Group to take help, message to Haiti

January 18, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

At 4 a.m. Monday, while most of Central Kentucky is still asleep, 19 folks will leave their homes here for one of the poorest places on the globe: Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

They go because they believe God has called them. I will go to tell their stories.

The U.S. State Department has urged Americans to delay their travel plans to Haiti because of civil unrest and demonstrations against the government in Port-Au-Prince, the country's capital.

Does it worry the Rev. Barry Harmon?

No. The Boyle County Jailer and pastor of New Harmony Baptist Church is leading a group of nine church members to help the people who live in the city's slums. The church will join other locals from Harrodsburg, Salvisa, Danville, Perryville and Mackville. This group will meet up with others from Kentucky and Indiana in Miami, and then depart for Haiti.

Each of the missionaries has paid $267.75 to make the trip. Harmon's church sponsored my trip. We will stay at the Florida Baptist Convention Guest House. Usually there is electricity twice a day and if all goes as planned, I will send stories each day to the newspaper via the Internet.


The group is lead by Dr. Joe Mobley, who runs Crusades For Christ of London. He has been going to Haiti since 1979. Letters he has sent to the group directs missionaries to take summer-type clothes. It is expected to be sunny all week, with highs in the upper 80s and lows in the upper 60s, according to

Women must wear dresses or skirts and blouses to fit in with the customs of the Haitian people and the churches with which Crusades works. Each person will bring two suitcases: one for themselves and one filled with things for the missions.

And Moberly instructs the group to pray. Pray for those who don't know Jesus. Pray for the pastors' messages. Pray for him to have wisdom and direction. Pray for their bodies to be strong and their minds prepared for the experience.

Haiti has 1,100 miles of coastline and is about the size of Maryland. The island is off the coast Florida, near Cuba. The forests are being cleared for agriculture and fuel, its soil eroding and there are inadequate supplies of potable water.

About 80 percent of the country lives in abject poverty, according to a world factbook at More than 250,000 people have AIDS or HIV. They are dependent on an environment that is slowly degrading. Only 16 percent of the populace is Protestant, and roughly half of the country practices voodoo. Those who have been there talk about how abundant flora is contrasted with garbage on the street, how the children in the schools go home to live in dumps and how the hospitals lack disinfectant or anesthesia.

Can a handful of Americans, who are only there for a week, make a difference? Why bother?

Harmon tells the story of a man walking along a coast with millions of beached starfish. He picks one up and throws it back in the water. Another man says to him, "You will never save all of them. Why even attempt it?"

"Well," the first man said, as he picked up another starfish, "it makes a difference to that one." And as he picks up another, "It makes a difference to that one."

Work during the day, revivals at night

The group will work during the day, and attend or preach at revivals at night. Harmon said the group hopes to buy 2,000 to 3,000 Bibles in Creole, the native tongue. They will teach preachers, buy food for the schools, work construction and repair computers, among other projects.

Kim Divine, a data entry operator and farmer, is a member of Doctors Fork Baptist Church. She has made the trip seven times. Each time, she said, the people are more a blessing to her than she believes she ever could have been to them.

Divine will stay two weeks. She will reprogram computers for the hospital, orphanages and schools. The first time she went she was shocked by the condition of the hospital. She saw women give birth on operating tables where another woman had just been given a hysterectomy. There were no IV poles or regular beds. After three years, she has seen conditions improve. There is a lab, beds, mattresses and more than 100 computers.

But, something touches her more - the spiritual side of the trip.

"It is just one miracle after another," she said.

Divine describes overflowing churches, packed with people who would have walked miles to reach the services and who are starving for the word of God.

"They are so hungry for it that they breath it in," she said. "It's brought me closer and closer to the Lord and made me want to do it more and more."

This will be Loren Kaenzig's first trip to Haiti, and his first trip out of the country. When he was 12 years old he flew to Michigan, and the airplane ride through bad weather left him hesitant to travel. The 40-year-old said that he doesn't even like to go to Lexington, and although he lives in Harrodsburg there are parts of it he hasn't seen.

But, he said, the Holy Spirit has worked on him, and he was inspired to go.

"I'm not sure exactly what I can do, but I'll do whatever I can do."

Trisha Claunch said the first time she went to Haiti she was in shock for three days. Her first memory of the trip is three huge rats chasing each other in a parking lot. Claunch had never seen a rat before.

She said the pictures and stories just didn't prepare her. The prevailing smell was like garbage rotting in a dumpster.

Still, she finds plenty about the country endearing - the people and their warm smiles.

"Everyone just reaches out to you, and is glad you're there, glad you're trying to help."

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