For a year, the Aberle family lived and breathed Haitian life, from eating traditional meals outside in the lush greenery of the Caribbean island to attending church in one of the quaint, open-air buildings.
Craig residents Cammie and Sam Aberle and their two children attended Haitian weddings and learned and spoke the Creole language while they lived in a small town in northern Haiti as missionaries.
In October 2009, the family returned to Craig.
On Jan. 12, a deadly earthquake shook the foundation of the culture the Aberles had left behind in Haiti, destroying buildings, services and a way of life for thousands of people.
Cammie Aberle said the village she had lived in was far enough away to escape any damage but that the lives of their former neighbors were affected by the disaster.
“I know they felt it there,” she said. “And they are starting to ship people to the north so they’ll have a place to go. There are churches there calling people to move to the north.”
She and her husband, Sam, were living in Kansas years ago and praying that a missionary opportunity would become available.
Two weeks later, their pastor asked if they would be willing to go to Haiti with OMS International, a Christian missionary organization.
Cammie Aberle had been to Haiti previously on short-term trips. She said it was the last place she wanted to go because it had many other missionaries.
Still, when the opportunity came up, she said it was God’s way of showing her where she was needed.
“When people go to Haiti, their first impression is always that there’s so much poverty,” she said. “But they do really well at a lower standard. They survive, they thrive with less.”
She said the Haitian culture is based on relationships, and that Haitians are extremely hospitable, even to strange missionaries who knock on their doors.
“They’re very relational-oriented people,” Cammie Aberle said. “They take care of one another. They have complete faith in God and a faith in prayer that Americans just cannot have.”
She said when she went from house to house sharing the gospel, families welcomed her in and gave her a chair to sit in without knowing her reason for being there.
When she and her family hiked two hours up a dirt path to visit a church in a small village on the mountains, two hot meals awaited them.
She led church groups and Bible studies while her husband helped put the finishing touches on a seminary complex.
Their children, Azariah, 2, and Gideon, 4, also have fond memories of their year in Haiti, recalling several Creole words and their Haitian baby-sitter.
On Tuesday afternoon, as Cammie Aberle flipped through pictures on her laptop, Azariah peered around her shoulder with a grin, pointing out pictures of her and her brother playing with Haitian children.
“Haiti,” she said with a grin. “Me like Haiti, Mama.”
At age 2, Azariah might be too young to understand the devastation she sees on the news, but her brother is beginning to ask questions, Cammie Aberle said.
Meanwhile, Cammie Aberle said she will continue to pray for the those who lived in or near the city of Port-au-Prince, the area most affected by the disaster.
The mission organization they traveled with is now involved with relief efforts, and is working with Samaritan’s Purse and Kids Alive to help survivors of the earthquake by putting roofs over their heads and food in their stomachs.
“I am definitely praying for the Haitians,” she said. “They live in extreme conditions already and to add something like that to it. … But I understand that they are a strong people. They are survivors. They have the grace of God, and they will survive well. ”