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RETURN TO HAITI
Local mission group revisits earthquake ravaged town
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013 10:00 AM
This photo shows the makeshift worship center that the people of Belloc, Haiti, were using for the last three years. Ryker’s Ridge Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church members will be traveling to Haiti on Friday to dedicate a new church building. (Submitted photo)
Ryker’s Ridge Baptist Church pastor Paul Brewster, top, and Calvary Baptist Church pastor Mike Hamby talk about their congregations’ partnership in mission work in Haiti. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
Before an earthquake destroyed much of Haiti's infrastructure in January 2010, a group of volunteers from Madison's Calvary Baptist Church had already planted roots in the struggling country.
One year before the earthquake during a Christian mission trip, the volunteers helped build benches and school desks for a community center in the village of Belloc, which is located in the mountains more than two hours from the nation's capital of Port-Au-Prince.
"We were so impressed with the facility they had," said Benny Newell, a Calvary member and trip organizer.
But the center, like so many other structures throughout the country, was not designed to withstand the jolt of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake or the subsequent aftershocks. It was destroyed, along with a well cistern that provided vital fresh water to the village.
Since then, members of the small village, located in the Leogane district, have been attending worship services under a makeshift canopy that is worn thin. And perhaps even worse, clean water is at least a 25-minute walk from the village.
That will soon change.
On Friday - more than three years after the earthquake - members of Calvary Baptist Church and Ryker's Ridge Baptist Church will visit the village to dedicate a new church and well cistern, both of which the local congregations helped fund. They will return home on Feb. 1 and later hold a joint service at Calvary.
The churches raised about $75,000 for the well and church construction. The trip will serve as the third joint mission trip for Calvary and Ryker's Ridge since the disaster.
"(The new building) will be a focal point of the community. It's not going to be as big and grand as it was, but I'm sure they will use it for many services," Newell said.
Newell, who is a retired Madison Consolidated High School teacher, said the church and the well serve as a unified metaphor, seeing how the well will be fed from rain runoff from the church.
"The church is the spiritual living water, and then we have the physical living water," he said.
While in Haiti, volunteers will continue their services for the struggling village by providing water-purification systems, shoes and other crucial day-to-day materials. Dr. John Hossler and Madison dentist Dr. Bob Canida also will provide medical services.
Meanwhile, the group will hand out French-translation Bibles and Rev. Mike Hamby of Calvary and Rev. Paul Brewster of Ryker's Ridge will lead Gospel studies for Haitian pastors.
Brewster said the partnership for the congregations blossomed from a friendship between the two pastors. Brewster has been at Ryker's Ridge for three years, while Hamby joined Calvary five years ago.
"I think it's been a new development," Brewster said of the church partnership. "Since I've been here, we have cooperated on things from just about the beginning of my ministry."
Both see a long-term need for Haitians well after the group completes its upcoming trip and dedicates the church, which they hope is complete when they arrive.
"Haiti, to say that it is a Third World country is an understatement. It was in awful shape administratively prior to the earthquake and after the earthquake. The entire country is just one big slum," Brewster said. "The culture operates without everything we would consider modern conveniences."
Hamby said in addition to providing spiritual services for Haitians, he hopes the local volunteers will be fulfilling a spiritual need of their own.
"I would say that it heightens our awareness of God's call in our life as Christians to care for people and care for them in a holistic way," he said. "We see them as brothers and sisters who have needs."
To Hamby's point, Brewster noted that the group will include teenagers, which he said is an important age to learn about those who are less fortunate.
"If I had the ability to take every American teenager to a Third World country for a week, I would do it," Brewster said. "I think it's absolutely transforming for them to realize how blessed we are, how much we have and how so much of the world lives without what we would consider the essentials."
PHOTOS: RETURN TO HAITI
PHOTOS: RETURN TO HAITI (Submitted photos)
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