Praise the name of the Lord. (Psalm 135:1)
It is only a rocky road cut into the side of the mountain, but for the communities of Biket and Rondo, high in the hills above Desarmes, Haiti, and several hours north of Port-au-Prince, the new road is making a difference in the lives of the people who live there.
Less than five kilometers long, the road gives the several thousand people in each of these communities access in the valley below to the village markets, schools and emergency health care. What was once up to four hours journey on foot can now be traveled in 20 minutes by modo.
Mennonite Central Committee built the road as part of its response to the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. More than $14 million from our supporters has rebuilt hundreds of houses, trained people in earthquake resistant building techniques, sponsored trauma healing workshops and made roads like this one possible.
I was in Haiti this past month with the board of MCC U.S. to learn from communities there about how they have responded in the years since the earthquake. It was heartening to see the resilience we saw in the people we met there.
Up in the mountain community of Biket, we met with the community leaders of a tree nursery just after they distributed part of the 35,000 seedlings they produce each year to community members. Throughout the region, MCC has assisted a number of communities like Biket in planting millions of trees over a 30 year period.
The trees enrich the soil and provide a source of income from the wood and the fruit they produce, and the trees help insure that the rain, when it comes, doesn’t wash all the soil away. With the new trees, even the birds are back! Around us, we see a rich variety of trees, including cashew, cassia, orange, lime, moringa and more.
One leader tells us, “There was a time when there were no trees here, no wood; but now, it is green and beautiful here once again.” He told us that when MCC came, we didn’t just bring a gift, but we came to partner with them.”
On Sunday morning back in in Port-au-Prince, we worshipped with the Grace Assembly Church. We were warmly welcomed with seats at the front of the congregation and with a meal following worship.
Pastor Ivan recounted the ways MCC had helped the church community and told the congregation, “We give God the glory.” We give praise to you, God, for the opportunities you give us to be sister and brother to each other.
J Ron Byler is the executive director of MCC U.S.