Helping Haiti

Local church’s mission has become tradition

A tradition that started nearly a decade ago at First United Methodist Church continues to make strides in poverty- and disaster-stricken Haiti.

Nine member from First United served missions in Haiti from Feb. 8 to Feb. 17 and shared the progress relief and mission groups continue to make in the area. This year, Tom Klein, along with his son, Neil, and wife, Sherry, joined Jan and Gary Medgaarden, Jim and Patty Schafer, Cathy Reiber and Kay Kassube. Together, they helped repair a roof destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and hold a vacation Bible school for children. While in Haiti, the group slept in a Methodist church in the mountainous region of Furcy.

The group also facilitated two community meals, which filled the stomachs of many Haitians who wouldn’t have eaten those nights, Klein said.

Klein first went to Haiti in 2008. His wife went for her third time, and his son for the second time this year. Though Klein wasn’t in there right after the earthquake leveled much of region more than three years ago.

“I was really, really impressed with the progress that they made,” Klein said. “I didn’t really see any damaged buildings. I saw piles of rubble here and there, but there was a lot of activity going on, roads being repaired, buildings being built.”

Klein and the group, once again, were only part of a bigger effort by the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Members from First United in Austin go to Haiti almost every other year, and the church members always show support through donations and fundraisers.

“Our congregation really supported us well,” Klein said. “Not only our fundraisers, but people would just give us money for no apparent reason.”

Still, as giving as the local congregation may be, or its members who serve in Haiti, the people of Haiti may be more giving.

There’s a common saying, Klein said: “The people of Haiti continually give more than we could give them.”

Seeing people who are still happy and positive in such dire situations is a humbling experience. Expect First United Methodist members to travel to Haiti for years to come.

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