The sun dipped in the sky to the west and the heat finally began to ease — though not by much — as I sat with Pastor Diogene in the shade of the Tricotte Orphanage and discussed Starfish business late one warm March afternoon. The children were through with school for the day and had changed from their uniforms into their work-and-play clothes. Some were inside studying while others played on the hard-packed soil in front of the home, and a handful of young girls lingered just far enough away so as not to intrude on our meeting, offering shy smiles and slight waves whenever I’d look up.
As Diogene and I moved from one topic to another, I noticed a short, slender figure crest the hill on the path that led up from the river. The man recognized us before he was near enough that I could see him clearly and headed our way, but soon the sharp features of the fit, middle-aged Pastor Remy Heclatan of our Champagne School came into focus and I rose to greet him.
Pastor Remy had traveled two hours by “tap-tap” and wore the tell-tale dust that often accompanies such a journey. Tap-taps, the primary means of public transportation in Haiti, are pickup trucks–usually small ones–fitted with make-shift wooden racks designed to facilitate the largest number of passengers possible. It’s not unusual to see a Nissan tap-tap with more that two dozen Haitians hanging on for dear life as the vehicle barrels down the road. Perhaps it’s a good thing that, given the state of the roads in Haiti, “barreling” seldom results in speeds of more than 30mph.
And the sole purpose of Pastor Remy’s dusty, hot, and bumpy trek was to hand-deliver a message of thanks and encouragement to me, and to ask me to pass it on to all of you. Here’s his letter:
In the school committee’s name and I, we find a pleasure to send to you this card in occasion of dedicating this new building. So that to thank you for your spirit of sacrifice, coming here to Champagne to help us in building this school, giving the food to children and wages to teachers, etc. We don’t forget you and we know your labor in the Lord is not in vain, for your labor will follow you.
For the committee,
Remy J Heclatan
There were tears of joy in his eyes as Pastor Remy expressed how thankful he and the village of Champagne are to God for bringing Starfish Ministries to them.
We began supporting the school in Champagne three years ago, and we have seen tremendous growth there as well as in our other schools. When we started, there were roughly 200 hungry students in Champagne, struggling in a primitive, overcrowded building. Now, through your faithful financial support, more than 300 students not only study and learn in a new five-room schoolhouse but also receive a hot meal each day. And it’s clear that this school is effective. The students recently took part in an educational competition among several area schools, and finished in first place!
Our educational ministry is expanding, too. In the village of Eau-Janvier, four classes of a total of approximately 200 children have been packed into a 30’ x 30’ covered area that wouldn’t pass for a decent carport in the United States. But not for long. We are just completing construction of five new classrooms. And our daily feeding program continues there as well.
We are so thankful to God for the opportunity to minister to these children’s needs, and not just their educational needs but their physical and spiritual needs as well. And we thank you, as well, for your partnership in this ministry with us.
Serving the Lord together,
Bernie & Sheryl Bovenkamp