Wow, I’m so excited about this post! A few years ago now, my dad’s brother (and wife), Andy and Debbie Roemer, basically packed up their entire world and moved to Haiti to become missionaries and provide humanitarian aid and relief. Having spent many a day and night at their house (with one of my closest friends, my cousin, Andrew Roemer, in Louisville, KY where I grew up), I honestly can say there aren’t too many people in the world I respect more than my aunt and uncle for doing what they’re doing! They are real life heroes, who are literally changing the lives of countless Haitians. Here are a few questions I emailed to him, and the responses that he provided. I hope you enjoy, and if you feel so led, consider partnering with them, as they are doing everything on their own dime and from the support of their friends and family.
My uncle (the one on the right)
1) Describe the events that led to you packing up your life and moving to Haiti? A couple of years prior to my retirement from Ford Motor Co. a Haitian family began attending our church, Calvary Apostolic Church, in Louisville, KY. They moved back to Haiti in 2006 and I retired from Ford in 2007. In March of 2008 I made my first trip to Haiti. Debbie & I returned to Haiti in Nov. 2008. And then I made a few more trips over the next couple of years. By the end of 2010 I realized that for us to do what we felt God was wanting us to do in Haiti, it would be necessary for us to just sell most everything we owned in the US and build a new home in Haiti and live there. A couple of the main issues in Haiti that we were aware of was the need of good Bible teaching and of humanitarian aid.
2) What’s been your biggest surprise since moving to Haiti? This a rather difficult question to answer because there have been many BIG surprises. And maybe THAT is the biggest surprise. That there just doesn’t seem to be an end to the “surprises”! There is so much to explain. But one of the biggest surprises is not because of what we see as all of the “problems”. It is because we see the people here going on with life, laughing, having fun, and worshiping and praising God regardless of what we “Americans” see as “just not acceptable” lifestyles. What we see as “poverty” is just a way of life here.
3) What is the greatest need that you can provide the Haitian community? Obviously, the answer to this question has the potential to vary greatly from person to person. MY PERSONAL opinion is that proper, Bible based, sound Christian doctrine would be the greatest thing we could do for the Haitian community. Outside of that: education. Schools are in operation, but the system is poorly managed and chaotic in our eyes. Economics play a major role in the way the education system functions. And it is a “pay as you go” type of arrangement. If you cannot pay, you cannot go to school. And the level of education is very, very, basic at best.
4) Tell us about a typical day for you guys? WOW!!! I mentioned this question to my wife, Debbie. Her response was, “Well, the most typical thing about a typical day here is: there is nothing typical about a day here, for us!” It is very difficult to explain because it is so difficult to relate to the differences in living conditions between here and the US. We live in a nice modern home which we had built at our own expense. But we have many, many neighbors who live in little huts built from sticks. Some live in concrete huts. A few live in more modern housing. Most homes around here do not have any indoor plumbing or electricity or kitchen. Most do not have a vehicle. Most must cook their meals on a fire of wood or charcoal. Why am I mentioning this? Because that often makes us the ones many people turn to for help with food, a visit to the Dr. or clinic. Or we may be asked to go visit a place that is having trouble with safe drinking water, or a manual pump that is not functioning.
Or, I might be at home working and someone shows up at our home with a motorbike or bicycle or something else that they need help repairing. They know I have many tools and hardware with which to help them.
5) What can we do to help? Prayer is the first important form of assistance. And then after that, without seeming too trite: finances. But, if you would like a specific project, there are a few items that we use to help with our humanitarian aid. We use 30w solar panels, 10 amp charger controllers and 12v / 12 aH gel batteries to make the chlorination systems work that we provide. I am now trying to assist in manual pump repair or replacement. But most all of that has to be done with parts purchased here, thus the need for financial assistance.
Any help we would be able to provide to churches would also be done with material and supplies that would be purchased here. And the needs are great. From building a new building to replacing existing roofs or maybe buying lumber and building benches for seating.
I love this extra little glimpse that my uncle gave to me at the end of his email response! Here is what he said: “Even while typing this I had to go to the kitchen and get some bread, a piece of meat and some water and take it outside to a young man who was outside our security and was asking for something to eat and something to drink. Part of a typical day. Now I am getting ready to go to another area and take a manual pump apart that is not functioning. Hopefully we can fix it. After that? Only God knows!” And then, this came a day or so later: “About the “typical” day. Another one today. We were working on taking that pump apart that I told you about. We had removed the first 20′ of 1 1/4″ galvanized pipe and were getting ready to lift some more of the pipe up out of the well when one of the men released the clamp that was holding the pipe. ZIP!!! The rest of the pipe fell back into the well inside the 6″ casing that goes about 80′ down into the ground. Now I have to figure out how to build a tool to get a hold of that pipe down in there, that cannot be seen, and get it out. Praise the Lord!!!”
My aunt and uncle’s ministry is based through Calvary Apostolic Church, Louisville, KY. To support this ministry, contact Pastor Sean Griffis via www.caclouisville.com.
You can also connect with them on Facebook. Andy Roemer and Deborah Cates Roemer.
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