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Reflections on 10 years of ministry with Haiti H2O 

by Jeff VanderMolen



Anne Lamott says that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” That metaphor sums up the last ten years for me. I remember sitting around our kitchen table, hashing out what Haiti H2O was going to be and how we were going to engage with Haiti. We came up with three Core Values, and those “headlights” have driven us this far:

1. The Gospel has transformative power.
2. Partnerships, friendships, and communities are keys to lasting change.
3. We are committed to programs that are sustainable.


This summer, Haiti H2O completed its second In-Country Mission Trip. This is the same model that we have used to integrate and implement projects since our inception: the community dictates the vision, we come alongside and see how we can best partner with them, and we stay in their village and spend time with them as we work together. The only difference with an In-Country Trip is there are no Americans on the project. None. Zero. Not even me, the Trip Coordinator.

If you told me ten years ago that this is what a mission trip could look like, I would not have believed you. Back then, I was all about going and doing. Designing the trip so that the Americans going had the opportunity to learn about Haiti and get to know people in the village was a major focal point. To “have the experience but to miss the meaning”* was a mission trip failure in my book. And you certainly could not glean meaning from an experience you did not have!

But I have grown and have learned so much from the partnerships, friends and communities both in Haiti and here in the States. I do not need to always be the one to go. The Haitian people certainly have the desire to improve their own lives, they are not waiting for hand-outs, they just want the opportunity to be a part of the process. The In-Country Mission Trip empowers Haitian communities to experience the same satisfaction of serving as we feel when we go on a mission trip. The Gospel is preached in word and deed, and that is transformative power whether we go or we send someone else.

Relationships are stronger than cement
Ten years ago, I did not know Pastor Pharyl, but over the last 8 years, I have enjoyed getting to know him and his family. He is soft-spoken but has an electric smile when he gets excited. His wife may be my best Creole tutor ever. She explains words slowly and makes me repeat them until I get the pronunciation just right. She also never lets me leave without a bag of freshly roasted and ground coffee. This summer, I was honored to be a part of the baptism of Rood- Maiel, their third child.

Pastor Pharyl and his family live in a two room hut next to the church in Plain Matin, a small village on the plain of the mountain. His vision was to provide an opportunity for the youth in the community. When he pitched the idea of a music program, 27 kids joined. After acquiring instruments he enlisted a music teacher. Although there was no funding for this position, the maestro believed in the vision and has been teaching twice a week for the past year. During In-Country Mission Trip, the choir debuted a song that Pastor Pharyl wrote for that week’s theme.

For ten years, these values of a transformative Gospel, partnership, friendship, community, and sustainability have driven our ministry. They have inspired diverse initiatives, from music lessons, to compost toilets, from medical clinics to educational seminars for local teachers, from children’s Bible school to sustainable businesses like the The Goat Project, The Bread Oven and Community Corn Grinder. The most exciting aspect is how lives are transformed (both Haitian and American) through the process of working together.
Pre-Haiti H2O first trip, 1997
Project
Baissin Caiman
Original pump installed
The first compost toilet
Pouring the roof for the second school
Current school, students, teachers and pastor Celone
Project
Plain Matin
Construction on the church truss
Visiting families and learning about Haitian cooking
Project St. Martin
Waiting in line for the clinic
College students building the new church
Photos of
In-Country
Misson Trip
this summer
Pastor Pharyl and his family.

The In-country Mission Trip from Plain Matin.

Evening Meeting

Continuing
the Work
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