The newest Pella Christian School is located far away from the one Iowans are most familiar with. It sits in the north central town of Pignon in Haiti. What links the two schools is strong support from the people of Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.
Calvary CRC youth group at Pella Christian School in Pignon, Haiti.
Through Many Hands for Haiti, Pella residents Tim and Lucia Van Maanen facilitated the building of the Haitian school. In doing so, they discovered that Pella, Iowa, had adopted Pignon, Haiti, as a sister city 30 years prior. They considered naming the new school Pella School, but wanting a Christian curriculum to be taught, instead named it Pella Christian School.
In March, several people from the Pella community traveled to Haiti, including Calvary members Dave Gritters and his daughter Calise, along with their pastor, Rev. Art Van Wolde and his daughter Maria.
“For those of us on the trip, it was eye-opening to experience poverty like this,” Dave Gritters said. “It was great for Art and I to experience this with our daughters. When we came back, we did our usual report to the congregation, but at the time we also gave the congregation a heads-up that people in our area were going to have the chance to sponsor children that will go to Pella Christian School in Haiti.”
In the middle of the summer, Calvary led several youth group members on a trip back to Haiti, putting the finishing touches on the near-complete school—painting, hanging chalkboards, and building and delivering school desks.
This fall Pella Christian School in Haiti opened its doors to 153 students from kindergarten through third grade; all but a few were sponsored by members of Calvary CRC.
“Calvary Church got on board 100 percent,” said Tim Van Maanen, who attends Third Reformed Church in Pella. “They basically sponsored the entire school.”
Each year the school will add one grade level through sixth grade. The school has capacity for 250 to 300 students.
“Having a sister school in Haiti is very exciting for the people of Calvary, and the entire community of Pella for that matter,” Gritters said. “Support for Pella Christian Grade School in Pella is huge at Calvary, so support for our sister school seems to be a logical next step. Pella Christian School in Haiti has been embraced well from the start.”
In February Calvary will lead another team to Pella Christian School in Haiti. That team will include Rev. Sheldon Starkenburg and three elders. Meanwhile, Tim and Lucia Van Maanen will return in November.
“We come back and we don’t live lives the same here again,” Van Maanen said. “We make different choices, and we see Calvary doing that. The whole thing is about changing lives. It’s changing lives in Haiti, but it’s also changing lives in Pella, Iowa.”