American missionary helps Haitian teen realize dream of becoming a doctor
Things changed for a Haitian teenager the day he met Chis Rodenbough.
Mission work grows
Members of Thyatira Presbyterian Church traveled to Mwandi, Zambia for the first time in 1991 to build an electrical substation. Today, more than 100 churches are involved in mission work there with Thyatira member Charles Newsome leading projects. Read about their most recent project in the Faith section starting on 1B.
The oldest of seven children, Renaud Gerve was in the eighth grade when he came across the American missionary.
Rodenbough, who attends Pine Hall Presbyterian Church near Stokesdale, received a call from his friend Charles Newsome asking for help renovating a hospital in Haiti.
The two had worked together on mission projects in Mwandi, Zambia, and Newsome, a member of Thyatira Presbyterian Church, knew Rodenbough would be perfect to supervise the construction project.
“The hospital had fallen away to nothing,” Rodenbough said.
But when Rodenbough arrived, he realized the project — which was set to be complete in two months — was going to be a much large undertaking than he expected.
“It took three months before our first container of materials cleared customs,” he said. “The construction became secondary. ... What do you do when you have no materials?
“I started preaching and, out of necessity, I started building roads because we couldn’t get things in and out.”
Shifting his focus to the people led Rodenbough to Gerve.
At the time, Gerve wasn’t attending school because he couldn’t afford the tuition.
“I started working with him, and he had sympathy for me,” said Gerve, who visited Thyatira this week.
When Rodenbough returned to the States, he explained Gerve’s predicament and began asking his fellow church members and friends to contribute to Gerve’s education.
“He understood education is the key of life and the only way that a person’s life could be changed,” Gerve said. “Meeting Chris was a blessing, with school open for me again, life was starting to smile on me.”
With the help of Rodenbough and many others, Gerve continued his education, going on to become a doctor.
He attended medical school in Port-au-Prince, but violence in the area forced him to finish in the Dominican Republic.
After graduating, Gerve returned to Mombin-Crochu, a small commune located in Haiti, to practice medicine on a voluntary basis through Unite de Lute pour La Sante, a nonprofit association organized in 2010 by Haitian citizens, doctors and nurses to provide health care.
“Now, I am involved, and my heart is set to promote and to provide primary health care to destitute people,” Gerve said. “Even though I have no job after finishing my social service, and I work voluntarily at the hospital, I would like to be a pediatrician.”
Gerve said the mountainous northeastern portion of Haiti has a population of about 40,000 people, but there are no medical specialists.
Although he doesn’t have the money to further his education to become a pediatrician right now, Gerve said he’s happy with the way Jesus is working through him and expects his dream will one day come true.
“I see that through my medical training, I help to save lives,” he said. “I am not sure how my life would be without the help of my friends and churches in the United States. Only God knows.”
Gerve wants to pay it forward by helping impoverished Haitian children attend school and give them “another taste of life.”
Through the years, Rodenbough has gotten many others involved in helping Haitian children, including Albemarle resident Joyce Lambert.
“Mission work is about developing people, not just going and building,” she said. “You get invested in the people. ... We recognized the great skills they have and responded.”
Rodenbough said any extra money he makes goes to Haiti for scholarships.
“I’m so thankful I got to meet this young man,” he said of Gerve. “He’s changed my life.”
Contact Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.