FBC men help move Haitian church

Published 12:02 am Saturday, July 16, 2011

Neal Dansby stands beside a ‘tap tap’ during his trip to Haiti in June. | Courtesy photo

A group of seven local men recently traveled to the earthquake-ravaged Haitian town of Jacmel and the surrounding areas, to work on moving a church.

The seven-member team, all from the men’s ministry at Andalusia’s First Baptist Church, is the second from the church to embark on a mission to the country this year.

In January, a group of nine, including FBC pastor Fred Karthaus traveled to Haiti for a medical mission trip.

The January 2010 earthquake that hit Haiti caused heavy damage and casualties in and around Jacmel.

It was reported that between 300 and 500 people were dead, and some 4,000 injured in the city.

Those traveling on the June trip were Eric Searcy, Brent Maddox, Joe Parker, Will Parker, Wendell Ray, Elliott Dansby and Neal Dansby.

The group flew into the Haitian capital of Port au Prince, and completed a mission from June 4 through June 11.

“We landed in Port au Prince, and took a raggedy van to Jacmel,” Neal Dansby said. “Each day we would go six or seven miles down the coast. It’s all just one road.

“Initially, our major task was to move a church,” Dansby said. “The church was like a pole frame barn. It was built on land not owned by the church, and the land owner said, ‘You have to get off or pay me.’”

Dansby said that nearly everything is corrupt in Haiti.

“They had to get out and move the church,” he said. “We took down the church and moved it 150 yards through palm trees, corn and banana trees to where another group had built a foundation out of rock.”

Dansby said when they got the church to the new site, they had to stretch it because the foundation was slightly larger than the original church.

“We could have built it from scratch quicker than what it took us to stretch it,” he said.

Dansby said whenever the group wanted to go somewhere they would “load up” in a “tap tap,” which is an older model Toyota or Datsun truck that has a camper shell that has been raised with a bench on it.

“We’d all ride together, and our knees would be knocking,” he said. “We had 10-12 people with us. Some would pass us that would have 20-30 people on them. They’d have goats, firewood and all sorts of things tied to the top of them. The poor truck would be scraping.”

Dansby said the main thing he took from the trip was how blessed Americans are.

“There is no infrastructure in Haiti,” he said. “Pastor Frankie, who was the Haitian minister there, said when he was a young child that there was no difference between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. There were jobs and such. Only has Haiti become like it is in the last 30 years.

“We knock our government,” he said. “But when you see the effect of government it’s different.”

Dansby said he learned just how materialistic Americans are.

“We are probably the most complaining and ungrateful people,” he said. “We let our materialistic side go ahead of what’s important – the afterlife.

“We are spoiled and blinded,” he said. “But they are happy people. They take care of each other.”

While Dansby said there is an 80 percent unemployment rate, everyone has to work.

“They are strong,” he said. “We had a gas generator that we stored at the bottom of the mountain. We had one guy who would run that generator up the mountain for us.”

Additionally, they observed a young boy who had a homemade spear gun he used for fishing.

“One afternoon, he was coming out of the water and had a large amount of big aquarium fish,” Dansby said. “He had shot them with his spear gun. He was swimming and getting food for his family. It was for survival.”

Dansby said the Haitian people’s habits remind him of people here some 150 years ago.

“They are very self-sufficient,” he said. “The infirmed don’t make it. There were some who had goiters on the their necks or a tooth ache, but that’s about it.”

Orphaned children were also on their list to visit, Dansby said.

“We went to an orphanage with 42 kids,” he said. “Out of those 42, only five go to school.”

Dansby said school costs $50 a year, and only five had relatives that could afford the tuition.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity for another school,” he said.

While no one received Christ during the mission, Dansby said they planted seeds.

“They saw us working,” he said. “The work conditions are hard work for us. We think it’s humid around here, it ain’t nothing compared to there. It was a sauna oven. I would literally start sweating when I walked outside.”