Posted by: calloftheandes | December 26, 2011

Diverse Work Team Builds Houses, Team Spirit at Orphanage in Haiti

Establishing esprit de corps was critical for a 13-member group that worked in Haiti recently and a situation that might have deteriorated into discord instead turned out to be a template for success.

“The team was very diverse—really three separate groups of people—and for the most part we didn’t know each other before the trip,” said David Rhodes, project coordinator at the HCJB Global Technology Center in Elkhart, Ind. He led the ministry’s second team in six months to work on an orphanage of a partner ministry, Kids Alive International (KAI).

Team members from the HCJB Global Ministry Service Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Technology Center along were joined by three friends of new missionaries Jeff and Jackie Benedict. Together they worked at KAI’s orphanage in Cap Haitien from Nov. 25 to Dec. 3. The team’s stated purpose was to help with a major construction project to build eight family-style homes at the organization’s Cap Haitien facilities in northern Haiti. But building relationships took high priority too.

“I was really pleased at how well the team bonded,” said Rhodes who had overseen some 60 work teams while serving as a KAI missionary with his wife, Connie, in Peru for eight years before joining HCJB Global in 2009. “The team members all had good hearts and just loved the children. It’s not always how much we accomplish that’s important, but other things too, like the effect the trip has on their personal Christian lives.”

Using funds that HCJB Global raised for relief after the devastating earthquake in January 2010 that killed more than 200,000 people in Port-au-Prince, the ministry took in 50 additional orphans soon after the quake, effectively tripling the orphanage’s enrollment. Most of the orphans are living with families in rented homes, but will move to the permanent structures as they become available.

“The work now is to create the facilities to house these children and to be able to provide for them,” explained Jeff VanDerMolen, regional director for KAI. “That’s what HCJB Global has been helping with….. The physical work that’s been accomplished is a huge blessing. Another really cool part of the teams is the way God can use a week to change somebody’s heart.”

HCJB Global's Nate Dell flings a scoop of dirt from the construction site.

Team members did everything from digging a pit for a septic tank to wiring, installing fixtures, sanding/painting, doing prep work for a concrete slab foundation, and holding a vacation Bible school (VBS).

“Because of the influence of Kids Alive, the local people welcomed us into their humble homes,” said Nate Dell, HCJB Global’s work team coordinator. “It was an eye-opening experience for us to see the Kids Alive program at work. The interaction with those kids was a lot of fun. Some of the homes we visited will be replaced by the ones that we helped to build.”

Preparing the hole for the septic tank was especially challenging. “There was no backhoe, and we had to chuck the dirt 15 feet into the air. [Before the trip] I must have been shoveling snow to get ready!” chuckled Dell who lives with his wife, Rachelle, in Kremmling, Colo.

A touching moment came when Dell encouraged the team’s youngest member, 14-year-old Kyle Larson, to help some Haitian laborers mix and pour concrete. “Later that day Kyle shared that at first he felt intimidated helping the Haitians. He said, ‘I’d never done anything like that before! But by the end of the day I didn’t see them as Haitians, but as part of the crew.’ Then he added, ‘I’m a little bit more color blind now!’”Ron With and some new Haitian friends.

Another opportunity opened when KAI’s compactor, used to pack the ground for the cement slab foundation, broke down. “This was a very important piece of equipment,” explained IT worker Ron With who served on the team with his wife, Theresa, from Colorado Springs. But he just “happened” to have a background as an automotive mechanic, and Dell had experience in small-engine repair.

“We took the compactor to the shop and figured out what was wrong,” With said. “We repaired some gaskets and were able to get it working. We also ordered parts for the next team to bring down. It was critical to get this compactor working because the next team would pour cement.”

Another opportunity opened when KAI’s compactor, used to pack the ground for the cement slab foundation, broke down. “This was a very important piece of equipment,” explained IT worker Ron With who served on the team with his wife, Theresa, from Colorado Springs. But he just “happened” to have a background as an automotive mechanic, and Dell had experience in small-engine repair.

“We took the compactor to the shop and figured out what was wrong,” With said. “We repaired some gaskets and were able to get it working. We also ordered parts for the next team to bring down. It was critical to get this compactor working because the next team would pour cement.”

Rhodes added that with eight of the 13 team members being women, it was an ideal opportunity to offer VBS, with translation, to the orphans. “We taught songs and Scriptures in Creole,” related Theresa With. “The kids loved the songs and even wrote the lyrics down on their hands. They memorized the Scriptures and songs by the end of class time, and Jackie Benedict presented the stories. I can’t say enough about her amazing gift and passion for child evangelism.”

“On the last day we did a drama that [HCJB Global appointee] Kendra Larson wrote,” added Jessica TenBrink from Colorado Springs. The VBS also included arts and crafts projects that the team brought down, including socks to make hand puppets and yarn to make crosses. “They had so much fun, and the teachers were excited too.”

In addition, team members had the opportunity to visit another partner, Radio 4VEH, a ministry of One Mission Society in Cap Haitien. HCJB Global engineers have helped with various technical projects at the partner station throughout its 60-year history.

David Russell, director of the Technology Center, said the work with KAI is well worth the effort. “The investment in the lives of Haitian children is an important step toward developing well-rounded, Christ-anchored adults who will one day be able to lead their nation toward a prosperous future.”

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