Local church to extend helping hands to Haiti

MIDDLEBURY — The nation of Haiti will mark a somber anniversary on Jan. 12, the date one year ago on which a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated the capital city of Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities.
Members of the Memorial Baptist Church of Middlebury are planning a trip to Haiti with aspirations of making the earthquake anniversary more about hope than about somber reflection.
The church is raising money to send a small group of teens and adults to Port-au-Prince during the spring break of April 16-24 to help clear rubble, visit schools and teach English to Haitian students. Plans call for the church to send a second, small group to Haiti early this summer.
Memorial Baptist Church parishioner Kathleen Smith explained it was last year that the congregation decided to join in the rebuilding of Haiti. Fellow parishioner Jim Logan had returned in June from a trip to Jacmel, a Middlebury-sized community located around 30 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. While there, Logan helped rebuild a home, painted the walls of a health clinic and helped serve meals to school children.
“It was an incredible experience,” Logan recalled on Monday.
Logan’s church colleagues were inspired by what they heard. The church’s humanitarian and spiritual outreach abroad has for the past eight years been directed at Timisoara, Romania. Smith noted the mission there had recently shifted in a different direction, freeing the church up for a new cause.
“I think we were ready for a new calling, where we could be of use,” Smith said. “Jim told us about his experiences, we brought that forward to the church, met, discussed it and voted on supporting it.”
Turns out the Memorial Baptist Church already had a contact in Haiti. Parishioner Moriah Comeau, 17, has an aunt, Carol Comeau, who has served as a missionary in Port-au-Prince for the past 12 years. Carol Comeau — who works with Evangelistic World Outreach — miraculously survived last year’s earthquake and has since been channeling much of her efforts into helping the many people who lost loved ones, limbs and all material possessions except the clothes on their backs.
“My mom and I had talked about seeing if we could get the church to go to Haiti, because my aunt is there and it would be an easy resource,” Moriah Comeau said. “After Jim went and came back and we decided we were going to go to Haiti, I was pretty excited, because no one in my family has ever been down to visit (my aunt).”
Carol Comeau found accommodations for the group, which is in the process of raising the $1,800 to $2,000 per member needed to pay for travel expenses, food and supplies to help people in need. A benefit dinner will be held at the Memorial Baptist Church on Saturday, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. to help whittle away at the funding goal.
The group heading out in April will include Smith and Frank Mazza, along with area high school students Comeau, Hannah Logan and Justus Sturtevant.
Logan will depart with another group in June.
The travelers will study some of the cultural and language traditions of Haiti during the weeks leading up their trip. That knowledge will become more and more ingrained in church members to lay a foundation for future humanitarian trips to Haiti.
“This is the beginning of building a relationship,” Logan said. “I think it is going to be ongoing.”
Comeau is looking forward to meeting her aunt and helping people who have suffered so much.
“Hopefully it will not only be fun, but they will benefit and we will benefit,” Comeau said.
Comeau has been working on a Facebook page for the trip. Until that is ready, information is at the Memorial Baptist Church website at www.memorialbaptistvt.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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