Dedicated to the FBI (Fixers, Builders and Instructor) of River Oaks Community Church.
We recently returned from a mission trip to Children’s Lifeline in Haiti. That kind of an experience can have a way of taking over the top shelf in your mind at least for awhile, and I thought it might be a good blog topic. When I mentioned this to Sue Shetler, who got Lori Abney’s well-deserved nomination for employee of the day on Monday, she expressed the valid concern that the topic did not have enough to do with building a boat.
This caused a moment of painful reflection about the fact that the boat is moving so slow as to not have enough interesting material for a weekly commentary. Then I thought, with a blog title like Building Redemption, maybe I will just carry on. Look for boats along the way!
Our group was mostly comprised of guys from the River Oaks Community Church FBI (Fixers, Builders and Instructors). International travel can be difficult, and this was no exception as one passport was not accepted because of “water damage.” This caused two of our group to be left behind. One of the international rookies, Rick Frey, almost got lost going through security, Jake Showalter had to prove the beeping was not caused by a weapon in his hip and John Geisler had a frantic search for his passport, which was ultimately successful. Jan and I gave an unintended “gift” of $150 in a baggage swap to a random Haitian “TSA” agent. In Haiti, this must stand for “Thieves, Swindlers & Associates”.
Somewhere, John Peeble’s iPad got up and took an unsupervised walk away (refer to “TSA”, above), and a lunch delay just about left a few more of us in Miami. After all, most of us besides Jon Kauffman, do have figures we have to maintain, and who could be sure that the rice and beans coming up would sustain us. Eventually we were united in the friendly skies of a One-World American Alliance airplane. Just another day at the office. Below are all of the FBI guys at the airport.
It was only a three hour flight from Chicago to Miami, and two hours more to Port Au Prince. We ended up in our same time zone, but no mistaking that it was a world away. From Indiana to Haiti in February 2014, there was nearly one hundred degrees of temperature swing. English is not so helpful there, as Creole is a curious mix of French and as many languages as the places people in Haiti came from. These journeys were unfortunately often without their permission, and now the trap of poverty makes it nearly impossible to leave.
Below are the types of boats desperate refugees have taken on ocean journeys.
Even my own children were trying to escape on a raft.
We were given the task to be builders of the wall for a new orphanage, but it turns out the first test occurred walking to work. As we left the mission compound into the village on the way to the work site, we were mobbed by children who wanted to hold a hand and come along. Of course, they really wanted to know if our hearts were as big as our hands. Here is Wayne Loucks’ hand held fast.
My first clue that this test would be passed was when Jake Showalter had told about his last trip with a few tears in his eyes. The big heart of our Heavenly Father was obvious in each of the men.
Here is Jake Showalter driving with Daniel.
Thumbs up for Mike Sherer, John Peebles, Wayne Loucks, Mike Gingerich, Rick Frey and the children.
John Geisler with two new friends.
Rick Frey with his sponsored daughter.
Mike Gingerich has his lap full.
John Peebles and my sister Anne Crist at the work site with three boys.
Me with a boy on my shoulder at an orphanage.
The FBI group with the ones that came along.
The next test was figuring out what to do at the job site. Among us were all sorts of craftsmen, an engineer, business and organizational leaders, managers, and possibly the most complete collection of Fix-it knowledge ever assembled for an international trip. We even had a professional mason, which fueled our aspirations of tackling a big project with the will to “get ‘er done.”
But the FBI are men of prayer, and go forward with humility. Mike Gingerich, the brick mason, saw that the Haitian men were already started and he respected their right and responsibility to take ownership of their project. What they needed was for us to move some huge piles of rock. We got in a line and passed them along, to the places where Joubert, Oskah, Wohb, Pierre, Edmond, Djimi, William, Imaniel etc. were working. Here are some of the crew.
Some of us began mixing mortar, carrying it to the masons, and bringing them rocks for the wall. Over a day or so, the respect of working hard shoulder to shoulder began to be felt, and communication became more expressive. It started with stares, pointing and other hand signals, and moved on to approving nods, smiles and the occasional fist bump for exceptional service. This might be for bringing an extra bucket of mud, a big rock, or finding just the perfect size rock for the next spot.
In this process, and without much verbal exchange, we became brothers. By the week’s end, we had visited some of their houses, and shared their concerns for their families. We went to Haiti to build a wall and instead we built a bridge.
One man told me recently of a get rich quick scheme that I was not able to dispute. He said he went to Haiti years ago as a young man, and he has been rich ever since. It kinda makes my current boat delays seem like not so much of a problem. Below you can see the back end extensions and the sheer and trim lines developing.
Wayne Loucks summed the trip up well when he said, “We changed Haiti a little. Haiti changed us a lot.”
“Whatever you have done for the least of these you have done unto me.” Mt. 25:40