Although it has been over 4 years since the earthquakes that ravaged Haiti, there is still visible evidence of destruction that lingers. While some have been able to pick up the rubble of their lives and move forward, others have found themselves entrenched in the trauma. But, for all, it has left an indelible mark on their lives.
In June, I had the privilege to lead an eMi team to Haiti to help Grace International design a master plan for a 16 acre property they acquired outside of Carrefour that they were calling Heritage Village. Grace International has been working in Haiti for over 40 years with a focus on holistic community development. With this new property, Grace not only plans to develop more basic permanent shelters for the lowest income community members (as they have been doing for the past 4 years), but they also want to see the people in the community improve their lives through social, spiritual, and economic development. As such, this master plan would include space for more homes, but allow for two additional improved floor plans for community members who were ready (and could afford) to step up into more developed accommodations. The property would also include a new boy’s orphanage (to accommodate the overflowing boy’s orphanage Grace has been operating), a school (to provide primary, secondary and trade school training to the community), and a church.
The team I had the honor to work with on this project was all around incredible! One of our two talented architects was also on the trip where I was first introduced to eMi in 2010 for the Samfya Bible School master plan in Zambia (see previous post here and his master plan drawing for the Haiti project below).
We also had a Canadian surveyor who had spent several years working in Haiti and who was actually in Haiti when the earthquakes occurred. His stories of the the relief effort during and after this event left an impact on all of our team. In addition to that, he was one of the fastest surveyors I have ever worked with. He recruited some local help and in a day and a half he had the entire 16 acres surveyed! A portion of that time also included negotiating a couple of the property line locations with the owner’s representative who was carving out this piece of land to sell to Grace. He had discovered that the property was initially smaller than the 16 acres Grace had purchased, so he got them to fix it! He also had a unique way to verify elevations that you can see below (pictured is one of his local survey assistants).
In addition to our 7 team members from North America, we also had 11 local design professionals join us throughout the week to help us learn local design practices in Haiti as well as for them to have a chance to learn from our team. This was a really cool opportunity for us and I am grateful that Grace was able to encourage these design professionals to come help us. One of eMi’s goals is to disciple the next generation of design professionals. This includes those westerners volunteering on trips, but also includes the locals in the communities we are serving. The design profession can be one of the most corrupt anywhere you go in the world, but is also one of the most respected. Our project trips afford us a tremendous opportunity to speak into the lives of developing world design professionals to bring integrity and excellence back into our profession. We also have opportunities to bring them in as potential long term partners with the ministries we are serving. One example is Jude (see picture below: back row, third from right, green shirt) who had expressed interest in helping Grace with construction management of this development we were designing. Also, a master plan like we were providing in Haiti is not intended to be a full set of construction drawings. Grace would use this set of plans to help them fund raise, and then we encourage them to hire local design professionals to provide more detailed designs and/or complete full construction documents.
As a testament to the incredible things that God is doing in Haiti, I want to leave you with the story of a young man I had the privilege to meet on my trip named Jenel. Jenel grew up in the Grace International boy’s orphanage. On the day of the earthquake, he was supposed to be in school, but had stayed at the boy’s home because he wasn’t feeling well. After the quakes he learned that his school had been completely destroyed and most of his classmates and teachers had died or been seriously injured. He believed that God spared his life for a purpose, but at first wasn’t sure what that was. Now that his school was destroyed, he couldn’t complete his education and he didn’t know what was next for him. After seeing the surge of orphans that were left in the wake of the destruction, he began to realize that God had prepared him through the tragedies of his own life to minister to others. He began using his time that he would normally be spending in school to write down the truths that God was now revealing to him. He not only wanted to minister to the orphans beside him, but also to those that he didn’t know. Below is a picture of him with his newly published book for the Christian Service Brigade to encourage young men to persevere through trial with the help of Christ.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.