We had driven at least 5 kilometers past where the pavement ended before we turned off the bumpy gravel road and followed the lead vehicle onto what looked like a trail through the bushes. We continued on this path for maybe a kilometer then stopped, turned around and parked under a tree. I thought we were lost or had taken a wrong turn but soon a number of Haitians came walking down a single track trail to welcome us to the road construction project they were undertaking.
One of our partners, The Ministry for Christian Development (MDK), had completed training is this area and we were here with a visiting ‘learning and service’ team to see some of the results of this training. MDK is an ecumenical training-by-extension program for church leaders and Christian school teachers. MDK’s training methodology is biblical, practical, community-based, holistic and participatory.
The community leader who took the training spoke of how the training taught them that as Christians they are to work for the building of the church but also the communities they are part of. It is this concept of a holistic approach to missions and development that caused this group of people to “put our heads together and see what we could do”, this community leader told us.
As a community they decided a road should be built through their community so that services could more easily be provided to them and they could more easily access services like health care and education in the nearby town. They told us of very ill people who needed to be carried out for health care. So as a community, with no outside help, they built a road. With machetes and shovels they cleared brush, moved rocks, cut down hills, filled in voids and turned a walking trail into a road. What we saw as a very rough trail they saw as a road to a better future.This road wasn’t the only ongoing project. They had already built a holding pond to allow the farmers to water their crops during the dry season. The group has a future goal of building a church so they will not have to walk so far to church and be better able to minister to those in the community. Providing accessible fresh water and starting a reforestation project are also on the list of projects the community hopes to begin some day.
“Never before had people come and told us this was possible”, the community spokesman continued.
All of this community development came about because someone came and, only through words, was able to empower this group of people to see that they already had the gifts and abilities to make significant, positive and sustainable change for their community; that they didn’t need ‘outsiders’ to tell them what to do or give them money to do it but that they could and needed to do it for themselves.No donor money was used to build the road or the holding pond. Haitians taught and encouraged each other and we were blessed to see some of the end results of what can happen when people ask a very simple question: “what can we do with the resources we have”?
That is one of the reasons we are here in Haiti: to support our national partners to do the work God has called them to do by helping fellow countrymen be what God intended them to be. That is what it’s all about.