MIFFLINTOWN - In two years, a small Juniata County ministry has provided shelter for 87 families and dozens of orphan children.
Houses of Hope for Haiti formed in 2010 with a mission to help Haitians whose homes were destroyed by a massive earthquake.
Though the nation still struggles, the need for housing has greatly decreased. So this spring, Houses of Hope leaders decided that it was time to end the ministry.
On May 24, its organizers held a final celebration banquet and benefit auction to pay for a final shipment of houses and dormitories.
The ministry began with a team of area medical missionaries who served in Haiti after the earthquake in January 2010.
Lori King, a nurse and organizer with Houses of Hope, remembered watching the rain on one of the team's last days in Haiti. She saw Haitians sleeping in the mud, their meager belongings soaked because they had nowhere else to go.
"We had a dry place to sleep, and they did not," King said. "I came home still hurting."
Back in Juniata County, John Gehman, a doctor and pastor who was with King on that first trip, came up with the idea of creating a ministry to provide temporary housing for Haitians.
Several months later, they formed Houses of Hope for Haiti, working in conjunction with God's Missionary Church World Missions.
As the word spread about Houses of Hope, they began to make connections with other ministries, too.
One was JuniPer Community Missions, another local mission whose organizers were looking for a way to help orphan children in Haiti.
George Losch from JuniPer contacted King about building dormitories for these children, and Houses of Hope said yes. Through the partnership, two dormitories have been sent and two more are on the way.
"I saw a miracle happen in Haiti," Losch said.
Pastor Bob Landis of the River Church of Juniata County, said he was amazed by how much support the community gave to Haiti. River Church handled the financial end of the ministry, collecting donations and keeping track of the account.
"The community grabbed ahold of this," Landis said. "It's very powerful what can be accomplished."
The ministry received more than just financial donations.
Numerous businesses donated supplies, and dozens of volunteers helped prebuild the houses in all kinds of weather, said Jeff Hoover, who designed and built the original house.
The 8x16 foot houses looked like a garden shed. Each included a bed, table, chair and a bucket of supplies, and cost about $2,000 to make.
Some volunteers worked on the hottest days of the summer, and others had to break apart 2x4s that iced together in the winter, Hoover said.
The building process started slowly, but the volunteers got the knack of it by the end. This spring, about 30 volunteers prebuilt two dormitories and 20 houses in about six hours, Hoover said.
Teams also traveled to Haiti to finish building the houses. One final team will travel there again this summer to build the final shipment of houses.
These volunteers have been met with profound gratitude from the Haitians who received houses, a humbling experience, Gehman said.
"None of us would do well in an 8-by-16 foot house," Gehman said.
The organizers thanked all of the individuals, businesses, churches and others who helped make Houses of Hope for Haiti possible.