Blowing Rock church planning trip to Haiti
by Sherrie Norris
In an effort to improve living conditions for the less fortunate, especially in Haiti, the volunteers have made an ongoing commitment to bring hope and helping hands to the Haitian citizens they have come to know and love.
Providing necessities, such as clean water, food, clothing, shoes, school supplies and construction projects, are just a few of the many ways the group is reaching across the borders for positive change, said Rhonda Gailes, minister of families at First Baptist.
The mission team is anticipating a return trip to Haiti and its members and sponsors are working together to raise funds and community interest in the project.
Gailes said it started in March 2008, when a group of 14 students and adults landed in Santo Domingo and traveled for an hour in a bus to a place called San Pedro De Marcio.
From there, another 30-minute ride took them into a desolate, countryside Haitian village.
"What we saw there was nothing like any of us North Carolinians had ever experienced," Gailes said. "The village was nothing more than dirt and mud and make-shift shacks -- dirty water, livestock and malnourished children, with no clothes and shoes."
As they made their way to a missionary church and school in the village, they were met by a group of about 100 children and adults who welcomed them, with what Gailes described as "great excitement and anticipation."
The following week was life-changing, Gailes said, but not only for the people they served.
"We brought food and clean water. We played ball with the children and we shared the gospel with them," she said. "We brought clothes and shoes and did all we could to meet every need possible for that week -- but the trip was a huge blessing and a lesson learned for all of us."
"Each night, we went to a worship service with those precious Haitians and Dominicans. We were overwhelmed with their love for the Lord and their gratefulness for all they have -- which was basically nothing," she said. "We have it all and always want more."
At the end of that week, members of the mission team returned home with much more than they had taken, Gailes said.
"We also knew that it was just the beginning. We recognized that there was much work left to do and decided to make a difference that would last," she said.
Since the initial journey, Gailes said, the church has helped build a school in the village and has installed a clean-water filter system.
On a regular basis, the members continue to provide school supplies and food for school lunches, as well as clothing and shoes.
On April 5, the mission team will make its fourth trip to Haiti. They will be carrying supplies, providing meals and expanding a building project at the Sante Fe village school.
Because of the ministry, Gailes said, lives have been changed in Haiti -- and lives have also been changed in Blowing Rock.
"God is an awesome God and is at work all around the world," she said. "We are trying our best to be the hands and feet of Christ, by providing for the less fortunate and giving hope to the hopeless."