2003-2004 — INTERN IN HAITI AT AGE 90

Mary Jo's Final Illness

Sometime after returning from South Africa, I found a HAFF newsletter that told about a need of someone to teach sciences in Haiti to the Van Schoyck young people, Gabi and Zach. I said to myself, "I can do that!" and promptly sent off a letter to Bonnie Price, HAFF's administrator. After coming back from my trip to visit my family, I received their acceptance of me, despite my age. But before I went to Haiti, I visited Mary Jo in her home in Englewood (60 miles north of Cape Coral). I found her so ill with the new more powerful chemo her doctor had prescribed, that I immediately ran the doctor down (he had several offices), and asked to bring her to him right then. As soon as he saw her condition he arranged for her to be accommodated at the local hospital, and I took her there right away. That was late in the week before I was to go to Haiti. I postponed the start of my teaching for one week, and moved into Mary Jo's home, so I could spend as much time as possible with her while she was in the hospital. I went to her room every day as soon as she could have visitors, and we reminisced of old times and played a lot of Russian bank. We also discussed what happens after death. Can we believe the promises in the Bible that those God has redeemed will go to Heaven? Both of us were completely convinced that those promises were true, and God had redeemed us. This sounds egotistical, but the Bible tells us in several places that we can indeed be certain of our salvation. On the final Monday morning, I had to wait until noon to see her for the last time as she was having liver surgery to provide drainage blocked by the fast-growing cancer. I felt I could start for Haiti that day only when Chuck Balch told me that he was going to take her to his own home in Annapolis for Carol to care for her until she died, which he predicted would be in less than six weeks. He was right — she died on October 16th. A memorial service was held for her (see below) in Chuck's church in Annapolis at the end of the month, and I came out from Haiti and drove up to Annapolis to attend it.

Mary Jo was by far the closest friend I had in this life, and her quick death stunned me more than Mary Charlotte's death had nearly four years earlier. Now I was really alone in my generation, because Margaret was being cared for by her daughter Lynne in New York City, where she died five months later on March 7th, 2004.

First Two weeks in Haiti

Going to Haiti is an experience in itself. MFI (Missionary Flights International) operated out of West Palm Beach Airport (they have very recently moved to Ft. Pierce), from where they service some 650 missionary families, mostly in Haiti but some in the Dominican Republic. They fly out of West Palm very early every Tuesday and Thursday. Since they want you at the airport at 6:30am, most people stay in a nearby hotel the previous night. The plane always stops at one of the smaller Bahama islands for fueling, and then lands at Cap Haitien (on the north shore) where the visitors go through immigration and customs, Haiti style. They occasionally fly on to Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, or Santo Domingo, DR.

Greg and and his son Zach (see left) were on hand to meet me, and kept me company for the usual hour of clearing customs in a jammed-pack very hot room. From Cap Haitien one reaches Bohoc, 42 miles south, on one of the roughest roads in the world, including a river to be forded (see right) when not too high after a heavy rain. The trip takes four hours (or more). The trip to Bohoc in a truck was uneventful, but I felt I traveled more vertically than I did horizontally.

HAFF is the organization that operates a technical high school for Haitien young people (and some not so young) that come from miles around. It was founded by Lila Clark and her husband in the 40's. He died after a few years, but Lila continued to run the place until her health failed in the mid-nineties. As related in Chapter 27, I had spent a week there in October 2000.

My present home was one of six missionary family houses, which in 2000 had (almost) no plumbing and electricity for only part of the day. In 2003 we had electricity for 24 hours a day through a battery-powered inverter, with the batteries charged each morning from the schol generator. The john was in an out-house about 25 yards distant, and a cold shower was available in an attached "bath" room. I had my own personal cook, Madame Resius (see right), who also bought my food (with my money) and kept the place clean. She fed me well the nine months (more or less) that I lived there. Her wages, high for Haiti, were $15 a six-day week.

My teaching job got under way immediately. I had high school sophomore Zach (see left, studying with his mother) for three subjects: "advanced" math, chemistry, and physics. High school senior Gabi (see right, the smudges were intentional) attended physics only. We had textbooks especially prepared for home schooling, which included problems, tests, and experiments (physics and chemistry). We had each subject three times a week, so there were never more than two classes in any one day. Both young people were extremely bright and industrious as well. It was a delight to teach them. Because they were faithful in doing all "homework", they were quick to understand each new item of study, and over the year I was able to add approximately 50% to the content of each subject. In math, for instance, I covered the rudiments of differential and integral calculus, which I took in college, with Zach.In physics, we went into the theory behind modern appliances such as radio, television, computers, and even power generation and distribution. In chemistry, whose text was strictly inorganic chemistry, I covered a lot of organic chemistry including some that went on in a living cell.

Early in the first Sunday morning, I went to the out-house. When I tried to leave, the door refused to open! What was I to do? No one would miss me until time to go to church! I banged on the door with both hands for at least 15 minutes, and the door finally burst opened.

Mary Jo's Memorial Service

I had planned to come out for two weeks after the first two weeks, as I wasn't sure that I would have all I would need on a permanent stay. And Will wanted me to visit him in Little Rock AR, where his family then lived. I had no longer been back two weeks when I had to come out again to attend Mary Jo's memorial service. Here I had a chance to bond more closely with Chuck (see left) and Carol (see right). All of Mary Jo's grandchildren and great-grandchildren were present, as was Margaret and Lynne. Also the Henney family was well represented. It was a mini family reunion and though a sad occasion, it was good to be associated with these kinfolk once again.

Some of Other People at HAFF

The ladies who presided over the activities at HAFF are shown at left. From left to right. they are: Paige Motis, wife of Dr. Motis, who is the ECHO representative at HAFF; the ECHO intern, gaining experience for her third world career; Connie Curilla, who was practically running the place alone before the Van Schoycks came in 1994, and still participates in about everything going on at HAFF: and Barb Van Schoyck, who manages the school staff, and conducts many ministries among the ladies in the surrounding towns. The gentleman on the right is Met Gabrielle, the principal of the school, with responsibility for insuring compliance with Haiti's educational requirements, discipline, oversight of teachers, and teaching some classes himself.

HAFF not only runs the Bohoc Technical Institute, but conducts many ministries among the people who live for miles around. Among these is a medical clinic donated and erected by Builders Beyond Borders, an eye clinic, and a dental clinic run by Dr. Jerry Pennington (see right), who, though not officially on the HAFF staff, spends six months or more each year at HAFF to meet the dental needs of the surrounding population. Greg and Zach take the Jesus film (in Creole) to neighboring towns some times reachable only by mountain paths, where the equipment has to be carried by mule. Hundreds of Haitiens have come to Christ through this ministry.

Each year Barb Van Schoyck conducts a new discipling group of ladies known as Godly Women (see left, where they are visiing a neighboring village). A similar program exists called Godly Men (see right, where the annual class is graduating). Barb also has a milk program to insure adequate nourishment for babies, and a program with mothers teaching them cooking, sewing, sanitation, nutrition, and other home activities where primitive practices formerly pevailed.

A major ministry is conducted for visiting teams of persons from churches, medical teams, veterinary teams, pastors, etc., who come to HAFF usually for one week and are housed and guided by the local staff to perform whatever ministry they are engaged in, usually requiring an interpretor as well. Many of the professional people come back year after year to minister to the local population. Greg is usually the one who travels that horrible 42 miles to return the latest visiting team, and fetch the new one. When not busy doing a thousand and one other things, Greg busies himself in new construction, in this case, as shown above on left and right, preparing to more than double the size of the dining porch for visitors, and the kitchen as well.

A Haitien evangelist came to the Bohoc area many years ago and converted a large percentage of the local people, resulting in a dozen or more churches within a 20 mile radius of Bohoc. One such church is just across the street from HAFF's campus, as shown in the photo at left, where the congregation is assembling for a service. The photo on the right shows how proud the Haitien people are of their children, for even as poor as they are they dress their children beautifully.

During her summer break from university in 2005, Gabi spent the entire summer teaching leaders in six different churches how to conduct VBS classes. In the photo on the left, she is shown at the extreme right of one of her graduating classes. On the right see Gabi and Zach preparing for such a class.

All is not work. In the picture to the left, Zach is playing his trombone, as his band participates in a parade. In the picture to the right, Zach is off to somewhere on his motorbike.

Another activity which has been a boon to the local women, many of whom have little shops in nearby Pignon where they offer beautiful crafts and linens. Barb thought of setting up a little store at HAFF, called "vandolit," where these women's products could be bought by visiting team members. Here on the left we see Harry and Jane Volckner from ECHO making their selections. At the right you can see some of the beautiful quilts the women make, which may be bought at the store. I spent quite a few hours setting up the inventory and price list for over one hundred such vendors.

The Political Upheaval in Haiti

As you no doubt remember, Haiti had a violent political upheaval in early 2004, and though things were relatively quiet in Bohoc, the Van Schoycks decided to come out for three weeks, and of course I came with them and continued my teaching with Gabi and Zach at their place in Cape Coral. The media made so much of this disturbance, that a TV station sent two news people to Haiti for a number of days, two of which were spent with us at the school. They were so intrigued with my being an intern in a third-world country at age 90, that I got quite a bit of footage on their final releases back in Fort Myers. The local newspaper also sent a newsman and a photographer, who also gave us two days, so HAFF and its personnel and activities got quite a lot of favorable publicity.

Even if the majority of Haitiens seem to have difficulty in maintaining a stable government, the people in the plateau area where Bohoc is located are peaceful, hard-working, and friendly. It is a joy to get to get to know some of them. Near the end of my stay, I set up a computer training class with several used notebook computers we bought through the Internet. Now, several years later, that class is still going strong, with some of the teachers learning to use the computer.

Finally, near the end of May 2004 my teaching assignment wound up and I returned to my condo in Cape Coral, with very pleasant memories of those nine months as a part of the Van Schoyck family.

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