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Local churches reach out to Haiti

At least two Farmington churches with ties to Haiti are making plans to help that country recover from the destruction caused by an earthquake earlier this week.

The River Church has set up a fund to collect aid for the Caribbean country, where thousands are dead and many more are seriously injured. Pastor Mike Armbrust said the church will pass along all of the money it takes in to the Loving Hands Ministry of Hatian pastor Joseph Rene.

Rene has identified corn and an excavator as significant needs. He's looking for $10,000 to buy 1,000 bags of corn and $24,000 for the excavator.

Any money collected beyond that $34,000 will also go through to Loving Hands Ministry and would be used for necessities like clean water.

"It's very sad to hear what's going on down there. That's why there's the desire to help out," Armbrust said. "Sometimes we can't do a whole lot, mainly because of distance. But if we all did a little, it can turn into a lot."

Armbrust has worked with Rene in the past on mission projects in Haiti, and Rene visited Farmington earlier this summer.

In addition, Armbrust and Faith United Methodist Church pastor Kevin Fox are leading an effort to coordinate relief projects among local churches. Faith United Methodist had a mission trip scheduled to leave Saturday for Haiti but that trip has been delayed because of restrictions on travel to the country.

"We hope to put together some kind of task force to unify our efforts," said Fox, who was scheduled to be part of this week's trip. "It would be a unifying thing for churches in town and for Farmington."

Armbrust has seen the kind of difference people can make in Haiti. He made his first trip to Haiti in 1999 as part of a mission. Armbrust said this week he'd been looking for a place where he could truly make a difference helping the poor. He certainly found it.

"We have poor here, but typically the poor in America have the basics like food and water and clothing," Armbrust said. "I remember one time going into a school and there's a little boy about 8 years old and he's so happy to be in school but he's sitting there in just a t-shirt. He had no pants, no undewear. My heart went out to him."

On that first trip Armbrust helped put a second floor on an elementary school in Port-au-Prince. He learned this week the building had collapsed.

Armbrust has been back to Haiti six times since then, and it was one of the River Church's mission trip that introduced members of Faith United Methodist to the needs there.

"A lot of what I do, I see myself more as a facilitator than an expert on anything," Armbrust said. "I like to see what happens to Americans when they get out of their box."

To donate to the River Church's fund send tax-deductible contributions to "The River Church: Haiti Relief Fund" PO Box 214, Farmington, MN 55024.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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