Last fall, during storms “Isaac” and “Sandy”, the Furcy Community sustained a lot of structural damage as well as loss of crops and livestock. The roofs of the Furcy School, the Furcy Store, and the School Cook House were blown off and/or damaged. Thankfully, through the generosity of many faithful “partners” including CRECHE, Covenant World Relief, North Park Church, Haiti Response Plan, EMH, MHH, and UMCOR, there are now brand new roofs on the School, the Store, and the Cook House!
There is also a new roof on the Mission House, which is being constructed and funded through the Haiti Response Plan/UMCOR Matching Funds Program and Partnership.
In ways that we could not have imagined last fall, our loving God is continuing to provide and protect our friends in Furcy!
Last month, Jeff Baker from Missouri, and Bob Ford, from Texas, visited Furcy and met with the pastor and a number of other community leaders to introduce, and demonstrate, a Sawyer Water Filter. This is an easy to use method of producing clean, potable water. With a small crowd gathered in the church Jeff took a jug of water from the cistern and ran it through the filter system. Within several minutes he had filled his water jug and was drinking clean water. Jeff and Bob will be back in May with additional filters to do a more formal instruction and to train community members in the use of the filters. In a country where the high majority of people do not have access to clean water and, where waterborne illnesses contribute highly to medical concerns, this will be a great addition to the Furcy community.
Mountains of Hope teams have been working on the new Mission House in the village of Furcy. The roof is on and the local workers will begin doing the finish work. We are hoping that the May "Mountains" team will be the first to use it for their accomodation!
In preparation for the opening of the new Furcy Store, 4 members of the Furcy Community, (Pastor Ezaus, Pastor Elise, Dumerise Tilo Ismaye, and the new Store Manager, Deristel Josaphat) attended an EMH/UMCOR Agricultural Boutique Training on March 19 and 20, 2013. It was held on the Freres Campus at Delmas 95 and was attended by about 20 participants, including Pastor Wendy. The training was excellent and offered many practical ideas for managing and operating an Agricultural Boutique, allowed opportunities for good discussion, and provided relevant materials for participants to use. We are thankful for this training as we look forward to the “April Opening” of the Furcy Store!
During Hurricane Sandy last fall the roof was
“lifted “off the Furcy School, leaving the students and teachers without
a covering. For the past several months, “temporary” tarps have replaced
the roof and, more recently, two “colorful” parachutes are providing sun
and rain protection. Thankfully, it has not been the rainy season! An
urgent plea went out to help repair the roof and, as often happens, God
answered our prayers. A “Chicago Connection” (who actually built the
Furcy School in the early 1980’s) has been reestablished and has offered
funding, along with CRECHE in Haiti and Covenant World Relief. Two
February 2013 VIM Teams and the Furcy Community are currently replacing
the roof (with metal trusses and hurricane straps) and the children and
teachers will now be protected!
All 150 children at the Furcy School are now
receiving 5 Hot Meals per week at the School! UMCOR/EMH is providing
meals 3 days per week and “Mountains of Hope for Haiti” is providing
meals 2 days per week. UMCOR/EMH has also provided a beautiful propane
stove and has offered free propane for one year! We are so thankful the
children are being fed daily!
For the past few years, “Mountains of Hope
for Haiti” has provided scholarships for 45 children at the Furcy
School. Thanks to the generosity of the November 2012 MHH Teams and
personal donations from the North Park Covenant Church in Chicago,
Illinois and Evergreen UMC in Evergreen, Colorado, we are now providing
scholarships for over 60 children (out of the 150 enrolled) at the Furcy
School. This is wonderful, as not only are many children receiving an
Education, they are also receiving a Hot Meal five days/week!
For the past several years, women and girls on
visiting MHH Teams have been getting together for a “Women’s Gathering”
with the Furcy Women. There are typically 50 or 60 women who attend the
“Gatherings” which offer a short Bible Study, a time for sharing,
singing, and sometimes dancing! This is also a time when the women on
the visiting MHH Teams have passed out “multitudes” of yarn, embroidery
floss, knitting needles, crochet hooks, and sewing kits to the Furcy
Women. After lots of practice, the Furcy Women have begun to give their
handmade items to the MHH Teams who take them back to the United States
to sell. For the first time, in January 2013, the MHH Teams were able to
reimburse the Furcy Women $400 for their handmade products! We are
encouraging the Furcy Women to sell their items in Haiti as well. Out of
the “Women’s Gatherings” also came the idea of sewing. Through the
generosity of several NYAC Methodist Churches, MHH was able to purchase
4 treadle sewing machines and the November 2012 Teams provided a Sewing
Teacher and Sewing Classes! The November Teams also left an abundance of
materials for Jewelry Making knowing there are some very skilled,
creative, and talented ladies in the Furcy Community! We are very
excited about these new ventures for the lovely ladies of Furcy!
The Furcy Community is very excited about the
March 2013 “Opening” of the new Store that will bring to the Furcy
community and surrounding areas a local source to the Community for
seed, fertilizer, and tools!
MHH Teams, other VIM Teams,
and the Furcy Community
have collaboratively built the
financial support from VIM Team contributions, UMCOR Matching Funds and
the EMH (Haiti United Methodist Church). The
Furcy “Store Committee” created a Preliminary Business Plan for the
operation of the Store and chose Deristel Josaphat, to be
the new Store Manager. Josaphat will continue his Managerial Training
through an UMCOR Business Training Program . MHH has provided startup
money and UMCOR will cover transportation costs
initial purchase of supplies. We are all looking forward to the
opportunities for growth and sustainability that the Furcy Store will
Dress Down Day at Sports and
Medical Sciences Academy
May 25, 2012
On Friday, May 25, 2012,
Sport and Medical Sciences Academy, SMSA, High
Schoolers will pay $3 to “dress down” so children in Haiti can dress
up. High Schoolers pay $3 to relieve uniform rules for a Friday dress
down day to support MoHH. Hot lunches and uniforms is one of the many
provisions MoHH funds.
Tom and Wendy Vencuss will participate in the
"Haiti Mission Partners Conference" in Orlando, Florida, May 17-19,
2012. The purpose of the Conference is for GBGM, UMCOR, VIM, and EMH to
"Partner" while strategizing, planning, and creating a vision for
Haiti's future. About 80 people are expected to attend.
There will be a "Celebrate Haiti Worship Time" at
the United Methodist Church in Huntington - 180 West Neck Road
Huntington, NY 11743, on Sunday, May 20, 2012. A very special thank you
to Jill Wilson, from Bristol UMC, who will represent Mountains of Hope
During the week of Ash Wednesday, 275
young people attended the 2011 annual Alliance des jeunes baptistes
conservatricte de l’ouest (AJBCO) Retreat. In Haiti, this week is known
as Carnival and is typically a time of temptation, partying and
carousing. Choosing this week for the Retreat provides a great
opportunity to minister to youth from ages 14 to 25 and provides a safe
place for them to “party” in a different way, praising our Lord!
Jude Exantus is the Advisor of this Association and has participated in
this Retreat since he was seven years old. The Retreat is a success due
to the help of many volunteers and contributors.
year, five days were spent at the Campus on the beach. The youth had fun
in this year’s event titled “Using the Talent the LORD Has Given You”.
The youth were fed three meals a day and participated in Bible studies,
workshops, contests, sporting events and much more. The agenda included
several guest speakers:
Jacqueline Labrom, the owner of a
travel agency, spoke about business.
A Haitian Pastor taught about
using the gifts God has given to us.
Pastor Wendy Vencuss and JR Dowd
from WUMC, Professor Thomas Craemer of the University of Connecticut
(UCONN) shared their experiences of Haiti.
Jude Exantus reflected upon the
Retreat and expressed his gratitude toward the many contributors:
“Like myself, many of the young adults started coming to the Retreat
when they were small children and continue to come as often as possible.
The overall experience has been a blessing and this year seeing the
talents of the youth was amazing! Once again, thanks to the generous
support of many contributors of the Haitian Youth Retreat. May God bless
Jude Exantus, J.R.Dowd, Thomas Craemer and Wendy Vencuss had a very good
trip to Haiti even though they were not on an official VIM Work Team
this time. Rather, this was more of a visit and exploratory trip. It was
great to see Pastor Tom Vencuss and all the good work that he and the
staff are involved in. It was also exciting to see how many teams are
involved in the Disaster Response Relief efforts there!
During our visit, Jude Exantus spent six of the days and nights leading
a Youth Retreat for 300 youth in the St. Marc area. J.R., Thomas and
Wendy visited the camp and it was amazing to see so many Haitian youth
celebrating their faith and having lots of fun! At the end of the week
Jude was also able to have some “quality” time with his family, as he
had not been able to travel to Haiti since the earthquake last year.
J.R., Thomas and Wendy found lots of things to do around the Methodist
Guest House in Petionville. They inventoried medical supplies, delivered
them to Grace Hospital, helped clean up the Guest House property and
visited with many team members. J.R. has been to Haiti five times, so he
felt right at home. This was Professor Thomas Craemer’s first trip to
Haiti and he was a tremendous asset to the group. Thomas teaches at
UCOCNN and will definitely be coming up with some plans to link UCONN
J.R., Thomas and Wendy along with Tom Vencuss and a Haitian engineer
were able to visit Furcy. They saw the pastors, their wives and some
other familiar faces. The Clinic and School were closed because it was
Carnival Week, but it was still very good to be there. The Church has
been recently painted and looked beautiful. The latrines at the school
are finished. The fields have been planted and things are growing! They
met Ismay’s new bride, Isabelle, and visited their new home which is
totally tiled and looking nice!
There are plans to “shore up” the School Cook House. The engineer will
be drawing up plans and estimates for a Furcy store/depot (to be built
on property close to the Church) and also plans for a small mission
house (to be built on the current cook house location), so that is
At the Guest House, the team visited with Montas Joseph and his wife,
Madame Lulu and her husband and all the other wonderful drivers, cooks
and interpreters. Tom and Wendy had a great visit with Ishmael in his
new home in Duplan.
All in all, it was a great trip and exciting to see all that is
happening in Haiti. In the midst of the “struggles” there were “signs of
hope” in many places. It is always a privilege and a blessing to walk
alongside our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
The church school children of the United Methodist Church of
Huntington-Cold Spring Harbor, NY recently celebrated reaching the $1000
milestone in the Make a Joyful Noise: Coins for Haiti effort. The
program which began the last week of September 2010 is a “by children,
for children” weekly collection of spare change from the congregation to
purchase hot meals for their counterparts at the Mountains of Hope
Methodist Mission in Haiti. Their celebration included unfurling a paper
chain with one link for every meal they have been able to donate. That’s
2000 links … so far!
(Pictures and Article from The Vision, courtesy of Lyn
Mountains of Hope for Haiti answered God’s call to help the people of
Furcy after four fall hurricanes in 2008 took the crops and what little
livestock the people had. The Methodist Church, in cooperation
with Mountains of Hope, began a Farmer’s Association providing emergency
food, seed and fertilizer. From those few starter seeds, the Farmer’s
Association has grown to more than 61 farmers.
Because the village is situated on the side of a mountain, growing crops
is a challenge. Terraced gardens are covering the landscape producing
food to feed the village of Furcy and the local area. Cabbage, rice and
beans are the staples of the Haitian diet and now the farmers are able to
provide more food to sustain the village and to take their excess to
During a recent mission trip in November 2010, the team held a Farmers
Co-Op Meeting. The farmers were given more seeds to help them grow and
sustain their mountainside gardens. The loving gift of food was
delivered from one Christian family to another.
The program seems to be working. One volunteer who has visited Furcy many
times noted the change in children. Signs of malnutrition and starvation
were dwindling. While much help is still needed for the Haitian people,
much progress has been made and results are visible in the faces of the
As Hurricane Tomas was about to make landfall in
Port Au Prince, Haiti, a team of 10 brave volunteers were arriving at
the Guest House. Their intended destination was Furcy, Haiti to continue the work for MHH.
Slightly delayed in their arrival at Furcy due to the rain, the team
finally made it, bearing suitcases of supplies for the school children
and clinic. The entourage was greeted by the villagers with warm smiles
and hugs for friends who were returning for another week of sharing with
our brothers and sisters. Fortunately, the locals are more accustomed to
the local terrain and were able to provide much needed assistance to the
team as they unloaded more than 30 suitcases, countless boxes of food
and supplies, and bottles of water from the van. And so, the trek began
up and down the steep hills, which were slick with mud, to the village
of Furcy high in the Haitian Mountains.
The first order of business was Church as the team arrived just before
services on Sunday. Quickly changing from their muddy clothes from the
journey, the team joined the villagers for worship service. Volunteers
noted the enthusiasm of the Haitian people who were dressed in their
finest clothes and joyfully worshiped God. Imagine the most impoverished country in the world
singing and praising God!
For the next four days the team focused their attention on the people of
Furcy. A latrine had been dug and the first order of business was to
work on the foundation. Teamed with the villagers, the volunteers
carried rocks and helped mix cement for the site. By the end of their
labors they left behind a completed foundation, which will become a new
latrine for the school children.
As has become the custom, the team held a two-day mini Vacation Bible School for
the children. They shared some of their favorite stories
from the Bible including David and Goliath, acting out the story, with
the aid of an interpreter. Each day they provided a meal of rice,
beans and chicken to more than 175 children. This is perhaps all they
would have eaten that day.
As with any Vacation Bible School, there was singing – lots of singing.
One of the volunteers shared how touched she was with the enthusiasm the
children and adults demonstrated in sharing God’s word through music.
Singing at the top of their lungs in perfect harmony, they had God’s
house rockin’! Lulu, the team's cook, was so caught up in the singing, she had to be
reminded to dish up the food for the kids.
The volunteers visited with the children in their classrooms, delivered health kits and discussed proper hygiene and teeth brushing.
One activity included tracing the hands of children so they could be
brought back to a Sunday School in CT as a way of connecting Haitian
children with Americans.
The school was in need of a new basketball hoop. Jean
Claude, one of the interpreters, headed off to town to purchase the
metal pole needed for the project. The 15 foot metal pole, along with 5
gallons of water, a 50lb bag of rice and two people arrived by motorcycle
several hours later. The next day the team finished digging a hole and
raised the new basketball hoop for the children.
Spending time playing with
the children helped develop a human connection beyond site
work. We played games including a soccer game in a cow pasture, being
careful where we stepped.
The clinic was opened two days so that team members could help.
Furcy has been blessed with a new doctor to work with Mary Marte,
the clinic nurse. The nurse on the mission team worked with the local
medical staff, assisted with patients and helped dispense much needed
Sadly, after several days, it was time to leave. Similar to our
arrival, the villagers helped the volunteer team back up the mountain.
The suitcases were much lighter; supplies and belongings
were left behind. Hearts were heavy.
Saying good-bye is never easy. But, for many
volunteers, it’s not good-bye ...... it's more like “till we meet again.”
The country itself is slowly
getting back together, but it is a mess. There are many collapsed
buildings, homes, and businesses that have not yet been touched, with, I
imagine, many persons still unaccounted for.
As you know, the Palace,
National Cathedral, Justice Building, and many other government
buildings are gone. Trinity Episcopal Church (the church with the large
beautiful murals in PAP), including the school and gift shop is gone.
The large Methodist Church in PAP where Pastor Paul’s ceremony took
place experienced some cracks but is essentially okay. The large
elementary school next to it is gone, and the large secondary school
(College Bird) right next to it, is severely compromised. This, in
particular, has been a significant source of income for the MCH.
Freres School is okay—they
have reinforced a few overhangs and replaced some of the brick windows
with metal but for all intents and purposes the school, church, and GH
are stable (except for the surrounding walls adjacent to the GH which
School has not officially
started and the government seem to be shooting for a target date of
early April. Some church related schools are holding classes outside,
under tents, to avoid losing more students.
As you have seen on many news
reports, there are tent cities all over the city and surrounding areas.
The basketball court at the GH is filled with tents as is just about
every open dirt space. It will be a nightmare when the rains pick up
because there is no place for the water to go. Food and water are scarce
and sanitation a real problem.
UN, US-AID, and other
international organizations are present to provide emergency rations but
food and water lines often stretch a quarter mile easily. Other supplies
are readily available from international stores but prices have come up
and are beyond the ability of most to afford.
The airport is still
compromised but they have set up entry and departure terminals at either
end—it just takes a lot longer to enter and exit.
I met a medical team from the
states that has a “traveling clinic” and they, as you might expect, are
not seeing earthquake related physical trauma but rather chronic routine
issues such as our Clinic sees. They did have many patients with
psychological trauma and grief. They had several pastors on had who
helped with this.
There is, as you would
imagine, a deep sense of sadness and grief over the country and yet in
the midst of it all, life has gone on. You see parents braiding the hair
of children, men being shaved, people cooking, children playing, buying,
selling, all amazing, all things considered.
I traveled to Furcy with a
small group of pastors and friends, some of whom have not been to Furcy
in many years. It was a fun day.
The Clinic is fine—a few
spider cracks but nothing significant. The Clinic was up and running—our
nurse, Marie Marte, was there as was the doctor. There were about 30
people, mostly women and children waiting for care. And, many of our
friends were present selling their food items.
The Church has a few
dislodged blocks (mostly around door jambs, windows) and a few cracks
but again, nothing terribly significant. The School is fine and the
cookhouse at the school is the same, but requiring significant repair.
The Principal’s house, which wasn’t solid to begin with, has been fully
compromised and needs to be removed. He is living in the Clinic and has
asked for wood to build a room in the village cook house for his
Though schools are not
officially open, there was one class at the school with about 40
students and two teachers.
The Farmer’s Association has
the same number of participants (about 60) and they said they have seed
and fertilizer for the next planting season.
The Clinic Administrator
indicated a need for more meds. There had been an influx of people to
the Clinic following the earthquake and the doctor does offer a
“traveling Clinic” to those who cannot walk to the facility.
The GH is up and running.
Again, food and water are available but more expensive and there are
stores available. Everyone there is okay and asked to be remembered.
A number of people are living
in the vans on the property. Some are drivers and interpreters who lost
their homes and they just don’t have any place to go. Some others are
living in tents. I spoke with two of our interpreters, Jean Claude and
Joseph, who were caught in a building collapse. They survived and are
well, although Jean Claude continues to experience neck problems.
There were two teams there, a
Baptist traveling medical team, and a Methodist group from Illinois who
have a project near Carrefour. They were there to check in on their
Future Teams and Plans
Travel: there is no problem
getting in and out of the country, nor getting around, provided that
vehicles are available. The GH has three main vehicles and a smaller
Food and Water: again, no
problem except for increased costs.
Future Plans: There was an
UMCOR/NGO Consultant present at the Guest House. His role is to serve as
a liaison to the other NGOs, government agencies and help develop a plan
for UMCOR and VIM for their future work. There are plans to hire several
persons to oversee the coordination of relief/recovery efforts, work
with teams, and generally organize the UM response.
Many people are asking, what
can we do? Right now, we are doing what we can do. We have people on the
ground putting things in place, making arrangements and generally
organizing a plan for future VIM Teams. From my perspective, at this
point there is little that the average VIM Team can do directly in
regard to the disaster. We will need to wait until we hear some updated
information and plans from Greg Forrester (our Jurisdictional VIM
Coordinator) and UMCOR to fully define needed teams: i.e., medical,
dental, educational, VBS-type, etc..
A difference I described
between this situation and something like the Gulf Coast is the fact
that many on the Gulf left before, during and after Katrina—and there
was a great need for self-sustained volunteers to do the short and
long-term recovery work. In Haiti, there are more than enough people
there to do much of the removal work. However, safety, regarding the
dismantling of buildings and homes, and the skills necessary to repair
and rebuild are significant issues. In many cases these are beyond the
skills of the average VIM team.
In the meantime we will
continue to train and orient people through our ERT trainings and Haiti
orientation sessions, and when the time comes begin to assemble teams.
One of the things we must remember is that this situation will be with
us for a long time. The early teams will be selected from those with
particular skills, physical abilities, and prior Haiti/international
It is our hope to continue
our work in Furcy. Mountains of Hope for Haiti, our Conference mission
program, is continuing to monitor the situation in Furcy and will work
within the overall response plan to continue our commitment to the
village and people of Furcy.
Our Conference Mission
leadership, and representatives from Disaster Response, Volunteers in
Mission and Mountains of Hope, will continue to work on and advise our
It goes without saying that
we should all continue to pray for the people of Haiti, educate
ourselves about the crisis and ways to help, and to support our UMCOR
and Conference initiatives.
for the People of
Out of the depths we cry to
you, O God. We cry to you for our Haitian sisters and brothers. We thank
you for upholding them in their suffering. Give them continuing strength
and comfort. Give us love and courage to stand with them and work with
them as they struggle for healing in the midst of tragedy. Keep us
committed to the truth and empower us with your Spirit of love. We trust
in your continuing mercy as we bring to you our own desire to be in
solidarity with our Haitian brothers and sisters.
Sen, desann sou nou; nou gen yon misyon pou Ayiti.”
O Holy Spirit, descend on us; we have a mission
for Haiti. Amen.
The Methodist Church in Haiti
(MCH) and United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) are identifying
suitable projects and assignments for volunteer teams wishing to assist
with earthquake recovery in Haiti. Both groups are asking volunteers to
delay their arrival in Haiti until those assessments are complete.
Evaluation in the six church
circuits most affected by the earthquake are being made to determine the
extent of the damage in Church communities and beyond, according to the
Rev. Gesner Paul , President of the Methodist Church in Haiti. “Suitable
projects and assignments for volunteer teams wishing to contribute to
the recovery effort will not be identified until this process is
complete,” he wrote in a January 28 letter to the United Methodist
Pastor Paul estimates work
teams for priority projects probably could schedule trips for late March
and April, once the emergency relief and debris-removal phase is
completed. Rehabilitation work also needs to be completed at the
Methodist Guest House in Petionville before the building can host
volunteer teams again.
Pastor Paul expressed deep
gratitude for the outpouring of love and support from United
Methodists. “You have kept us in your prayers and we are grateful. You
have sent donations through the United Methodist Committee on Relief. We
thank you for your generosity. You have expressed your selfless interest
in volunteering your time to come to Haiti to help with the recovery
effort and we look forward to welcoming you.”
Once areas for relief and
rehabilitation are prioritized, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission
“will be integral in the long –term recovery of the churches and
communities in Haiti, and available to come and help in meaningful
ways,” he wrote.
UMCOR Executive Melissa
Crutchfield expects that medical personnel, structural engineers, and
architects will be among the skilled volunteers needed at the beginning
of the recovery process. Debris removal must be done before rebuilding
can begin and UMCOR and the Methodist Church in Haiti are among the
groups organizing cleanup teams of local citizens in “cash for-work”
programs. Structural engineers and architects are among the skilled
volunteers who can contribute to what must likely will be a national
rebuilding plan, Crutchfield points out. “It’s critical that we have
some experts to lay solid foundation,” she says.
In time, however, many types
of volunteers can partner with the Methodist Church in Haiti in both
spiritual and practical ways through the earthquake-recovery period. “ I
believe there’s an opportunity for volunteers in the longer term for
rebuilding not only the church structures but the church community,”
Wethersfield Family Gives Haitian Family Shelter In Connecticut
By REGINE LABOSSIERE
The Hartford Courant
January 21, 2010
A lot can happen in 15 seconds. Even more can happen in four
At about 4 p.m. on Jan. 12, Jude Exantus had just gotten off the
phone with Wendy Vencuss, a pastor from Wethersfield United
Methodist Church who was visiting Haiti. The friends hadn't seen
each other in a while and planned to meet a few hours later.
Exantus was in downtown Port-au-Prince, on his way home, and had
stopped at a gas station for a 5-gallon bottle of water. Fifteen
seconds later, the air was so white with dust, he couldn't see more
than a few feet in front of him.
Buildings around him had collapsed, including a school behind the
gas station. Children, some with broken bones, were jumping from the
school onto the roof of the gas station, onto the roofs of cars,
onto the ground, screaming in pain and for help.
"I could feel the ground come up, then back down, then the ground
moving back and forth. I was watching houses coming down while it
was happening," Exantus recalled Wednesday.
Miles away, in Pétionville, a section of the capital city, Vencuss
and her husband, Tom, also a pastor at the Wethersfield church, were
standing outside the Methodist mission house talking with a few
other people. The ground shook violently. The protective wall
surrounding the guest house shattered. The house next door, with
people inside, crumbled. Water was being thrown from their swimming
pool. Tom Vencuss, a volunteer emergency medical technician, walked
around with a stethoscope around his neck to let people know he
could provide medical help. The mission house set up triage with the
limited supplies available.
A week later, Exantus, his wife, Claudia, and their two children sat
in the Vencusses' Wethersfield living room.
"We're home with our family, but also we have another family with
us," Wendy Vencuss said. "I'm just thankful they're here."
The Vencusses met Exantus in 2002 when they went to Haiti to
organize mission work. Exantus, who was born and raised there,
worked as their translator. The Vencusses have since become close
with Exantus, his wife, and their children, Jude, 4, and Ciarra, 2.
The Haitian family has stayed with the Wethersfield couple for
months at a time.
When Exantus heard that Americans were being evacuated, he asked the
Vencusses if they would take their children back with them, since
they were born in the U.S. and are American citizens.
Jude and Claudia Exantus, who have tourist visas to the U.S., went
to the airport with the Vencusses early Thursday morning, Jan. 14,
just in case the children weren't allowed on the plane. Lucky for
them, not only were their children allowed on the plane, but so were
they. They were taken by the U.S. Coast Guard to the Dominican
Republic, and then they flew on commercial airlines to Puerto Rico
and New York. Four days after the earthquake, they arrived at the
"It's a miracle we all got on the same plane," Wendy Vencuss said.
Jude Exantus said being away from his home during a time of extreme
need is difficult for him and his wife.
"It's just getting harder and harder, especially since every time
you speak to someone and they tell you about someone who died. [But]
I think we did what was right for our kids," he said.
Now that they're all in the U.S., they have a few goals. Jude and
Claudia Exantus would like to get permanent resident status so they
can raise their children in American schools. In the meantime, they
plan to return to Haiti to be with their families and help in the
Wethersfield United Methodist Church has created a fund, called
Haiti Home Relief, to help the Exantus family while they're in the
U.S. They had gone to the airport with only the clothes they were
wearing and a small bag of their children's things.
Many church families have dropped off clothes and food or taken them
shopping. The family will move into a friend's house in Cromwell
Saturday. Jude Exantus, who regularly gives speeches about Haiti
when he visits the U.S., would like to do that again during this
stay. He also is planning a charity concert with his singing group,
the Union Brothers Singers, made up of about a dozen of his family
members, some of whom are in New York.Tom Vencuss, who is the
disaster relief coordinator for the New York Annual Conference of
the United Methodist Church, is raising money and organizing a
relief trip back to Haiti.
"For me, it's a recommitment to the people of Haiti," he said. "To
know that someone knows them, cares about them and remembers them is
•For more information about Wethersfield United Methodist Church's
Mountains of Hope for Haiti relief campaign and Haiti Home Relief,