MCC photo/Annalee Giesbrecht

Bob and Rose Love return to Haiti where they first met while serving with MCC in the 1970s. 

Since MCC’s beginnings in 1920, thousands of people have travelled around the world, following the call to serve. New MCC workers leave their homes and families and immerse themselves in a new culture, new work and a new language. Many alumni look back on their time with MCC as a life-changing experience. Just ask Bob and Rose Love, who fell in love while serving with MCC in Haiti in the early 1970s.

In 1976, Bob Love and Rose Lehman were seconded by MCC to Hospital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in the town of Deschappelles in Haiti’s Artibonite valley. MCC supported HAS from 1958 until 1989 by sending North American trained medical staff to work at the hospital as doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and community development workers. Bob worked in the pharmacy, while Rose was a nurse.

Patients wait for medical care in front of Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles, Haiti. MCC supported the hospital from 1958 to 1989 by sending North American trained medical staff to work at the hospital.Photo courtesy of Bob and Rose Love

“There were eight foreigners working in the hospital, all sponsored by MCC,” said Rose. “Whenever we weren’t working we had to create our own entertainment together, we took trips together around Haiti… we were very close knit.”

“One married couple, several single women… and me!” Bob added.

Although Bob and Rose had never met before coming to Haiti with MCC, their three-year terms overlapped, giving them plenty of time to get to know each other. As many current and former service workers can attest, working in an unfamiliar culture and language is a big adjustment, often making overseas service a challenging time to start dating. But Bob and Rose’s new relationship thrived in Haiti.

“The counsel we were given during our dating time in Haiti was to go back to our familiar surroundings and see what kind of people we were back in the U.S.,” said Rose, “and not just to assume we would be the same people in Haiti as we were in the United States.”

Bob Love and Rose Lehman with Rose's parents Mabel and Arlo Lehman in the dining room at Hospital Albert Schweitzer (HAS). Photo courtesy of Bob and Rose Love

The relationship they began in Haiti proved resilient through their transition returning to the United States. Bob and Rose got married in June of 1980. Through 38 years of marriage, they’ve never forgotten their relationship’s beginnings with MCC in Haiti.

“Having been with people who are dying of malnutrition and the likes has left this indelible thing in our minds that really impacts how we make decisions,” said Bob.

“Primarily in how we choose to spend money and how we choose to save money and how we choose to be involved with Christian development organizations like MCC and others.”

It’s hard to live in a culture that is not familiar, but it is stretching and a source of growth. — Bob Love

Rose agreed. “I don’t know who I would have been without MCC. It has certainly made a huge impact on my life ever since that experience, making me aware of poverty everywhere in the world and the disparity between the rich and the poor.”

Over the years, Bob and Rose have returned to Haiti several times to volunteer at HAS, even working alongside their children on some occasions. Most recently, they joined an MCC learning tour to visit projects based out of MCC’s offices in Port-au-Prince and Desarmes, not far from HAS in Deschappelles.

The Artibonite Department, which includes both Deschappelles and Desarmes, has changed since Bob and Rose lived there in the 1970s. Previously bare mountainsides that had been vulnerable to soil erosion and landslides are now covered in trees, thanks in part to MCC-supported reforestation projects. The new trees have had a transformative effect on the local ecosystem, causing once-dry riverbeds to flow with water again; local residents even say the birds have returned.

A procession through the campus of Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles, Haiti. MCC supported the hospital from 1958 to 1989, during which time MCC service workers lived and worked on the campus.Photo courtesy of Bob and Rose Love

MCC’s work in Haiti has changed too, shifting from direct implementation of projects and staffing to a partnership model in which MCC staff work primarily in supporting roles with local partners. While MCC Haiti’s staff has grown, the number of service workers has remained much the same as it was when Bob and Rose lived in Deschappelles. Today, seven service workers work alongside 17 Haitian staff in Port-au-Prince and Desarmes.

“Right now, it’s an exciting time because MCC is being led into a more relational kind of work, and that’s very exciting and encouraging to me,” said Bob, “but the older model has also had a huge impact in Haiti, and there are many parts of Haitian society in local areas that have really been blessed by MCC’s involvement.”

As they reflected on their time in Haiti, Bob and Rose also had some words of advice for the next generation of MCC service workers:

“It’s hard to live in a culture that is not familiar, but it is stretching and a source of growth,” said Bob. “I would just like to see many people have that sense of desire to go for it.”

Make a difference