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Mission: Haiti 2008

Trip Report: If only we can

By Gary Fallesen
President, Climbing For Christ

“If only I could. If only I could.”

Miguel Rubén Guante, our missionary to Haiti, was saying those words to himself over and over as we ascended the trail from the home of Donya Jean Riska outside the mountain village of Malasi. By his own admission, Miguel likes to help people. Otherwise he wouldn’t go through all that we go through to do the Lord’s work in the Chaine de la Selle range in southeastern Haiti.

You encounter many halting moments in the mission field. And then there are times when the heartbreak is almost overwhelming. Like when a sweet 12-year-old girl tells you in a way that brings tears to your eyes that she doesn’t eat every day. Or a woman who has lost a newborn baby gazes through you and you wonder what she is seeing with a mind maddened by sadness and wanting. Or, in the case of Donya Jean Riska, a woman whose third-degree burns were revealed from beneath her clothing as she laid suffering silently in the dirt outside her home.

Dr. Steve meeting Donya for the first time.

Donya was struck by lightning on Sept. 9, 2008. Our Mission: Haiti team, which included a doctor who treated more than 300 people in Malasi and Gentilhomme (and points in between), arrived at her side on Dec. 6. Nearly three months had passed since lightning killed her husband and child and left her with burns on her left arm, legs, and feet. The wound on her arm was so deep that the bone was visible. Her toes were twisted grotesquely. The burns on her legs were in need of skin grafts.

Dr. Steve Quakenbush treated her and the team prayed for her. Then we started to walk the hour back to our tents, climbing up two hills and crossing what is called a road but can only be described as a rock-strewn path over which heavy-duty trucks might be able to slowly inch.

This is not a place many from the outside world have ever seen. It is a place where we serve. God has equipped us to go to villages such as Malasi. We do so willingly, eagerly. And then we see things that leave an ache in the heart that never goes away.

“We need a truck,” my dear friend Miguel said after we left Donya. “We are trying to help. We have the doctor. All we need is the transportation.”

We have had a need for a truck for many months in Haiti. We have been ministering there since God took us to Gentilhomme in the summer of 2005. But the need was driven home powerfully on this day.

By the time Mission: Haiti 2008 was complete (13 days of attending to medical issues, building arborloos where there is no sanitation, teaching and loving children whose Christmases would otherwise be lacking, sharing the Good News in passionate worship services and with pastors and church leaders who are receiving instruction in the Word, surveying water sources for an ongoing project to provide access to cleaner drinking water, and more) our to-do list was even longer. The deeper we go, the more need we discover.

Watering seeds to grow: the nursery that is part of the Seedling Bank project in Gentilhomme. A similar nursery was built in Malasi. Banana plants, like the one sprouting up below, and coffee seeds have been planted in the two villages in the past few months.

Climbing For Christ currently has three churches attached to Mission: Haiti. They are located in Gentilhomme, Malasi, and the Dominican border town of Jimani, where Miguel lives in a small Haitian community on a hillside. These churches also have schools, providing a free education in a place where children usually have to pay to learn. Since Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, most children do not receive an education because their families cannot afford it. We offer education to several hundred children who otherwise would not get it.

Many other churches have requested affiliation with Climbing For Christ. We do the best we can with what we have … with what He provides. God is the provider, but ultimately it comes down to what man is willing to give.

How much of what He has placed in your lives – your time, your skills, and your money – are you willing to surrender so others may live?

Dr. Steve, Sarah Brownell, Josh Carroll, Pastor Erica Zeiler, Miguel, and my wife Elaine have given a great deal. As have others who have been with us on Evangelic Expeditions to Haiti — in all, 18 members have gone. And there are those who support the work in Haiti through financial giving and prayer. These are the hands and feet of Jesus, who has sent us. I am grateful to each one. I have been blessed to serve with them in Haiti.

The pastors and church leaders from six villages who received certificates from Climbing For Christ for attending each of the classes during the first year. The second year of seminary begins in January 2009.

Mission: Haiti 2008 was an incredible, Christ-centered, God-glorifying time. “It was amazing to see God answer prayers,” Pastor Erica shared as we flew back to the States, “and to meet people whose lives have been impacted by God’s work through Climbing For Christ.”

There is much to do in 2009, and beyond. More short-term teams will go to the mountains of Haiti. We will send another medical team (headed by Dr. Steve) to teach first-aid and provide medicines for headaches caused by dehydration and stomach ailments caused by malnourishment. Josh will engineer a water system in Gentilhomme and construct cistern filters in other villages. The seminary that is beginning its second year will continue (with pastors and church leaders from six villages and prayerfully more attending once a month to learn from a curriculum Erica and others provide). The Seedling Bank project, which is already producing banana plants and coffee seeds in Gentilhomme and Malasi, will grow. More arborloos will be constructed. Our support for Miguel and four teachers (two in Gentilhomme and two in Malasi) will continue. We will respond to emergencies.

In 2009, we are prayerfully intending to:

  • Bring Gilbert, the 15-year-old who in August 2007 was rescued from death after a broken leg went untreated for 27 days (see “Saving Gilbert”), to the U.S. to be sized for a prosthetic leg to replace the one he lost. Gilbert has been living with Miguel, his health regained and his heart and mind being sharpened by teaching and the Word, since we evacuated him from Gentilhomme and he was treated in Santo Domingo.

Gilbert playing with a baby at Miguel's home in Jimani.

  • Bring Santane and Micho, two children in need of surgery on knees that have left them crippled since they were babies.

Santane, top, and Micho, below, both need surgery to repair damaged knees.

  • Bring Donya to Santo Domingo for treatment in the hospital for her lightning burns.
  • Bring others to the clinic in Jimani, where Dr. Jirdana has been partnering with us to help the seriously ill and injured.

God is moving through the mountains of Haiti. It is our prayer that we will answer the spiritual needs (continuing to eliminate the dark presence of voodoo) and provide help for the many physical needs. But we need you to do that. We need your prayers and we need your financial support.

Miguel, left, with Pastor Vilcuis in Malasi — two men after God's own heart.

In 1986, Miguel Rubén Guante was working as a teacher, making a meager salary. But he shared what little he had with an elderly woman who had been evicted from her home. He took her in and supported her for several years. He lives to help. Currently, he earns just $350 a month serving with Climbing For Christ.

When I heard Miguel saying to himself (and perhaps to God), “If only I could,” I knew what his words meant. He would buy a truck if he could. He was speaking from his heart ... and mine. Please help us help others.

  • CLICK HERE to read the daily Dispatches from this trip.

Posted Dec. 16, 2008

The Word

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
— Jesus speaking in Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

How to give

Send your tax-deductible donation to Climbing For Christ at P.O. Box 16290, Rochester, N.Y. 14616-0290. Mark “Mission: Haiti” on your check or money order. Or CLICK HERE and send a gift via PayPal.

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