To be sure and receive Talk, add to your address book Vol 2: Issue 41, December 1, 2010

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This e-zine is dedicated to our good friend Frankie and her owners, Danny and Miss Sue, who lost her a few months ago. For years, we saw Frankie stick her head out the van window as Danny's ma drove him to school. We'd wave and yell "Hi, Frankie!" She was oblivious to us with her big doggie smile and nose in the air as the wind blew her hair this way and that. You meant the world to your ma and family, Frankie. Godspeed, God bless and from doggie heaven, whisper to mom to keep her Christmas tree tradition -- and while she's at it, buy a baby one at the farm to plant for you.


Talk is currently choosing its 2011 quarterly Charities of Record, and we invite our loyal readers to weigh in. Just join our Facebook Fan Page and from there, let us know which charity you'd like us to consider and why. At the end of December, we'll announce the four special charities chosen. Talk -- proud to pay it forward!

Delivering hope to Haiti
By Nancy Croft Baker

haiti_tag-1-2.jpgAs the howling winds and rain of Hurricane Tomas bore down on Haiti just a few weeks ago, a small band of local missionaries prayed for their new friends. "Because Haiti is so deforested, it rains harder than anything we've ever experienced. The flooding begins instantly. What little the Haitians do have is washed away in seconds," explains Ken Ivey, a local general contractor who spent 10 days teaching new building techniques in Haiti with a group of 22 from Purcellville Baptist Church (PBC) last July.

The team had been planning the mission trip since well before the fateful earthquake last January, but the volunteers were aghast at the destruction they witnessed a full six months after the worldwide recovery effort began. "I've seen a lot of things on mission trips and Red Cross recovery efforts," notes retired critical care nurse Donna Beitzel, "but Haiti was by far the most devastated area I've ever seen. Nothing can compare."

Indeed, landing in Port-au-Prince was an assault on the senses, observes Dr. Gary Ashton, a Leesburg dentist who led a dental clinic and helped with Ivey's construction project. "Buildings were still collapsed, and there were thousands of people living in tattered tents because there's still nowhere to go. They had spent the last six months with no water or sanitation. There are no trees for shade and no relief from the sun or the stench of so many people who have died in that small area." Many Haitians are starting to lose hope, Beitzel adds.

Teach a man to fish

But just 70 miles north of Port-au-Prince in the small village of LaCroix, hope is springing eternal. After a flood wiped out most of the village in 2005, Pastor Vaugelas Pierre of the New Testament Mission, based in LaCroix, has been relocating the village to higher ground one house at a time. More important, since 1975 he has renewed hope by inviting missionaries to help him fulfill his dream of building a thriving community of schools, medical clinics, churches, water purification facilities and a grain mill, as well as reforesting the land. They are living examples of the proverb that if you teach a man to fish, you can feed him for life.

Taking this notion to heart, PBC sent a dentist to provide and teach critical dental care, a construction crew to teach locals how to build a disaster-resistant house, nurses to prescribe eye glasses, mechanics to teach locals to repair the broken-down vehicles littering the countryside and a cadre of teachers and teens to run a weeklong vacation Bible school and meal program for hundreds of local children.


For dentist Gary Ashton, being part of the team was a direct calling. Since his teens, he had dreamed of becoming a medical missionary, but life always seemed to get in the way. That is, until last November. "I remember telling my sister that I wanted to go on a mission trip to Guatemala sometime. My sister suggested going to Haiti instead," Ashton explains. "Then the next day at church, there was a call for a dentist to join the Haiti mission team. That could only be me."

Loaded with dental tools, medical supplies and antibiotics, Ashton set up shop in a small room with one chair in the region's only medical clinic. "There's no such thing as preventative dentistry there," Ashton notes. "It would have been nice to fill cavities, but there were more critical needs to address. Dental infections can be fatal." Ashton extracted hundreds of infected teeth during his visit and began training his Haitian counterpart at the clinic to perform preventative dentistry. "The conditions were pretty bad," he says. "There was no sterilization or running water, and patients had to spit into a five-gallon paint bucket where we collected the teeth, but we got the job done. The patients were so relieved to be out of pain." Ashton has made plans to continue training the LaCroix dentist, who will study under Ashton in Leesburg in the near future.

At the end of a long day of extracting teeth, Ashton would venture to the construction site where Ivey was teaching local construction crews how to build reinforced cinderblock homes that will withstand the brutal weather of the region.


Building on a solid foundation

"Some of the most touching moments were on that construction site," Ashton says. "All the villagers would work all day barefoot in the scorching sun to help a neighbor. It didn't matter who was getting the house, they were all there to help, and they asked for nothing in return."

Ivey, who runs Ivey Builders, Inc. in Purcellville, was a little daunted by the poor quality of building materials he encountered. "Everything is done by hand. The mortar and concrete are such poor quality that you can almost crush their cinderblock in your hands," he notes. "The gravel they use to make the concrete is gathered by hand by elderly women who manually pound the stone into gravel-size pieces." Water to mix the concrete is hauled by women and children from the river in five-gallon buckets balanced on their heads. "It's back-breaking work."


Despite the obstacles, Ivey and his crew taught the locals how to reinforce the concrete cinderblock and masonry walls with rebar. "They had never seen anything like it before and at first didn't understand the need," Ivey says. "But as we continued to show and explain to them through translators, they realized that this house would not collapse." The house also had the first concrete floor in the neighborhood, an innovation that delighted the locals.

haiti_tag-4.jpgVision of hope

The residents of LaCroix also were delighted to receive better vision, thanks to Eye Doc in a Box. Ivey, along with Beitzel and school nurse Kelly Thomas, were trained to perform eye exams using a simple refractory lens process developed by optometrist David Curtis in Denver, North Carolina. He has taught hundreds of laypeople to perform manual eye exams in third world countries, prescribing with high accuracy eyewear that is changing lives.

"Being able to see can mean the difference between leading a productive life and being a burden on your family," Ivey notes. The PBC team brought 2,500 eye glasses to LaCroix, distributing about 1,500 and training a local physician to prescribe and fit the rest. "The older people were especially grateful and amazed at being able to see things," Beitzel recalls. "Some of them had been walking around for 40 years unable to see well. They were amazed." Sunglasses were also a hot commodity. "The people loved the concept of sunglasses, which you'd think would be essential on a tropical island," Beitzel says. "We ran out of those very quickly. We'll definitely take more sunglasses next summer!"

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Counting blessings

While Ashton, Beitzel, Ivey and other volunteers were performing medical and construction tasks, Lovettsville auto mechanic Warren Rathjen was busily turning junk cars into another hot commodity: transportation. On his second trip to Haiti, Rathjen also taught locals marketable skills for a future livelihood. "Our mechanics ministry is really important," notes PBC missions director Michael Healy."It's extremely hard work. Our mechanics had to carry all their own tools and parts down there with them. Some of the abandoned vehicles are Army trucks dating back to World War II." Rathjen is already making plans to continue training one of the local mechanics, who, like the Haitian dentist, will visit Loudoun in the near future.


At the end of their trip, each team gave away all their remaining tools, equipment and supplies. "People come out of nowhere when you start giving away your supplies," Ivey says. But it's usually for someone else, Ashton adds.

"I was particularly moved by a little boy who asked for my hat as we were leaving," Ashton recalls. "At first I said no, because he sounded a little demanding, but then I tossed the hat to him on second thought." The boy caught the hat and quickly placed it on the head of a little girl to shade her from the blazing sun. "That's the biggest blessing in all this," Ashton says. "These people have nothing but are so generous in spirit. It's a life-changing experience."

For more information about the New Testament Mission in LaCroix, Haiti, please send an e-mail to Pastor Pierre at

Your fundraiser or community event featured in Talk's Rendezvous e-zine!

Attention event planners, publicists and all our loyal readers -- we've started something new that's taking off already. Talk is happy to run your professional quality photos in our monthly Rendezvous. Each month, we'll feature two to three sets of photos that highlight charitable fundraisers or community events, and we would be happy to consider yours! Photos need to be submitted in a particular size, with full event details provided. If you'd like your event or project to be considered, send an e-mail with details and your contact information to If we select your entry, we'll send you the requirements and deadline for submitting! For more information about our expanded coverage of Loudoun activities with you as our community reporters, call Talk Founder Miriam Nasuti at 703.771.8893.

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