Port au Prince

Port au Prince
"He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." Psalm 40:2

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's complicated

I cannot believe that it is our last morning.  Our last passion fruit juice, pineapple, and Haitian coffee breakfast is looming before us.  I think I can speak on behalf of the group when I say that though we are looking forward to breakfast (we have been truly blessed with gorgeous food) most of us would gladly spend another week here.  The thought of going home is sad and somehow too sudden.  But here we are on the day of departure nonetheless.  My feelings about this…well, it’s complicated.

For me this has been week of fun, good fellowship and service with an amazing bunch of people. Though I felt very called to come on this trip, I had the least clear reason and purpose to make this journey. I am not medically trained but specifically asked to be on the medical team as that is where God drew my heart. I was pretty anxious that my time here would be useful, that I would have some way to serve this community. God provided that in what became know as “Filing For Jesus.”  King’s Hospital, I am very proud to say, now has the first medical records in the country of Haiti that are filed to international standards.  Monday we walked into a room full of piles of dusty manila folders and with the help of pretty much everyone on the team, we got the 4,000 or so folders in order.

The medical records room was a hot, stuffy and was where Stephen and I spent most of the first day sorting files.  However, after the initial organization was over we would take individual piles out into the courtyard for sorting.  This is where the kids from the orphanage were playing, where patients were waiting, or hot and tired teammates (both American and Haitian) were put to work in their off moments.  Courtyard filing attracted a lot of attention.  Curious kids stared, people smiled at my badly pronounced “bonjours,” and practiced their English with us.  This seemingly arduous task became a time for conversations, contemplation, and ultimately connection.

We talked about everything from the mundane (You live by yourself?  Don’t you get lonely?  Doesn’t your mother mind?) to the complex (Vodoo and Christianity, can you believe both?).  We covered it all.  The more I learned, the more I listened, the more I realized that the healing of Haiti is far more complex and full of contradictions than I ever expected…it’s complicated.

The political situation is complex.  Decades of corruption and oppression have led to devastating poverty. The earthquake compounded the situation by creating an overwhelming need and a cry for strong leadership. But instead of coming from the Haitian government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and missionary groups met those needs.  What is their role here and what has been the effect? This has been the debate from visitors and Haitians alike and a hot topic for “Filing for Jesus.”

NGOs were in Haiti long before the earthquake, but their importance increased tenfold afterwards. They have met so many basic and desperate needs, but they have created problems of dependency as well. There are many stories of well-known medical NGOs that have come in and taken over Haitian hospitals to give free medical care.  Sounds like a good thing right?  Haitian hospitals (most of whom were charging a small amount) could not compete with free care and went out of business, resulting in jobs lost. Good intentions aren’t always enough…it’s complicated.  

Are we missionaries any better?  Our purpose is to serve God.  To glorify Him through our actions.  We met a team of American teenagers who had spent a week outside of Port-au-Prince building permanent housing for four families last week (praise the Lord!). A great opportunity for those teenagers to experience life in a developing country, to share God’s love through service, and to offer material help to families that were no doubt living in one of the many tent cities.  Could they have used the money for travel to hire Haitians instead? Might this have created more jobs and resulted in more homes?  Likely, and it leaves me conflicted.  When we embark on short-term missions we should challenge ourselves to think about engaging in and supporting these efforts locally so that they lead to sustainability. Though I have been convicted that I need to be more diligent and thoughtful about where I commit my money and my time, I have also realized that I cannot be paralyzed by it either.

Where to start? The desperate nature and the vast number of people who need help may leave you scratching your head.  It can be devastating, disheartening, and overwhelming if you spend too much time thinking about it, as you’re apt to do with 4,000 files to work your way through…it is so very complicated.

But there is hope…we saw people working to clear the rubble of a building, witnessed church members give with unbridled passion during the collection for repair of their church, befriended an orphaned little boy who wants to be a surgeon. I want to help. We all want to help.  Now all we need to do is figure out how.

One of the best things about our team is that we had two complementary groups on the Port-au-Prince trip.  Those of us on our short-term mission supported King’s Hospital in its mission to serve the poor, and Tracy and Janese worked on figuring out how Park Street can partner with World Relief and Haitian churches to help in the long term. From Tracy’s and Janese’s accounts it sounds like World Relief is staffed with incredibly knowledgeable, experienced and faithful people who specialize in the overwhelming: Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Darfur…hope for the complicated.

Park Street Church has made a 10-year commitment to World Relief to partner with a church in Haiti to help with the rebuilding and development.  Though I have been overwhelmed at times with the effectiveness of my meager efforts, the complexity of the situation, and the massive amount or work and change ahead and Haiti, I cannot help but want to jump in and be part of the solution to a problem so complex only God can fix it.  I hope the Haiti team’s blog and stories of the week will help put this same desire in your heart too.  Join us in helping to heal Haiti; you will not regret it.


Friday, August 20, 2010

The Gift of Life

Today was brilliant. I started as part of the triage detail, working with Ashley and Manuel, our interpreter. As triage, we represented the first line of care, charged to assess and discern which patients needed immediate care. In doing so we were responsible to obtain the patient’s reason for the hospital visit, while acquiring their vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, etc.) and medical history (i.e. “Why have you come to the hospital today?”). This enables those “at risk” patients to be “triaged” to the top of the physician’s patient list.

The moment everybody in the waiting room had been triaged, I snuck in to observe Grace and Joyce treat patients – a blast as always, for humor never strays far from our two team physicians.  They have ensured that I was continually involved in thinking through the medical differential (possible diagnoses) until a final diagnosis was reached and a treatment plan was established. I loved being able to participate in assessing the patient. I also burned through a lot of ink as I scribbled down their answers to all of my questions. So shout out to them both – for they enabled a definite highlight of my week. 

Beyond the exciting work and activities, today was a powerful day for me. Aside from some of the basics, I cannot yet do much as a pre-medical person to actually treat patients. However, I was able to reach out and love up on hurting people. This week has confirmed just how much a simple touch, a quick smile, and a listening ear can communicate love – especially to people who struggle with isolating, smelly infections and really uncomfortable/painful conditions. My favorite patients were the kiddos. Regardless of the fact that I am a complete stranger, it only seems to take about 5 seconds for the kids to gaze up at me with trust, eagerly taking my hand or raising their arms for me to swoop them into the air. Today, Jerry, a five year old came into the clinic room with his father, accompanied by his younger brother and sister who also needed treatment. As he waited for his younger brother to be treated, he came over to sit on my lap. He weighted only 25 pounds. Because we needed to make double check his low weight measurement, I led him away from his father back into the waiting room to the scale. When I offered him my hand on the way, he reached up and put his tiny hand into mine. His one little action of trust and acceptance flooded my heart, and I was reminded of the preciousness of life – a gift given by our God who also holds us in His hand.

Aside from the kids, my favorite smile (and patient) rests on a middle-aged woman who was emitted to the hospital yesterday, having suffered from what appeared to be a series of strokes. Having been half-carried into the waiting room by family members, this woman flashed a pleasantly bold, half-sided grin at me as I assessed her in triage. Her eyes were full of unassuming hope. I was shocked to watch her leave the clinic about 30 minutes later, only to find out that she could not afford the hospital stay or treatment. But God is good and He provided! As she was exiting the hospital compound gate, we were able to run after her in time to get her to return to be admitted. Today, I was able to check up on her with the docs to find she had improved! Time will tell how much she will be able to recover, but that smile and that hope still burns as bright as ever. Several of the team members were able to surround her with prayer this afternoon. We serve a God who is the Healer and her Creator, and I am so thankful that He has been merciful to her. As our team has been fond of saying with skyward gestures - "He get's it, He get's it!" God gets all the praise. 


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Looking to the future

Being one of the ones starting their Cipro, and also experiencing a few random skin reactions, I have had a little reflection time.  First, I am struck by just how caring and generous the pastor and his wife are.  They genuinely show the true depths of Christianity in their actions and words.  Mona, in particular, has one of the gentlest, kindest souls I have ever witnessed.  Last night, when leaving their home after dinner, Pastor was backing up his truck and we had to scurry out of the way because it was very dark.  I think Mona saw me look at the deep drop behind us and then grabbed onto me firmly but gently and held there until all was clear, and gave me a slight tap when it was safe for me to go forward.  Also, Pastor & Mona came to our hotel last night, as well as this morning, just to check on those who were not feeling good.  Mona even brought with her a plain breakfast to ensure that health has been restored for our heat exhaustion stricken comrade. Mona even gave clear instructions to the hotel staff on what not to feed us.  However, the adult with us managed to have a nice egg breakfast this morning, while a few of us enjoyed butter and toast.   Something that has also struck a chord with me is the way the community reacts to them.  We have not been in town with Mona yet, but when we are out with Pastor, you can just sense an air of respect wherever he goes. 

After going into town to pick up a few things, Pastor took us to visit a gorgeous hotel (which I would love to write the name of but cannot spell…maybe Laura can assist here later), and things began to feel very surreal.  Right outside of the hustle and bustle of downtown Jacmel there sits this beautiful hotel that has a pool, a fountain, amazing views, & many western visitors.  As nice as it seemed, I am very relieved that we did not stay there because I feel that it could cause even more of a disconnect from the reality that we are faced with here.  Granted, our hotel is also very nice, but it seems to have a more local feel.  As I write this, sitting on the balcony of the hotel, I can see children playing on the roads, cows & goats grazing, and hear a soccer game being played right across the way.  Something tells me I would not have had the chance to experience these things at the other hotel.

As I close up this post, I ask for prayers for the future of this ministry here.  Although able to fulfill a few needs with the small amount of things we were able to bring for them, Pastor and his church still have many desires that still need to be met.  Simple things like a new keyboard and more school supplies are things he has expressed a need for.  I trust that the Lord will provide these things, as well as other needs not yet mentioned, and I hope that this team will be able to contribute more in the future.  A week is far from enough time to make a lasting impact, but with prayers, hope and help for the future, I don’t think a lasting impact is out of our reach.

Marie, Jacmel Team

One in Spirit and Purpose


As I sat in quiet time with the Lord after a productive and blessed day at the hospital, He gave me the above reading.  He spoke to me through it.  That as a team, we have come together, rallied together, and have become servants united in Him.

We came for a purpose with goals and expectations.  For us, physical therapists, Malia, Maryann, and myself, we had planned to make a physical therapy clinic, sort out equipment, treat patients, and train the staff basic physical therapy techniques in order to continue the service after we leave.  The first day we had no time to do anything but treat patients.  But in doing that we were able to begin teaching our interpreter, basic neck and back exercises.  At the end of the day, he was teaching them to patients under our supervision.  Little did we know we were on our way to reaching two of our goals.  

The second day was not as busy.  Maryann began teaching our interpreter how to measure crutches, walkers, and canes, and when to give them to a patient... and today?  He was able to learn all that we had planned for him to learn, the use of assistive devices, the use of instant cold packs, therapeutic exercises, and how to teach them to patients.  Thanks to Maryann!  The physical therapy clinic was also established as one of the examination rooms.  We also sorted out what physical therapy equipment they had available.  Praise God!

On the other side, Grace and Joyce worked together with other Haitian doctors, treating patients and admitting them whenever necessary.  They referred patients they thought were good candidates for physical therapy to us.  We in turn worked with them, requesting their input and expertise when our patients required it.  I remember a woman who came to us for low back pain, but was found to have an abdominal mass.  Grace was called in and immediately the patient was referred to do more diagnostic tests.  Thank God!

We also could not function in the clinic without our triage staff - Crystal, Steven, Ashley, Malia, the Haitian interpreters, and the nurses.  They screened the patients, taking their medical histories, their vitals, and their complaints.  Then sent them off to Grace, Joyce, or to physical therapy.

When there was actually some down time, we worked to organize the medical records room. "Filin' for Jesus!" Ashley had labeled the job.  We were part of history, according to the Haitian doctors.  The hospital would be the first to have a medical records room that was organized with that particular system.  

We were also able to play and connect with the orphans from the orphanage not associated with the hospital, but was on the same grounds. A pediatric clinic for the orphans was started today.  Thanks to Joyce's vision.  They were given medical record charts, and physical check-ups.  We worked together in unison - Ashley and I making new charts; Crystal, Steven, Maryann, and Malia, doing triage, measuring heights and weights; Joyce and Grace doing the check-ups; all together with the Haitian interpreters.  It seemed like chaos, with thirty-six children all over the clinic excited about what was happening.  We also joined in in the excitement, taking pictures, playing with them, and joking around.  It was clear we were all having fun.

We also came together in tenderness and compassion when we saw an acute stroke patient leaving the hospital, being carried on the shoulders of her two daughters, because she could not afford to pay to be admitted.  We all decided, in faith, that we would pay for her stay.  We did not know if we were going to be able to do it, but, as always, God was gracious.  We collected more than what was billed for the patient's stay from among ourselves.  We planned to use the extra money to bless another patient, a man with a very infected leg wound, with his medical care.  All praise and honor goes to the Lord!

All in all, even sitting around the dinner table tonight, watching us talk, laugh, eat, and drink together, I could not help but think about us being "encouraged" and "comforted" by Christ's love, being in "fellowship" with His Holy Spirit, being filled with "tenderness and compassion" for the interests of others, and being "like-minded" with the same love, "one in spirit and purpose."

Thank You, Jesus, for Your faithfulness and glory, for bringing us all together, not just the team from Park Street Church, but all the Haitians who have joined with us to do Your work "united in Christ."


– Jennifer

From the City in the Sun to the Banana Plantation

Sitting on broken wooden benches in a small, cement block building this morning, I listened as a pastor poured his heart out about the suffering of the people in his church. He described a woman who hadn’t eaten for several days, children who were suffering from trauma from the earthquake, another woman with medical issues but no money for a doctor…and the stories went on and on.  He ended by saying how difficult it is to teach people about love when he, as a pastor, can’t even fully show them love by giving them food, water or a place to live.

Unlike the rest of our team, Tracy and I are not medically trained so we are spending our week representing Park Street Church on a “vision trip” with World Relief. The hope is that over the next several years our church will invest in Haiti through the work of World Relief. The World Relief vision trip this week is made up of pastors, mission’s leaders and lay people from several churches around the United States who are all considering investing in Haiti through World Relief. Throughout the week we’ve visited with numerous pastors and churches spread throughout Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas. We’ve viewed mind-boggling devastation and have simultaneously witnessed remarkable resilience.

The church I describe above is located in the Cite Soleil (“Sun City”), one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in the world. As the pastor spoke and noticably hungry children stared at us through the doors and windows, it became hard to not feel completely overwhelmed by the vastness of the issues facing Cite Soleil and Haiti in general.  From lack of food, to no jobs, to youth prostitution, to lack of sanitation and clean water – I couldn’t help but start to wonder, “Will things ever change for Haiti? If things could change in Haiti, HOW?” – and that was true BEFORE the earthquake, let alone now.

After we drove through Cite Soleil seeing people living in conditions that no human being should ever be expected to live in, World Relief took us to…a banana plantation! Admittedly, I wondered how a tour of a plantation fit into our goals for the week and why we were spending half a day walking through banana trees! When I heard the reason, I felt a sense of hope on a larger scale for one of the first times this week. World Relief showed us the plantations with the idea that this might be one possible way to provide jobs for some of the Haitian people who live in the neighboring area of Cite Soleil.

This micro-enterprise would hopefully provide jobs for hundreds of workers at the banana farm as a way to make a living wage. The church would be involved in making the link between the banana farm that needs workers and the churches that have congregants who need jobs. Pastor after pastor has told us that one of the main issues facing the Haitian people is lack of work – because work provides money, which can buy food, water and shelter.

As I reflected on the day during our ride home (or rather as we sat in traffic!) I couldn’t help but notice the “flow” of the day. We began this morning hearing of the pain and suffering of the people and the basic needs that aren’t met on a day-to-day basis for thousands of Haitians. And then, we ended the day by touring a banana farm that represents the potential for providing hundreds of jobs to some of the people who need them the most. Clearly, it is not as simple as it sounds here…there are major obstacles and issues to be thought through before it’s even clear if this idea is really plausible or viable. But to me, what mattered is what it represented – a bit of hope amidst great suffering. This has been the case all week, for Tracy and I with World Relief; for our PSC team at the hospital; and for our PSC team in Jacmel…signs of hope and resilience in the midst of great loss and suffering.

Earlier this week I sat in a room with my Haitian brothers and sisters, all of whom who have suffered greatly from the earthquake, as they sang one of my favorite hymns, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I stood there are wept as their voices boldly sang out those promising (yet sometimes hard to hold on to!) words. Imagine, in the face of losing some of your family members, watching your child suffer from losing a limb, or having your house fall down around you…to still be able to believe and sing those precious words…

 “Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see…
All I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me…”

Thank you all for allowing us the privilege of coming to Haiti, thank you for your support and prayers.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Hand-Me-Downs

Yesterday morning we walked the short road from our hotel to the church. I think we are feeling quite brave following our “adult” leader up the path through the tent village we see from our window. By 8:30, it was already sweltering. Interesting thing about the roads here- they are of course dirt, but they are so tumultuous that I am really not sure how vehicles last very long. Often I can barely walk on them. They are steep, have deep (as in 3 feet) grooves, and often are quite narrow. I watch in awe as a tall, thin woman carries a huge pack on her head and gracefully maneuvers the ruts and loose gravel and dirt. She seems to float above it all.

When we arrived, the Pastor (referred to everyone including family as “Pastor”- not “the Pastor”- it has become his name) was already bustling about and we set to painting our final room and doing touchups on the others before tackling the 10 boxes of books that were to be placed on the shelves. Once the painting was complete, we worked with Evelyn, a new teacher, to sort the books into appropriate stacks.

While this may seem a mundane job, it was really quite an adventure. Now, y’all, I have spent a significant amount of my life in the south, but I truly have never seen cockroaches the size of the ones I encountered yesterday. I think my shrieks at the first ones out of the box were heard throughout the church. Evelyn took it in stride and we laughed at the graceful way she tapped the roaches with her dress shoes. Us? Armed with sneakers, it’s no holds barred…although, admittedly, some of us ran the other direction. It was definitely an unconventional way of team building and getting to know Evelyn- how many 3-4 inch cockroaches can you chase at one time?

Here is the troublesome part. We unloaded box after box of old worn out books covered in and filled with evidences of mice and critters. We wore gloves, but these are the books that were sent for children to use to learn and the school is so grateful to have received them. It’s not a big school, and it is the only way they have of getting books. The way we cleaned them?- a dry cloth. They take what they can get and are so appreciative. One of the other girls and I were schooled in the same Christian school curriculum and we began reminiscing on books that we read as children and the story morals that left strong impressions that still affect us. We looked down at the books we were unpacking and shook our heads. I wondered how the children would react to new books with stories they can relate to- books that connect to them and their world. Our American teacher kept growing more and more frustrated as we pulled out books with white folks on the covers and stories of conveniences that these children do not experience. Although, I am sure they are really looking forward to reading the history of Quebec.

Today we were scheduled to clear land. Laura and I told the one lone, black goat in the field that he really needed to get busy before we got back, but he just sat and looked at us. However, he will have to fare with just the help of few locals as a couple of us have started taking our Cipro and one of us has some heat exhaustion. So, today it’s more inside work.

Marie mentioned below that Thursday we are going to sing and play for a service where all the youth have been invited. I can hardly wait for this! We will definitely post videos and pics. The other day while we were painting, one of the local teens, Lucson, was painting with us. While we were working, I was singing and he would hum along to those he knew. I started singing an old song I grew up listening to and was surprised to learn he already knew it. He just grins and nods.

Let your living water come and pour o’er my soul
Let your sweet anointing come and make me whole
Every situation that is here below
All to You I give, Father, take complete control.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.


The terrain

Everyday, we pass by the rubble and garbage and people living in the tents. I confess, there are times when I find myself shutting it all out and trying to desensitize myself so I don’t need to think about it. There are times when I don’t want to and try not to get into the mindset of the people and what their lives may be like. There are times when I let myself fall into this apathetic state of what could I possibly do? There is so much poverty, so much devastation, what actions could I do that could have any type of sustainable or even short-lived impact?

As I sit through our air-conditioned van, bumping along, in some ways, it's hard to see all of the poverty and on top of all of that, all the destruction that has happened. We look out the window and see row after row of dirty tents - not a nice one that you may take on camping trip - but kinds that are strewn up with blue tarps and scrap materials. If you peek into one of the tents, the conditions inside are the same as the outside: completely gravel and dirt filled with hardly any space to move around in; occasionally, I see a pot. There is no privacy, people resort to bathing in the streets with what seems to be questionable water in the first place.

When I really let it all sink in...my only hope is Jesus...for all of us and Haitians. The only thing that makes me not despair and have hope is that we have a loving God who heals, a loving God who sees all of this. I realized that we need to hang onto that hope and pray more and help in the ways that we can. There's a reason why we are able to empathize with our fellow people - don't shut that down.

Monday was the first day of clinic. We walked in with no set game plan and Grace suggested I start by triaging the 50-60 patients who had been waiting for us. I went in, sat in the middle of the room with all of the patients waiting around me and with a "deer in headlights" look as I'm told, I desperately tried to take vitals, chief complaints, and patient histories. I was shaky and nervous with everyone surrounding me and trying hard to put to use all of the EMT knowledge that I had so recently learned (kicked myself for not have taken more blood pressures of people for practice!), but by God's grace - I managed. There were a couple of uproars, (over how slowly I was working I'm sure), but my dear translator decided to spare me. Malia came to my aid about ~30 min in and we made a superb tag team throughout the rest of the day. Our team worked fabulously with one another: MaryAnn and Jennifer set up a Physical Therapy room, Stephen and Ashley making Kings Hospital history with organizing the first ever medical records of the hospital and our physicians Joyce & Grace treating our patients! It was so special to debrief about all the patients that we each played some small role in helping. In addition, it was great building relationships with Haitians, the Haitian hospital staff and each other. Praise God!!

After that initial brief jolt of acclimating to the demands and volume of waiting patients, I really enjoyed it! It was so wonderful to interact with the Haitian patients and to hear what was bothering them and potentially being able to help them. I was so excited after I heard my first abnormal squeaking lung sound on a 3 year-old boy (probably a little too much so, actually).

There were some cases that really touched my heart - and made me want to break down...

Throughout, you could see how the earthquake served as a thread in their histories. "After the earthquake...I've been having pains here / lack of appetite"... "I was trapped under the rubble but wasn't seen by a physician"...."I lost two of my sons in the earthquake"...

As Joyce said in a previous post, many of the patients were dressed in their Sunday best despite how miserable they were feeling. There were some, however, who were not...

One patient in particular, did not have clean clothes on, and had an odor similar to what someone in Boston who was homeless would smell like - I thought nothing of it and tried to give the same gentle care as all the other patients that we saw that day. When I asked him what he was here for today, he lifted his left pant leg to reveal a large open wound, the smell magnifying as he showed us. He had a large ulcer with flesh missing with green, yellow pus and black necrotic tissue that was down to the bone- it was the source of the smell and had numerous flies swarming around it. I asked him how long he had this and he replied, since the earthquake, after something fell on it (which, time check, was 7 months ago...) The amazing Haitian physician in charge of the hospital gently told the man the course of action and that amputation was a possibility if the infection had spread through the bone. We could assume that he lived in a tent - how could he possibly keep it clean there? How could he possibly take care of his wound in a dirty tent with poor sanitation and limited clean water? Is he even able to pay for the x-ray to see if the infection has spread (our hospital is not yet equipped with it)? What would happen to the livelihood of this already not well to do man if his leg had to be amputated? How would he even be able traverse through all of the rubble filled "streets" that were uneven with large rocks, and in some cases, precipitous slopes and muddy, deep puddles when it rained?

Although he had a long ways to walk to the hospital from wherever he lived, we saw him again in the clinic today, to clean more of the wound. There is hope. There are many others of these patients, and many, many people living in tents. Please pray. We have a loving God who heals, a loving God who sees all of this. Please pray.

I know this is already a very long post, but I also wanted to give a bit of background on the hospital that we helping at. The construction of the hospital has been largely supported through donations - both abroad and within Haiti. Initially it was to serve the OB/GYN needs of the Haitian community but after the earthquake, it opened early to serve more immediate needs. The services are far cheaper than other medical facilities in the area (60 cents a visit). But it also plays an encouraging role in sustainably helping the Haitian community by employing Haitians themselves. As counter intuitive as it is, well meaning NGO’s who provide free medical care can make it impossible for Haitian medical professionals to compete. Haitians are driven out of business and it is often the case that NGO’s cannot stay forever to provide free care thus leaving Haiti with limited medical care and the Haitian physicians to either leave or unable to set up business again.

Please pray for Haiti.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Reading Candace’s most recent post brought to the surface a lot of the feelings and observations that I have also experienced these past couple of days.  Today, while walking to the church to finish painting and sort books, the walk felt a little different than prior walks.  Things that had been weighing heavily on my mind the past couple of days were brought full circle.  It was 8:30 am and already blazing hot, and there were children playing happily alongside the dirt road, merrily greeting us with Bonjour as we passed, sweating bullets because we just came from our very nicely air conditioned hotel.  As we came to the church, there were young men clearing the land with machetes in the prior mentioned sun.  Little things like those just show the resiliency of the Haitian people.  The men clearing the land may have experienced their own personal loss due to the earthquake.  They may be living in the tent village outside of the church.  But, for the good of the church & their community, they will work outside all morning clearing land and focus on the future.  I think that is the part that gets me the most.  I try to think how I would react in this same type of situation, and how quickly I would be able to get back to normalcy.  As Candace mentioned, the pastor showed us the part of Jacmel that was most affected by the earthquake.  The homes were still in ruins, but all around us, as was mentioned by Joyce in her blog about Port Au Prince, Jacmel was hustling and bustling and moving on. 

Candace ever so graciously hauled here some gifts that we wanted to give to the pastor.  During kidsweek at Park Street this year, the kids made tie dye t shirts for us to bring and give to kids.  We had the chance to give these to the pastor yesterday, along with colored pencils, notebooks, book, etc., and we praise God that a need was met with the gifts.  As Candace said about the pens, they have had this need for a bit for school supplies, and thankfully Candace was able to help meet that need.  As far as the shirts go, it turns out that there is a team of boys who play football (soccer), and a lot of them were not going to be able to play this year because of lack of funds for uniforms.  But with the T shirts, they will be able to play now because the pastor will be using them as uniforms.  Again, praise God!  It just takes my breath away thinking how the Lord has his plans.  I remember watching the kids twisting & tying & painting and dying their shirts so deliberately and carefully.  Now, they will be used in a great way by children, many their own age, they have never and probably will never meet.  

This afternoon, after painting and sorting through books this morning, we will be going into the city again to be shown some places by the pastor, who is an amazing host.  Thursday, through Laura’s awesome French speaking, she arranged for us to sing at the prayer service that they have.   We are super excited for this opportunity, and the pastor said that we will get a chance to meet the youth that will be using the shirts this year.  Please pray that this time of sharing with this community will be prosperous for the Lord, and that we will reach some of these wonderful people with the words and music that the Lord has given us.

The Disconnect

Here in Jacmel, I have an air conditioned, hot water /shower/toilet/toilet paper equipped room. My living quarters are surrounded by a wall and gate- as is the Pastor’s house. When I go into town, the Pastor doesn’t leave my side. When I sit down to eat, I have fabulous, cooked food prepared by loving hands. I have bottled water thrown at me from every direction. I have an escort walk our group from our hotel to our destination after dark.

When I look out my window, I see a tent village.

Even coming to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, I am still an American, living as an American. Our group has talked a lot about this and for the most part, we have not known how to deal with it. As we say, “It messes with your head”. It disturbs us. It makes us cry because we feel overwhelmingly guilty. Not guilty that we are Americans, but guilty that even as we come to lend a helping hand and “suffer for Jesus”, we are nowhere near understanding the lives of those around us.

One of the hardest parts of this trip for me is looking into the face of a woman I know is about my age and seeing the hardness caused by years of pain. She has had no choice and most likely has never known any other way of life. There are wealthy folks here- business owners and pastors included, but it is only a tiny percentage of the approximately 9 million people that call Haiti home.

While eating at the Pastor’s house the other night, we asked about typical Haitian meals. He replied that what we were eating is considered a rich man’s meal and that the wealthy eat on a schedule.  Everyone else eats what they can when they can because it is determined by when they are able to find food. I looked at my plate (I think we all did) and the brevity sank in. There’s a sort of horror and gratitude that overwhelm you. The pastor and his wife are so incredibly gracious and we have talked about how we can begin to thank them for the work they put in to feed us. At the same time, the picture of children running up to our van and rubbing their stomachs turns mine as I realize I just ate my fill. Within a few yards of me hundreds will go to bed having had nothing to eat today.

A friend of mine and I bought enough school supplies to fill my pack. Yesterday when I handed it all to the Pastor for his school, he threw up his hands and exclaimed, “Thank you, Jesus!!!” What was he so excited about? Bags filled with coloring pencils, writing pencils, calculators, notepads, pens, and gum. He looked at a children’s narrative, picture book on the birth of Christ and said, “THIS will go on our bookshelf!” He said he would give the gum to the little children because they love it…and asked if he could have one. He opened it and asked us to each take a piece. I handed him a bag of pens and started to say I don’t know if you have need of these…to which he stopped me and told me all of their pens have “stopped” and they don’t have any. I have never seen an American pastor get excited about gum and Bic pens. 

Many of us came here with money to give to the Pastor for his school or church and of course to buy souvenirs. We asked how much it is to attend school here and it is $100 a year. We looked at each other and silently calculated how many children could attend school with what we were carrying in our belts.
It really is the women and children that get to me. I wondered what it would be like to live in a country where those with enough money put bars on their doors and windows while I sleep in a tent. I look at the beautiful, little girl from church Sunday and thought, what pain and hardship are you going to endure over your lifetime…and then I looked into the hardened face of an old woman a couple pews back and I can’t even begin to imagine.

I think with any mission trip, you almost always take away more than you could possibly ever give. I have been here 2.5 days and my world has been turned upside down.  It’s taken me a while to even begin to figure out how to process what I am seeing. I am still trying. We, as a group are still trying. We just pray that in spite of ourselves we can add something- give something- to the community where we are before we leave. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Amidst the rubble

As our team drove through the city on Saturday and Sunday, I saw the rubble and devastation of the earthquake.  Today, when Janese and I traveled with World Relief, I saw the impact the earthquake had on individuals.

  • I met a pastor who saw both his church and school collapse and are now nothing but rubble.  
  • I met a girl who lost her arm.
  • I met a woman who was 107 years old and had been trapped in rubble for eight hours.  When she was rescued, she immediately began to rescue others. She lost her home and is now living in a tent. 

  • I watched men and woman, young and old, removing rubble stone by stone in 100 degrees.
  • I met a pastor who lost his wife, two children, friends, and 84 members of his church.  Not only did his church collapse, but he also lost his home.  

My eyes had been opened to the devastation, but today my heart was opened and broken for the people of Haiti.  Janese and I will continue to travel with World Relief this week to visit pastors in their neighborhoods, to recognize their needs and envision how the body of Christ can work together to help them.  Please pray that God will open the hearts of individuals and churches to come alongside the churches of Haiti, who are reaching out to those in their community.

Psalm 113 (read today by a Haitian staff member of the World Relief Team during a morning worship service)

Praise the Lord
Praise oh servants of the Lord
Praise the name of the Lord
Let the name of the Lord be praised
Both now and forever more
From the rising of the sun to the place
Where it sets,
The name of the Lord is to be praised

The Lord is exalted above all the nations,
His glory above the heavens
Who is like the Lord our God,
The one who sits enthroned on high,
Who stoops down to look
On the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the death
And lifts the needy from the ash heap:
He seats them with princes,
With the princes of their people
He settles the barren women in her home
As a happy mother of children
Praise the Lord.

– Tracy

Haiti is healing

Today was our first big day of action and I was eagerly awaiting our trip to the hospital. I was thinking about what kind of patients we would see, and Grace and I had been discussing how we could approach some possible cases. Most importantly, we were trying to figure out how we, as two Western trained physicians, could possibly contribute to a resource-poor country. Today, I found out that common things are still common around the world – ear infections, asthma, and allergic rhinitis for me in pediatrics, and hypertension, back pain and joint pain for adults. However, there are still local specificities and nuances particular to Haiti – tropical infections such as malaria, typhoid, and parasites, as well as the psychological trauma after the earthquake. Working with two Haitian doctors, I was able to sense of their dedication, eagerness, and determination in obtaining their education and training in order to best treat their patients. The hospital where we are working at is newly opened and still growing, serving the surrounding community. The staff is well trained, and there are all the necessary departments – radiology, laboratory, pharmacy, inpatient, and even medical records (!) – to ensure a successful beginning. I’m sure there are some very challenged hospitals here, but a well planned, committed, and systematic hospital can be set up and run well by Haitians. There are resources, of course, that other countries can contribute – training, education, supplies, support – but at the core it needs to from the Haitian heart itself. It strikes me that what Haiti needs most is not for us to heal Haiti, but Haiti to heal itself…we can help, of course! But, I was impressed by the Haitians, their spirit and perseverance, their resiliency and grace. Most importantly, the little patients I met today were so well-mannered, dressed in their Sunday best, sweet and shy that it gives me hope of Haiti’s future secure in their hands, serving their own country and people. When we left the hospital, I saw children playing in a dusty playground, people selling fruit, adults mingling, cars going by – life goes on, and Haiti is moving on.

– Joyce

Peace in the Painting

Today was our first experience going into the town of Jacmel. We went early to get paint and supplies from what the Pastor‘s wife called “Haiti’s version of Home Depot”. The buildings are so beautiful and the people very friendly- even though all most of us know how to say in French is Hello, Good Day. The old, white haired gentleman behind the counter was pretty sure I was his sister. Or maybe he thought I was a nun. The language can be so confusing.

While we waited for the Pastor to gather his supplies, a couple of us ventured to the front porch to take some pictures at his urging. Considering it was a very small store, I think the 5 of us took up quite a bit of room. So, we wandered along the street (truthfully, about 4 yards from the store) and saw just how really lovely the people and the city is. It is a port town, so there are very old buildings and hotels everywhere. There is a lot of commerce and busyness on the streets and it appears to the eye that the ills of the earthquake barely touched it until you hear the stories.
Unfortunately, the pastor’s wife was not feeling well today, so once we had our supplies, he went to pick her up from the Dr.’s and take her home. We wondered why he was casually walking into a CafĂ© (with a Bible verse over the arch) and asked what we wanted to drink while speaking with the hostess in Creole. At first we didn’t realize why in the world we would need to stop for a drink when we just came from breakfast. He told us he would be right back after dropping off his wife and we could enjoy our Cokes and V8s. After he left, we realized that the 5 of us had been left to be babysat by the restaurant owner. We found this hilarious, but poor hostess. We also are getting a taste for the difference in cultures as the man in our group is the only one the Pastor considers an adult. All things considered, none of us mind.

Once the Pastor returned, we walked down to a very old hotel that overlooked the port. On the way there he stopped at a corner and pointed to a one story house that was crumbled. “This house was destroyed in the earthquake- it used to be 3 stories tall. It is now one.” He went on to explain how many people were killed in that area of town. Because of the depth and heaviness of the damage, people could not get to the injured. He shook his head as he described what it was like to listen to their screams and cries and not be able to do anything about it. He said many, many people died in Jacmel and that the earthquake literally shook the whole town. Thankfully, their home and church were not damaged at all.

Once we finally reached the church, we dug right into painting with bright colors of salmon, blue and yellow. We painted until about 4:30 when the pastor made us quit. We were looking forward to today –painting in a sweltering un-air conditioned building considering tomorrow we are clearing land for the new medical clinic…with hatchets. The thing we look forward to most about tomorrow is that we will be with more church people and locals. We are all hungry to build relationships here.

I echo Jill’s post below when I say that God truly picked our team. I think the combination of our surroundings and the hearts of team members, the pastor and his wife is overwhelming to say the least. We are all praying that God will use us mightily here and open hearts and doors that we, nor the people we meet, could have ever expected.
Off to some of the most amazing food I have ever tasted. Seriously, I may bring the pastor’s wife home with me.
Team Jacmel

Eat. Serve. Paint.

After our journeys to Haiti and through Port au Prince and the mountains on Sunday we found ourselves sitting down for a beautiful and delicious home-cooked Haitian meal that simply had to be photographed! (the pics were blurry, so we will take more!)Pastor Duplussey and his wife are generous, kind and gracious hosts.

After our first workday of painting, laughing, sweating and listening to Candace's amazing voice--the one word that keeps coming to my mind when we have time to stop and think is “overwhelming.” My first view standing outside the airport at Port au Prince included watching a flow of traffic that reminds me a bit of Massachusetts Avenue at rush hour—just remove the stoplights and much of the pavement, throw in a few random UN vehicles, lots of small motorcycles with 2-3 riders, and keep the number of lanes continually flexible, and that is a very basic picture. As we drove through Port au Prince, it is not so much what we were seeing as the endlessness of it that left me wondering how much could fit into one place. I become a spectator flying by--or stuck in traffic watching it pass by. Pictures do not seem adequate--the sounds, smells and interactions are lost--not to mention the careening ride through mountain roads into Jacmel! (don't tell mom)

The people seem quiet, curious and watchful. The children are smiling and bold. A simple greeting is often all that is needed for a softening of the eyes and echoed response. Our host and hostess have introduced us to a bit of the culture, food and humor, and I have a feeling that they are being very thoughtful and considerate of ours. I am blessed to be with such a gifted and caring team of individuals and look forward to what the rest of the week will bring. I believe that there will be much to learn, much to process, much taken away, and much left behind. I hope and pray that this is so.


Team Jacmel

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Sabbath

This morning we awoke to the sounds of roosters outside our windows and voices in the kitchen. After a quick shower from a bucket--honestly one of the best feeling showers EVER, we sat down to a delicious display of beautiful fruits, freshly squeezed juice, and strong, incredible coffee. The rest of the morning was spent at our host's church: a swaying, smiling gospel choir, 3 baptisms, fruit and other food piled at the front of the church for a "harvest offering," a disaster repair fundraising competition, scripture reading of the beatitudes ("blessed are the poor and mournful" having new meaning...), and surrounded by children after the service asking to have their pictures taken. The sermon was given by our passionate hostess, and between our limited French during the service and recap in English over lunch, we heard her challenge her congregation to not simply grow old, but also mature in their faith by choosing willingness, discipline, and perseverance in their daily lives. She stressed the importance of maintaining a vital, growing relationship with God, as well as in community with the body of believers. Like the Jacmel team, many of us were overcome by chills and tears as we worshiped alongside our Haitian brothers and sisters. Witnessing their joy, hope, and unity was inspiring and humbling after being exposed to and overwhelmed by the seemingly hopeless and miserable circumstances that so many here still call reality. We continue to pray for direction in how we can individually and collectively support and encourage this country long after we return.

Today was truly a day of rest, and I pray we are able to tap into this store during the busy, stressful, or overwhelming moments that may arise during the unknown days ahead of us this week. We are all eager and anxious to put our hands to work in the morning.

Tent cities and beauty

We Arrived
Our Jacmel team made it safely to the Ozana hotel thanks to Pastor Deblussy and our crazy (you'll find out why later) driver Pierre. 5 hours after landing in Port Au Prince's sweltering heat and mad house of an airport, we were sitting and enjoying a fabulous meal prepared by Pastor Deblussy's wife Mona. The topic of conversation? The journey of today and what we can expect this week. I think we were a bit too overwhelmed to ask many questions about our surroundings.

When we first arrived, we managed to avoid some of the obstacles that we were prepared for like being stopped in customs or having anyone take our luggage and demand money to return it…although given that we had to unexpectedly check our bags, I think this was quite an accomplishment- or more likely the hand of God. We found our contact who took us to the Pastor and our driver and we bought a local phone. We were on our way.

The 2.5 hours drive through Port Au Prince was, to say the least, shocking. I think I expected to see some devastation, but I don't think I was mentally prepared for the continuous, with-out-end poverty. The smells and the tent cities went on for hours without end. Once beautiful buildings lay in shambles and children played in mud
and remains. The people were truly some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Cars and trucks looked like they would run over anyone or anything, but somehow with the help of our aggressive driver and the horn, we made it through the crowded city with no incidents. At one point, I had to holler to the driver who was picking up speed, that we had a child hanging on to my window. The driver slowed (barely, the pastor called out and the boy jumped off and laughed.

Once we turned on to the mountain road, our travel adventure really began. For 1.5 hrs, our driver Pierre took hairpin turns at 50 and 60 miles per hour. Although initially we were clinging on for dear life, we began laughing hysterically and even videoed some of the adventure. The pastor laughed at our attempts to hold on to seats, seatbelts and grip bars.

The contrast between Jacmel and Port Au Prince is huge. Our hotel is clean and air conditioned (thank. you. Jesus) and we can walk to the church and Pastor’s house safely. While there are many tent villages, many of the people here have homes and own little stores. Even so, the devastation has touched Jacmel and continues to do so.

This morning we attended Pastor Deblussy’s church. How amazing is the presence of God that it is the same no matter where you are. The worship was beautiful and earnest. Jesus is literally folk’s only hope. So, when they sing, “Jesu, Jesu”, there is a depth in their cry that I don’t think many Americans could ever really understand- myself included. I suppose when your faith is all you have to cling to, it has to be strong to keep you from breaking. I cried as I watched them sing with their eyes closed and hands raised to heaven because we are in love with and feel the same Jesus. They sang Take My Life and Lord, I Lift Your Name on High- songs I have sung many times and I thought about how God must feel when He looks down and sees all of us equal- all His children no matter where we suffer, where we live and no matter what we look like or how we are dressed. He sees our hearts and our intentions and He cries over our hurts. I can't imagine how He has cried over the devastation His Haitian children have endured.

This past week was Vacation Bible School, so the children got to show off verses and Bible stories they memorized and songs they learned. The children are so beautiful and precious and have so much joy. What a treat for us to see what God is doing through this church and the children it is raising up to serve the magnificent God of the universe.

We are back at our hotel after lunch and trying to catch up on blogs. We are looking forward to a week of painting, clearing land, carpentry, singing, guitar playing, and whatever else is in store.
Attached is the video of our trip :-)

Team Jacmel

From the city to the mountains

First of all, we as the Jacmel team would like to apologize for the lateness of our posting. The internet & power have gone out a few times here.

After leaving the airport, we drove for a good bit through Port au Prince. You can only prepare yourself for so much, and I was personally very surprised at what I saw. I only know of Haiti from the news & magazines, and it is obviously very different when you are completely immersed in the raw reality of poverty. We arrived in Jacmel after an interesting drive that was about 5 hours in total, and that I can only describe as a roller coaster in the mountains. I believe that the blog that Candace is composing will further detail the exercise that we got while inside the vehicle for 5 hours, and we will be posting pictures later of our fantastic 2 hour mountain adventure. I also believe that after this week my fear of roller coasters will have completely vanished. Where we are staying is very nice and security is not a concern, and it is very close to the pastors home and church. Pastor Dublessy and his family are amazing hosts, and his wife is an even more amazing cook. We have so far had two unbelievable meals provided to us by the pastor and his family. This morning we had the great opportunity to go to the pastors church and view his ministry. Although in French/Creole and I could only understand when they spoke about Jesus, the singing & overwhelming feeling of the love of God moved me to tears more than once. Even when faced with this amount of never ending poverty, it is evident that their faith and love of the Lord shines through. The church family came up to the front of the church and greeted us as if they had known us for years. I personally look forward to helping wherever needed throughout this week to improve the church and school that the pastor has established here, as well as get a chance to share the amazing love of Christ with these wonderful people.

Marie, Team Jacmel

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The complex nature of change

We arrived safely in Port-au-Prince at around noon and our two teams have gone our separate ways.  One team of 5 is going to Jacmel, the health care team of 10 are staying near Port-au-Prince.  We both hope to post daily.

We (the health care team) are in the good hands of our hosts.  These two amazing physicians, married to each other, first started at World Relief and then came to Port-au-Prince to start a clinic.  They expanded this to a hospital.  Then they decided to add on an orphanage that also provided education through hired teachers.  Parents in the neighborhood began to bring their kids to try to get them into the orphanage.  So, as if what they had already done was not enough, they opened a secondary boarding school to better meet the needs of the community.

When we arrived in April, they had asked, "Where are your tents?"  We had scrambled for a while deciding whether to sleep on the concrete roof or in the halls of the hospital before God provided us a room with cots.  The beds, linens, private rooms, and three home-cooked meals a day we will have here in our hosts' beautiful home are quite a far cry from the experiences of April and also from the daily lives of the vast majority of Haitians here.

This evening we heard our hosts relate fascinating, insightful, and tragic stories about the history of this country and their experiences in it.  The same feeling strikes me as it did before - Haiti is not easily summarized by corruption or oppression or geography.  To say it is complex is an understatement.  The past is not necessarily bad; the present is not necessarily progress.  Nevertheless, at least to my untrained eyes, there has been improvement, in the form of areas where the rubble is cleared, more vibrant commerce, and a few signs of rebuilding.  So perhaps there is hope.  Where the Lord is, there is always hope.