Gene Stum had work to do, but he stopped and dropped to his knees to receive prayer.
"A young girl asked if she could pray for me," Stum said. "She told me to kneel down, she put her hand on my head and prayed.
"There were moments when pastors came by the job site and prayed for us and sang for us."
Stum, 61, of Shrewsbury Township, was part of a group of 12 people who participated in a January mission trip to L'Estere, Haiti, where they're building the first unit of a medical center.
The mission trip was based on a partnership of three local organizations: MIVO Foundation, Servants Inc. and a local donor organization that wishes to remain anonymous.
Stum is a volunteer with Servants Inc., a Hallam Borough nonprofit Christian organization that recruits volunteers for U.S. and foreign mission trips, according
to its website at www.servants.org.
Servants Inc. volunteers will continue work on the medical structure from April 10 to 20.
How it started: L'Estere is the hometown of Dr. Gracia Etienne, founder of MIVO, a Dover Township-based voluntary missions group leading the Haiti project.
Etienne is an orthopedic surgeon at OSS Orthopaedic Hospital in York Township. The surgeon said he travels to L'Estere several times a year to see patients.
Etienne said because there is no medical center in town, he has done surgeries wherever he could arrange for space, including his old bedroom.
The groundbreaking for the medical center was in June. The center's first unit -- a 40-by-60-foot structure -- is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Etienne said.
The unit will be used for seeing patients and for outpatient surgery, he said.
The goal is to build about eight units over the next several years to develop a full medical campus that also would provide training for nurses, medical students and residents, Etienne said.
The surgeon said he's excited that the building project has begun and hopes the construction volunteers will learn about Haitian culture and about the people who will benefit from the medical center.
Several local Haitians also are helping build the unit as volunteers and employees, Etienne said.
The volunteers: Servants Inc. volunteer Greg Wilson, 61, of Jacobus, said participating in the construction project also gave him the opportunity to meet a child his family has been sponsoring for six years through Compassion International, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Wilson said the 12-year-old girl lives about a half-hour from L'Estere.
"I got a chance to hug her, meet her mom, her family and talk to her teachers," Wilson said. "That was the highlight of the whole experience there."
Stum said he was grateful the mission trip included an opportunity to work and worship with the L'Estere residents.
"We really did build a lot of relationships with the community," said Stum, a professional land surveyor. "It was great knowing that there was a large Christian community there and we could support each other as Christians."
Todd Jackson, 50, Servant Inc.'s team leader for the mission trip, said he is impressed with how the L'Estere residents remain resilient despite their economic and medical challenges.
"They just make the most of the very little they have," said Jackson, of York Township. "They waste nothing, they try very hard. They care about each other."
--Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.