Bois Marchand Farm, Pt 2

Bois Marchand Farm, Pt 2

The Bois Marchand Farm Part 2: The Rains Came Down

After discussing the beginning of the Bois Marchand farm and its initial success in the previous blog post Part One, HCDP Waters but God Grows, Pacius proceeded to tell me about some of the greatest challenges the farm has faced over the years.

In September 2004, just four years after the farm was purchased, a tropical storm caused a great flood to sweep through Artibonite Valley. Many people were unable to react in time to escape the rapidly rising water. In Gonaives alone, news sources reported as many as 2,400 people dead or missing from the flood. Some of the dead were even found on or near the farm and were buried honorably by Pacius and others who lived in the Bois Marchand community, who mourned their loss.

This flood was a major setback for HCDP and the farm in several ways; the walls surrounding the farm were swept away, equipment was lost or damaged, and the powerful currents moved tons of sand overtop of the rich soil that had been carefully cultivated for growing crops. But despite this hardship that the flood brought for the families of the Bois Marchand community, Pacius would not let go of the dream that he had for the farm. HCDP would begin rebuilding the farm as soon as the waters receded.

In time the old walls were rebuilt, farm equipment was repurchased, the layers of sand were removed, and crops were harvested once again. But just as the farm was beginning to see its former glory, heavy rains from Hurricane Hanna hit Gonaives in September 2008, followed by 3 more hurricanes within a 2 week time period. Another four years later, the flood was back, and this time with even greater force.

When Pacius recalled memories from the 2008 flood, he shared what it was like for he and his family during those first days of heavy rain. In the middle of the night, he recalls gathering his family on the roof of his house to stay above the rising water. For the first three nights, they endured the torrential downpour with no food. After 5 days, just after the rain had stopped, Pacius set out for the capital of Haiti, Port au Prince, in search of food to bring back for his family. The only way he could leave his house was by swimming; even after 5 days, the streets were still buried with mud and water. Fortunately, Pacius was able to find a boat while he was swimming that could transport him to what was left of the highway to Port au Prince.

When he arrived in Port, he bought as much bread as he thought he could carry and immediately began the journey back to be with his family. After he had found another boat in Gonaives that would take him closer to his home, he found himself swimming again to the rooftop where they were waiting. He put the bread he was carrying in plastic bags and tied them around his neck to keep them from getting wet while he swam. When he finally arrived home it was late in the evening. Pacius had left at 5 a.m. that morning and returned around 4 p.m. that afternoon. It must have been an incredibly long day for both he and his family as they waited for reunion.

It would be several more days before the roads in Gonaives were usable and Pacius could reach the farm. Even after the waters receded, Pacius said thick layers of mud prevented anyone from using the roads for at month after the floodwaters receded. The roads were only usable again once the mud was carried away in trucks.

Once again, the farm was devastated. Pacius could not get to the farm for over a month. At the time, HCDP wondered if they should give up on it all. David Smith, a dedicated founder of HCDP, remembers wondering if HCDP should just pull out of Gonaives and quit the development altogether because so much invested time and money had been lost in the flood.

That’s when David visited Haiti and the church in Poteau, the church where Pacius and his family worshiped. Here, David found himself worshipping with so many brothers and sisters in Christ who had suffered loss in the flood. David was so moved and encouraged by the perseverance of the church, that he’ll never forget singing with them the words to the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers that Sunday morning in Haiti.

 

Onward, Christian soldiers!

Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus

Going on before.

Christ, the royal Master,

Leads against the foe;

Forward into battle,

See his banners go!

 

David said that was one of the most significant moments of his life, and for HCDP, because it inspired them to move onward in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Today, it’s hard to imagine that the Bois Marchand farm was once buried under such great and powerful floods. It’s almost always a peaceful and quite place. There are children eating mangos and playing beneath the shade of the mango trees. Early in the morning, Pierre Charles and Lionel are tilling up new soil and scattering okra seed. Late in the afternoon, children are coming back to the farm to look after the goats, tying them up outside to graze while the sun sets in a beautiful ruby red island sky. On Sunday morning, the community is gathering to worship the God who has sustained the farm with the entire world that it rests on. And I, though I could never feel the full impact of the farm in the same way this community has, find myself grateful to be a small part of this great story and a witness to some amazing things God is doing in the part of his kingdom we call Haiti.

Matthew 6:24 – Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.