these students and young adults.
I am in constant awe that I am among those serving in this part of the world and at this time. You make it possible. I soon head out for the scheduled trip; I will be there from Feb. 6-22 and will go by ferry with the family van packed with donated items. I will be accompanied by Pastor Robert Dressel, a missionary pastor from Minnesota. Upon our return, our two families will join forces and begin an outreach/Bible study to the military base and surrounding township here in Puerto Rico. Among the many things we will be participating in both countries, these are notable:
1. Visit Mennonite Camp on the Haitian border—their labors are notable and we seek to support their efforts as they have been helpful to our missionaries as well
2. Set-up Christian Radio Station in St. Marc through (Shawn Rineholt) Ears to Hear
3. Distribution of solar radios – (to illiterate), flyers for radio programming
4. Visit Bible College/pastoral training center in St. Marc
5. Visit orphanage in Haute, St. Marc
6. Participate in young adults Bible studies
7. Test youth swimming skills from Feb. 2012 classes (bringing children for a day “out” and fellowship)
8. Negotiate Pastor Cannon’s rent increase (I will assist in French Creole to prayerfully get best results)
In the Dominican Republic:
1. Visit Rineholt family and outreach/attend youth Bible study
2. Visit compound on sale, able to house 60 Bible College students and two families.
3. Deliver surf boards for young adults – Christian surfing ministry
4. Review Bible College plans and Rineholt’s visit to Baltimore for Church convention.
5. Visit Mennonite camp on Dominican Republic side of border.
Our excitement is tempered because we know the projects ahead we will also face obstacles. We expect great outcomes and a deepening of relationship with the families and young adults. We really are about next generation building…
Thanks again for your financial support; you are assisting us with making a crucial difference in the lives of fellow brothers and sisters here in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.