Yvon Pierre, director fo the Ryan Epps Home for Children in Haiti, speaks to the youth group at Horne Memorial United Methodist Church.
CLAYTON -- At their weekly fellowship dinner and youth group meeting Wednesday night, members of Horne Memorial United Methodist Church got a chance to reminisce about their mission work in Haiti and celebrate their accomplishments.
The Ryan Epps Home, founded by Horne Memorial church member Helen Little, has become a major ministry for the church, with congregation members volunteering in Stop Hunger Now meal packaging events and on mission trips to help at the home.
On Wednesday, Ryan Epps Home director Yvon Pierre visited Horne Memorial with the good news that the first shipment of 285,000 pre-packaged meals from Stop Hunger Now had finally arrived.
Church members and others in the community had helped to raise the funds and conduct meal packaging events to fill the container and ship it to Haiti, an effort that is ongoing with a second container that community members have been working on since January. If a group can fill a whole shipping container with 285,000 meals, they can determine its destination.
Pierre said the food has been extremely helpful, especially for families in the community who have difficulty getting enough to eat each day. Stop Hunger Now meals are served once a day at the home’s associated school of 210 students, and meals are sent home with those students. Pierre is also distributing meals at other churches and schools in the area.
“It’s good, people like it,” Pierre said of the meals. “It’s really a big help.”
But Pierre says that he has to space out the distribution of the food, because it won’t last forever. And while he’s looking forward to another shipment of 285,000 meals that 45 churches in the Johnston County area have worked to pack since January, the cost of getting the shipment through customs is exorbitant.
Pierre said they spent $8,000 in custom fees while the shipment just sat at the port for three months before they could get clearance to unload it and bring it to the storage facility at the school. An alternative to efforts to send meal containers to the school would be to send money, so Pierre and his wife could go to the local market and buy food for the community.
“Because of customs it takes time and money. It might be better to buy locally,” Pierre said.
Pierre spoke to the youth group about the delivery of the meals, and also thanked them for the time they spent in Haiti. Eleven youth from Horne Memorial visited Haiti in July, helping to build bunk beds and closets, and clearing a lot to start a garden.
Pierre invited them to come back and bring their friends next summer.
“It is always our pleasure to have people like you come down to Haiti to work with them. Your contribution has a big impact on their lives,” Pierre said.
John Lopp, a youth group member who volunteered in Haiti in July, said he can’t wait to go back.
“I think I made a difference to them. If I didn’t, they certainly made a difference to me,” Lopp said.
For Ruth Epps, visiting the Ryan Epps home this summer was an opportunity for the children there to meet the mother of their home’s namesake.
Little named the home after Ryan Epps, a Sunday school student of hers who died in a car crash in 2005 at the age of 18.
“It was very emotional,” Epps said of her visit to the home. “It was probably the best therapy, because I know now that Ryan will live on in such a positive way.”
With another youth mission trip set for next July and 207,000 more meals already packaged, the Horne Memorial community is continuing to take care of that legacy.