Caring for Haiti: An 18-year partnership

by Allison Hurtado, staff writer
Calvary Church, Minnesota

Pernier, Haiti, is a sprawling suburb about 20 minutes outside of the capital, Port-au-Prince. It’s built on a mountain slope and reveals a dramatic economic contrast. The area is dotted with tents and small homes, while on the mountain tops are mansions and larger homes. Vegetables, meat and sugar cane are sold along the highway, which is lined with small stores, gas stations and piles of garbage. The most common way to travel is by foot, walking up and down hills long distances to get water from the community well. 

Calvary Church, Roseville and White Bear Township, Minnesota, has been sending teams to Haiti since 1998. Vonn Dornbush, pastor of Outreach and Impact Ministries, says the 18-year partnership started with their youth group.

“Our junior and senior high school class began to pray about where God might be calling us to go and serve,” he said. “We had a tradition of going on an overseas trip every other summer. We had contacts in several countries, but the Lord put it on several of our students’ hearts that we were supposed to go to Haiti.”

The group went in summer 1998, with just two contacts: Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity and a guest house to stay in. It was on this first trip they met pastor Miradieu and a few others who have become key leaders. There are now 16 churches, a demonstration farm, two medical clinics, neighborhood schools and guest house under the Calvary Association, a non-profit entity registered in Haiti–all because of that first step of faith.

When the earthquake devastated the country in 2010, what few things people had were destroyed. Calvary saw the need of the people and had the relationships to make things happen. The church has raised $150,000 to date, to build homes.

“So far we’ve built 16 homes with our Haiti partners, for families who had been living in tents–some for five or six years,” Dornbush said. “For each of these church families a permanent roof, an earthquake-proof two-room home and door they can lock has been life changing.”

In addition to building homes, the church has also sent medical teams since the 2010 earthquake. The teams worked out of three Calvary Haiti churches, who asked if Calvary would consider funding a medical clinic as a future project. The team committed it to prayer.

Dornbush applied for grants, including one from the Converge Cornerstone Fund. Last year, Cornerstone Fund received a generous donation from an investor and designated the funds to create a matching grant, partnering with Converge churches for missions work. Calvary received $7,500 toward the $17,940 cost to build the clinic.

“The Cornerstone grant, along with two others, enabled our dream to become a reality,” Dornbush said. “The clinic is literally being built into a mountain. They spent months digging into it to clear an area to build the clinic. A landslide from a severe rainstorm halted work, but they hope to complete the clinic in July.”

Calvary Haiti has hired engineers to build a retaining wall to prevent future landslides. The clinic will be the site to provide regular medical care. Government workers will staff both Calvary clinics (there is a second clinic, 11,000 feet up in the mountains) one week every month, and teams from the United States and Canada will use it as a home base to provide care year-round.

“Many of the people our medical teams treated in Pernier after the earthquake had never seen a doctor before,” Dornbush said. “They simply could not afford the money needed for an appointment. This clinic will offer hope to families and individuals. Some of the government doctors are Christians, and they are sincerely working to serve and help.”

Dornbush says none of this would be possible without Calvary’s partners. The church has long-standing partnerships in Ukraine and Minnesota, in addition to the team in Haiti. The partners receive multiple teams each year and do ministry that is mutually beneficial. Dornbush encourages other Converge churches to think about how they can partner internationally.

“Each of our partners is autonomous and sets the tone and pace for our mutual ministry endeavors,” he said. “The blessing of long-term investment in relationships, ministry and long-term impact means these partnerships affect and transform lives in both locations. Many of our young people who have been called into full-time ministry over the past 20 years look back at their time serving with one of our partners as the beginning of their call.”

    Point - Fall 2017

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