Haiti still has a long road of recovery and rebuilding ahead due to the damage from the massive Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in that poor country about the size of Maryland.
But Princeton Elim Care and Rehab Center chaplain Dan Osborn says he witnessed recovery progress during a mission trip there in January — one year after his first mission to Haiti a year ago.
During both of these week-long mission trips, Osborn had one of his sons along, plus four other Princeton residents, with all six attendees of Princeton Evangelical Free Church.
The mission projects both times were under Global Vision Citadelle Ministries, and both were at a rural village called Fedje (about the size of Pease) approximately two miles from the city of Mirebalais. Mirebalais is located at the end of an approximately 1 1/2 hour steep drive north of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
During the first mission trip, the Princeton group built much of the security wall around the orphanage at Fedje. During the second trip it was to rehabilitate a roof and ceiling in what was once a school serving children from the orphanage and area. The former school building is now designated for storing materials for the orphanage, since a new school building was constructed using a $50,000 donation.
The storage building had a sagging roof and ceiling, and the Minnesota team on this latest mission trip were assigned to work in the repair.
The first mission trip the Princeton group took was Jan. 8-16, 2011, and Osborn’s son Caleb, then 18, was along. During this latest trip – Dec. 31, 2011 to Jan. 7, 2012, Dan Osborn’s son Josh, 17, was with.
The four others from Princeton also along on the latest mission to Haiti were Tim Jaszczak, Ron Hendricks, Linda Vanderpoel, and Kevin McGinty. Hendricks, McGinty and Jasczak were also on the first trip. Joining the group this time were Jaszczak’s son Zach who has been attending college in Fargo, and also a woman from New York.
The cement work to shore up the roof and a ceiling on the storage building was challenging, according to Dan Osborn, who put it this way: “What you think you are going to do, and what you do is not the same. It was more difficult than what I thought it would be.” The average temperature, he said, was about 93 degrees, and the humidity at 80-90 percent, so they started their work days before sunrise when it was cooler.
He explained that the crew members had to place reinforcement metal bars every two feet on the bottom and top sides of the roof and then spray cement over the rebars, as they are called. A mission group from Pennsylvania assisted the Minnesota team with that.
While that was going on there was a Wisconsin medical team that opened a medical clinic there and handled 50-100 patients, Dan Osborn noted.
Osborn was also part of a devotional team taking part in a conference put on for Haitian pastors at Fedje. A big tent was set up for the conference meetings, and small tents were set up around the outside for the pastors to stay in. The Princeton group raised money to buy hand-crank flashlights, and gave them to the pastors at the conference.
The mission crews put in four 12-hour days for their mission work, each day starting at 5:30 a.m., and had the fifth day off to go to the beach at a resort near Port-au-Prince.
The beach was rocky rather than sandy, but it was an enjoyable beach experience, said Josh Osborn on Monday this week. Dan Osborn described the resort as nice by Haitian standards, and said he enjoyed the salt water because he could float in it.
A Jan. l7, 2012 Minneapolis Star Tribune story reported that Haiti’s reconstruction work following the earthquake has been slow due to many factors including the fact that Haiti was one of the world’s poorest nations to begin with. Politics was also cited as a factor for the stalls in early recovery work. Osborn reported last week that he understands from the Haitians he spoke with that they are happy now with their new president.
Osborn gave the perspective that even the United States has problems in governance, mentioning the challenges in Congress, and finding unity and making progress. Then consider a third world country like Haiti lacking in infrastructure and established government trying to get ahead, Osborn said.
The Star Tribune story did note that governmental and international partners have built 600 classrooms for 600,000 children in Haiti during the recovery effort so far.
Like the preparation for the previous mission project, Dan Osborn offered residents at the Elim Home in Princeton a chance to feel part of the Haiti mission.
This time Elim Home residents continued to pray for the children at the orphanage. Also, families of Elim residents purchased used clothing, which the Princeton mission team brought eight bags of that clothing to Haiti. Elim staff and families connected with Elim also raised $200 to buy shoes for the orphanage.
And the changes that Osborn noticed between a year ago and now in Haiti?
“We saw definite progress,” he said, referring to the work being done to rebuild bridges, roads, and houses, along with other humanitarian development.
And as far as how he thought the mission project went this time, Osborn said: “Overall we accomplished what we set out to do.” The group ran out of time and got 85 percent of the work done but that 85 percent was the hardest part of the project, and another team will finish it, he said.
Osborn would like to continue mission work in Haiti, he said, especially if it might involve training Haitian pastors in how to start more churches, which is known as church planting. Osborn noted that his first pastoral experience was 28 years ago when he planted a church in Appalachia, a poor region in the eastern part of the United States. Later, in 2000, he said, he and his wife Heidi planted an Evangelical Free Church in Monticello, Minn.
And what was this most recent mission trip like for a teen like Josh Osborn?
Asked about that this week, Josh called it “life changing.” He initially felt that when he saw how much less the Haitians have, and that it became reinforced when he returned home and thought about how much he had not been thankful for.
One major thing that Americans take for granted, Josh continued, is clean drinking water. There was a water purifier at the Fedje mission site, but for the majority of Haitians the water is not pure and many get sick from it, he said. Josh recalled how when his brother Caleb brushed his teeth in unpurified Haitian water last year, Caleb became sick.
“It really makes you consider how lucky you are to live here, and how thankful you should be,” Josh said,