The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

January 22, 2014

First Baptist Church takes medicine, church-builders to Haiti

— DANVILLE — Thirty-nine members of Danville’s First Baptist Church completed their fifth mission trip to Haiti earlier this month.

The trip is taken twice a year, with this being the third year for the trips.

The ages of the volunteers ranged from 12 to 73. “We had people born in seven different decades who went on the trip,” said pastor Dawes Dunham.

The group split up into several teams, each responsible for different projects while in Haiti. One group set up medical clinics in four different villages, traveling to a new one each day. Among their services were vision checks, high blood pressure treatment and driving people with serious injuries to the hospital in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, which was two and a half hours away. “You don’t get anywhere fast in Haiti,” said Dunham. “Traveling is a challenge.”

The villages themselves did not have any medical supplies, so the church group set up what medications they brought along either at a village’s church or in an area outside.

First Baptist member and Geisinger pharmacist Gary Lewis was in charge of coordinating the medical team for the trip. He was also accompanied by two physicians, two nurses, a nurse midwife, several medical students and numerous volunteers.

The case that stuck out to him the most was that of a malnourished young girl. She was two years old but was so small she looked as if she was still only six to eight months.

“The mother was financially unable to provide adequate food. The child was not developing, she was very emaciated,” Lewis said. The group was able to provide nutritional medication for her. In the future, one of Lewis’ goals is to be able to bring more nutritional supplements with him on return trips to Haiti. “There’s a lot of needs down there,” he said.

Another group, led by church member LaRue Brion, helped in the construction of a village church. Brion and fellow church members had previously been Ta’pion in April to help construct the building. Churches are frequently the center of communities in Haitian villages, which makes the buildings very important to the islanders.

“The people who live in the village of Ta’pion do not have the means or finances to do this all by themselves,” Brion said. When Brion first came to Ta’pion, the only place of worship he saw were several pews made out of two by fours with a tarp draped on top of it.

Brion and eight other volunteers, along with a number of villagers, helped put a roof on top of the church on their most recent trip. “They remembered me. It was a great reunion of friends,” Brion said. “We were referred to as brothers and sisters under the Lord.”

By the time Brion’s group left, most of the steel had been placed on the roof. The next step is to pour a concrete floor.

The church’s mission affiliates in Haiti will determine when more work will next be done on Ta’pion’s church, Brion said.

Members of the First Baptist group also had the chance to celebrate Haiti’s Independence Day, which takes place on Jan. 1. One village had 40 to 50 children in attendance for the celebration while the other had 100.

At the villages, the volunteers set up different activity stations for the children where they could participate in events like soccer, basketball, face painting and foam art. Refreshments and gifts were also provided to the children. Presents included flip-flops, notebooks, stuffed animals, tooth brushes, tooth paste and pencils.

The gifts meant a lot to them, Dawes said, as the average Haitian makes only $2 a day.

First Baptist’s next mission trip to Haiti is scheduled from March 28 to April 5.

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Upper Dauphin senior Mac Ney makes a throw in a game against Line Mountain on May 8 in Elizabethville. Ney was named The Daily Item High School Baseball Player of the Year.