As more than 30 young people and adults gathered in a prayer circle at the First Baptist Church of Aiken on Friday, The Rev. Fred Andrea described them as ambassadors as they prepared to leave for Haiti on Saturday for a weeklong mission.

A group of 20 high school and college students and adults will work with housing efforts in the town of Grand Go‚ve near Port-au-Prince. Andrea asked in prayer that the Americans and Haitian residents be empowered in collaboration and combined resources.

The mission trip is part of a partnership between the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Conscience International in providing assistance for the earthquake-racked Haiti – more than three years after the devastating event.

“We started planning this a year ago,” said The Rev. Mary Carol Anderson, the associate pastor for student ministries. “We love going on international mission trips, and we knew the earthquake hit Grand Go‚ve in a serious way – that this was the place to go this time.”

The First Baptist group will concentrate on rubble housing – building new homes from the damaged materials. Sally Tice, an Aiken High School teacher, has been a First Baptist member since childhood. This is her first mission trip, and her husband Victor has joined her as well. Tice finds the rubble housing effort especially moving.

“We're taking something from a tragedy and turning it into something positive,” she said.

Jack Eisenman, a summer intern with student ministries, wrote an essay about the trip and its impact.

According to estimates from the Haitian government, about 30,000 buildings and 250,000 homes were destroyed or damaged.

Eisenman described the technique of using rubble housing – pouring small pieces of rubble into wire mesh columns. That process is intended to improve safety. All the one-room rubble houses are 14 x 20 feet and cost about $3,800 each.

Furman University sophomore Gray Johnson is interested in many aspects of the mission trip. She is majoring in political science with a focus on international relations.

“I'm interested in diplomacy and interactions with other countries,” Johnson said, “and the way we respond to situations in those countries – the reasons why or why not. This has all kinds of interest for me and a chance to do work and serve.”

The earthquake has resulted in a long-lasting effect, Johnson said. Immediate response is certainly essential, “but continued response is so important, too,” she said.

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.