Under the leadership of Immaculate Conception Seminary alumnus Father Yvans Jazon ཁ, M.Div. `07, sixteen volunteers trusting in Jesus journeyed to Haiti to assist with earthquake relief efforts from April 5 through April 12, 2010. The group was accompanied by three additional volunteer priests, one of whom, like Father Yvans, hails from Haiti. The experience was phenomenal for this team of new missionaries, many from the New Jersey parishes of Assumption Church, Galloway Township; St. Joan of Arc Church, Camden; and Christ Our Light Church, Cherry Hill.
The team -- comprised of active and retired business people, high school teenagers, teachers, firemen, retired policemen, photographers, salesmen, contractors and priests -- became one in the body of Christ as its members disembarked at Port au Prince. They then drove through the heavily damaged city and through the mountains to Jacmel. While performing their daily service to the villages within a 50 mile radius, the team stayed in close and limited quarters at the Jacmel Diocesan Center.
The damage from the earthquake is indescribable. Building after building either has crumbled or is structurally damaged. In many ways, life for the Haitian people involves developing a new routine, which, in some cases, means living in their damaged homes during the day and sleeping in their tents outdoors at night. Others learn in outdoor classrooms or set up their goods to sell in front of their damaged storefronts.
From the very beginning, the volunteers delivered large bags of food to villagers in dire need of relief aid. Food for the Poor, Inc. had donated mass quantities of rice, beans, lentils, oil and baby food, which the team apportioned into separate bags and distributed to over 800 families. Additionally, the donations of toiletries from St. Bartholomew Church, Camden, were very much appreciated. Through their service, the team members experienced God's beauty, mercy, love and joy. They traveled to Haiti to give, and they received from the Lord every day. God showed them that everyone's prayers for peace, love, joy and food for the Haitians were being answered.
In the Haitians' poverty, there seemed to be a simplicity to their lives, which many of the missionaries, who lead very complex lives, admired. In one village, the huts were located in what appeared to be a Garden of Eden or a tropical farm, with palm, plantain, mango, breadfruit, sugar cane, coconut and other fruit trees abundant.
The missionaries saw such joy in people all around and found the area to be predominantly Catholic. People welcomed prayer. For the missionaries, it was especially heartwarming to witness the surprise and excitement of Father Yvans's friends and family when they saw him again for the first time in many years. His friends and family were proud to see that he had come home with a mission team delivering food, toiletries, toys, religious medals, scapulars, money, love and prayers to the people of Haiti.
The mission team was blessed every day with many different experiences, such as bringing the Eucharist and gifts to those in the tent hospitals, clinics, daycare centers for the poor, a Catholic church in the process of being built, the Bishop's residence and church and an orphanage still operating around their destroyed facilities.
Though the team accomplished much during its visit to Haiti, much more remains to be done. The team encountered a young man desiring to become an exchange student at Camden Catholic, additional young men desiring to become priests and a man whose clothing shop was crushed during the earthquake. Some of the team members are determined to return to Haiti to provide more help.
The team would like to convey the gratitude and blessings of the people of Jacmel to all who helped to make this mission possible by donating money and supplies, hosting fundraisers, singing in choirs and participating in the Hearts Afire radiothon on WOND-AM. The team members promised the Haitians that they would continue praying for them as they rebuild their lives and look toward the future. Please join them in prayer for these brothers and sisters.
If you would like to view some of the photos from the trip, visit http://www.wix.com/stevekeith/hand-to-hand-in-haiti. Keep checking back, as more will be added over time. Videos and slide shows will be available soon.
For more information, contact Father Yvans Jazon at (609) 652-0008.
Categories: Faith and Service