What did Sturgeon Lake resident Thane Sheetz say when Cathy, his wife told him she wanted to go on a missions trip to Haiti?
“I guess the first thing I thought was, well of course you do,” said Thane.
When Cathy added that she would like to take Coriella, their 12-year-old daughter, on the trip with her, Thane continued to be encouraging.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Thane. “Twelve is not too young to have a life-changing experience.”
As participants of a nine-member team from Moose Lake Evangelical Covenant Church (MLECC), last week Cathy and Coriella Sheetz left for Pignon, a village in Haiti’s north central plateau, about 85 miles outside Port au Prince at the foot of Haiti’s Massif du Nord mountain range.
This will be the 10th year a group from MLECC has made the trip, but the first time for Cathy and Coriella.
“I wanted something that wasn’t just a one time thing, going abroad,” said Cathy. “I wanted something to build relationships and continuity. This mission trip seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
MLECC established a relationship with Pastor Caleb Lucien, a Haitian educated in the United States who, with his brother Jephthe, is instrumental in building Pignon into a hub for refugees, housing many displaced Haitians after the 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince.
“The church has a long-term relationship with this place,” said Cathy. “It’s been exciting and wonderful to hear about how God’s been able to work in their lives and in the lives of the people in Haiti. I wanted to be a part of that.”
This is not the first high impact experience for the Sheetz family, who moved here from New York City nearly five years ago. They lived near the World Trade Towers during the attack there.
“We watched the World Trade Towers come down,” said Cathy. “Thane’s parents were supposed to be on a plane flying out to meet their brand new grandchild the day of 9-11 but they got grounded and couldn’t come out.”
The couple made the decision to move to Minnesota where Thane grew up.
“It was a bit of a stretch moving here from where we lived before,” said Thane. “We had had a very close network of friends but we both felt the kids would benefit from a rural setting as well.”
When the subject of potential danger in Haiti came up, Thane and Cathy each responded.
“I have to turn it over to God and say, no matter what happens, we’re in God’s hands,” said Cathy, “even if that means that there is danger. God will be with us, and I mean no matter what.
“We lived in New York where the threat of terrorism was very real and every day present. You’re never one hundred percent safe. Anything can happen any time.”
Cathy’s husband is of the same mind.
“My sister goes to Africa frequently,” said Thane. “She says, ‘The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.’ I think to be outside of that is probably more dangerous than whatever physical danger there may be in the world.”
Fundraisers were held to pay for the trip. The missions committee also donated funds.
“The rest of it we made up out of our own personal funds,” said Cathy. “Airline tickets alone are over $600.”
There are also transportation, interpreter, and other related fees once the group is in Haiti.
“The group also paid for part of the construction cost,” said Cathy in reference to construction that will take place during the mission trip. “This time we’re bringing hinges, doorknobs and screws. They have the wood there but we’ll bring the hardware to help put together doors for the school that we’ll be working on.”
Another aspect of MLECC’s mission is to hold a women’s retreat for Haitian women.
“The last couple years there have been 150 to 300 women who come from miles around,” said Cathy. “They come with packages or luggage on their heads, walking, many of them.”
The Haitian women requested teaching from the book of Revelation. The first four chapters of Revelation were taught during the last trip.
“Now we’ll be teaching on chapter five through 12 with the goal of coming back and finishing up in the next year or two,” said Cathy.
While Cathy and Coriella are on the 10-day trip, Thane will continue working from his home office.
“I work for a company that provides computer software for performing arts organizations,” said Thane. “Those organizations are all over the world so it doesn’t really matter where I live. As long as I have an Internet connection I can do my job.”
It’s not only the job that will be left to Thane. It’s the gardens, the chickens, and daily care of the couple's other children, Phillip (10) and Amanina (8). Thane’s parents will be assisting with the children during his working hours.
After pausing, Thane did break out in a grin as he shared a thought regarding his duties while his wife and daughter are in Haiti.
“Cathy is a soccer coach,” said Thane. “That is the thing I am most concerned about, having to cover her coaching duties on Tuesdays. I am a little nervous about coaching 20 second-graders in soccer.”
The couple expects the entire family to benefit from the mission trip.
“One of our goals is that we raise kids that think globally,” said Thane. “We want all of our kids to have a broader view of the world and God’s work in the world. God is working in amazing ways in a lot of different places.”
What is Cathy’s personal reason for the trip?
“I just want to be open to experiencing God at work and the Holy Spirit at work in powerful ways,” said Cathy. “I experience that here, and have throughout my life. I just want to be open to a different place or opportunity to experience that.”
Cathy and Coriella Sheetz will return from Haiti at the end of the week.