By: Megan A. Wilson, Contributing Writer
This year a Boyne area woman has learned just how much she has to be thankful for.
Lisa Skop returned from Haiti Oct. 15, where she volunteered with other Harbor Light Community Church Members at the Bonnett School and tent city on a week-long mission.
“The people there have so little, and they’ve been devastated time after time. We have so much, I felt motivated to go,” said Skop. “I wanted to share my faith with them and to give them hope.”
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, was struck by an earthquake that registered 7.0 on the Richter scale in 2010, and was a multinational tragedy that killed scores of people.
“The group that went was coordinated by Harbor Light Community Church, they have gone many different times,” Skop said. “ When it was brought up that the Grays were going again, I signed on. Dr. Bill Gray and his wife Carol have been going since the ’90s.”
The Red Mesa Grill, of Boyne City, and its employees helped fund Skop’s trip, as she called Country Beers and Patricia Lounsbury instrumental in helping to raise funds from her coworkers.
“I’ve been at Red Mesa for a long time, and I asked everyone to pitch in and I thought that it was a great cause … I’ve always wanted to do missionary work,” said Lounsbury. “It’s a great opportunity for work, and that Lisa will be able to share the Word with people who are in unfortunate circumstances. “
The trip to Haiti cost $1,400 dollars which included airfare, meals and transportation.
“We believe in supporting our employees. If an employee comes to me with an issue that they feel strongly about then I want to support them and get behind them,” said Mary Palmer, one of the Red Mesa Owners. “We really like to target the school system and the Manna Food Project—the money we raise goes towards the Boyne City Food Pantry.”
There were a total of five mission teams that went on the trip with Skop: medical, construction, vacation bible, food distribution and campus.
“For my wife and I it is just a privilege to serve. I retired from medicine to do missionary work; Haitians are wonderful people,” said Dr. Bill Gray. “The big thing, since I’ve started going in 1999, is that the health of the Haitians has gone up dramatically in the areas that we serve.”
One of the remarkable stories that happened while the mission was in Haiti involved a young family that lived close to the mission. A new mother wasn’t eating well and that resulted in her milk drying up.
“Through prayer and effort we were able to save the baby’s life at the hospital,” said Pastor Gary Mindel. “The day we were leaving, the mom’s milk came back and things were looking good for them.”
Dr. Gray and the rest of the medical team saw 400 patients.
One day they were at the clinic and the rest they traveled throughout the countryside seeing those who could not make it to the clinic.
“The second team is the construction team. This trip we did two projects; there was a family that lived close to the mission and we rebuilt the upper walls and forms for the house,” said Mindel. “In January a team will go and put the roof on them.”
Rural water coverage in Haiti continues to be the lowest in the Western hemisphere, with only 55 percent of the population having access to an improved drinking water source compared to an average of 80 percent for rural areas in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the latest available figures from WHO and UNICEF.
“We had to mix the concrete by hand and do everything by hand, getting the water,” said Mindel. “The house was probably 12-by-30 (feet) and would house approximately seven to nine people.”
The third team on the mission was the vacation bible team, which was centered on bringing Christianity to Haiti.
“I volunteered with the bible school for children. We did two sessions a day at a school called ‘Bonnet Schools’ and we went to a tent city in the afternoon,” said Skop. “The children we helped ranged from 5 to 15 years old.”
In Haiti, promotion from grade to grade is not automatic, and parents must pay for a child’s schooling.
“I sponsor a child for $35 a month and it pays for his schooling and gives him a meal a day his parents couldn’t pay,” said Skop. “I was able to meet him and it was wonderful. His name is Jouberson Compere.”
She added, “One of the things that I was touched by when I learned about going to Haiti was that, to give a goat to someone is just huge to them. I knew that if I could give a goat to a family it would be so helpful. It would give them milk, and when the goat has a kid they give the first kid away to another family, after that then they sell the next one.”
A typical family in Haiti has a yearly income of $350. The average goat cost $60.
“I was able to raise enough money for 19 goats—it was over $1,100,” Skop said. “We gave all the teachers and the administrators of the Bonnett school goats one day.”
This time the food distribution team was able to provide roughly 4,700 pounds of beans and rice, or 150 families worth.
“We go to the market and buy the food and then sort it out into family packs,” said Mindel. “Each family pack will feed a family of six for a couple of weeks.”
The last team to accompany the mission is the campus team, or those that stay and serve the actual mission meals.
“Our kitchen person got up at 5a.m. in the morning so that everyone could be fed by 7 a.m., she made approximately 210 meals while we were there,” said Mindel “Her name is Beverly Hepler, and she would make sure everyone’s meal was prepared. She was invaluable; that was her second time doing the same job.”
Another project that was done while the mission was in Haiti was the distribution of pillowcase dresses and hygiene kits to the villagers that was organized by Kathy Sutton and Stephanie Smith.
“I went through the Boyne Area Schools and talked to the students and organized a lot of things to take on the mission trip. I was the fundraiser coordinator for this trip,” said Sutton. “ I raised $6,000 to help people go on the trip and pay for beans and rice.”
There were originally supposed to be 13 traveling to Haiti, but Sutton was sidelined due to illness.
“We had 300 hygiene kits that Harbor Light Community Chapel Youth Group helped pack,” said Sutton. “We made 400 pillowcase dresses, and we’re still collecting more pillowcases. I’d like to expand to collect boys clothing as well.”
If anyone would like to donate pillowcases, call Kathy Sutton at 582-2902 for details.