A “Marathon” for the 3rd Reef!

Michael and B.J. left a couple of days ago and I’m thinking back on all the things we were able to accomplish with God’s help those first two weeks.

B.J. and I landed in Port au Prince on January 23, a Thursday. A short time later we were in a rental car (in the haste of leaving last September, our truck was left behind) making our way southwest to the coast. At the same time, the first shipment of metal forms to build the marine habitats (artificial reefs) were being flown to Les Cayes from Florida by Agape Flights!

The Agape Flight plane that brought the forms to Haiti

B.J., who had helped build and install the last two marine habitats, had spent the last year spearheading an effort to get a set of steel concrete forms made by a premier welding class at Adair County High School in Columbia, Kentucky.  His local congregation generously gave most of the funds that were needed to get them flown into Haiti! What a boon this will be to building the habitats! 

Adair County High School welders making the forms!

We had made arrangements for someone to meet the plane in Les Cayes that day, pick up the forms, and take them to the wharf to be loaded onto our Haitian fishing boat. Several hours later we were able to meet that boat in Les Cayes, grateful that all had gone smoothly.  We arrived on Ile a Vache shortly before dark and were able to sort things out a bit before turning in.

Pierre and B.J. on the boat headed to Ice a Vache

Michael and the second shipment of forms were to arrive the following Tuesday.  That gave us just three days, not counting Sunday, to form up and pour a concrete pad, all by hand, to accommodate the steel forms in a limited space. We had to send to the mainland to buy cement, steel, six boatloads of sand and gravel and then make arrangements to have all those materials delivered to the island in a timely manner!

Friday we got the pad area leveled and the form for it built. On Saturday we hired several Haitian helpers to mix the cement in the mixing trough we had built and pour the pad. On Sunday we went over to Baiu de Mesle (pronounced Bed-zee-mel) to be sure our old truck would start so we would be ready to pick Michael up with the next shipment of steel forms. On Monday, we were able to get all the material for the next reef to the island, no small task.

Pouring the pad!

On Tuesday morning when we left for Baiu de Mesle to pick the truck up and go get Michael, we had yet to find a source for the conch shells needed for the reef. On the way across the water to the mainland, we stopped another fishing boat going by and asked the man in it if he could bring us conch shells from the mainland and he said yes!  So the conch shell dilemma was solved while crossing the sea! Thank you, Lord!

When we arrived in Baiu de Mesle, I headed to the airport to pick up the next shipment of steel forms.  After getting the forms back to the boat, B.J. left for Ile A Vache with them to get them unloaded while I waited for Michael.  He had gotten stuck in traffic in Port-au-Prince for quite awhile and was not able to get to Baiu de Mesle till nearly 8 o’clock so we were pretty late getting over to Ile a Vache, but we made it!

A typical Port au Prince street

Next morning was Wednesday, January 29, and we had 5 days until Tuesday, February 4, when Michael and B.J. had to leave, to get the reef built and in the sea!  It was going to be quite an undertaking.

First, we had to index everything which means that each of the forms had to be strategically placed and then marked where the corner pins would go. Then holes had to be drilled in the concrete pad so that the forms could be placed EXACTLY where they belong each time they are used.

Michael, B.J., and Bill with some of the new forms ready for concrete

All the 1” PVC pipes to make the holes in the concrete pieces also had to be indexed so that every piece had an exact location.  All the forms were numbered so they would be placed in the same location on the pad each time.  So the first day, we did all the indexing, set up the forms for the first tier, mixed up the concrete, and poured the first tier pieces of the reef.  The fisherman who was supposed to bring us the conch shells showed up exactly when we were pouring the first tier!! Perfect timing!  Thank you, Lord!!

Forms poured with concrete and shells

On Thursday, we took apart the first tier forms, took the pieces out to the beach, set up the 2nd tier forms, poured them, then loaded the first tier forms on the raft, and took them out to set the 1st tier in the sea.  We repeated basically the same steps for the next three days, pouring a new tier each day and placing the previous day’s pieces in the sea.

Reef pieces on the raft

It was amazing how well things went.  I actually was a little under the weather a few of the days but Michael and B.J. and the Haitians did an amazing job!  We had a couple of hitches in that we miscalculated how much buoyancy we would need (empty gas cans with air in them) to float one of the hubs and another miscalculation on how much we would need to float the heavy cap piece!

Michael and B.J. with the cap piece

They both sunk to the bottom but fortunately, I had brought a new block and tackle with me to Haiti this trip and we were able to rig lines in such a way off the raft/floating dock to get enough buoyancy on them to be able to get them back up, no small task.  Looking back on those five days, I can hardly believe we got it all done but the guys were troopers and God is good.

B.J. and Michael placing the cap piece on the reef!

The next day, Michael and B.J. left for the states and I’ve been cleaning the forms, sorting things out, paying people, and doing some things in the shop.  So many people come with medical needs and old people come who are hungry.  I sent some folks to Les Cayes today to buy food for the old people so hopefully we will be able to get them something to eat for tomorrow.

The problem with the ocean not yielding much fish anymore for the people, which we are trying to help solve with the reefs, and all the problems the people face here are, I know, only symptoms of “the disease”, the disease that kills the heart and so infects every other thing on this earth, the belief in the lie that something or anything other than God himself will satisfy our longing and desire. Thanks be to God that there is a Great Physician!

I pray that some word or action we take here in the name of Jesus might bring light to those who dwell in a great darkness. Thank you to those who pray and who make it possible for JUST MERCY to serve.

B.J. smoothing out a concrete piece

Michael and B.J. on the raft with reef pieces being pulled out to sea
Rolling the cap piece out to the raft
B.J., Bill, and Michael have worked together seamlessly for the installation of all three marine habitats that are in the sea!! Glory to God!!

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