Despite challenges and tragedy, a Wheeling native and her husband remain committed to an effort to build an orphanage in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
Christy Cooey Gammon and her spouse, Greg Gammon, a native of Maine, reside in Columbus, but their hearts are with children in need all over the world. Currently, Greg Gammon is giving his time and energy to serving as project manager for construction of a children's home in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti.
He had been working side by side with family friend and fellow Columbus resident David Bompart, co-founder of a nondenominational ministry called Eyes Wide Open International that is overseeing the project. Work on the building project had been progressing smoothly until the unthinkable happened three weeks ago.
While Greg remained at the construction site with other volunteers on Jan. 24, Bompart went to a bank in nearby Port-au-Prince to pick up money for the project. In an instant, the seemingly routine trip turned into a senseless tragedy.
Bompart, 50, was shot and injured critically by robbers outside the bank. After undergoing two surgeries in a Port-au-Prince hospital that he helped rebuild after the 2010 earthquake, Bompart was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami. He died there Feb. 2.
After the shooting, Bompart communicated to Greg, "I need you to stay here and finish what's started," Christy related. And stay is exactly what Greg intends to do.
In spite of their sorrow, Greg and volunteers from two Ohio churches continue to work on the project. In fact, considerable progress was made in the past couple of weeks as the building's foundation and exterior structure began to take shape.
Bompart's wife, Nicolle, who is executive director of Eyes Wide Open International, and their family and friends held memorial services in Miami and at their home church, Vineyard Columbus.
Christy said Bompart's wife also plans to have a memorial service in Trinidad and Tobago, his home country, and a final service in Haiti.
Mark Batcheck, pastor for Vineyard Columbus' international ministries, was unavailable last week to comment on the orphanage project because of his involvement with the visitation and funeral for Bompart, a church employee said.
Reflecting on Bompart's death, Christy wrote, "I pray that through this tragedy, more people will come to know the love of Christ: the kind of love that inspires a man to lay down his life in the name of God's kingdom work; the kind of love that inspires others to continue faithfully in those footsteps to make sure the work is finished. To me, this is 'His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.'"
Christy, daughter of Gary and Debbie Cooey of Wheeling, remarked, "Greg and I are so humbled and blessed to be a part of this children's home and hopefully many more projects to come."
She and her husband have been supporting and participating in mission work internationally for several years. Their family includes sons Greg Jr., 21, and Zach, 19, and daughter Kate, 3. Christy is a 1993 graduate of Wheeling Park High School and a graduate of Bethany College.
The Gammons also are active members of Vineyard Columbus. The church and Archbold (Ohio) Evangelical Church are participating in the building project in Haiti.
The current phase of the project began in January when Greg and David returned to Haiti, accompanied by a young couple from Vineyard Columbus, Brian and Krystle Werking Kenfield, who were making their initial mission trip. In the first week, they worked on "setting up communications and tents and living spaces. They did some preliminary construction that they would need to house the bigger teams coming down," Christy explained.
In the second week, teams of 15 to 20 people from Archbold Evangelical Church began arriving. They have poured concrete and done other work. "They're making tons of progress," Christy related. "They're doing really well," and are on schedule to complete work by April 6, she added.
The organizers have ordered a steel building that will be shipped in a container and assembled by teams on site. she said. Meanwhile, she said, "The church in Archbold has secured a warehouse. Teams are working in Archobld to put together the interior. They will dismantle it, ship it in a container to Haiti and put it back together and it will be done.
"If families and churches coming together to build houses for children in Haiti and around the world, if that's not the heart of Jesus, I don't know what is," Christy commented. "I think it's the coolest thing ever."
In addition to building the children's home, Eyes Wide Open International "oversees provision of clothes, health care and education for the group of children who will live there," she explained.
Currently, 35 children are under care and will become residents of the new home, which will accommodate up to 40 children, she said. The residents will be children who have lost one or both parents or whose parents "can no longer take care of them, for a variety of reasons, mostly stemming from the earthquake," she said.
"Nicolle has interviewed all of the children. She has been able to confirm that all of the children are in that dire need," Christy said.
A Haitian pastor and his wife took in the 35 children after the earthquake. The couple, serving as house parents, are living with their own five children and the 35 youngsters in a six-room apartment. The apartment is "jam-packed with people," Christy said, adding, "It's wonderful that they have a roof over their heads as compared to people in tents."
The pastor and his wife "started taking in children right away after the earthquake. They belonged to people who went to Pastor Nae Nae's chuch so he had a personal connection with all of these kids," Christy said.
The Bomparts met the pastor when they and other members from Vineyard Columbus went to Haiti on medical missions after the earthquake. Eyes Wide Open International has partnered with the pastor and his wife since September 2010 to provide food and other resources, Nicolle stated.
The Gammons' involvement in international missions began in 2005, when they received an inheritance. "We've always had a heart for children," Christy related. "We discovered through our church we could partner with a church that served children in Africa. We set up an endowment to help provide food and education for children in Zambia.
"In 2007, we were able to go there and meet the kids. We were there for 15 or 16 days. That's when our hearts were broken for just the children of the world and missions, and knowing that would not be a once-in-a-lifetime mission for us," she recalled. Greg went back to Africa on a mission three years later.
After the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Greg told Christy, "I have a stirring in my heart. I have to go to Haiti." At the time, their church was sending medical mission teams to Haiti, but they felt unqualified for that type of service. They began praying for "something where we do fit," she said, and the orphanage has become that fit.
"In August 2010, we felt called to sell our home and downsize and move into an apartment and wait on the Lord - to go when and where He called us," Christy said. "That's where we are right now. We just feel like this is where we're supposed to be. We're just awaiting more specific direction."
The Gammons became friends with the Bomparts early in 2011. Greg made his first trip to Haiti last spring to help prepare the land and start work on the orphanage project.
"From that time forward, he felt like he had to go back," Christy said. As their friendship deepened, the Bomparts indicated that a project manager was needed for the work in Haiti, and "it became clear Greg was the person to do that," Christy said.
Greg returned to Haiti for about 10 days in October; at that time, he and David worked with concrete suppliers and people who would provide tools and materials for the construction in January.
Christy hopes that Greg will be able to come home as scheduled, in time for their 10-year wedding anniversary on April 12. She also prays that love and concern for the Bomparts will result in "an influx of teams wanting to go down and serve, and they'll able to build the home even faster.
"There's so much need; we want to move on to the next one," she said. "I just want him (Greg) to be able to come home and process and grieve and wait on the Lord to see where He sends us. We are more inspired and passionate than ever that the work must continue."
Reflecting on their experiences, Christy said, "It's an adventure. It's certainly been the wildest adventure of my life. I highly, highly recommend it."
She said contributions are still needed for the children's home. Checks can be made payable to Into the Field (a parent organization for fundraising), with EWOI written on the memo line. Checks can be sent to Eyes Wide Open International, 1161 Bethel Road, Suite 101, Columbus, OH 43220.