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The story begins with no transportation and no dry tennis shoes


It ends with the Holy Spirit accomplishing wonders

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

A resident of Ecovillage 3 proudly shows off his new fish pond in the middle of his vegetable garden. (Photo by Mark Hare).

LOUISVILLE — When talking about his work, Mark Hare knows how to capture your attention.

A mission co-worker in the Dominican Republic, Hare was sharing the details of his project with Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP), a grassroots organization in Haiti.  At the heart of his story was the goal of introducing Community Health Evangelism (CHE) in the ecovillages built in Papaye, about 75 miles north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

“It began with a transportation problem: no truck, no motorcycle, no dry tennis shoes and the need to cross three rivers and a set of hills,” he said. “It ended with the realization that I was the hole that the Holy Spirit blew through, accomplishing wonders through the faithfulness of others.”

MPP is a grassroots farmer organization and a partner of World Mission, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, aimed at improving living conditions for farmers. MPP leaders were intrigued with the concept of CHE and requested that Hare and wife and mission co-worker, Jenny Bent, pilot CHE in the ecovillages, which are permanent communities of refugees who choose to relocate from the city to the countryside and reestablish their lives as farmers.

CHE has the potential to enable the villages to pool their efforts to develop unique solutions to the challenges and limitations that they identify. Planned-for results will be better lives for themselves and their children as well as reduced dependency on outside organizations.

Together with a local partner, the Dominican Evangelical Church (IED), Hare and Bent have worked together in the Dominican Republic since 2016, introducing CHE there. MPP was an organization they were familiar with when they served in Haiti before moving as a family to the Dominican Republic.

After an initial set of workshops in January, where Hare and his Haitian CHE trainer, Eric Baptiste, presented the fundamental principles of CHE to MPP leadership and community leaders , the next step was to plan the first major training. This training included individuals selected by their respective communities to become CHE trainers, leading their communities in holistic community development.

Hare was called by the leadership of MPP to return in May to join Baptiste to meet with all the ecovillage leaders to plan the logistics of the next critical phase of the training.

Here begins the unique story of a week in the life of a mission co-worker.

On Monday, May 20, Hare was in Papaye with a transportation problem. MPP’s old Toyota Land Cruiser was recovering from an unfortunate incident with the driver’s side door. Herve Delisma, who sometimes provided transportation help to Hare, had taken his motorcycle to a mechanic. And with the best of intentions, one of the young people in the home where Hare was staying had taken it upon himself to wash Hare’s tennis shoes, which were still soaking wet.

“No truck, no motorcycle and no tennis shoes. How was I going to get across three rivers and a set of hills to Ecovillage 1?” he said.

His partner and colleague, Baptiste, called at 10 o’clock that morning. He was already in Ecovillage 1, waiting.

“I put on my Sunday shoes and in the early afternoon, Herve got his motorcycle running again. With my big duffle braced precariously on the motorcycle’s handlebars, we wound our way over the rivers and around the hills,” said Hare.

On Tuesday, the team of three was able to travel to five of the six ecovillages and reach agreement on June dates for conducting the workshop. Waiting until late June would allow the farmers enough time to get most of their crops in the ground. Public school would also be finished for the year, so the national school, Beganabe, would be the perfect location for participants to work, learn, eat and sleep during the five-day intensive workshop.

Beganabe is part of  the Haiti EcoVillage School Partnership, which is sponsored by three Atlanta-area churches: North Decatur Presbyterian Church, Emory Presbyterian Church and Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church.

On Wednesday afternoon, Hare, Baptiste and Delisma met with village representatives at Beganabe to confirm the ideas that they had collected the day before. By the end of the meeting, a newly-organized committee had a date, a time and a place for their next meeting.

Although his body was weary, Hare said he was energized by what he saw.

“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,” he said. “I realized that my purpose as an outsider was not to lead but to bear witness to the Holy Spirit at work.”

But the week wasn’t over. The next day, Thursday, Mulaire Michel, project coordinator for MPP, collected Hare and Baptiste and traveled to Cape Haitian, about three hours north, where Hare and Baptiste introduced Mulaire to Baptiste’s boss, Osse St. Juste, director of the Medical Ambassadors of Haiti (MAH). During a face-to-face meeting, MPP and MAH agreed to work together to make maximum use of the available resources.

“MPP, MAH and the communities still have hard work in front of them,” said Hare. “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 may not be easy. Nevertheless, on my terrible, horrible, awful Monday morning, I never envisioned the wonderful Tuesday visits, the success of the impromptu meeting on Wednesday, or the institutional goodwill that blossomed on Thursday.”

He spent Friday morning in the MPP office, turning in receipts and reviewing the budgets for the next four months. By Friday evening he had returned to Port-au-Prince for a meeting with colleague and fellow mission co-worker Cindy Corell. On Saturday afternoon, Bent picked him up at the Dominican border. They then returned home to their daughters, Keila and Annika.

“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 is that God works in wonderful, quirky ways,” Hare said. “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 (during that) week I was the hole that the Holy Spirit blew through, accomplishing wonders through the faithfulness of others.”

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