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Haiti Mission Trip Sparks Renewal in New York Church

The Hope Haiti team arrived back in Copake, New York, full of mosquito bites and stories of how God answered prayer and blessed their time in Haiti.

The team--seven people from West Copake Reformed Church in Copake, New York--participated in the church's first ever mission trip in honor of the church's 250th anniversary. The trip's impact has been widespread, both with participants and in the congregation as a whole.

The idea began with pastor Bob Charnin, who prayed about how to best utilize the skills of three veterinarians who attended West Copake. One of the vets shared that he had worked in Haiti more than 30 years ago, and that started the process. After some contact with the Christian Veterinary Association in Haiti and considerable prayer, a team of seven volunteered for the inaugural trip, which the church called Hope Haiti. The team spent 10 days in Port-Au-Prince and the surrounding areas February 22 to March 2.

West Copake's consistory raised more than $5,000 to defer expenses for the team, and various members of the congregation pitched in to make the outreach less of a financial burden on the participants.

The team consisted of seven people: two vets who taught surgical skills to Haitian veterinarians, and five others who worked in an orphanage for mentally and physically handicapped children as well as a church elementary school. At the orphanage, Hope Haiti team members did physical therapy with the children, assisted with food distribution, and installed eight ceiling fans--a direct answer to prayer for the orphanage's director.

During the trip, the team also visited a church elementary school in one of the poorest parts of Haiti, where most families scrounge for food in the local dump. There the team distributed donated school supplies and craft materials and led in-service training in French for local teachers.

In addition, the Hope Haiti team served a hot lunch to 95 students and teachers at the school. The funding for that meal was provided by a visitor to West Copake Reformed Church who was moved to give after hearing a pre-trip announcement about the needs of the Haitian people.

Charnin says that for years people in the church have prayed that God would use the church for his glory. "We wanted to do something great for God, and he used it in profound ways," he says. Church members who didn't go on the trip supported the work through prayer, including a number who woke up in the middle of the night during the trip and felt called to pray.

After seeing the overwhelmingly positive experience that the Hope Haiti team had, others in the congregation are coming forward to offer their skills for future trips, and the church plans to send more teams to work in Haiti, especially at the orphanage.

The buzz this trip created at West Copake Reformed Church is palatable, Charnin says. "People are talking about their faith and their church--some of them for the first time." He adds that the church recently celebrated Easter with 137 people, though the congregation averages 70--an experience he attributes to the congregation praying hard for God to send 125 people to the service.

"If we can do something in Haiti, we can definitely do something here," he says.

Posted 04/08/08

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