A Letter from Mark Hare and Jenny Bent, serving in Dominican Republic
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Monday, May 20, I was in the Central Plateau of Haiti (Papaye) with a transportation problem. MPP’s old Toyota Landcruiser that I have always used when I am working in Haiti was recovering from an unfortunate incident with the driver’s side door. My friend Herve, whom I sometimes depend on for transportation, had taken his motorcycle to a mechanic. Finally, one of the young people in the home where I was staying had taken it upon himself to wash my tennis shoes on Sunday, and they were still soaking wet Monday morning. No truck, no motorcycle and no tennis shoes. How was I going to get to Ecovillage 1, across three rivers and a set of hills?
You might be asking what this has to do with the Community Health Evangelism (CHE) work that Jenny and I have both been doing full time in the Dominican Republic since 2016. Specifically, we have been serving with the Dominican Evangelical Church (IED), helping develop and promote their national CHE program. While we have been working with the IED on CHE in the Dominican Republic, Jenny has also been supporting me in a slow but persistent effort to initiate a CHE process within MPP in Haiti. MPP, the Peasant Movement of Papaye, is the grassroots organization rooted in Haiti’s Central Plateau where Jenny and I served until January 2012, before we moved as a family to the Dominican Republic.
In 2016, after my part in a yard garden project in Haiti finished, my Haitian colleague and friend Mulaire Michele challenged me to help MPP develop a pilot project using CHE with some of the communities where MPP is working. Six of these communities are known as “ecovillages.” MPP constructed these settlements between 2012 and 2015 in response to the needs of refugees from Port au Prince after the massive earthquake of January 12, 2010. Life in the new villages is very different from the lives these families lived in the main city. MPP has worked hard to provide them with the resources and technology that they need to succeed, and some families are adapting well. Mulaire’s vision for this project is that the residents of the ecovillages will apply the CHE approach as part of a process that allows all of the families to recognize and take advantage of their innate capacities and passions, even as they deepen their commitments to each other as members of their respective communities.
In the fall of 2018, MPP received funds from Presbyterian World Mission to initiate the pilot CHE project, and this past January we took the first step, which involved meeting with community leaders and with leaders and administrators of MPP in two separate workshops. The workshops were directed by Eric and one of his colleagues from the organization Medical Ambassadors of Haiti (MAH). As a team, the three of us presented the biblical and practical principles of CHE, first to the leaders of MPP and the next day to leaders from a total of ten communities. Working with Eric in January was a wonderful kick in the pants for me. Jenny and I were Eric’s students in August 2018 for one week in Eric’s hometown of Mombin Crochu, and that experience gave me confidence that I could help link the MPP and MAH. Eric sets out the concepts of CHE methodically and simply, with a wealth of experience that you hear in his voice as he shares his experiences.
In about the middle of April, Mulaire contacted me and asked, “What’s next?” So I contacted Eric and asked, “What’s next?” All of us knew what should be next. Each community interested in working with CHE needed to pick good people, two or three of them, and have them participate in the workshop “Training for Trainers 1.” Eric would lead the workshop with a team of two or three other trainers from MAH. But there were still questions. When should the workshop take place? The rains have just started, and people are in their fields every day. Also, whom should the communities pick to participate? Eric and I wanted to make sure the leaders remembered the characteristics that make for good CHE trainers. We also wondered where the workshop should be held. Eric and I were in favor of holding it in Ecovillage 1, but what would the participants think?
Eric, Mulaire and I agreed that the best use of my week in Haiti would be for Eric and me to visit each community, talk with leaders face to face, remind them about the characteristics of the “Who” and work towards a consensus for the “When” and the “Where.” Eric arranged to meet me in Ecovillage 1 on Monday, May 20. I arranged to come the Friday before to make sure we had transportation and funds for food.
I arrived in Papaye Friday afternoon in one piece, but the driver’s side door of the Toyota Landcruiser I was driving did not. Passing through an urban area with narrow streets, a hotshot in a pickup with a steel back bumper managed to get the edge of his bumper stuck in my door. I felt shaky afterwards, but Herve, who had met me near the border, was there to help me settle my nerves. When we got to Hinche, the largest city near Papaye, we drove immediately to Mulaire’s house. He fed us sandwiches, looked over the truck, commiserated, and then called a friend, the owner of a local body shop, to arrange for a new door.
The weekend went well, but when Monday came, I felt like everything was coming apart. The truck wasn’t ready yet, Herve’s motorcycle suddenly wasn’t running and my walking shoes were soaked. Eric called at about 10 a.m.; he had already arrived in Ecovillage 1 and was waiting on us. I put on my Sunday shoes, and Herve borrowed a friend’s motorcycle and dropped me off in Hinche, where I got my hair cut and bought a cell phone while he worked on the motorcycle. In the early afternoon, Herve got his motorcycle running again. He and I picked up Eric, and we ate a late lunch together at a friend’s restaurant in Hinche. Then I went to Papaye with Herve to pick up my luggage at the friend’s house while Eric waited in Hinche. Herve and I got the luggage and the now-dry tennis shoes and headed back, picking up Eric on our way. Then the three of us headed down the last stretch to Ecovillage 1. With my big duffle braced precariously in front of Herve on the motorcycle’s handlebars, we wound our way over the rivers and around the hills. The duffle bag clearly got in Herve’s way in terms of vision. Eric, who is quite tall, had to let Herve know several times when he needed to steer away from dump trucks and other vehicles that were headed our way.
Tuesday was a very different kind of day. Eric, Herve and I traveled to five of the six ecovillages, speaking with leaders about the workshop, expectations for participants, and ideas for the “Where” and the “When.” By the end of Tuesday, we had made good progress. Folks agreed that having the workshop June 17-21 would give the farmers enough time to get most of their crops in the ground. Public school would also be finished for the year, so the participants could arrange to hold the workshop in the ecovillage’s National School, “Beganabe.” In Ecovillage 3, the leaders declared that the school would be perfect, not only for holding the workshop sessions, but also for sleeping and eating.
Also, sometime Tuesday afternoon the body shop finished getting the new door on the Landcruiser, and we picked it up. It felt good to have an extra two wheels and some walls around us as we traveled.
Wednesday afternoon, Eric and I — on Herve’s motorcycle again (don’t ask) — went to Beganabe National School to meet with representatives from the communities to confirm all the ideas that we had collected the day before. A good CHE meeting is never tedious; when we do them right, everyone participates and the energy is high. Wednesday afternoon we had a good CHE meeting. The participants were in charge; they decided what the questions were that needed to be answered, and then together they answered them. Eric asked the group to form a committee that would take responsibility for most of the logistics, such as food, sleeping arrangements, security and bathing. The group did that, listing full names and telephone numbers so that Eric could follow up. Finally, before everyone left they set a date, a time and a place for their next meeting.
The meeting started about 45 minutes after the scheduled time and ended at least an hour after my brain had mostly shut down. But the Haitians left with shoulders back and heads high, joking and laughing — even those with an hour or more of walking to get back to their homes. In something of a fog, I still felt the pleasure of being part of this group of people. I had enough sense to realize that my purpose as an outsider was not simply to lead but to bear witness to the Holy Spirit at work.
The week wasn’t over though. Thursday, Mulaire organized a trip to Cape Haitian, about three hours to the north, where we met with Eric’s boss, Osse, the director for MAH. That was a long day of driving, but the meeting accomplished something priceless. Osse and Mulaire met face to face and agreed that their respective organizations were going to work together. Mulaire has since drawn up a formal agreement, and Osse recently e-mailed back a scanned copy with his signature.
MPP, MAH and the communities still have hard work in front of them. The communities have amazing resources. However, helping them reach an understanding that God has already given them most of what they need to live good lives and to raise their children well — that will not be easy. Nevertheless, on my terrible, horrible, awful Monday morning, I never imagined the wonderful Tuesday visits, the success of the impromptu meeting on Wednesday, or the institutional goodwill that blossomed on Thursday.
I spent Friday morning in the MPP office, turning in receipts and reviewing the budget for the next four months with the MPP administrator. (Eric and I developed that budget together on Wednesday morning.) By Friday evening, Herve and I were in Port au Prince (all car doors intact) with our friend and colleague, mission co-worker Cindy Corell. Saturday morning a friend drove me to the border. Jenny came with our Dominican friend and driver Saulo to pick me up on the Dominican side, and by Saturday at 3:30 p.m. I was back with my family: Jenny, Keila and Annika, Fiona the dog and Chelsea the mother cat and her five kittens.
That’s my story of being in Haiti with no truck, no motorcycle and no dry tennis shoes. You may take a different lesson from it, but what comes to my mind as I share this story with you is that God works in wonderful, quirky ways. And the Holy Spirit is most conspicuous when there are holes to fill, places where things are lacking. Each time I was confronted with my inability to accomplish a particular task, someone else stepped up and made it possible. Reflecting even now, I am confronted with the realization that last week I was the hole that the Holy Spirit blew through, accomplishing wonders through the faithfulness of others.
And never forgetting that I was doubly blessed by a week without significant political turmoil.
NEWSFLASH. In less than one month, Jenny, Keila, Annika and I will all be headed to the United States. From September through mid-December, we will be available to visit with you in your churches. Please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or call my mother, Catherine Hare, at 740-448-6401.
Thank you all for being part of our lives. We look forward to seeing you face to face soon!!
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Tags: Mark Hare and Jenny Bent
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