The Story Behind ‘Tarp to Tin’

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake destroyed an estimated 250,000 homes in Haiti. (It was followed by more than 50 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater.) Those already struggling to provide daily necessities had no means of recovering their losses. Many had to start over, and tent cities sprung up around the capital city. The ‘tents,’ made of sticks, string, and donated tarps provided some protection from the elements, but were stiflingly hot and constantly required reconstruction or repair. They offered no protection from thieves who cut into the tents with razor blades. The dirt floor became a mud floor with every rain. Most tents hosted a plethora of parasites, and often a family of scavenging rats.  Sadly, this has continued to be the living environment for an estimated 80,000 people.

From its inception in 2012, Servants in Fellowship focused on housing repair. At the time, other aid agencies with more resources were assisting with housing construction.* Plus, home-building requires permission from the land-owners, which is sometimes hard to obtain. Discretion is required, as determining ownership is not easy in Haiti. Those desperate for help may even lie, putting the ministry in jeopardy.

DSC01758Late October 2013, a small group from Gainesville, FL came to repair homes. Near the end of their week, team members redistributed the used tin to families in need of it. While doing this, they diPhoto Oct 30, 2 32 22 PMscovered three families living in very poor tent structures nearby. They planned to give them the tin, but the families were in such a dire situation they had no way or place to mount it.  The team members came back, hearts burdened to build them homes.

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As Greg weighed and prayed through all the reasons why not to build them homes, he sought God’s direction. “Is this Your plan, Lord? Am I just being stubborn?” He drew up a simple design for the home (based on a design from church-camp cabins he’d helped his grandpa build as a teenager). He told the group, “If God wants this to happen, He’s going to have to open the doors to make it happen!”

Greg asked around, trying to find out who owned the property. He explained the situation to the land-owner and asked if he and the team could build houses to replace the tent. “Wi Mesyè Greg!” Greg was confused, as he hadn’t introduced himself by name. He asked the man how he knew him. “Oh Meysè Greg, you repaired my house! You blessed me and I want to bless others!” Greg went to the house and recognized it at once, realizing God had opened one door to make the construction possible.


Next they needed materials. But it was a holiday, and all the stores were closed, their doors locked up tight. Greg & FanFan called the owner of a construction store and explained the situation. She said, “No problem! I’ll send someone down with the key. Just go on in. Keep track of what you take and we’ll settle up later.” What??? Another door opened, literally!

God addressed every obstacle, and the team went to work full-steam, trying to build the houses before it was time to return to Florida.

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Those were houses 1, 2, & 3. Since then, we’ve been blessed to be part of replacing more than 250 other tents.  

*The majority of aid agencies which arrived in response to the earthquake pulled out in 2013 or 2014, according to their predetermined timelines of service. Some are still active in Haiti as well as many long-term organizations serving Haitians before the earthquake.