Couple overcomes travel issues, for rewarding graduation in Haiti


(The following is an account of a mission trip by Mike and Jamie Elliott and written by RSOC Weekly editor Tim Hillman.)

Philippians 4:13 reads: I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

That stands true for the latest trip to Sonlight Academy in Port-de-Paix Haiti which started on Tuesday, May 16th.

For the Elliotts, it was a trip to meet and see their sponsored child Eliette graduate.

A great trip from Cincinnati (CVG) to Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale was going smoothly until… Jamie couldn’t find her passport.

That meant back to the airport with two choices: go home or drive to Miami in the morning for a new passport. (Well there was a third choice- Mike and I go to Haiti and Jamie offering to stay in a resort in FLL while we were gone..)

They opted for driving to Miami while I flew into Port-Au-Prince on Wednesday as scheduled.

I stayed at the Visa Lodge in Port-Au-Prince with hopes of meeting up with them for a flight to Sonlight on Thursday morning. But plans changed. The passport office was closed because of a flood.

Time to go home? No. Option four. Fly to New Orleans for a passport. They did.

Meanwhile I took an eight hour bus ride instead of the 40 minute plane ride to Sonlight. It was a different bus ride than in 1999 when 21 people from the Rising Sun Church of Christ took the bus similar to the one seen in the movie Romancing the Stone. Roads were better (halfway) and there was air conditioning on the public Valparaiso bus line. It was Haiti’s Flag Day with parades in every town. Fortunately they were coming toward us. It had rained and there was a lot of mud the second half of the trip.

There were a pair of bathroom breaks along the side of the road. Perhaps disgusting but an accepted culture.

School was out on Friday at 10:30 and Mike and Jamie were still on their way, arriving after 11. Eliette met them when they got off their three passenger plane (Mike in the co-pilot seat).

After arriving on the dirt runway, they rode in the back of a truck through the streets where the most noticeable thing was sewage and garbage, along with mud coated downtown area which forced some rerouting.

After eating lunch, it was time to check into Holiday Hills Hotel (no connection with Holiday Inn). Air conditioning was working but there was no electric during the day to save on fuel for the generator.

Port-de-Paix is located in northwest Haiti not far from Cuba and near LaTortuge Island where the movie series Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed.

Next was a tap-tap ride to the House of Hope.

A tap tap is a small truck with wooden boards for seating. There were 15 people in the truck.

The House of Hope is not an orphanage but has many children who live there because their parents can’t care for them.

Others come to the hospital on the complex for treatment. Once seen by a nurse or doctor, the patient must then purchase necessary supplies including any needles, IV bags and pills. If more supplies are needed then more must be bought. While there, family members must supply care and feeding. They can not go home until their stay is paid for. Cost varies anywhere from $3 to $10 a day depending on room type.

Sonlight teachers take groups every Friday to play, hold or hug- undoubtedly the most emotional time and a lesson to be appreciative for all we have here.

On Saturday, it was a time to walk around the community, up the hillside to a landmark cross. Along the way, Mike offered to pull a hand full of re-bar.

A highlight of the walk is seeing the excitement of young Haitians who yearn for a simple hello (Bonjour before noon, Bonswa afternoon) and eye contact.

On the way back you could see the school’s water tower (erected in 1999). The remaining time on Saturday afternoon was spent with missionary John Niehaus (of Aurora) doing shopping in town. Afterwards the Elliotts and Eliette spent time looking and pictures and getting to know each other.

After church on Sunday, it was finally time for graduation. It was scheduled for 3 p.m. but didn’t get started until shortly before 4 p.m. The graduation is done in English and translated in Creole. Graduates have become teacher aides and even teachers. For some, graduation brings concerns of what to do. They can’t afford to go to college. There are not many jobs to be found. Some have gone on to the Sonlight Bible College while several make it to the U.S. for college. Several attend KCU (Kentucky Christian University).

The end of the school year saw eight teachers leaving including Cara Whimpelberg whose husband Thom Whimpelberg will be taking cancer treatments in the states. Her mother and co-founder Norma Alexander has been battling cancer as well.

Principal Carmen Niehaus (Cara’s sister) has been working to fill the teaching vacancies.

Teachers and students need sponsors. There were 307 in grades preschool through 12th grade students plus bible college. The school is English immersed in preschool with Haitian aides helping out. Students have knowledge of the language by time they are in first grade.

If interested in learning more go to or contact Tim Hillman at 812-438-2963.

Sponsorship for a child or teacher is $45 per month. Some have been sponsored by Sunday School classes or individuals split the sponsorship i.e. split three ways

Sonlight strives to be the best school in Haiti and its students take the SAT in November and May. However, the number one goal is to make disciples which included 14 baptisms in 206-2017.