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Creating a Sanctuary in Haiti

03/26/2023 03:41:38 PM


Rabbi Steven Lindemann

I came down to the Have Faith Haiti Mission two days after we completed our reading of the Book of Exodus, so the whole last section of the book, which is about  the Sanctuary (the Mishkan) our ancestors built in the wilderness, was still very much in my mind.  Maybe that’s why the first thing I noticed was how much building has been going on here, since my last visit, in January. 

At the Have Faith Haiti Orphanage, they are also building a sanctuary in a wilderness. Haiti has been desolated by natural disaster, gang violence, political upheaval and poverty.  The Orphanage is a sanctuary for 61 children.   
In the Torah, the construction was under the direction of two master builders, Betzalel and Oholiab, who gathered a group of craftsmen skilled in working with wood, metal, and cloth to create the sanctuary.  Here, the master builders are named Grant and Bob.  Grant built homes all over the U.S.  At Have Faith Haiti, he works with earth and stone to create roadways, walls, bleachers, and level fields.  

Bob spent 30 years doing infrastructure work for the oil industry.  Over the last three months at the Orphanage, he has put in a new water pumping and filtration system that supplies all of the buildings with water that is purer than the bottled water they were previously buying.  Both of these master builders working to make Have Faith Haiti a sanctuary for 61 kids are here as volunteers. 







All of this provided infrastructure that improved conditions in the dormitories and classrooms and also allowed for the creation of better open spaces for the kids to enjoy.  But since they couldn’t get grass to take root, they came up with a different solution—SynLawn, an AstroTurf-like material for residential use. The company provided all the material at cost, and their crews from Detroit and Boston volunteered to come down and install it.  Seven guys and their crew chief, Julia, have been working ten-hour days, and over the last week, they have made a barren wilderness green. By Thursday afternoon, the kids were lounging on the lawn, taking sanctuary from the hot Haitian sun. 




The next day, the SynLawn crew was playing soccer with the kids on a new field. And later that night they joined in the evening Devotions. 

I think they, too, have found a sanctuary at Have Faith Haiti.  

And we have a couple more children, since my last visit, in January.  Meet Bradley, age three.  When he came here, less than three months ago, he weighed only 10 pounds and was suffering with scabies.  Halie, who is a nurse and the Coordinator of Volunteers, actually had to fabricate a special formula for him in the kitchen, because there was none available in Port-au-Prince.  Remarkably, the SynLawn group had a source for a soy food supplement used in formula, because they use soy in creating their artificial lawn.  (Who knew!) They arranged for a case to be donated and brought it down.  Bradley still can’t walk or talk, but as you can see from these pictures, three months have made a big difference for him.

Another baby, arriving this week, is a two month-old girl whose mother has become emotionally unstable and cannot care for her.   

In the book of Exodus, God says “Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.”  Commentaries translate the Hebrew just a bit differently-“Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell within them.”  It seems to me that both a structural and a spiritual sanctuary are being built at Have Faith Haiti. Perhaps I’ll share this interpretation in my teaching tomorrow.    



Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784