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Track coach returns from Haiti

A spider web of pothole-infested dirt roads connects a few hundred small houses made of mud and roofed with palm fronds. Nestled among these rudimentary dwellings lies a church, the focal point of the village.

Constructed of cement, illuminated by electricity and cooled by automatic fans, the church stands as a beacon of hope for the beleaguered peoples of this third world village.

Welcome to Pignon, Haiti. Sitting inside the church, thousands of miles from Fresno, Ericlee Gilmore was having the time of his life during his visit to Haiti, from March 17-28. The math teacher and track coach visits the island every chance he gets, since he can only keep in contact with his friends there through infrequent mailing.

Of the few adults that lead spring break mission trips, most visit Mexico or more local outreaches. A very small percentage of them go to more obscure locations like the Maryland-sized western one-third of the island of Hispaniola called Haiti.

?My grandparents were missionaries since 1947, and my mother was born in Haiti,? Gilmore said. ?I have been there over a dozen times, including short term mission trips in 2001 and 2002 where we led a track and field camp. It is the legacy of my family, and I love it.?

A small group, made up of Gilmore, his wife, Dorina, and his mother, Christene, took the trip to this mostly Roman Catholic island. Although Christian missionaries have heavily influenced the people there, it is estimated that roughly half of Haiti?s residents practice voodoo.

Fellowship with the people made up a large part of Gilmore?s weeklong visit, but not all of it. Every day, Gilmore taught a leadership class to men between 18 and 30 years of age.

The three visitors held a field day for kids in town, and afterwards they shared the gospel with them. The week culminated if bringing a group to the Easter service.

?Mostly we wanted to encourage the people and the pastors in the Lord,? Gilmore said. ?We also wanted to see our friends and encourage them to keep persevering in the Lord.?

One might question what would possess a full-time high school teacher to spend his entire spring break on a mission trip, since it is a very precious time of rest for most teachers and students.

?I don?t consider it a sacrifice at all,? Gilmore said. ?We love the place and the people so much that we knew it was an opportunity from God, so we obeyed. It was a lot better than just staying in Fresno.?

While Gilmore did not take any students with him on this trip, he plans on bringing a large group with him to Haiti in the summer of 2006. Anyone interested should contact him at [email protected].

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