Haitians carrying twigs over the mountain in April 2007. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
God brought us to Gentilhomme. On June 26, 2005, while intending to climb Pic la Selle (the highest mountain in Haiti at 8,773 feet), we discovered Gentilhomme. Johnathan Esper, my son Jesse, and I were ascending the now-familiar trail up from Soliette and came over the crest of a hill to see Gentilhomme nestled on the slopes of what we thought was Pic la Selle. It turns out that Pic la Selle is behind this mountain, which is Món Boukan (Mount Fire — known as such because there always seems to be a fire burning on the slopes as farmers torch the undergrowth to clear the way for the planting of crops such as onions, beans, peas, and yucca, and trees are burned to make charcoal). Chalismar Miguel Charles crossed our path. We asked him if he could show us the way up Pic la Selle. He said he could, but first he would introduce us to Pastor Meristaine Tresin.
Our meeting with Pastor Tresin was a divine appointment. He looked deeply into my eyes as he grasped and shook my right hand with both of his, saying: “I have prayed for two years for God to send help.” We are the help. We raised more than $12,000 and built a church within nine months, something nearly unheard of in Haiti. The church was dedicated on May 14, 2006. In September 2006, it became a school for more than 140 children who have never been able to go to school. Mathurin Saenril is a trained teacher working at the school. He is helped by Exima, a member of the church. They teach reading, writing, and arithmetic.
The church at Gentilhomme is the heart of the village. Soon it will house a health clinic. It also will lead to clean water and improved sanitation. That is what we are working on now.
These are the many things God has led us to do in Gentilhomme. But I believe it is only the start. As we met with pastors and representatives of other churches from other villages in need, as I listened to pleas and prayed to God for direction, He made it clear to me: DO for the least of these.
Haiti is a troubled country, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Its history is bloody and ungodly. The people turned to the evil one when they embraced voodoo in their revolt against the French in 1791. The Haitian Revolution (considered the world's only successful slave uprising) lasted 13 years and “altered the course of world history,” according to The Rainy Season by Amy Wilentz. E.J. Hobsbawm concurs in The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, writing: “The failure of Napoleonic France to recapture Haiti was one of the main reasons for liquidating the entire remaining American Empire, which was sold by the Louisiana Purchase (1803) to the USA.”
Today, Haiti is one of the most disadvantaged countries in the developing world. Seventy-six percent of Haitians live on less than $2 U.S. per day and 55 percent live on less than $1 U.S. per day, according to the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP). Chronic malnutrition is widespread. Malnutrition and diarrhea kill 28 percent and 20 percent of children ages 0 to 5, respectively, the World Food Programme reports. Haiti is one of the three worst countries in the world for “daily caloric deficit” with an average intake of just 460 calories per day. The WFP says: “Some 2.4 million Haitians cannot afford the minimum 2,240 daily calories recommended by the World Health Organization.”
Feeding the hungry, giving something clean to drink to those who thirst, clothing those in need of clothing, and providing health care to the sick are among the physical needs crying out to us in Haiti. Providing the love and teaching of Christ is the spiritual need.
For us, it begins in Gentilhomme. But I do not think it ends there.
God has many mountain villages for us to reach and serve in Haiti. Along the way, we will encounter many who are in need in places more easily reached. If we are not the ones sent to help them, we should act as a conduit and bring the plight of these people to those who might be willing and able to lend a hand — from Miguel's church in Jimani to churches along the road in Thoman and Soliette.
Climbing For Christ’s mission to is serve those in need in places where other missionaries cannot or will not go. Our focus is the higher ground — the mountainous areas of the world.
Malasi, like Gentilhomme, seems to be a place where God would call us to do His work. It is a remote mountain village. While Gentilhomme can be found on some maps, villages such as Malasi exist without anyone knowing they are there.
But God knows, and He sends people like us to help the least among us.
This story originally appeared in The Climbing Way (Volume 8, Summer 2008). Posted Dec. 26, 2007.