By Krischelle Frost and Bonita Sparling, Lemuel Ministries
True transformational change often happens like a tree grows…slowly, imperceptibly.
For more than 60 years, Mérilia Dumesle (Grann) has lived on the Plateau. She has seen the years of plenty turn to years of want. Grann remembers the Plateau when trees covered the mountains and the rains still fell— before it became a barren desert, a place forsaken.
For Grann, hope returned when her grandson, Manis Dilus came back to the Plateau. He established Lemuel, a community development organization with a message that the people in this tiny little spot in Haiti’s infamous Northwest were not forgotten. From that day, things began to change.
Samuel’s Trees: How it all began
Seven years later, Manis met Samuel Schӓfer, who was in Haiti to do civil service work for the German government. Manis shared with Samuel his heart and vision for the community of Grand Diable (Big Devil), the name of the plateau where Lemuel is located. Part of this was a desire to see a land that had been laid to waste by years of deforestation filled with life again. Manis helped Samuel to understand that in order to survive years of hardship, the people cut down the trees to make charcoal, in turn exacerbating drought and erosion.
After arriving on the Plateau, Manis had been laboring to this end, having started on the Lemuel campus. But he had a bigger dream: to buy the vast acres of wasteland surrounding the community—land that had once been gardens, but that now was abandoned to erosion and cacti—and to reforest it into a usable resource.
Inspired by Manis’ vision and example, Samuel determined to do something. He returned to Haiti, purchased five acres of the wasteland, and hired three young men from the area to help him. It was a seemingly impossible task. The land was full of rocks, gullies, and nasty thorns, and it was open to the destructive habits of roaming livestock. There was no water there. As a skeptical community looked on, Samuel’s team took up their pick-axes and shovels under the brutal Haitian sun
A place to return
Samuel was eager to show Grann what was happening on the land. Her health and legs are not what they used to be, but at Samuel’s invitation, she took up her walking stick and slowly made her way over the distance. As she entered the gate, a smile crossed her face. “Now,” she said to Samuel, “you will always have a place to return to.”
“A place to return to”…that is part of the vision for Lemuel. Lemuel exists to invest in the growth and development of people, so that they may escape the vicious cycle of poverty, and carry the pattern of reaching out to others through future generations. As we do this, it is our desire for the next generation to see that they have a place to return to—a place where life, hope, and purpose have reappeared – and to break the pattern of exodus from Haiti’s countryside.
Reforestation is only a part of this, but it serves as a powerful visual to a deeper reality. True transformational change often happens like a tree grows…slowly, imperceptibly. Planting the tree is only the beginning; the fruit will be seen by the children to come. Yet, if no one prepares the ground, plants the seed or tends to the sapling over the long years, there will be no tree at all.
Here on the Plateau, indifference and doubt in the community have begun to change into appreciation and inspiration. As the people learn to value what they are seeing, they will reproduce it in their own area of influence. Samuel’s Trees remind us there is hope for a better future for our children, but it must start with us.
The work at Samuel’s Trees is far from finished. They have plans to buy more land and to build a tree nursery. In order to continue moving forward, we need people willing to invest in hope for the future.
For more information about Samuel’s Trees, and to see how you can be involved, please visit www.samuelstrees.blogspot.com.
To learn more about Lemuel and the various ways it is investing in people, please visit the website at www.lemuelministries.org.