Tag Archives: Haiti

Make It Rain!

Make It Rain grew out of Souderton Mennonite Church‘s young adult ministry. Julie & Austin Landes, youth group advisors, found one of the best ways to engage young adults was to build community while serving the needs of people locally and globally. Individuals from Souderton Mennonite Church and numerous others have participated in Make It Rain service projects.

With the help of Franconia Mennonite Conference’s Missional Operations Grant, Make It Rain was able to successfully accomplish thier fourth and largest trip to Haiti with 25 volunteers spending two weeks in-country. This trip was a Make It Rain-initiated collaboration with Water For Life and CitiHope International with big plans to impact a school and multiple communities. The “rain made” was a downpour!

  • Medicine was needed for mobile medical clinics spear-headed by Water For Life was spear-heading. Make It Rain initiated a partnership between Water For Life and CitiHope International, a non-profit dedicated to medical distribution. CitiHope was able to procure and fly in over $3 million dollars’ worth of medicines and volunteers on this trip, including a pharmacist, were able to assist in the preparation and ground work of one of these mobile medical clinics in Roche-a-Bateau.


  • The team returned to Water For Life’s “Help From Above School” in Passe Bois  d’Orme where they had built classroom desks last year. This year they built several DSC_3952large cabinets from scratch to add to the classrooms. They also were able to unload the large playground set, donated by Ridgeline Community Church in Souderton, they had packed and shipped in the month leading up to the trip. It was an incredible sight to see the little ones move, explore, and get their energy out as they played on a jungle gym even kids in America would love the opportunity to go crazy on!


  • Over 400 toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes were handed out to the children during a dental hygiene education class also at “Help From Above School” in Passe Bois d’Orme.


  • A majority of the health problems in Haiti are caused by the lack of clean water and malnutrition. Less than half of the Haitian population has access to clean water,
    Solar panel installation for the well pump.
    Solar panel installation for the well pump.

    according to a 2004 study by the Pan American Health Organization. After months of stateside preparation, Make It Rain’s skilled volunteers were able to put their trades to use installing a solar well pump in the woods in Cotes-de-Fer. This particular well was strategically placed at a higher elevation to not only provide clean drinking water, but also irrigation for the local farmers; combatting two of the most prominent issues inhibiting good health. In addition to the local community, approximately 30 farmers will greatly benefit from this water source.


  • The Make It Rain skilled volunteers were also put to work at Water For Life’s campus in Les Cayes on various projects such as local road grading, security lighting, carpentry, siding, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, even a hand welded railing for the guest house staircase. This was a huge blessing for Water For Life’s staff as they are constantly meeting the needs of others and putting their own needs second.


“We were honored to have Franconia Mennonite Conference’s support this year for our recent community projects in Haiti. Make It Rain was able to once again bless many individuals in various Haitian communities by matching people’s gifting with the great needs in-country.”    – Austin Landes, Founder/President

“The most impactful moment of the trip for me was flipping the switch to the freshly installed solar well pump. It was a beautiful site as 30 Haitians gathered around to see it instantly start pumping out 12 gallons of water a minute to revolutionize the way the community lived, all thanks to free energy from the sun!” – Eric Sirianni, Project Manager

“Over nine churches were represented in our group – it was such a blessing to work alongside a broad community of believers.” – Julie Landes, Co-Founder

Haitian leader marks date of earthquake and requests ongoing prayer

–a note from Lesly Bertrand, lead pastor, Grace Assembly Network, Haiti

January 12, 2011 makes one year since Haiti has been hit by a 7.5 earthquake at 4:53pm lasting for 35 seconds. About 30% of the country has been destroyed, nearly 300,000 people have been killed, 1.5 million are homeless and 800,000 have been disabled. Fifty hospitals and 1500 school buildings have been destroyed. During this tragedy, the whole world did not leave us alone. People from every nation came to help us in the way that they were able. Through my voice and on behalf of the Haitian people, I want to thank everyone who has given hands to us. Two things, I would like to ask you—first would it be possible to take two minutes to pray for the Haitian nation as we mark this day and ask God to watch us with an eye of mercy but not with an eye of judgment. Second, would you continue to give hands to us to rebuild what has been destroyed? Thank you and may God bless the nation of Haiti.

Women join together to ‘Come and be Filled’

Sandy Landes

celebrate-003.jpg“Come and be Filled,” was the theme of the recent “Celebrate, women joining together” event held at Franconia Mennonite Church on Saturday, April 17. An all-day event, it included worship, sharing from the Word by Bonnie Stevenson of Mexico City, pampering stations including neck and shoulder massage as well as being refreshed through fellowship and prayer. A group from Blooming Glen ministered through singing “At the Foot of the Cross,” an echo of the message for the day, laying down our burdens and picking up the joy. We were blessed by the testimony of Luz Maria Vargas, a church planter with her husband in Gaithersburg, MD.

266 women of the region and beyond attended from congregations and communities throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Lancaster as well as from Northern PA and the Washington DC metro area. Planned by nine women from local congregations, the purpose of the day was to help women come to relax, refresh, renew and rejoice as we celebrated the love of Jesus.

The following response to the day by Connie Detwiler, co-pastor of Lakeview Mennonite Church, reviews some of the highlights:

“God’s presence was sensed in many ways. The day was beautifully planned and flowed along wonderfully well. From the moment our group walked into the church we were welcomed. The hospitality of the greeters was warm and helpful in every way. What a heartwarming site as more and more ladies came and to hear the different locations they came from! The ways God draws us to unity is precious!

Bonnie is an amazing speaker. Her spirit is ever so gentle and delightful and yet so strong in who she is and ‘whose’ she is. What a gift we had in her!

Kudos over and over to the worship team! How amazing it was to have a group of women from different churches leading the praise and worship time! The voices, the instruments, and the spirit in each of them was just lovely and inviting.

It was humbling and challenging to be asked to be part of the prayer team and as always, God showed up in amazing ways as we prayed. I really feel many were ministered to through prayers that only God knows the end results.

The prayer rooms offered places of quiet and reflection in many ways, from the visuals to the guided prayers. And, speaking of visuals, the front of the church was a beautiful reminder of “being filled”…many times, over and over.

The ladies giving the massages were ministering to many and the massages were just a special treat, a great way of pampering.

The lunch was delicious and just right for the setting we were in.

It was obvious that much time, many thoughts and fervent prayers went into this time of celebration preparation and many were blessed. I have heard only positive comments from our group that attended and I’m sure if distance weren’t a problem, I’d be hearing more.”

celebrate-007.jpgA few other comments captured in passing included the following thoughts gleaned from Bonnie’s teaching:

  • The Lord loves to hear my voice!
  • Keep looking up!
  • Be thirsty!
  • Maranatha – The Lord is coming!
  • Be faithful in the little things
  • Intercession – keep knocking
  • Lay my burden down and pick up joy
  • With forgiveness, comes healing
  • “The message about being wakened in the night and just enjoying the presence of God instead of stewing about not sleeping well, helped me on Saturday night.”

And Kristi Wile, Franconia Mennonite Church, writes, “I couldn’t wait to spend an entire day worshiping and fellowshipping with other women! I knew that God would do an amazing thing. With the worship time, the testimonies, and the speaker, God made His presence perfectly clear. At one point, I was standing down front amidst other women and I was so highly aware that the Holy Spirit was moving right around me and in me. It was awesome! I came away so full and overflowing that it was several days before I could read my Bible again!”

As a way to reach beyond us, the women in attendance were given an opportunity to knot two comforters for distribution in Haiti through Mennonite Central Committee. While “Celebrate” was free for those in attendance, an opportunity was given for donations towards the expenses of the day and any monies received in excess were promised to be forwarded on to Grace Assembly Network in Haiti, a Franconia Conference Partner in Mission. We are thankful to report that $417.00 will be sent to the church in Haiti.

celebrate-010.jpgFor those who would like to hear the worship and teaching, CD’s are available for purchase at Franconia Mennonite Church for $5. Call the church at 215-723-3220 to confirm availability.

You are invited to join in prayer as God’s leading is sought for any future “Celebrate” events. We look forward to being a part of God’s purposes fulfilled in the lives of women in this region.

MCC to help build infrastructure in rural Haiti

by Linda Espenshade

Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) response to Haiti’s devastating earthquake will gradually shift from the capital city of Port-au-Prince to rural communities that are expected to play an integral role in rebuilding the country.

By 2011, MCC’s work will center in the Artibonite Valley, about 1½ hours north of Port-au-Prince. Eight MCC staff members live in Desarmes, a town in the Artibonite Valley, where MCC already has program.

The Haitian government estimates that 162,500 of the 600,000 people that fled Port-au-Prince after the earthquake sought shelter in the Artibonite Department, where the Artibonite Valley is located. The movement of displaced persons to the rural areas puts an economic strain on those communities, but it also presents an opportunity to change some of the underlying problems that made the earthquake so devastating.

MCC Haiti staff and international program development leaders embraced the decentralization approach when they met in Haiti in late March to develop a long-term plan for MCC’s earthquake response. They were acting on the advice of MCC’s partners, MCC Haiti national staff and international workers and Haitian political leaders.

“The majority of our work needs to be outside the city,” said Virgil Troyer, an MCC regional disaster management coordinator, “so the rural areas can have the infrastructure to support the people migrating there and to keep people from moving back into the city.”

Decentralization is a concept espoused by the Haitian government and many international aid organizations, Troyer said. According to The Miami Herald, Haitian President René Préval told President Barack Obama in a March meeting that Haiti needs to adopt decentralization by offering healthcare, education and jobs across the country to avoid overcrowding in Port-au-Prince.

The infrastructure in Port-au-Prince was never set up to handle the population that was living there, Troyer said. Even before the earthquake, the systems for water, electricity, roads and housing could not handle demand. People built houses in ravines and hillsides and on top of each other, which resulted in massive damage during the earthquake, he said.

Yet the capital city has been the center around which the country revolves, Troyer said. It’s the primary place Haitians go to conduct government business, attend universities and good secondary schools and get care at respected hospitals.

As a result, the essential services kept enticing people to move to the capital — until the earthquake. Then about 600,000 people fled the city to find shelter in the country, the Haitian government estimates.

“What the provinces lack is the services of the state,” said Garly Michel, an MCC worker who is from Haiti and works in Port-au-Prince. “If they can get roads, health centers and schools, people could stay there.”

To encourage people to stay there, the government is appealing to international governments and nongovernmental organizations to help establish that infrastructure.

Yoline Jules, a resident of Desarmes, lost three daughters in the earthquake because they were in Port-au-Prince for education.

“There must be decentralization in each region, in each neighborhood so the youth that are still here… can go to school and at least find something to learn about so they don’t leave home,” Jules said in an MCC video interview. “If this was done already, many people that died wouldn’t have died,” she said.

The provinces already have resources for work, said Michel, who is always called Garly. They have water, land and a labor force.

However, in recent years production has dwindled because trade agreements have made imported food cheaper to buy than food grown in Haiti. MCC is focusing some earthquake response money toward increasing profitable production and encouraging local production and consumption.

“For the long vision, there must be a development plan that allows for more food in the provinces,” said Jean Remy Azor, an MCC staff member in Desarmes. “If there is no such vision to augment local production, there will come a time when we depend too much on imports…. Our stomachs will be in the hands of foreign countries.”

MCC’s Haiti response continues with medical teams, engineers and food aid

haiti-medical.jpgby Marla Pierson Lester

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) medical teams and structural engineers are providing immediate assistance in Haiti now, and distributions of food and relief supplies are ongoing even as MCC plans the next steps in its multiyear response to the Jan. 12 earthquake.

A five-person MCC medical team from Canada is serving in Port-au-Prince March 7 to 20. A three-person medical team from the United States will be in Haiti from March 21 to April 3.

Short-term teams of structural engineers that began arriving in January have examined more than 250 buildings, and MCC is seeking additional engineers who are interested in serving in Haiti this spring.

MCC continues to provide rations of rice, beans, cooking oil, canned meat and spaghetti to nine communities, reaching at least 6,000 people who have been forced from home by the earthquake. It is likely that food is also being given to additional relatives and friends, echoing the strong emphasis on sharing in Haitian culture.

MCC is also providing materials for bamboo and cement-base showers for people living in camps of displaced people. Those living in the camps had identified the need for a private space to wash, especially for women, said Betty Kasdorf, MCC’s Food, Disaster and Material Resources program manager.

MCC relief kits, tarps for shelter, comforters and flat sheets are being distributed as soon as they arrive in Haiti, and additional shipments are on their way to Haiti. Because of expected Haitian government changes that might slow items coming through customs after April, MCC is striving to ship all its initial emergency material aid in the next three to four weeks.

An MCC assessment team visited dozens of people, including MCC partners and government officials, from Feb. 21 to March 6 – hearing from each the enormity of the tasks before them.

MCC’s response will not only address the needs of people within Port-au-Prince, said Ron Flaming, MCC’s director of international programs, but will also include significant efforts to improve the livelihoods and prospects of people who have moved to rural areas.

The assessment team recommends that MCC can meet significant needs in areas including shelter and housing, economic development, food security, education, peace-building and advocacy, health and trauma healing.

“What struck me most is the complexity of the situation,” stressed Kasdorf, who recently visited Haiti as part of the assessment team. “The whole country is affected by this.”

The assessment team found that while food was being distributed within Port-au-Prince, many rural areas had not yet received any assistance and were struggling to share limited food with new arrivals.

Kasdorf said the group heard from nonprofit organizations, from MCC partners and from government officials that what is needed now is for relief, government services, education and jobs to be made more widely available throughout the country.

The scope of this effort will be far greater than rebuilding in a single geographic location.

“It’s a massive, complex humanitarian disaster,” Flaming said. “Right now people are still focused on trying to clean up, on figuring out how to survive today, tomorrow and for the next few months.”

Even as MCC’s response in Haiti continues, planning for the next five years is also well underway, says Flaming. Longer-term planning includes determining which communities to focus on and top priorities. He noted that in MCC’s response to the 2004 Asian tsunami, some projects that had the most lasting impact were not planned until a full year after the tsunami hit.

Paramount in all MCC efforts will be listening to the voices of Haitian people and partners and providing tools to help Haitians recover from the quake and build up their own communities, said Kasdorf.

To learn more about MCC’s response to the Haiti earthquake, go to mcc.org/haitiearthquake.

Marla Pierson Lester is publications and website content editor for MCC.

MCC Perspective: The place of peace in constructing Haiti

haiti-place-of-peace.jpgby Rebecca Bartel and Alexis Erkert Depp

As the world rallies in response to the catastrophic earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, in Haiti, the global Christian family is invited to consider the place of God’s shalom, God’s peace, in the rebuilding of Haitian lives and infrastructure.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is doing just that, as we provide immediate emergency support, but also plan for medium- and long-term efforts.

MCC’s commitment to working toward the holistic well-being of communities and churches around the world stems from God’s vision of peace and dignity for humanity. The prophet Micah describes this as instruction that goes forth from Zion, “the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” that “they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.” (Micah 4:4, NRSV)

This vision holds central basic human rights, such as access to food, health care, meaningful employment, security and education.

It also underscores the necessity of justice for the vision to be fulfilled, and the importance of human empowerment.

To understand the strategies needed for Haiti’s construction, it is appropriate to consider the obstacles this country has experienced. Natural disasters are beyond our human control, but the vulnerability of Haiti to their horrific consequences is human-made. There is nothing natural about poverty, hunger and political unrest.

Poverty. Beginning with the exorbitant debt of 150 million francs (the equivalent of $21 billion U.S. today) forced on the population after independence from France in 1804, to more recent structural adjustment policies and conditions on foreign aid, Haiti has been under the heel of external economic policies that exacerbate and systematize poverty.

Until June 2009, Haiti was paying $56 million to $70 million a year to service debts to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Close to 45 percent of that debt was incurred during the U.S.-backed Duvalier dictatorships (1957-1986). Until the forgiveness of $1.2 billion of Haiti’s foreign debt by the IMF and the World Bank last year, the government spent $4 per person on health care and $5 per person on education each year, while paying $5 per person in debt service.

Hunger. Until 1985, Haiti was self-sufficient in rice production – a staple in the modern Haitian diet. Under the tutelage of international financing institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF, Haiti liberalized its economic policies, opening the door to foreign exports, such as rice.

In 1994 conditions on foreign aid to the country and the reinstatement of ousted President Bertrand Aristide by the U.S. chiseled Haiti’s import tariffs on rice from 35 to 3 percent, the lowest in the region. Because of U.S.-subsidized rice entering the country at half the price of locally produced rice, and because these aid conditions prohibited the Haitian government from subsidizing local production, thousands of rice farmers were put out of business. Many were displaced to urban centers such as Port-au-Prince, where weak infrastructure and the lack of jobs forced millions of people to live in shanty towns and poorly constructed housing.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, now U.N. special envoy to Haiti, publicly apologized on March 10 for championing these policies. Quoted in The New York Times, Clinton said, “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.”

Dependence on foreign food imports magnifies misery in times of crisis.

Political unrest. Haiti has a history of foreign military intervention. This usurping of national authority has weakened state institutions and civil society.

While the foreign troop presence in Haiti is decreasing from the early days following the earthquake, there is still confusion about its mandate. MCC’s Haitian partners say they want military personnel to refrain from carrying assault rifles in public, and for Canadian and U.S. troops to clearly articulate their mission within the framework of the United Nations Mission in Haiti.

Principles that guide MCC’s response. God’s vision of shalom, for the people of Haiti to sit unafraid “under their own vines and under their own fig trees,” calls the Christian family to consider the long-term investment that must be made for Haiti to rise out of the crisis it faced even before the earthquake of Jan. 12. In response to this call, MCC has developed internal principles to guide its part in the work.

These include emphasis on local and sustainable development, Haitian-led decision making about development and investment priorities, demilitarization of aid efforts, and immigration policy that respects the Haitian Diaspora and dignifies the migration process.

It calls us to respond immediately, but also to consider how our governments and institutions make policy decisions that victimize the world’s marginalized people.

It calls us to witness to policymakers, faithfully sharing God’s vision for justice, peace and dignity for all people, and encouraging policy decisions that bring life, not death, to our brothers and sisters around the world.

As relief efforts continue, more opportunities will arise to work for human dignity in Haiti. We cannot control the movements of the earth, but we can control how our voice is heard in government.

The Haitian people call us to share our prophetic voice, as does Isaiah 62:1:

“For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent.” “Jan m’ renmen mòn Siyon sa a! Se pou m’ pale.”

See washington.mcc.org/haiti for more information about the Christian advocacy principles that undergird MCC’s response to the Haiti earthquake.

Rebecca Bartel is MCC policy analyst for Latin America and the Caribbean. Alexis Erkert Depp is MCC policy analyst for Haiti.

Intersections Winter 2010



winter2010thumbnailblog.jpgClick here to download a PDf.

After the earthquake: Working to bring healing and hope to Haiti

Jessica Walter, Ambler

some-of-orphans-at-orphanag-copy.jpgIn the weeks and months following the massive earthquake sustained by Haiti in January, Franconia Conference continues to collect funds to assist the Grace Assembly Network congregations in the rebuilding and reconstruction following the Haiti earthquake.

In the days following the earthquake, communication with key Grace Assembly Network leader, Pastor Lesly Bertrand, was limited, but phone calls and a visit form Mennonite Central Committee staff assured the conference of his and his family’s well-being.

Many also waited anxiously for word from the 27 member team from Souderton (Pa.) Mennonite Church who traveled to Haiti for a week long service trip with the Water for Life program located in Passe bois d’orme and the Tree of Life program in La Baleine, Haiti. The team was escorted to safety after the intial earthquake and, in the days that followed, was able to provide some medical relief in a small makeshift refugee village in Cote de Fer. The team returned to Pennsylvania safely on January 18, after an only a few days extension.

“I will never forget arriving in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake and going through the city,” reflected Christopher Dock Mennonite High School senior, Jordan Miller, during a sharing time at Souderton Mennonite. “When the earthquake struck on Tuesday, we had no idea of the magnitude of the situation. It never really hit me until we went back through Port-au-Prince and saw the same places. The destruction was terrible and it was hard to see the fairness of the earthquake happening to an already poor nation. Many of the Haitians in Passe bois d’orme were still praising God with the same vigor after the earthquake, which was really impacting. Their relationship with God was amazing and it gave me a new sense of how to worship. I like to think I have faith in God, but you never really know until it is put to the test, like it was for the Haitians who had lost family and friends, and had little reason to keep on praising God. They did anyway.”

Pastors Aaron Durso and Curt Malizzi from the Hopewell Network of Churches set out to Port-au-Prince on January 22 to learn more about the earthquake’s effects on Grace Assembly Network’s congregations and ministries. Franconia Conference sent a satellite phone with the pastors, to be delivered to Pastor Lesly to help establish more regular contact. The phone was intended to empower Pastor Lesly in his work and ministry by opening doors for conversation that would allow movement of goods and lifting of spirits as the recovery continues in Port-au-Prince.

section-of-security-wall-co-copy.jpgFrom Curt Malizzi . . . “On Saturday, January 23, we toured the site of the Grace Assembly Network orphanage and found the building to be perfectly preserved, but the perimeter security walls had two large sections fallen down and some additional walls leaning.”

To our surprise, as we arrived at the orphanage, a truck of donated food supplies arrived from the Mennonite congregations of the Dominican Republic coordinated through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). There was much joy in the area and a first food distribution was held for the area people.”

The well at the orphanage keeps running every day to supply water to around 2,000 people. The orphanage is in the Bellanton area which is about 18km northeast of Port au Prince. In the Bellanton area I estimate that about 25% (1 of every 4) of the houses have been demolished or seriously damaged by the earthquake. The Bellanton church building and school suffered much damage, but the Christian believers showed they are staying strong in the Lord with a wonderful celebration of praise on Sunday morning attended by us and the MCC delegation. Thanks to Franconia Conference, a satellite phone was temporarily provided for Pastor Lesly to maintain outside the nation contacts until the cell phone towers began working again.”

The immediate needs are to help reconstruct the security walls and reoccupy the orphanage, then to reconstruct some of the church buildings and pastors’ houses. We appreciate and thoughts and prayers for the people of Haiti and especially the 1,500 people of the Grace Assemblies churches in Haiti.”

Mennonite Central Committee continues to partner with Grace Assembly to bring healing and hope to Haiti. Another shipment of canned meat was distributed by Grace Assembly Network through MCC in early February.

Congregations and individuals from across Franconia Conference continue to be involved in providing relief and support to Haiti.

Franconia Conference gathered funding to support Dr. James Conrad, of Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, in joining a medical team to Haiti coordinated by Virginia Mennonite Missions and MCC. The Souderton congregation has raised support for Haiti through collecting offerings, four person (or larger) tents, relief kits and bedding for MCC and holding a benefit concert on March 20th.

The earthquake halted the distribution of 3.1 million deworming pills delivered to Haiti by the Worm Project but the pills are now being administered again. During this time of limited clean water and food resources parasite removal is crucial. The Worm Project is now preparing to ship three million more pills to Haiti. For more information contact Claude Good at cgood@franconiaconference.org.

MCC continues to post regular updates on their relief efforts in Haiti, including their work with Grace Assembly Network. To get the most updated information visit www.mcc.org.

Franconia Conference continues to actively solicit contributions toward the ministry of Grace Assembly Network in this critical time for our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

Pastor Lesly Bertrand reflects on strong faith of Haitians in MCC Podcast

Pastor Lesly Bertrand, pastor of Assemblée de la Grace Mennonite Church (Grace Assembly Network) in Haiti, speaks about the strong faith of his congregation and many Haitians. Yet their practical needs are many. MCC and Mennonites from the Dominican Republic are helping to meet their needs.

Strong in Faith (click to listen)
Running time: 3:29