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10-31-2012


UC Vice President of Student Financial Planning serves mission in Haiti

 


Williamsburg, Ky. - Many students from the University of the Cumberlands (UC) serve in various mission trips throughout the year, but the UC faculty and staff are also active in the mission field.

Vice President of Student Financial Planning Steve Allen served in Haiti with a group from Main Street Baptist Church this summer. The group joined with the Crossings camps of Kentucky to bring summer camp opportunities to children in Haiti. Three groups served in Haiti. Allen was in the second group and served from June 9 through June 16. His wife, son and daughter accompanied him on the trip.

 


Allen and other volunteers worked to prepare the camp for Haitian children. They built a generator house and a rock retaining wall as well as cleared a field of stones and cleaned up the surrounding beach. In addition to this labor, the team also held Vacation Bible schools at a church that was 20 minutes outside of the camp. Allen said the hardest part of working in Haiti was that he and the other volunteers did not have the resources to help every person they met.

“It was very difficult. The vacation Bible schools that we did, they had to limit them just for space. There were kids sitting outside staring through cracks in the walls, wanting to come in, and we couldn’t let them in,” explained Allen; “There wasn’t room to help everyone. It was like we were trying to get the sand out of the ocean. It’s just too much; you’re not going to be able to do that, but we had to remember that at least we were trying to help those that were there.”

It has been over two years now since a high-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, but the country continues to see little in the means of relief. Allen describes Port au Prince in a state of chaos, with only a few UN representatives scattered around the city.

“Coming into the capital, Port au Prince, the capital building was in shambles from the earthquake two years ago; they haven’t even rebuilt that. There were abandoned cars on the sidewalk and tent cities everywhere. They are still trying to recover in a lot of ways, but they had issues even before that,” described Allen.

Although much of the country was still in disorder, Allen was able to see sense of hope in the people he met.

“I expected bad; I expected what you see on TV, and there was plenty of that. Haiti is really impoverished, but what I found is that the people are really proud. For the most part, they seem very happy and content. The thing that impressed me the most was that we went to church service that they held; it was 95 degrees—scorching hot there in a non-air-conditioned, no breeze blowing church. It’s just packed with people in their Sunday best, some who had walked miles to come there and listen to a two or three hour service whereas here in the US, we complain about driving 10 minutes and sitting in a cushioned pew in an air-conditioned church, and if the pastor goes over 45 minutes, we’re looking at our watches. [The people in Haiti] just seemed very dedicated to what they were about,” said Allen.

Allen first learned about the opportunity to serve in Haiti after chaperoning at the Jonathan Creek camp in Kentucky. Thereafter, Allen and Main Street Baptist Church youth minister Albert Jones, a UC alum, began to plan to take a group of students to Haiti. They initially expected to have a group of six or seven people, but they eventually gathered a group of 16, including adult chaperones. Allen had reservations about serving in Haiti initially, but the mission trip became a special opportunity for him and his family.

“[Jonathan Creek] showed a promotional video, saying that they wanted to start this. My first thought was ‘boy, that would be neat for somebody else,’ but as it went along, I thought, ‘what an opportunity this would be,’” said Allen; “In the beginning it was just me and my son who were going…then another couple dropped out, and my wife and daughter got to go as well. So it was all four of us, which was special. I know it has touched them in a lot of ways.”

Allen also believes that serving in Haiti has made him appreciate American conveniences even more.

“It just amazed me how content they were. We’re so spoiled here; if our air conditioning is not set at 72 degrees, we’re not happy, but [Haitians] will take the effort to go to church and to learn about spiritual things even though it’s not easy for them to be there. It helps me to know that on Sunday morning, when it’s 8:30, I can get myself up and drive in my air-conditioned car to the air conditioned church and sit on a padded pew…I should be extremely happy about that,” explained Allen.

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; twelve graduate degrees, including two doctorate, two specialist and eight master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.