Haiti Blog

(The Fuller Center's Leah Gernetzke recently accompanied a team of women to Haiti for a build. This is her blog post about the trip's final days.)

Today we had a major breakthrough – we received the shipping containers full of concrete molds for the concrete bricks that form our Fuller Center homes. That might not sound like much, but considering these containers have been sitting in port for the past eight months due to hostilities after the 2010 earthquake – it is.

So, we spent a majority of our morning hauling these molds into a warehouse outside of Grace International. It was a little monotonous but necessary, and it’s a good reminder that with this type of work, flexibility is as essential a tool as a pair of pliers on the worksite.

From late morning into early afternoon, we helped the women in the outdoor kitchen cook again. We spent about an hour doing this until lunch, which consisted of peanut butter and jelly, hamburgers, salad, spicy coleslaw, papaya and fried plantains.

After lunch, we went to the worksite for the remainder of the day. We began laying the concrete bricks with mortar, which is an exciting next step because it means we’ve finished the foundation and are on to actually building.

(Fuller Center communications specialist Leah Gernetzke is in Haiti documenting a week of building by a team of women from the U.S. This is her latest report.)

If it’s possible to live a lifetime in one day, today would be that day. Today is burned into in my mind and memory eternally. We were off the construction site, and so we got a break from building houses to build new relationships and insights instead.

In the early morning our group spilt in two – half of us went to the girl’s home (orphanage), and the other half helped a group of women prepare for the Lord’s Kitchen, a program run by Grace International that distributes rice and beans to the hungry children in the surrounding tent camp community.

The kitchen is a covered outdoor area in which women in colorful skirts and shirts pace back forth in well-worn shoes, standing over blackened and dented pots and pans that smell like supper. Their fingers search for stones in piles of black bean splits that come from a white mesh bag labeled “Peak Nutritional Power House. High fiber, low sodium.” They pluck stems off greens, knead bread, stir the rice, and sing and talk while preparing nourishment for the almost 500 kids who will soon pass through their kitchen. Our group sits with the women, mimicking the comforting repetition of movements passed through the ages. We also sing, laugh and talk. In this kitchen, we’re not business people or professionals or whoever we are in the States – we’re simply women providing food for children, and that womanhood creates a distinctly communal feel that transcends culture, age, and all other differences.

(Fuller Center communications specialist is documenting the work of a women's Global Builders trip to Haiti. This is her latest report.)

I’m writing with a pen and paper, sitting cross-legged on the ground, surrounded by mountains, a distant view of the ocean, palm trees, meandering cows, horses, goats, a frenetically cheerful hog, and small groups of children. Two men making concrete bricks with a press form a rhythm in the background, and women singing to their children while bathing them in the front of their homes in Grace Village form a harmony.

In other words, it’s an almost bucolic scene here on our worksite in Lambi, where The Fuller Center hopes to build 60 houses on seven acres. But only almost – the dilapidated shacks serving as homes still line the outskirts of the site, a reminder of all the work that still needs doing. 

(Note: Fuller Center communications specialist Leah Gernetzke is accompanying a work team in Haiti to document their journey. She is sending blog entries when she can get internet access.)

We awoke at dawn this morning to roosters crowing and horns honking. This island is anything but sleepy. Rising early is a way of life here, and Sundays are no exception. After getting ready, eating breakfast, and getting in the van we joined the crowds of people attending church, which seems to be one of Haiti’s lifelines, based purely on my own observations – for one thing, a myriad of signs all over the city of Port-au-Prince read "Merci Jesus." There are Merci Jesus car washes, barber shops, taxis, auto shops and pretty much everything else. There's no doubt about the people's religious devotion.

Obviously church is no exception. Upon arriving here today, smiling young girls in immaculate white dresses sat outside the gate, the sun slanting in perfect triangles across their faces. Inside, throngs of well-dressed Haitians and a few missionaries gathered to worship beneath an open structure loosely covered with a canopy of material covered with “U.S. AID: From the American People” stamps.

The pastor at the church, Tabernacle of Grace, is Johnny Jeune’s father, Joel Jeune, the founder of our partner organization Grace International. This morning he had an interesting sermon about the importance of working for ones money, and of not accepting handouts. God’s blessings fall on those who earn it, he said. The people wear expressions of strength, faith and hope while he’s speaking. 

Considering church is where Haitian people gather spiritual sustenance for the week, Jeune’s job to motivate, inspire and nurture people is one that can’t be underestimated or overlooked.

(Note: Fuller Center communications specialist Leah Gernetzke is accompanying a work team in Haiti to document their journey. She is sending blog entries when she can get internet access. This first entry is from Saturday, Sept, 3.)

“I forgot my lipstick!”

It was 6 a.m. and the shuttle from the hotel to the airport was driving through the parking lot when Beverly Black, the Fuller Center’s Director of Donor Development, made this exclamation. Never mind that we were traveling to Haiti that day – the woman needed her lipstick.

Laugh if you will, but I believe this exclamation in the early morning hours, when I could barely think, revealed her character – the character of a woman who leaves not even the tiniest detail untouched or unaccounted for. The character of a person I’m glad to have as on our Global Builders trip to build homes for those in need in Haiti.

We eventually made it out of the parking lot, past security and through our first flight. Two hours later in the Miami airport, Beverly and I met the rest of our 11-member group, which is especially unique not only because a majority are African-American women, but also because of their diverse backgrounds and professions, which range from a math professor to a pastor to a few business women who own and run companies and, of course, our Fuller Center ambassador and HGTV star Kimberly Lacy. All of these women without exception are extremely smart, gifted and capable.

And all greeted each other at the Miami airport with hugs, despite the fact that most had never met before. But they all have a common goal that binds them together: When the trip was still in the planning stages, these women named themselves the “quest sisters,” seeking to join forces in order to help put an end to poverty housing.