by Mary Friedman
On Saturday, February 10, Mark Pohlman, Karen Pohlman, Anne Landry, and Mary Friedman drove to New York and stayed overnight at a motel near JFK Airport. We flew out Sunday morning, arriving in Port-au-Prince at 1:10pm. We stayed at Wall’s International Guest House.
Morning Meeting with Board of CONASPEH
Present: Pastor Francois Villier, Bishops of CONASPEH, Dr. Mark Pohlman, Darrell Cantrell, (Kansas City) Bill Skallecamp, (Kansas City) Karen Pohlman, Anne Landry, Mary Friedman
This was the first meeting of the Bishops of CONASPEH since the death of Patrick Villier.
Bishop Daniel Exantus, General Secretary of CONASPEH, opened the meeting with a hymn and prayer and introductions.
Welcome and Thanks
Bishop Francois Villier is the new Executive Director of CONASPEH. (Pastor Yvon has assumed her previous role as Director of the Pre-K- 13 College St. Andre.) – Francois welcomed us all as the first group to visit CONASPEH after her husband’s death. She said that she has family related to her by blood, and that every day God gives her new family. She has decided to live so that Patrick’s work continues. They were together for 35 years. She will continue God’s work. Some changes have begun that will occupy her.
She thanked Lucy Cassells for her financial help. She thanked everyone for their cards and calls and e-mails of support. She thanked the Bishops for their support and prayers and for all who came to visit her and her family.
She said she wants to move on and to go with her brothers and sisters who want to stay with CONASPEH. Her words were interspersed with frequent long moments of respectful silence allowing Francois to re-collect herself and to continue. Everyone fell silent to allow her time to regain strength.
Plans and Dreams
Francois said that she is building a permanent concrete wall at the entrance area of the headquarters which will have a plaque commemorating her husband, Patrick. (We witnessed the progress of this project each day at CONASPEH.) They will have a special day every year to celebrate and remember his life and contributions with many special activities for the whole campus.
They had received a large truck container of food and supplies from Puerto Rico for the churches in Haiti which would be given to the pastors to distribute to the most needy.
Francois spoke of improving the cafeteria section at CONASPEH by enlarging the space, adding some new equipment such as a large fan for ventilation, and modernizing the area with wood paneling. She also mentioned the need to try to enclose the central section of the classroom building to reduce the dust. She has a plan to start a one-year midwife assistant program which would have classes two days a week. A clinic for the school and the adjoining neighborhood is being set up on the first floor of the classroom building and the nursing lab is being moved adjacent to it. A doctor is needed to staff it.
Francois’ son Franz will come from Florida to help put in a t.v. and skype for conference calls. She wants to improve security by having a check in system to scan ids of everyone entering the campus. (We saw a new enclosure which has been built for this purpose at the entrance. Someone checks each person who walks through the gate.)
Bishop Daniel spoke about the dreams for the guest house for visiting students and others on the land our church purchased for CONASPEH . Francois said they want to speak with an engineer to help clear the land so they can begin to improve the space with what money they have.
BishopTerminot, who is also a mid-wife, has land in the central plateau for a vocational school, theology school, and nursing school which would serve five neighborhoods.
Bishop Jean-Baptiste shared his vision of CONASPEH and expressed the strong support which the Board of Bishops will give to Francois in her new position.
Bishop Guy Romeus spoke in praise of Patrick Villier.
Francois continued by saying that she never wanted to know how much money Patrick had. When they married, they never had problems about money. When he died, she found only $3,000 in his account. She explained how they believed that it is CONASPEH’S mission to share with all their neighbors who are sick or need surgery, are homeless, or cannot find food. She also shared the example of Obed’s family and how CONASPEH provided an education to all the five brothers who worked hard and have done so well.
Next we worked out a tentative program for the week and then took a tour of the campus. We saw where the new clinic and nursing lab are being set up. We also visited classrooms and greeted the students with Francois. Then, while Darrell and Bill met with Francois, Mark and Karen showed the obstetrical mannequin to the Nursing Director, Madame Alabre, and helped her set it up. The school nurse Miss Fanor joined the group to view the video that was made at the nursing lab at American International College about the mannequin. Madame Alabre reported that twenty nursing students finished their five months of clinical rotations. Two students took the state licensing exam for nurses last September but have not heard their results yet. In order to be fully licensed by the state, the Ministry of Health must visit the school three times to see if the school is ready for licensure. The clinic must be set up before the final license will be granted.
Anne and Mary assembled the supplies they brought and packed the twenty-five nursing bags which were donated by church members last December as alternative Christmas gifts. Dr. Jay sent a laptop for our translator, Cedrak, and he and the other translator joined us for dinner at the Guest House.
On Tuesday we arrived at school by 8 am and were able to witness the opening ceremony with flag raising and a student band playing the national anthem! (They always need instruments and welcome donations!) The students all line up and wait respectfully through this ceremony. We visited a CONASPEH school and church in an area of Port-au-Prince called Sarthe and met Bishop Fontus. It is a small school but could accommodate more students if there was funding for this. Each class we visited greeted us with a welcome song. We heard singing in the church as well and asked to visit. Inside a prayer service was in progress. Mary and Mark both addressed the small group and they sang “How Great Thou Art” in Kreyol. It is always very moving to participate, even for a short time, in Haitian worship!
When we returned to CONASPEH we met with a large group of the scholarship students sponsored by our church. We asked if some of them wanted to write a letter that we could share with our congregation to help raise money for the scholarship fund drive in the spring.
In the afternoon we met again with Francois. We spoke together about the qualities necessary for being a missionary in Haiti: he/she must have a clear mission and be willing to work hard 4-5 days a week, learn the language, and not behave as a tourist in the country. He/she should have a car and be able to help in the clinic, make gardens in the country, and teach in the school. They must understand Haiti’s culture, work collaboratively, and not have a sense of superiority. They should not expect things to move at a fast pace. “Haitians travel by donkey.” We reminisced about the missionaries we have known. Global Ministries has a missionary for CONASPEH who is a Haitian man who came with a group last year. Francois suggested that Darrell and Mark might talk with Angel Rivera regarding the desirable qualities for a missionary in Haiti.
There followed a discussion of financial donations to CONASPEH through Global Ministries. GM only sends money four times a year. Francois needs to pay the teachers and directors once a month. If they work at CONASPEH, they get paid by CONASPEH. CONASPEH has not received any more money from the Korean Presbyterians who funded the building of the new school.
Francois honored us by sharing the whole story of Patrick’s illness and death and how difficult it was to go to five different hospitals in Haiti before finally having him flown to the U.S. She has submitted the receipts from his hospitalization to Global Ministries as requested but so far has not received reimbursement. Angel Rivera, the Director of Global Ministries for Latin America and the Caribbean, will arrive on February 23.
Darrell and Bill met with some of the scholars from the “Bridge of Hope” program they support. In the afternoon Anne taught a class to the nursing students about how young children acquire language, how parents can help them, and some of the problems that may arise in language development. She had lots of handouts for them in French on this topic.
On Wednesday Anne and Mary were picked up by Frenaud Dorilien and driven out to his home in Bon Repos to visit his family and his father’s church and school there. They got a tour of the new family home that is under construction and enjoyed a lavish Haitian dinner courtesy of Madame and Joanne Dorilien. Frenaud’s sister Agate is supported by Owen and Marilyn Sutton and will graduate from her nursing program March 26.
Mark and Karen spoke with a Haitian who owns a Solar Panel business and toured a local company that is entirely lit and air-conditioned by solar power. This man came to CONASPEH to assess the suitability of the buildings for solar panel installation and will provide an estimate for this project. Darrell and Bill visited an orphanage. Mark, Karen, Bill, and Darrell enjoyed lunch with some CONASPEH staff and interpreters provided by Francois.
Later on Wednesday afternoon Mark and Karen demonstrated the obstetrical mannequin to the nursing students and each of them got to attempt the “Leopold Maneuver” to determine the position of the baby in utero. Then the students watched the video of the use of the mannequin.
On Thursday morning Karen left for the airport early. Then Mark and Anne and Mary went to the National Museum of Haitian History and Art in central Port-au-Prince and also visited the statue commemorating the slave revolt of 1791 which led to the Haitian revolution. We made a short stop to show Anne the famous Hotel Olaffson.
Later that afternoon we presented each nursing student with a bag from our church that contained a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, thermometer, penlight, bandage scissors, and a nurse’s watch. Then Mary taught a class to the nursing students on the Zika virus and gave handouts on this subject in Kreyol.
Darrell and Bill had gone up in the mountains on Thursday to Mirebalais to visit Bishop Terminot and see his church and school and check on the “bean project.” (Darrell had brought 100 pounds of black bean seeds the previous year.) They returned with pictures of the fields that were flourishing with young green bean plants! Darrell and Bill were also gratified to see the progress that the trade school is making at CONASPEH and sense the excitement of the director of that program. They planned to visit the chicken coop project and “pig palace” on Friday.
On Friday morning Mark, Mary, Ann, Darrell, and Bill had an hour-long evaluation meeting to wrap up the week before Mark, Mary, and Anne flew home. Each of us was presented with a hand-carved gift as a memento of the visit.
What a blessing it was for us to see all of our friends again at CONASPEH! Francois asks that we continue to keep her in our prayers as she assumes the duties of her new role, still bearing the load of grief after her many losses. While there was sadness over Patrick’s death, there was also the sense of hope for the continuation of the vision of CONASPEH to help provide support for Haiti’s poorest churches and communities, education for Haiti’s youth, and jobs for Haiti’s future.