By Joe Korba
I have a tendency to get nostalgic this time of year. The holiday season always makes me reflect and get a little sentimental. I take stock of all the good and the bad that has happened since this time last year. I also think of Thanksgivings and Christmases past, the family and friends that are no longer with us. It can sometimes be a melancholy exercise, reminiscing, but there is so much to be thankful for, and so much to look forward to in the future, that I never slip into the easy traps of cynicism or pessimism.
This past year I was struck by what a great community our paper has the opportunity to serve. So many of the people we work with are selling products, or holding events, for charity. Our readers are truly some of the most civic-minded and giving people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. The “Blue Mountain Blowout” event back in September was a perfect example of this charitable spirit. Over the course of a few hours we raised hundreds of dollars and collected over 225 pounds of food for the NL Food Bank. Who says that neighbors don’t look out for one another anymore? That’s what I’m thankful for this year, the wonderful community that supports the Gazette and, most importantly, each other.
Below I’ve included an article sent to me by Reverend Roger Rinker, of Lehigh Township, who takes the idea of charity and helping one’s neighbors global with his Operation: A Vision ministry. Rev. Rinker and other missionaries travel to impoverished nations and help the poor in any way that they can. Rev. Rinker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rev. Roger Rinker
Why do some people do what they do? For some, it may be a compulsion, for others it may be the love and compassion of God.
Having helped build housing for earthquake victims in Fond Paresien, Haiti on my last mission trip, I did not hesitate when I received an invitation to return. The project this time was to help build a new marketplace. The marketplace’s importance cannot be overstated. The families living in Fond Paresien currently have nowhere to sell any crops they grow, cattle they’ve raised, or products they’ve made. It is also a place where people can start a business and ultimately give employment to hundreds of impoverished people.
The mission was accomplished, in spite of Super Storm Sandy, which pounded the area, dumped more than 20 inches of rain in one day and completely cut off the Love A Child Mission headquarters where I was staying for several days. During the six weeks I was there, myself and another person cleared 16-acres of land that was previously covered in pecan trees (not the nut-bearing kind, pecan in Creole means “sticker” or “thorny”) and cactuses, dug drainage ditches and built roads so that the market would be accessible.
The roots of the trees we were excavating are extremely valuable. The hardwood, if processed properly, will create some of the most expensive charcoal available. Because of this, the locals all wanted to be the first to lay their hands on a precious stump. They would actually jump in front of the bulldozer I was operating to claim their prize. Of course, when more than one person thought a stump was rightfully theirs a dispute would arise. Did I mention that nearly all of the Haitians, young and old, male and female alike, were carrying machetes that when not being used to chop wood could make very effective weapons?
One day, a deaf woman had an altercation with a very possessive man who also laid claim to a large stump I had just uncovered. A tug-of-war erupted, with the woman’s young daughter coming to her mother’s aid. The man became aggressive with the young girl, causing the mother to become very defensive. She placed her daughter in the midst of a circle she drew on the ground with a machete and threatened the man with the sharp bladed weapon, daring him to cross the line. Knowing that she clearly meant business, he walked away defeated and stump-less. It really made me think about how far you would go to protect a loved one.
During my time in Haiti, which I will carry with me forever, I faced many challenges: crossing temporary bridges that had been heavily damaged by the hurricane, riding in taxis through floodwater that poured in through the doors and nearly covered the hood while trying to catch the once-a-week flight from Port Au Prince to New York City. I was sprayed with hot hydraulic oil when a line on the dozer broke. We had to brave the streets of the capitol city during a riot while we transported an orphan to the airport so she could get life saving heart surgery in NYC. The citizens of Port Au Prince were rioting for food, building roadblocks, and throwing burning tires into the street but we still managed to get her to the airport.
Three children died from malnutrition during my stay on the island, people were rioting because they had no food to feed their families, many earthquake refugees still living in tests are dying. But, God is still in control.