In 1994 Pastor Tanis Dérolus emigrated from Haiti to the Dominican Republic to serve as the assistant pastor at the Haitian Missionary Baptist Church in La Romana, Dominican Republic. In 1998 Dérolus and his wife started a small school, called Colegio Moriah, as an outreach for their new Haitian missionary church in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of San Pedro de Macorís. The school was no more than a tarp providing shade over the patio of the Dérolus’ home, and Esther was the only teacher. This fall, the school year opened at Colegio Moriah with 230 children enrolled in 14 classes serving students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Nevertheless, the neighborhood, the church and the student body served by Dérolus and Colegio Moriah were affected greatly by the loss of loved ones in the Haiti earthquake. On Jan. 26 Pastor Dérolus and his wife, Esther, journeyed back into Haiti to help with relief efforts.

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail from Pastor Dérolus:

“We have received many phone calls from our desperate family and church members who lost their loved ones, their houses, and all,” Dérolus wrote. “Many people are just walking in the streets of a completely destroyed Port-au-Prince without a place to sleep and no food. This disaster has placed on our shoulders a great responsibility to reach out and help. [Jan. 26] will be our first trip to Haiti after the disaster … Esther and I want to go and be with them in person to bring water, food, clothes and the Word of God to build up their hope.”

The Déroluses brought with them clothing and supplies from two mission teams from several Baptist churches in Pennsylvania. The teams, each consisting of about 35 people, were working on the Colegio Moriah school project from Dec. 30 to Jan. 23.

On Feb. 11 the next mission team will arrive to help the ministry of Pastor Dérolus. The February team is made up of members from First Baptist of Bar Harbor and Owls Head Baptist as well as others from across the state. The mission team from Maine spends every February vacation at Colegio Moriah doing construction work, teaching English, doing outreach and simply spending time with families in the neighborhood.

This year, International Missions has also contacted the team leaders about bringing down medical supplies to be delivered to Haiti by some of their missionaries stationed at the hospital El Buen Samaritano in La Romana. The hospital is affiliated with the Haitian Missionary Baptist Church where Dérolus began his ministry work in 1994. Some of the items needed are painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, bandages, antibiotic ointments, and antibiotics. Anyone wishing to contribute supplies may contact Adrian Munro at mdiyouth@gmail.com.

Hopes for this year’s Maine team include painting the new classrooms on the second floor, working on computer lab workstations, and continuing construction on the church building. Local Regional School Unit 40 and Regional School Unit 13 teachers will teach English in the school to all grades with assistance from high schoolers from Mount Desert Island High School and Georges Valley High School. Additional music lessons and game nights may be offered in the evenings, as well as a sports clinic on Saturday. Pastor Paul Munro of Owls Head Baptist and Pastor Ed Hatch of Palermo Christian Church will work with Pastor Dérolus to lead a conference for pastors throughout the San Pedro area, as well as a church leaders’ conference for members of Dérolus’ church.

Leaders from the Maine team are architect and Isleford resident Jeri Spurling and Adrian Munro, youth pastor at First Baptist of Bar Harbor. Spurling has donated her time and energy to head up the project design, construction and fundraising since the project’s inception. Munro first went to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip when he was 15 years old, and has returned on 11 different trips as well as many other mission trips and now leads work groups to Colegio Moriah. This will be the third year for Munro’s wife and two children, ages 3 and 5, to be a part of the team.

Colegio Moriah is a Christian school, but its mission is to serve impoverished children of all religious backgrounds, Haitian and Dominican alike. Unlike the United States, the Dominican Republic does not grant undocumented immigrants the right to an education. Part of Colegio Moriah’s mission as a private school is to provide the undocumented Haitian children of the neighborhood the opportunity to go to school.

This is also the first year that Colegio Moriah has been able to offer eighth grade due to certification hurdles from the Dominican government. In August 2009 the school received its Dominican Board of Education certification to teach secondary education, so the plan now is to add a grade each year so that students do not have to search out another option in order to complete their schooling.

The nonprofit project is funded entirely by donations from the individuals and churches involved, fundraisers, and community members who have taken an interest in the project. For information on how to help this cause, visit colegiomoriah.org, contact Munro at mdiyouth@gmail.com or call First Baptist of Bar Harbor at 288-3563.

While tax-deductible cash donations are most needed to keep the school operating and construction under way, they also accept donations of school supplies, clothing and medicine, which will be taken down with the mission teams. Checks, made out to Friends of Colegio Moriah, can be sent directly to Treasurer Craig Bean, 70 Park St., Houlton, ME 04730. To donate directly to Pastor Derolus’ work in Haiti, write “Haiti” on the memo line of the check.