A Letter from Cindy Corell, serving in Haiti
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Spongy earth gave a way a little bit with each step as we walked across a boggy field through stringy stalks of corn. It was just before noon, the first time in three days the Caribbean sun shone on this southern region of Haiti.
After those days of constant rain, water pooled in lower portions of the flat land of Torbeck, a community west of the city of Les Cayes.
I snapped several photographs of the flooded cornfields and took a few notes before I followed the group across a wide, wet pasture.
“Come this way,” one woman suggested, taking my arm and leading me to the least muddy spots in the field. She wore a long orange and burgundy paisley skirt and a lighter orange-colored top — clothes she would wear to church. But today she and a few dozen neighbors were greeting visitors from Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) and leaders of FONDAMA, a network of grassroots Haitian farmer organizations.
She smiled as we approached a narrow gate that led to a water-soaked yard and a small, modest home covered with old corrugated metal.
“This is my house,” she said, her smile dimming only slightly.
“Matthew broke it.”
That was the first time I met Marie Silvie Pierre. It was mid-May. The next time I saw her was in early October 2017, on the first anniversary of the day Hurricane Matthew tormented the southern peninsula of Haiti.
Haiti is divided into 10 departments. The South department is the western portion of the southern coast and the mountains above it. The Grand Anse department is the tip of the peninsula, around the other coast and inland. On October 4, 2016, the massive hurricane slammed both these departments. The storm killed hundreds, destroyed homes and livestock, and flooded gardens and fields.
Then, in April 2017, heavy rains flushed out freshly planted gardens again, and in May, those gardens were just about destroyed once more.
In May, Fabienne Jean, coordinator of our Joining Hands network in Haiti, FONDAMA; Yvette Michaud, treasurer of the FONDAMA executive board; Valery Nodem, international associate for the PHP; and I were in the region meeting with local farmer organizations.
On our agenda was to evaluate ways members of this community and seven others would benefit from a Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) grant FONDAMA received in response to Hurricane Matthew.
Turning off the main highway on the way to Torbeck, we drove through water a foot deep in places. Houses looked like islands in the middle of water-covered yards. Children ran through the water barefoot, and workers wore knee-high boots as they walked along the road.
After the meeting, organization leaders took us on a tour of cornfields and gardens, much of the soil covered still with water.
With a firm grip on my arm, she led me through the gate to her house and along the drier spots of her yard.
“This is my house,” she said again. Some might have seen a shack, with its rusted tin covering most of the walls and skinny, knobby posts holding up its porch.
I saw a home.
Marie’s home. And I heard the pride in her voice, even as she spoke of the troubles.
Nine people live in the house: Marie, her husband Pinette Tolerme, six of their children and their granddaughter. Their home is damaged, and they struggle to make a garden because of the heavy rains. But for this family and 4,999 others, there is hope. The PDA grant is already under way. These families have received seeds, training for making a more resilient garden and access to community seed silos.
On Oct. 5, 2017, I visited Marie and her family yet again. This time I traveled with a delegation from Presbytery of the James, which has supported my ministry here and the network of FONDAMA.
Once again, Marie stood to tell the story of the day Matthew visited.
But this time, she also told the story of how funds from Presbyterians have provided new seeds for her garden, new hope for her family. A community cornfield that was still underwater in May now flourishes, and the yellow ears of corn are already appearing. Newly planted bean fields also are filling out. By year’s end, the people of this flood-impacted region will eat from their own gardens again.
Because of the generosity of Presbyterians supporting PDA, PHP and our ministry in Haiti, Marie and others find hope and accompaniment.
Thank you all for your steadfast and generous support for the people of Haiti. I invite you to continue giving prayerfully and financially to my sending and support so that I can engage in God’s ministry here. And I invite you to join us in our journey of accompaniment.
May God bless you all.
People interested in supporting Haiti during this time can give through PDA account number DR000193.
To help fund long-term recovery activities in Haiti, including small sustainable agricultural initiatives and small business development, give through PHP account number H000014.
Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,
What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.
After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.
I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.
Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.
Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.
In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?
Jose Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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Tags: cornfields, fondama, Hurricane Matthew, joining hands, Les Cayes, Marie Silvie Pierre, pda, perseverance, PHP, planting, Presbytery of the James, rain, seeds, Torbeck
Tags: Cindy Corell
Tags: cindy corell, cindy corell's, cindy corell's sending, cindy corell's sending and support, corell's sending and support, delegation from presbytery, farmer organizations, global partners, haiti, hurricane matthew, marie silvie pierre, meeting with local, mission, mission co-workers, presbyterian disaster assistance, presbytery of the james, sending and support, support, support of our mission, support of our mission co-workers