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Park Rapids family prepares for Haiti mission trip

The Haitian-bound Bervig family includes Tobie, Asher, Ephraim, Elias, Nathaniel, Lael, Ingrid, Jen holding Simone, Eric and Hallie. They depart for Haiti Oct. 4 to begin the Intercession Haiti mission. (Jean Ruzicka/Enterprise)

In early October, Eric and Jen Bervig and their nine children, ages 8 weeks to 14 years, will board a plane bound for Haiti.  Upon arriving they will join a mission, Intercession Haiti (I:M), “through God’s calling” to work with Haitian children in a small boarding school in Jérémie.  The Bervig family, who’s made a three-year commitment to I:M, will take up residence in a large home where 10 students and staff will also reside.  The impetus for this began with the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, Eric explains. He began working with Children of the Nations - a non-profit organization that assists destitute children and orphans - heading to the Dominican Republic on three occasions where he worked with Haitian immigrants.  “Through the process, I recognized God’s calling to work with the Haitian people,” Eric said.  “Haiti was devastated by this disaster and millions of people suddenly found themselves homeless and without necessities,” Eric said. “Among those were children from an orphanage that was completely destroyed.  “The Lord used this event to awaken our hearts to the many needs in Haiti,” he relates of the decision. “Intercession Haiti was born. Its mission is to aid the children in communities in Haiti who had lost the little they had in the earthquake.”  

The vision, he explains, is to start a small boarding school as opposed to an institution.  “Many Haitian children face a rough home situation. Most children have a place to go home to. But some kids with parents end up in an orphanage because parents must pay for children’s education.”  

Extreme poverty, he said, drives the decision.  “We would like to maintain the children’s connections with their families,” Eric said of the school, where students will attend Sunday through Friday.  “Our main job will be house parents,” he explains of his and Jen’s role.  The Bervig children, who are homeschooled, will play an integral role at the school. “We want to replicate a small boarding school… with a family atmosphere where each child experiences a safe and loving relationship with the staff,” Eric said.

Evangelism and education  A second goal of I:M will be to help students understand sustainable agriculture via an “asset-based community development” approach.  Working with Indiana farmer Roger Smoker as a consultant, I:M has developed plans to impart agricultural-related skills and knowledge, while instilling a work ethic - “how hard work can provide them with food for the table and products for market.”   I:M will work with a local cooperative of 70 farmers on 700 acres, the initial crop to be sunflowers.  Farmers in Haiti “go broke,” Smoker said in a phone interview, because countries like the U.S. donate food. “We’re working to change this.”   Industrial presses will be used to harvest sunflower oil for cooking as well as biodiesel fuel. Leftover product will feed farm animals.  “It’s 34 percent protein,” Smoker explained of the chicken and hog feed.  “We’re also looking at coconut and avocado oil for exportation,” Smoker said of implementing financial sustainability.  A corn planter is on its way to Haiti, said Smoker, who heads to the country four times a year to assist with agronomy.  The opportunities to enhance the quality of life in Haiti are infinite. Eric is eyeing possibly satellite English training in the community, and other avenues. The challenge is “choosing and doing them well.”  “Evangelism and education go together,” Eric said. “At the heart of these operations is relationship development…This is a long- term commitment with discipleship at its core.”

‘Will miss the snow   The Bervig children, reading in Lindquist Park this week with their grandmother Terese Bervig, expressed approval of their parents’ decision. (They had discovered the Little Free Library and abandoned the monkey bars for books.)  “It’s warm. But we’ll miss winter,” they said.  “I’ll miss the snow,” Nathaniel, 12, said.  “The people are friendly, warm and inviting,” Lael, 14, said, “but more amongst themselves,” she added of relationships yet to form.  She plans to offer music lessons and help with students with English.   “We’ll have chickens and rabbits,” Nathaniel said.  “And a pig,” Elias, 10, added.  “And scorpions,” Tobie, 5, chimed in, grinning.  “No,” his elder siblings corrected.  “And two cats and three German shepherds,” Nathaniel said of the complete menagerie.  “We’re five miles from the ocean,” Lael said, “with a nice beach… not covered with garbage.”   “With a shipwreck,” Nathaniel said of a partially submerged submarine 100 yards from shore.  The beach will be a weekly or bi-weekly destination, they agree.  The “relatively isolated” city of Jérémie is located on the western edge of the Haitian peninsula. It is the capital city of the Grand’Anse Department, in Haiti, with a population of about 31,000 (2003 census).The Grande-Anse River flows near the city. Jérémie is called “the city of the poets” because of the numerous writers, poets, and historians were born there.

 The long-term goal is to eventually remove I:H from leadership of ministry operations and have Haitians become self-sufficient.  “As disciples mature, our desire is to start shifting the role of responsibility to their leadership,” Eric explains.  But meanwhile, the mission is “to pour ourselves out on behalf of others - physically, spiritually, financially and in other ways, as Christ did for us.  “What motivates us is a desire to see Haitian people in a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ, and to have been part of that experience,” Eric said.  “We are bringing them hope,” Jen added.

Departing Oct. 4   The Bervigs are “actively seeking funding” for their mission, currently having raised half of the $24,000 needed. They have presented their mission at churches and sent letters to friends and family.  The ongoing goal is to raise $2,000 per month. One-time gifts as well as ongoing donations are gratefully accepted.  Upon their return next summer in July and August, they are planning fundraising events in the communities.  Donations may be sent to: Eric and Jennifer Bervig, c/o Intercession Haiti, PO Box 611, Winona Lake, IN 46590.  They depart for Haiti Oct. 4 with Lael; Nathaniel; Elias; Ephraim, 8; Asher, 7; Tobie, Hallie, 3; Ingrid (who will be 2 years old the following day) and 8-week-old Simone.  Sharing the gospel.  Facilitating hope.

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