EW PALESTINE — The mission was and remains monumental.

They didn’t know just how massive it would be until they reached Sud-Est, one of the regions of Haiti.

A group of parishioners from New Palestine Bible Church saw homes with dirt floors, piles of garbage lining makeshift streets, and more poverty and moral depravity than they could have imagined, members said.

The team of 15 went on the church’s first-ever group mission endeavor to Haiti in late March.

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While their main goal was to spread the word of Christ and help change lives, in the end, it was the mission workers who left the village with a different perspective.

“It’s such a needy place,” church elder Marcus Schrader said. “It’s so poor, and the people there, they just don’t have anything.”

Through a chance meeting several months ago, Schrader became friends with Malcolm Henderson. Henderson is a doctor who runs Charis, a charity that supports eight Haitian communities in the state of Sud-Est, just south of Port-au-Prince.

Henderson convinced Schrader to travel with him to the Haiti area in October. When they came back, Schrader was convinced the parish at New Palestine Bible Church should take on the mission of helping the Haitian people.

“I just felt like this was something we could do,” Schrader said.

Church members Susan and Jeff Lantz support many missions. When they heard Schrader talk about the needs of the Haitian village, they decided to go on the mission trip with him.

Jeff even investigated the Charis charity (charis is Greek for “God’s grace”) and found that Henderson was doing miraculous things with little financial help. He and his wife immediately decided to join the cause.

“They can feed one child, clothe them and educate them for $36 a year,” Jeff said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

While the couple said they knew it was going to be difficult visiting such a deprived area, seeing the need firsthand really changed their view on life.

“Until you actually experience it, you just don’t know what it is like,” Susan Lantz said. “It’s heartbreaking at times… and kind of overwhelming.”

The group was in Haiti for six days. While there they passed out Bibles, clothing and soccer balls. They also visited mental clinics and assisted a dentist who made the trip with them.

“We were there to help them physically and hand out the gifts we took, but mainly we were there to save souls,” Susan Lantz said.

That was easier said than done, church members said.

“It is important to address the physical needs before you address the spiritual,” Schrader said. “We pulled maybe four to five hundred teeth while we were there.”

He said many Haitian patients walked miles from the mountain regions and waited in lines for days just to see a dentist.

“We had three days of medical, and then we handed out the Creole Bibles,” Schrader said. “We just needed to show the Haitian people that we love them. We wanted them to know it is the love of Christ that is constraining us to come.”

Church members picked up the cost of the Bibles and soccer balls for the children.

Church member Emily Jones, a New Palestine High School junior, said being able to give the Haitian people support was memorable.

“It was different,” Jones said. “Just seeing how they lived and seeing how much they needed our support and help over there was really something.”

Schrader took his 15-year-old son, Andrew Schrader, with him on his first visit there in October. The elder Schrader is hopeful more area teens will join adults and take on the mission to change Haitian lives.

“This is something we plan on doing at least once, maybe twice a year from here on out,” Schrader said. “We’d love to have a Hancock County trip where we could get four or five churches going.”

He and the others are hoping anyone who learns of their mission will be touched by their experience and want to join them.

“We know we made a difference, but it’s not going to be success overnight,” Jeff said. “There are moral, physical and infrastructure issues that run so, so deep … Unless you see it, it is beyond belief.”

How to help

For more information on how to donate or be part of the team’s next visit, go to www.charis4haiti.com or contract Marcus Schrader at New Palestine Bible Church at 317-861-1210.