Cuts, increased salaries

During the past year, I have watched as we have cut support to our community centers, as well as missions overall. I read the daily e-mail sent out from the annual conference sessions, and was dismayed to read that campus ministries was being cut $200,000. We have become one conference and streamlined staff in an effort to meet budget during tough economic times. So could someone please explain to me why a raise for the position of district superintendents was given the okay? A salary package of $100,800 might appear a little excessive in lieu of what the people in our pews are experiencing economically, plus it doesn’t appear to be the best response to Christian stewardship. The people in our pews are faithful givers and we have a responsibility to be forthright in managing those funds. I personally cannot financially support top heavy conference staff salaries with a clear conscience. My only ethical response will be to give my tithe to missions and programs that have been cut, and to encourage all those faithful people in our churches to become aware of how the money they are giving is being allocated, and make sure the allocation is worthy of their giving.

Serena Rasmussen
Indianapolis

Haitian artisans

Bonjour! My name is Tamara Kreigh and I’m a United Methodist Volunteer-in-Mission serving for this next year in Mizak, Haiti with Haitian Artisans for Peace International (HAPI). I moved here on May 13 from Fort Wayne and Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, so I’ve only been here a short while. Let me tell you a little about my life and ministry.

Mizak is a rural community 24 miles up a mountain from the southern coastal city of Jacmel and is more than a three-hour drive from Port-au-Prince. There is no electricity although some people have generators and solar panels. Water is from cisterns and rain barrels. Clean drinking water can be purchased in five-gallon jugs. There is a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, where seasonal produce, fresh meat (slaughtered while you wait) and used clothing may be purchased.

Goats guard my latrine. Roosters wake me, beginning at three each morning. We cook over charcoal and have two solar ovens.

I live at the Peace Inn guest house run by Paul Prevost and his family – wife Amab and daughters: Doris,10, and Majina, 3. Paul also is the Haitian head of HAPI. Lorelei Verlee and Valerie Mossman-Celestin are the American directors and pastors at the local church. As most people in Mizak, Paul also does subsistence farming.

In this area, two crops a year are sown by hand. At the end of February, fields were planted with corn and black beans, which have already begun to be harvested. The corn is not field or sweet corn but a variety of hardy popcorn which is roasted over charcoal and served for breakfast. Sweet potatoes will be planted after this crop is out of the field.

As a VIM, I have many responsibilities. Primarily, I am the volunteer coordinator working with mission teams which come for post-earthquake reconstruction projects, such as Peace Pals children’s programming; and community health care through the HAPI health clinic. Currently, we have a team building our second earth bag home constructed of “bricks” made by filling 50 pound rice bags with dirt. Bags are stacked and covered with cement stucco. Earth bag homes can withstand hurricanes and earthquakes.

The current team consists of leader Ellen Daiber and Richard Clester, both from Georgetown, Texas and Mike and Carla Windover from Traverse City, Mich.

I thought it would help get the group off to a good start by holding a quick orientation followed by a Love Feast when they first arrived. The trip from the Port-au-Prince airport to Mizak is over mountains. It’s a scenic trip, but long, bumpy and hot.

Love Feasts are similar to Holy Communion in that a group of people invite Christ to sit with them as they share Scripture and prayers over a snack of bread and in our case, some hot chocolate.

The Scripture I chose was 2 Corinthians 9: 9-15. In addition to the team, I invited Paul’s house, the ladies who work in the kitchen, and any neighbors to come and join us in the love feast. As we shared the bread and hot chocolate, we took turns answering the question, “What is your prayer for the week?”

John, who was doing a “remodel” on Paul’s kitchen, joined us. At the time I thought that since my Creole language skills are weak, that the family had misunderstood me by inviting this workman when I really meant to invite the neighbors. I wasn’t going to turn anyone away from sharing time with Jesus.

As the selected Scripture reads, “Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others.” In the next few days, the boss that had begun the construction project quit. John and his son Silas were hired to finish the earth bag house.

John had the longest prayer of all of us when it came to his turn. He thanked the American people for their gifts of money and aid. He asked blessings on each of the team members, thanking God for their presence in his country and for their desire to help Haiti beyond “paying their taxes,” which he understood was the source of the American aid. He asked blessings on the house that the team was building and for the safe keeping of the team.

Tamara Kreigh
Mizak, Haiti

Editors note: For more information about Haitian Artisans for Peace International, visit www.haitianartisans.com. HAPI is registered as an Advance Special #3020490 through The United Methodist Church.

Addition to story

Thank you for including Covenant UMC in the “United Methodist Change the World events…” article in the May-June issue of Together. The other four United Methodist churches from the same cluster of churches with Covenant UMC in the Fort Wayne Area that equally participated in this walk were the Churubusco, Huntertown, Leo and Robinson Chapel United Methodist churches.

David W. Heim. Pastor
Leo UMC