Cross completes third mission trip to Haiti
by Rick Nichols
Jo Cross recently returned to Oskaloosa following an eight-day mission trip to Haiti, her third trip to the West Indian nation since it was devastated by an earthquake in January of 2010.
Cross, a member of the Oskaloosa United Methodist Church, spent March 10-17 in Haiti with six other Kansans. The group journeyed to the island nation, one of the poorest countries in the world, to help build a Methodist church in Nan Zeb through United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.
“It (the trip) was very, very rewarding,” Cross told me during an interview at her home the afternoon of March 25. “My passion is mission.”
Cross said that while she and the other volunteers were in Nan Zeb, they labored alongside residents of the rural community to create a concrete foundation for the church and then started constructing block walls for it. She said the footings for the structure were formed in 2014 during a UMVIM trip that brought a group of volunteers from Andover to La Gonave, the island on which Nan Zeb is located.
Cross reported that the local workers included some of the women. She said that with the aid of what amounted to a cloth basket, they would carry buckets containing sand or rocks on their heads to the construction site, where water would be added to these materials to produce cement.
According to Cross, the continuing presence of the volunteers had a significant impact on the local economy. She pointed out that not only did the actual construction of the church put people to work, but that because meals had to be prepared for her and her companions on a regular basis, that, too, put people to work.
Cross said that in addition to helping with the effort to get the church built as soon as possible, the volunteers made a monetary donation in support of the project so much-needed supplies could be purchased.
Cross said the man who oversees the operation of the Methodist churches in and around Nan Zeb – she referred to him as the superintendent – was always around whenever the volunteers were working on the church. She also reported that the Haitians she and the other volunteers met liked to have their pictures taken and liked to teach them how to play their favorite games. “We made some lasting friends,” she said.
The volunteers stayed in a private home while they were in Nan Zeb and spent four nights there altogether. Two of the remaining three nights found them at a United Methodist Church guesthouse in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital, and that other night saw them sleeping in Anse-a-Galets, which also is located on La Gonave.
After arriving at the airport in Port-au-Prince, the volunteers traveled by van the next day to meet the ferry that would take them to Anse-a-Galets, then boarded two sport utility vehicles for what would be a bumpy ride to Nan Zeb. Once on the island, the group was joined by two translators. “Having two translators really, really helped,” said Cross, who reported that Haitian adults primarily speak French.
According to Cross, Haiti has been experiencing a drought for the past three years, which has greatly limited the ability of its people to grow food that can, in turn, be sold to bring in a little money. She said that aside from making charcoal, for which there is something of a demand, raising crops and producing souvenirs tourists are willing to buy are the only means by which Haitians can earn a living.
Cross left Haiti with a few souvenirs she plans to eventually give to various members of her family. The collection includes a colorful ornament fashioned out of paper, Christmas ornaments made out of pieces of a metal oil drum, a manger created out of a coconut shell and clay figurines to go with it to form a Nativity scene, and a snail’s shell.
“The only way Haiti is going to survive is for the people to learn how to take care of themselves,” said Cross, who visited the country for the first time in 2012 and made a second trip a year later.
According to Cross, rice and beans are the two main dishes in Haiti. But the people also like to eat peanut butter and Spam, she said.
Cross said malnutrition is a real problem among the people. “If they eat two meals a day, they’re rich,” she commented.
Married to Dean Cross, Cross is the president of the United Methodist Women at the Methodist church here.
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