Haiti gained its independence from France in 1804 and became the world’s first independent black republic. The history of Haiti includes years of foreign intervention and manipulation, and civil unrest, born of fear and greed; of promises left unfulfilled; of projects begun and abruptly halted; of political, social and economic corruption and unrealized reforms. Haiti is a land of inconsistencies, where the very rich live in close proximity to the very poor and where the poor are often exploited for the needs and wants of the rich. It is a land which forces one to wrestle with deep and controversial issues.
Haiti has been recognized as the poorest country in the Western hemisphere with 80% of the population living on less than 2 USD per day. It is also a land of great beauty from its mountains to its oceans. Yet a closer inspection reveals mountain-sides devoid of trees and vegetation, the result of years of clear-cutting wood used for cooking fuel and heat sources. It is this lack of vegetation that makes the spring and fall rains so devastating, resulting in damaging erosion and landslides.
In the midst of all the challenges the people of Haiti face, there are signs of hope. Its greatest resource is its people. A proud, faithful, and resourceful people, Haitians make the best out of the worst situations, carrying water on their heads, eating one meal a day and walking for miles to the market. Hoorywever, there were noticeable signs of change. Foreign aid had started reaching the general population. The airport had been upgraded, the streets seemed somewhat cleaner, roads were improved and private commerce continued to grow. Mostly through the efforts of both Governmental Organizations and NGO’s, as well as the dedication of the Christian faith community.
That, all changed on January 12, 2010.
The Methodist presence in Haiti dates back to 1816 when missionaries from Britain first traveled to Port-au-Prince and began a mission outpost. The New York Annual Conference has also had a long history in Haiti. In 2002, Pastors Tom and Wendy Vencuss of Wethersfield, Connecticut, visited Haiti and in 2003 NYAC mission teams began visiting Haiti again. A Task Force was established to oversee the mission in Haiti. In 2004, Haiti was endorsed by the Connecticut District and then the New York Annual Conference as a mission priority. In 2008 the Task Force formally changed its name to Mountains of Hope for Haiti. Mountains of Hope (MHH) works with leaders of the Methodist Church of Haiti and local churches and pastors to develop its projects and mission. Under the auspices of MHH, at least 19 teams involving more than 150 people from 20 different churches in New York and Connecticut have traveled to Haiti.
To Touch The Sky
We climbed up high to touch the sky
And saw God’s presence in their eyes
It touched our hearts to hear them sing
And smile and laugh without a thing
They call us names like Missionary
But God has chosen them to carry
Burdens like His son had done
Crosses held for everyone
They travel far to praise His name
While most of us whine and complain
Away from TVs we now sit
Our eyes are opening up a bit
Obstructions from our ears are gone
Each time we gather to share a song
No colors here, we are all one
Brothers, sisters everyone
God’s lessons learned each way we turn
From children who simply want a turn
To feel the blessings we receive
And show us love before we leave
They reach out with their hands in trust
Come and come again, we must
A call or maybe more a shake
Through them God helps our faith to wake
So, may the things we see and hear
Be kept around our hearts, so near
Reminding us, God’s work’s not done
Until it reaches everyone
Bring us home safe to share the joy
We saw in every girl and boy
Peace and Love on earth? say Oui!
Then say to God, begin with me
By Mike Joyce
Copyright © 2012-2013, Mountains of Hope for Haiti.