by Patricia Brintle
In April 2013, our project was the replacement of the roof of St. Jean Baptiste in Anse d’Hainault. The work was to take a week: leaving on Friday and returning the following Sunday. The team consisted of Joseph Brintle, Eddy Leveque, Ordea Leveque, George Westby, Chantal Westby and me. Eddy and Ordea had gone ahead and were waiting for us in Haiti. We had decided on a new design with stronger support and better ventilation for the roof and that portion of the work inside the church was done a month prior to our trip.
Very early on Friday Joe and I drove to JFK with the Westbys. There was excitement in the air for it was the Westby’s first trip with FHTH and they were looking forward to the adventure. Joe slipped his passport in the kiosk, selected one carry-on bag and pulled his boarding pass and seat number. As I slipped my passport in the kiosk the machine refused to read my information. I moved to another kiosk but that one also would not accept my information. I called an airline employee who gladly came to help but her trials were also in vain. She then scrutinized my passport and with a note of sadness in her eyes told me that my passport had expired just three days prior. My heart dropped. What a predicament! Workers would be waiting for me to start a large project on Monday morning and I was unable to board the plane. My life suddenly became very stressful. To make matters worse, because it was the Westby’s first trip, they did not know where to go. Decisions had to be made quickly. I told Joe to travel with them and that I would join them as quickly as I could. Joe continued to Haiti with the Westbys and I stayed behind, heartbroken, to work at obtaining a new passport in order to rejoin my team.
On a Friday even an expedited passport would not be available until Monday. I spent two of the most agonizing days of my life glued to the computer searching for the best ways to quickly renew my passport. After much research and many phone calls, I travelled to Stamford CT on Monday afternoon and by way of the Connecticut Passport Agency I had a brand new passport. I took the only flight to Port-au-Prince on Tuesday morning.
The team had rented a car to reach Anse d’Hainault and drove all day and into the night. Because all the local flights from Tortug’air had been cancelled indefinitely I had to get to Anse d’Hainault by car as well. Before my flight that morning I called a friend in Port-au-Prince who rented a car for a day, picked me up at the airport, and drove me to Les Cayes where another friend was waiting to bring me to Anse d’Hainault via Jeremie. I was joyfully reunited with my team around one in the morning.
The work had already started that Monday and the team had done well. Charles Weitz was the engineer on record and did a remarkable job leading the group of workers, all from the community. When I arrived on the site Wednesday morning I was pleased to see that the plan had been followed to a tee and team members had embraced their assignments with gusto. Chantal and Ordea took care of feeding the crew and distributed water periodically during the day; George took pictures while Eddy and Joe kept the momentum. Each team member followed their own assignment and all progressed flawlessly. The old roofing had been completely removed and installation of the new red roof was well under way. The next day, Thursday, the side aisles and half the center were completely covered; then on Friday, the remainder of the roof was completed.
The news that St. Jean Baptiste was getting a new roof spread quickly. People from neighboring villages came to admire the work in progress and many asked us to come do the same in their respective towns. The community was especially pleased knowing that from now on they could worship rain or shine. By the time we left that Friday afternoon, our mission was accomplished: St. Jean Baptiste had a brand new roof.