Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Workcamp aids Haitian Brethren in rebuilding effort.

A workcamp sponsored by Brethren Disaster Ministries took place in Haiti on Aug. 7-16. The group spent more than a week helping with disaster relief and rebuilding of homes following major destruction caused by four hurricanes and tropical storms that hit Haiti last year.

The workcamp worshiped and fellowshiped with Haitian Brethren, and arrived in Haiti in time to join in a special worship service of ordination and licensing of the first ministers of Eglise des Freres Haitiens. The service took place on the last day of a theological training for the Haitian church that was held on Aug. 3-7.

The workcamp was led by Jeff Boshart, Haiti disaster response coordinator, and Klebert Exceus, Haitian consultant from Orlando, Fla. Workcampers were David Bradley of Lebanon, Pa.; Steve Ditzler of Lebanon, Pa.; James Eby of Litiz, Pa.; Ecclesiaste Frederick of Miami, Fla.; Wanda Lyons of Glade Valley, N.C.; Joel Postma of La Porte, Ind.; and Brad Yoder of North Manchester, Ind. The group was accompanied by members of Exceus' family, and two Brethren pastors from the Dominican Republic--Mardouchee Catalice, who is of Haitian background, and Onelys Rivas Florentino, of Dominican background.

Following the special worship service with the Haitian Brethren, the workcamp went on to a variety of disaster rebuilding projects working alongside Haitian Brethren and local Haitian communities.

One project was to finish rebuilding a home for the widow and family of the late Pastor Delouis St. Louis, a Haitian Brethren pastor and church planter who died unexpectedly of illness in late May. His family had lost their home in last year's storms. Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of the Church of the Brethren's Global Mission Partnerships, reported that Louis' life and ministry continues through the work to build a church for the Haitian Brethren in the village of Ferrier, where he had founded a preaching point.

Workcampers spent part of a day helping to build the church in the rural, mountainous area near Mirabilais, where Brethren Disaster Ministries has completed 21 homes. Impetus for the project came from the local community who, according to Wittmeyer, was impressed that homes were built for non-Brethren families in a place where the Haitian Brethren had only a simple lean-to as a preaching point. Another impetus to construct the church in Ferrier came from plans to hold a Kids' Club there, according to Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

The Church of the Brethren's Emerging Global Mission Fund provided funds to purchase the land for the church, Winter reported. Local people gave of their own time and money to start construction of the church building, and the workcamp group joined in to support the effort.

While the workcamp was in the area, a community gathering was held to dedicate the new homes and community members were given a chance to speak. "The community obviously had never done anything like this," Wittmeyer said. "It was a recognition of all they had done. It was up in the mountains. They had to carry water. They had to carry cement...and the houses look great."

In addition, during the trip members of the workcamp helped lead Kids' Club, an event similar to Vacation Bible School. A Baptist group joined the Kids' Club, Wittmeyer said, and hundreds of children participated.

The workcamp spent a couple of days in the city of Gonaives working on more homes affected by the storms. Brethren Disaster Ministries has a goal of rebuilding 60 homes in Gonaives. Ten have been completed and 20 more are currently under construction, Winter reported. Children's programs continued in Gonaives as well.

"I am forever changed because of the opportunity to serve in Haiti," said workcamper Wanda Lyons in her evaluation of the experience. "I was pretty much involved with the Kid's Club throughout the entire trip.... The children were such a blessing to me. How appreciative they were of everything we did for them. Seeing the happy smiles on those precious children and the hugs and thanks for the little things that seemed to make them so happy amid such difficult circumstances."

For a photo album from the workcamp, go to A second Haiti workcamp is planned for Oct. 24-Nov. 1. Go to
for more information or contact or 800-451-4407. Grants from the church's Emergency Disaster Fund are supporting the work in Haiti, with a total of $370,000 given so far.

Source: 9/9/2009 Newsline

No comments: