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Murrysville church mission trip eye-opening experience for participants

Patrick Varine
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LaCroix New Testament Mission officials in Haiti are working to establish a technical school to teach skills like carpentry.LaCroix New Testament Mission officials in Haiti are working to establish a technical school to teach skills like carpentry.

Virginia Hamm of Murrysville knew French, so she was fairly confident she’d be able to get by on her church’s mission trip to Haiti.

That was before she noticed the Haitian children she spoke to were disguising giggles, particularly when she said her name.

“I kept trying, but I kept lapsing back into European French,” Hamm said. “And no matter how many times I tried, I could not pronounce my first name the way it sounds in Haitian Creole.”

There were plenty more positives than negatives, however, when 15 members of Newlonsburg Presbyterian Church traveled in January to the LaCroix New Testament Mission, located about three hours from the country’s capital city, Port-au-Prince.

Mission volunteers visited villages to distribute rice, shoes and Days for Girls kits, which equip young women with hygiene and menstrual health supplies.

Volunteers also built 40 desks for students taking classes at LaCroix.

For Hamm, who has helped to raise money and donate supplies over the years but never made the actual mission trip, it was an eye-opening experience.

“People kept saying, ‘Now, you’re going to a Third World country,’ but to me it felt like a field trip,” she said.

One of Hamm’s responsibilities during the trip was to look over the new vocational room that LaCroix officials are developing as they work toward the establishment of a trade school.

“They want to teach sewing, computer (literacy) for business, and electrical work, carpentry and welding,” she said. “They also have a long-term goal of teaching irrigation farming, and of trying to reverse the deforestation and ‘re-green’ the land.”

Newlonsburg parishioner Roger Schneider also got his first chance to join the mission trip this year.

“My wife and I sponsor two boys and a girl,” Schneider said. “The boys were able to come and meet us, which was really great. We’ve seen these wonderful slide presentations at the church over the years, but when you’re really on-site and see it, it’s different.”

Newlonsburg Presbyterian is part of the Friends of Haiti network, a nonprofit based in McMurray, established in 2008 to support LaCroix New Testament Mission. Church members sponsor about 100 children, and each year the network hosts a summit that brings together church leaders from Western Pennsylvania and the eastern U.S., where they meet with LaCroix head Pastor Vaugelas Pierre to plan future mission trips and lay out goals for the coming year.

It has been a transformative experience for Hamm.

“It really was a life-altering thing,” she said. “I’ve helped raise money, but going down there really gives you a unique perspective and makes you want to do more. “

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.