Community of hope
NORTH LIBERTY– Local efforts to build community are reaching well beyond this state’s borders.
Members of Grace Community Church in North Liberty have joined with World Wide Village, the nonprofit organization with a mission to assist the people of Haiti, to develop a medical clinic, professional learning center, agri-business facility and a stronger spiritual community in the cities of Williamson and Luly, Haiti.
After that country’s devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed an estimated 160,000 people and damaged 250,000 homes, Haiti has become dependent on foreign aid, according to World Wide Village. With little in the way of educational opportunities, food shortages and lack of dependable utility service in the rural areas, even bi-annual medical mission trips can’t ensure sustainable health care for the country with the highest infant mortality rate in the western hemisphere, a place where rural residents lack access to doctors and dentists, clean water, sanitation facilities, transportation and electricity.
Still, people like Dr. Matt Anderson and Kim Anderson of Shueyville, Maggie Lamm of Solon and other members of the Grace church community see hope in the World Wide Village effort.
The project is called the City on the Hill, after a verse in Mathew 5:14 in the Christian Bible, and the plan is to build a modern medical clinic in Williamson to supply consistent health care and revitalize the community by providing vocational training, developing programs for strengthening families, teaching effective agricultural practices, improving access to education and technology, and offering leadership training for local church leaders.
In short, the goal is sustainability and self-sufficiency for the people of these Haitian communities.
Dr. Anderson is an internal medicine physician practicing in Cedar Rapids and a member of Grace Community Church. His role as the medical director for the project has taken him on three medical mission trips to Haiti, and his wife Kim has been there twice.
“There is a clear physical need there, and we are trying to integrate what we believe in passionately, and that is Biblical soul care,” said Dr. Anderson. “People have physical, emotional and spiritual needs. So we’ve taken teams of physicians, nurses and medical technicians along with non-clinically trained people who share their faith and strengthen and encourage people who are already believers, to take care of the whole person.”
The long-term vision is to build the clinic and partner with Haitian providers, to train local people in vocational, agricultural and pastoral care. To date, the organization has acquired six-and-a-half acres of land on which to build the clinic, and currently five Haitian Christian pastors are each working with 12 other Haitian individuals to teach them how to minister to others, with support from Grace Community clergy via the Internet video communication tool Skype.
“We can be somewhat effective in setting up periodic medical clinics, but we can make a bigger impact in building on the consistency factor,” said Dr. Anderson.
Even a moderate construction project in Haiti can move at a snail’s pace, and requires basic infrastructure to be built in places currently without electricity or running water.
All of that takes financial resources, as well.
Lamm, who on her first medical mission trip to Haiti helped to provide dental care, returned with an idea to help raise the necessary funds, estimated at between $70,000 to $80,000 for the clinic, or $323,000 total for the first phase of the whole project.
Lamm and a team of five others have organized RunLuly, a 5K run/walk event to benefit the medical clinic project. The first-annual event on Aug. 23 will be professionally-timed, and is for both serious runners and noncompetitive participants. Check-in is from 6:30 until 7:30 a.m., at Heritage Christian School, 255 Hackberry St. in North Liberty. Registration is currently underway; those who register by Aug. 1 will receive a race T-shirt and the discounted fee of $25. After Aug. 1, the fee is $35, and T-shirts are not guaranteed. In addition to the run/walk, the RunLuly event will include a live band, door prizes and raffles. Medals for top finishers in age groups and overall winners will be awarded, as well as a team spirit award.
“We have so many great sponsors and donors,” said Lamm. Major sponsors are the Family Dental Center, MercyCare North Liberty, King Bros. Transport, Blink Vision by Veatch and Internist Associates of Iowa.
“Now we need runners and people who have a passion for God and for Haiti. The timing (for the project) will be His,” Dr. Anderson added.
World Wide Village, based out of the twin cities and run by Randy and Pat Mortensen, has been in place for eight years, and is focused specifically in Haiti. The organization has built two Christian schools there, with the outcome of training and employing Haitian contractors and hiring Haitian teachers for the school population of nearly 600 students.
“Their philosophy is to give Haitian jobs and have them invest in their own communities,” said Dr. Anderson.
It’s an objective that helps people like Kim Anderson maintain hope that changes can be made; difficult in the face of such grave needs.
“I remember a mom who came to the clinic with a two-year-old who had hydrocephalous,” said Kim. “I thought, we take our babies into the doctor and they get checked regularly. The minute something is off, we get it taken care of immediately. In Haiti, they don’t have those regular checkups. So here is this child who can’t eat or stand up and has no fine motor skills and probably never will because they didn’t have access to (health care), and now it’s too late. That was one thing that was really hard to see; it’s something we just take for granted.”
Dr. Anderson said the scarcity of clean water illustrated the contrast between our country and theirs as well.
“When was the last time you thought about where you were going to get a drink of water?” he asked. “But it’s a huge reality for them.”
The lack of transportation is another obstacle to meeting basic needs in Haiti, Lamm said.
“People would walk for four hours to get a tooth pulled with no anesthetic, and we would send them away with an aspirin and no water, and they would walk back home four hours,” said Lamm. “A lot of kids only eat one meal a day, at school. There were kids walking an hour to school, without breakfast.”
“It really is about survival for them,” added Dr. Anderson.
Parishioners of Grace Community took their first trip to Haiti in 2012, and they are now looking for other church and medical partners who can help expand the reach and spread the gospel to people who are hungry for spiritual guidance.
“If our goal is to go there and give them our stuff and our lifestyle, and expect them to have the things we have, you’re going to come away disappointed,” he said. “We’re doing it to meet their physical needs, and we legitimately help people in that regard, but that help is temporary. By giving them a gospel-centered focus; if we give them Jesus Christ, give them salvation eternally, we can change a lot of things about Haiti in the way they love each other, and conduct themselves. If one person is saved and benefits by knowing God and making that impact on their family, there’s real hope in that.”
To participate in RunLuly, register online at runluly.com/race-information, print a registration form or find one at either Running Wild in Coralville or We Run in North Liberty, and mail to: Run Luly, c/o Grace Community Church, 2707 Dubuque St. NE, North Liberty, IA, 52317. Make checks payable to World Wide Village. For more information, or to donate to the project, visit runluly.com and like Run Luly on Facebook.