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

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Medical team update

As this week continues, Heather, Amanda and Ali have worked with the nurses on the inpatient side, including checking in and praying with hospitalized patients, which has been wonderfully rewarding. They are slowly getting to know the Haitian nurses. Grace has been seeing outpatient adult patients, and I've been working with a family practice physician seeing the pediatric patients in clinic.

I've worked with this physician 2 years before at King's Hospital, so it was terrific seeing her and working with her again. Aside from clinical stuff, we also chatted on medicine and life in general, and we really had an enjoyable time catching up. I love how medicine and kids transcends different cultures and countries and can be the common denominator which unites us! Worried but loving parents are the same around the world, as are issues of growth, development, and primary health care. I've also been extremely impressed with the growth of the hospital. In the span of 2 years, the laboratory, pharmacy and radiology areas are stocked and functional. The hospital is fully staffed with around 10 physicians, who are able to provide 24 hour coverage to the inpatient service and see walk-in patients Monday through Friday, 8 to 3 pm. They have a variety of consultations including ob/gyn, general surgery, pediatrics, family practice, internal medicine, and urology. There's a prenatal program for expecting mothers, and now a new nursing school to train a future generation of local Haitian nurses. King's Organization also continues to have their orphanage, King's Garden and it's primary school. There is a new playground for the kids, and there are plans to expand the schools and hospital! 

Being there and seeing the progress was immensely gratifying. I even felt redundant in my physician's role, as I felt comfortable with the care the Haitian physicians were providing the pediatric patients. They are dedicated and hard-working, committed to improving health care in their country. I am extremely honored to be an eyewitness to this evolution and growth. Instead, I felt my role to be more of a source of support, education, and encouragement. There is a long road ahead for Haiti's medical staff and hospital, but the vision of local, sustainable and effective health care is becoming more and more realized.

- Joyce

The "high" and the "low" I shared tonight with the group are both sides of the same coin.  Coming back to the Morquettes' house and King's Hospital was like returning home.  Joyce and I were able to ease right into the Haitian physicians' schedules and were prepared for the diversity of diseases and health issues that afflict the people here.

But there is bittersweetness about seeing King's Hospital flourish.  It is now a fully functioning clinic and hospital, with a balance of physicians and nurses sufficient to meet the needs of the community.  As it increases, we must therefore diminish, and this is consistent with our intention to empower local efforts to meet local needs.  It's a natural instinct to want to see the fruits of one's labor, but the paradigm in God's kingdom is not that we should feel useful, but that we should be available to be used as He wishes.

I saw a patient this week with advanced cancer.  It was impossible not to think about how different his fate (and how much longer his life) would have been in the U.S. and how I could do absolutely nothing about it.  But when I looked down at his name, I saw that it translated into "the one and only God."  It was a poignant reminder to entrust the future of Haitian patients, and Haiti in general, to our omnipotent and merciful God.  He has already done a great work of redemption here, and I believe He is not yet done.

- Grace

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stages of joy

This is my third trip to Haiti. Each time, God has shown me many different things in order to illicit different feelings and responses from me. On the first trip in August of 2010 (7 months after the earthquake), He led me through feelings of sorrow, and made my heart ache for the people of Haiti. He also created in my heart a bond with this beautiful country and its wonderful people. Last year, He led me to experience the reality of spending time with children in an orphanage in a poorer area, and that included both sorrow and joy while building relationships and getting to know them. I was moved to tears several times last year for both joyous and sad occasions. This year, as I am halfway through this journey, I am struck by how much joy I am experiencing and witnessing: joy when I stepped back into this country on Saturday; joy at visible progress being made in the streets as it seems that things have fallen into a ‘new normal’; joy at the true happiness that these children exhibit; joy at seeing the Lord working in the lives of these children. Just turning on music and watching the show they want to put on for you cause’s their faces to light up with such overwhelming joy that you cannot help but to smile. Amid this joy, my heart still aches at the sheer fact that these kids are just a small percentage of the children in this country without homes & beds & rooms of their own. These children, who are the future of Haiti, have to struggle and fight for the attention of their house mothers who, while being incredibly devoted to them, have many children to worry about. Seeing and experiencing the true desire for affection from these children can cause even the strongest heart to break. But an integral part of this journey is to seek out the joy amongst the sorrow, and I believe that is what God has placed on my heart to learn and share this week. Yes, there is sorrow here. Yes, there is sadness. But there is also joy: An overwhelming, abundance of joy that can only be found through Jesus Christ, and He has sent us to share His love and joy with these children.

Working with kids in the past has shown me that in order to experience and share joy, sometimes you have to put yourself out there and just do it. Yesterday, the ‘just do it’ part involved me facing a pretty big fear of mine: spiders. One of the older boys, Noel, came over to me and grabbed me by the arm and said he wanted to show me something. I knew what he was referring to because all of the kids were playing with tarantulas all morning, so I knew what he was up to. I told him that spiders TERRIFY me, and that since I was bit by a spider on our first trip in 2010, I try to stay away from them here. But he ensured me that he would protect me and I would be fine. So, I let go and just did it (and brought Kate with me), and followed him and a few other boys to the field with the spider holes. A few minutes and a lot of poking later, out crawled the hairy & scary scurrying creatures. Obviously, I jumped and ran and acted like a girl, which gave the boys that pure joy I was talking about. They just love to run up to you with a bucket of tarantulas and make you squeal. However, that didn’t happen this time because as soon as they started towards me with them, Noel jumped in front of them and told them no and protected me. Remember that joy thing again? This is when I experienced it. This young man, who has known me all but three days, stood up to a friend so that I would not be scared. It’s always when I truly let go that I am able to experience true joy.

One last joyful experience I would like to share with you was also caused by me just letting go. At one point Noel came up to us and told us that they had prepared something for us. We thought, of course, that this meant they were going to perform for us since they love to dance so much. Just kidding! Apparently, they prepared music for us that would “make us want to dance as soon as we heard it”. So what do I, who really cannot dance (but do it all the time anyways) do? I step up, let go, and get taught how to ‘dougie’. And both experience & witness joy. Oh, and be recorded doing all of the above.


Carrying water.

I heard a sermon almost fifteen years ago that came crashing home today.  The pastor was speaking on John 2:1-11, when Jesus performs his first miracle, changing water into wine at a wedding.  The focus was the following text:  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars to the brim with water”: so they filled them to the brim.  Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”  His point was that the servants had no reason to understand what was about to happen, they had been ordered to deliver wine and instead they were carrying water.  They were doing something that, for all they could see, was pointless.  But something amazing happened, in the midst of their obedience the water turned to wine without their knowledge, and instead of just witnessing a miracle they were a part of it.

Water is precious here and we carried a lot today at the orphanage, figuratively and literally.  I spent the morning with two younger children.  The first was a little girl named Louve Dani who was totally content sitting in my lap on a swing set as I sang to her.  The second was a little boy named Van nel St. Pierre.  He didn’t want to do anything except cling to me and fall asleep curled up on my chest.  There were games happening, crafts, worship, and good conversations with the slightly older kids.  I confess to feeling like I wasn’t contributing to the team, that I wasn’t building on the relationships that had begun a few days ago.  Was this what I came to Haiti to do, to hold this little one as he slept, both of us sweating from the close contact in the hot sun?

The rest of the afternoon was spent literally carrying water.  In hands, cups and buckets we lugged water from the large water tank.  It was a massive group effort to wash the hair of every child we worked with, to apply medicated lotion to their bodies, and to wash all of their sheets so the clean children wouldn’t go to sleep on dirty beds.  We’ve been washing the children’s hands each day as part of finger painting and they take great care to keep themselves clean, but this group effort contained both absurd moments and trauma. Imagine twenty kids, from three years old to eighteen years old submitting to having their hair washed and scalps examined by people they met three days ago.  All of the relationships we’ve been building paid off.  The lotion stung some of the children, and while most put up with it patiently one girl had a severe reaction, hinting at past trauma and reminding us that while we are seeing these children in good spirits some of them come from difficult pasts. 

We passed out new clothes that we had brought with us and my little friend from the morning sought me out and climbed back into my arms.  He was quiet for about five minutes but was wadding his shirt into his tiny eye.  I checked with an older child who told me some of the medicine had gotten dripped his eye.  As I found one of our nurses and the bottle of saline and an interpreter Pierre cried louder and held me tighter.  The interpreter told him we were going to make things better, I held Pierre on his back, and the nurse did the saline wash.  More tears, but eventual relief, then before we could even wipe his face he was back cuddled into me with his face under my chin and his delicate fist holding my cross.  He slept for a while, waking up suddenly a few times, turning to see my face, then settled down again.  Finally he moved himself to a cooler corner by himself and I went to help with other things.

The last piece of business for the work day was washing all the sheets at the orphanage, and doing it quickly.  Each bed has only one sheet, so if they didn’t have time to dry the children would be sleeping on bare mattresses that night.  We lugged bucket after to bucket from the water tank to the washing area – first to set up the assembly line, then to empty the dirty water and to fetch clean water.  We frantically scrubbed sheets and struggled to find places to hang them all to dry.  If the house mother thought it was funny to see us wash the children’s hair she thought it was hilarious teaching us to hand wash sheets in five gallon buckets.

So that was today – we carried water.  I spent the morning holding a child so that a painful experience in the afternoon was a little less scary.  We play games with the kids for hours so that they trust us when we say, “You need to spread this all over you, even if it stings.”  Kids are great judges of character, even when they don’t understand what you’re saying, they know we are only trying to help them.  In the meantime, I’m learning to be more patient, to wait and see if maybe something is happening even when I can’t see it, to see if maybe what I’m actually doing here is being part of a miracle.


Merci Jesus

Tonight we are going to sew the leaves on the prayer tree. Each child was able to write a prayer on a leaf. Lots of children wrote ‘Merci Jesus’ or ‘I love Jesus’.  One boy, sixteen, who has been adopted but is waiting for finalization so that he can go to Chicago, wrote ‘Dear Jesus please help me live my life without fear’. One older man, who arrived mid-day with some teenage children wrote ‘Lord please give me a home’. The children know many Christian praise songs and today treated us to a concert in French, Creole, and English. And hand motions, which they all enjoy. Then they showed us how much they love to dance. Especially with our sunglasses on.

At the hospital this morning, all the doctors and nurses from our team helped with intake in the outpatient clinic.  With the help of a much appreciated translator, we were able to record vital signs and take medical histories.  A lot of fevers, stomach pains, and newly pregnant women.  The hospital is doing some amazing things to meet the needs of the pregnant women.  An outside organization donated newborn supply packs and every woman who comes in for a prenatal visit receives a pack as an incentive for continued prenatal care.  Vouchers are also distributed to the community for women to be able to come to the hospital to deliver their baby at no charge.  Roughly about 80% of Haitian women have their babies at home, most of which will not be seen soon after birth.  We went around to all the patient rooms and discussed each patient with the nurses and doctor, learning about Haitian nursing care and how the doctors and nurses work together.  The afternoon was very busy and very fun!  Both the pediatrician and nurse practitioner from our team examined most of the older children.  The children were very anxious and excited, enjoying the eye exams and giggling while we asked them questions about their bodies and examined them. 

Today was a great day for building relationships with the staff at the hospital and orphanage.  At the orphanage the language barrier is becoming less important as we get to know each other. We play lots of basketball, soccer, “gymnastics”, and simple hand games like thumb wrestling and paddy-cake. Looking forward to how God will use us tomorrow!

Jennifer and Heather

Monday, July 16, 2012

Orphanage Day One

As our group woke up this morning, the feeling of anticipation to get back to the orphanage was contagious. After a slow first couple of days getting into to the Haitian rhythm, the group seemed to be extremely animated during the van trip to King’s Hospital this morning. We started off the morning with a well-executed VBS that focused on the story of Zaccheaus that was about overcoming obstacles. The VBS was followed up with a fun activity for the kids involving a large tree that was drawn on a piece of fabric and we gave each of the children a leaf made from paper and had them write down any prayers or thoughts they had pertaining to the VBS. I think, today, the whole group got a strong sense of how much these kids need love and affection. After engaging in conversation with some of the children, they have no problem climbing on you or pulling you towards the playground or jumping right on your lap. I met a girl named Sarah li today and she wanted me to push her on the merry-go-round so after doing that for a bit I went to play basketball with some of the kids and without me knowing, I got a little cut on the back of my leg. I didn’t find this out until Sarah Li came running over with a soupy cloth and wiped off the little speck of blood on my leg. I found this to be so amazing that she was so focused on this new person she met that when she saw that scratch, she made sure that she was going to help me out. We all cannot wait to go back to King’s tomorrow and see what tomorrow has in store for us. So far so good! More to come soon!  -Ty

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Today is our first full day in Haiti and it has been a full one! We had the blessing of experiencing the Morquette’s church; using the Creole Hymnal, we could follow along with the music. Although the message and prayers were delivered in the native tongue, the passion of what was conveyed was clear to us all. Our first interactions with the congregation were an exchange of peace at the conclusion of the message; the welcome was warm - matching the temperatures here! A tour of Port au Prince was conducted by Belezar, giving us insight into the progress that has been occurring in Haiti since the Earthquake. The streets were busy with merchants and we noticed a saturation of product segregated by streets. (i.e. The mattress merchants on one street; the electronics dealers on another) After lunch, we spent the remainder of the afternoon at the orphanage, meeting our VBS enrollees for the first time. J

Those who had been to Kings Hospital and the Orphanage in prior years, were remarking on the new additions to the property as we arrived on site. An ambulance, a playground, and the apartment built for visiting medical professionals are the most noteworthy.  The children came out to meet us soon after we arrived, and in spite of small communication challenges, the universal languages of art (drawing) and basketball broke through the barriers. The children ranged in age from 2 to 15 and were content to tour us through their school, be pushed on the swings or merry-go-round, chased playing tag, and indulged in both taking and receiving many photos.  Some of the older children are learning English and were very resourceful in translating for us and communicating verbally with the younger ones. We promised to return in the morning and promised a full day of activities and fun throughout the week. At the conclusion of our visit, we were taken to the new apartment and met a Doctor who was temporarily staying there. He shared some of his background with us and prayed for us upon departure.

The postlude to the day has been planning sessions for the remainder of the week and testimonies from three team members. The authentic conversations that we have collectively enjoyed are clear illustrations of God’s work in community.
We would be remiss not to acknowledge the incredible hospitality of the Morquette’s and the indulgent food that has been prepared on our behalf for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Stay tuned for tomorrow… (Erica)