In Minnesota, when we think of July, we think of vacations. Going “up north” to the cabin. Camping. Fishing. Maybe a trip to Disney World.
Not Jim Schultz, EFH Vice President of Field Operations. In July of 2014, he and his two daughters, ages 17 and 21, joined a mission trip to Haiti where they worked in the blistering heat to build a well that is now providing safe drinking water to the village of Kabayi.
Jim is no stranger to mission trips. He has done youth development and disaster relief work in Louisiana, Texas and Missouri. When Jim signed on to go to Haiti, it would be his sixth trip, and his first out of the United States.
His church congregation, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, MN, partnered with Minnesota-based Haitian Outreach, to bring a group of 15 people – 3 adults and 12 children – on an 8 night trip to Haiti.
The journey alone was arduous. The group flew into Port-au-Prince and transferred onto a small puddle-jumper aircraft to Pignon where they landed on a grass airstrip. From there they rode in the back of a truck 25 miles down a dirt road to get to the site of their well project.
Working side-by-side with members of the local community, the group’s task was to build a well house to protect the new well from damage. Everything was made by hand, even mixing and forming concrete blocks. “At the end of the trip, we attended the 2-hour well dedication ceremony”, said Jim. “The people were so grateful. The ceremony included rules of well use and much chanting and singing to bless the well. Prior to this, they had to walk 3-4 miles to the river and carry 5 gallon buckets of dirty water back to the village. Now, they use the safe well water for cooking and drinking. It will make such a difference. This water means life to them.”
The trip wasn’t all work. Over the course of their stay, the group’s interpreter, a young Haitian man named Ben, joined them in visiting a local orphanage, church community, hospital and factories where sugar cane and rum were manufactured.
“I think the biggest take-away was how warm and openhearted the local people were,” said Jim. Even though they had dirt floors and no electricity, they were so proud and welcoming. They opened their homes and hearts to us. It made all of us feel good about giving such wonderful people the opportunity to have safe water.”
Jim is already thinking about putting his construction skills to use on his 7th mission trip.