Monday, January 2, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Haiti

We're kicking off our journey around the world in Haiti with Rachel. Rachel is in physician’s assistant school and has had the opportunity to serve the Lord in Haiti on three medical mission trips through the North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM). You can read other stories from her trips and hear more from her heart at

Katie: Tell us a little bit about Haiti.
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake affected approximately two million people around Port-au-Prince, the capital. It is estimated that 220,000 people lost their lives during the earthquake.

Haiti before the earthquake:
  • Over 70 percent of people lived on less than one to two dollars per day
  • In the city, approximately 86 percent lived in slum conditions
  • 80 percent of education was provided in often poor-quality private schools
  • One out of two people in Port-au-Prince had no access to latrines and only one out of three had access to tap water
Haiti after the earthquake:
  • 1.5 million people live in tents; over 100,000 are at critical risk for storms and flooding
  • Over 180,000 homes are damaged or destroyed leaving 1.5 million people homeless
  • Less than 65 percent of primary school age children are actually enrolled because they cannot afford it. Of those enrolled because they cannot afford it, only 63 percent will complete it.
(source: The World Fact Book)

People are living in tents cities like this around Port-au-Prince
Katie: What were you guys doing in Haiti?

We stay in a house at a mission compound rented from Global Outreach (also presently housing Samaritan’s Purse) located in Titanyen, Haiti, about 20 miles north of the Port-au-Prince airport. The teams consist of volunteers doing construction and medical missions. The construction teams build temporary Samaritan’s Purse shelters and permanent cement houses and churches.

Since October 2011 the construction phase of the mission has stopped, but the medical mission seems to be growing. Each week the medical teams see on average about 1,700 to 2,000 patients. There are two medical teams, Alpha and Omega, each led by a Haitian doctor and consisting of Haitian translators, nurses, and pharmacy workers. We serve alongside the Haitian staff to see hundreds of patients each day. Each day the two teams go to a different mobile clinic site around Haiti. We pack everything we need to set up clinic in our van and have clinic in churches, tents, and outside under a tree.

Medical Clinic begins with set up, then introducing yourself to the patients, sharing scripture, a testimony or greeting, morning prayer, then the doctor teaches the patients about a pertinent medical topic (Cholera, hygiene, Malaria, etc.).

The patients first come to triage (where I work) where we assess the patient, taking vital signs, then they see the doctor, and then go to the pharmacy to get their medications or other needed items (clothes, infant formula, shoes, glasses, etc.). The night time activities consist of packing pills in preparation for the next clinic day, as well as devotions with the team.
These are the faces of the ones that, though they have little to none of things, they minister in mighty ways. We come to provide hope, medical care, or build a house, yet we too are forever changed and blessed.
Katie: What were you expecting?
In looking back at my blog, I was not really sure what to expect, I had never been to third world country. However, ever since I was young I knew that God had called me to go and do medical missions in a country in need.

I did not imagine that God would call me to Haiti. After I heard about the opportunity through a missions conference through my church, I knew God was calling me to serve in Haiti. It was neat that my mother had been to Haiti when she was my age, and, before passing, my grandfather gave me a Haitian dollar my mother had given him twenty years. For each of my trips the Lord has provided a way for me to go.

These boys made stick glasses to look like mine!
Katie: What did you find?
What I have found in Haiti is much more than I could have ever imagined. I found purpose and a calling to long term medical missions. It was eye-opening to go to the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

I found a people who are in need of the basic necessities of life, in need in shelter, clothes, food, and medical care. These people less than a four hour flight away yet live in a totally different world than the one I left. They live in the hot year-round Haiti weather, working hard day in and out to survive, to provide food and shelter for their families.

I found a people on spiritual journeys as we are, some so on fire for the Lord, serving Him whole heartedly, yet some not knowing Christ at all, and some turning to Voodoo for healing and fulfillment.

I found a people living a tough life, one of hard work, many miles of walking whether it be to school, to the market, or to work. They are a beautiful people who speak Haitian Creole and French. They are craftsmen, many are mothers, and have many children. The children are so loving; they long to learn, and have opportunity. The people are kind, patient, and very appreciative of you coming to their country.

I found a people whom I have grown to love and care about their health and well-being but most importantly care about their salvation in Christ.

Katie: What can we learn from Christians in Haiti?
We can learn humility. We can learn to be thankful and appreciative of the healthcare we have, the clean water we are able to drink, the accessibility we have to food, and medications. In comparison I do not have to fear each night for my safety, I do not live as many children are living in orphanages, unable to read or write, wearing the same shirt and shorts day after day, walking with no shoes, not knowing what it means to be able to draw, or read a book or the Bible.

We do not have to live in a tent, walking miles each day for food, not knowing if we will eat. We do not have to worry if the ran comes and destroys our tent or take turns to sleep on the ground at night. We have a family; we have free schooling. In Haiti, many cannot afford schooling, many go without proper medical care, many women and infants die during child labor.

What I have learned from the Christians in Haiti is they have a faith so much stronger than I feel I could ever have. They have hope of a better future; they work so hard and are thankful for the opportunities God gives them each day for life, for the ability to serve others, for a job (even if they do not make much). They go each day without complaining. They serve God and worship Him with all their being, hands raised high, and voices loud and harmony with thanksgiving!!

They are inspire me and encourage me in my daily walk with Christ, motivating me to continue my studies in Physician Assistant school, pushing me towards a stronger faith and trust in my Lord. My Haitian sisters and brothers have such a passion, as I do, to tell the Haitian people about Christ, to show them God’s love, and meet their needs physically and spiritually. The Haitian doctors I work with finished medical school in the U.S. and could practice in the U.S. yet they know that their schooling was a gift and choose to stay and serve their people in Haiti.

NCBM have some of the most amazing Haitian workers, Christian men and women serving their Lord and their people with such humble hearts. They are dear friends and I am so thankful to serve with them through NCBM. One worker writes:
"I live in Port-au-Prince I work with NCBM in pharmacy and as a translator (I learned English at school). I appreciate the things NCBM has been doing in Haiti for about two years, helping the homeless and the sick people after the earthquake. It's the first time in my life I have been employed, I pray God to bless all of you, thank you for coming to help my people and me. I have a reason to pray for all of you, I’m so glad to work with NCBM, and for my first time it's a good experience in my life. God bless you."- Michel

Katie: How did you see the Lord work while you were in Haiti?
I saw God working in countless ways. Each trip God has brought particular children and people into my life whom will now be forever friends. I am able to support them in their schooling, uplift them in their faith and walks with Christ, and stand alongside them during the good times and the bad.

The first trip I met a little girl named Venia. Venia's mother brought her with complaints of mouh sores and ear pain. As I examined her and began to get her vital signs, I noticed some injuries: her right arm was extremely scarred, her little hand mangled, and the right side of her face drooped and was swollen.

I soon learned from Dr. Vlad that this little girl had been injured in the earthquake. Her house collapsed on her and the right side of her body had been caught under debris. During the earthquake her mother was safe having been outside at the market. She searched for her daughter and after three days could still not find her.

The mother resolved to pay someone to bulldoze the house to retrieve her daughter's body. However, to everyone's surprise and amazement, they found her alive!

Medical volunteers performed surgery for free to save her right upper extremity and her face. Today she is doing well with minor complaints. Venia has trouble with mouth sores due to the scarring in her mouth but has adapted well at using her right limb. Her personality and cognition are all there. She caught my attention as soon as I met her, standing out from the other children with her sweet demeanor and affectionate smile.

As I treated Venia, she wanted to hold my hand and was curious about each task I performed. Venia sat so patiently, letting Dr. Vlad clean her sores and her ear until the very end when he had to apply a lot of pressure. She burst into tears, however was comforted by a small prayer Beanie Baby I was able to give her.

The bear's name on the tag is Hope. My sister gave it to me to give to a child who might need it. I carried it in my bag each day to the clinics but was not sure if I would find the right child to gift it until Venia.

Venia was hope because at age two she had survived the earthquake for three days. Now, at age three, her mother hopes to send her to school but cannot afford it. (Haitian children begin school at age three).

Dr. Vlad saw the potential in Venia and made sure to get the mother's contact information to see about the possibility of getting financial support for school. Unaware of this need, I approached the doctor about how I could help support Venia. He mentioned her need for schooling.

As the other team members heard about her story, they wanted to help as well. We were able to raise enough to send her to school for three years and hope to continue to raise support for her.

I was so thankful that God sent her to our clinic that day. Since then I have been able to see her again and help her with her continued medical needs as well as her needs for school and clothing. I have developed a close relationship with her family, and they keep a dear photo album I made for Venia of photos of us. I am praying that the schooling she has is able to teach her to adapt to overcoming the disabilities caused from her injuries and that she will grow to know the loving Savior who saved her life and has a purpose for her!

On my second trip I remember a tough day with almost 200 patients, and we had one little boy whom we didn't think was going to make it. The little guy, Somy, was fighting for his life. He had been orphaned and was not being taken care of. We tried so hard to start an IV but he was so dehydrated that the only veins we could find on his head could not hold up.

It was so sad seeing the little boy so helpless, and we were growing hopeless as he laid almost lifeless. I held him cradled in my arms; my mother and I sang, "Jesus Loves Me" over little Somy as I tried to think of what to do. I finally figured out that he would drink my Propel water as I tripped some into his mouth with a syringe.

We really wanted to pay for him to go to the hospital, but the Haitians told us sadly his caretakers would pocket the money and never take him to the hospital. Instead my mother spent the rest of the day at the clinic holding Somy in her arms and giving him drips of Popel until his belly was full. We would later send his caretaker medications and more Propel packets but all we could do was pray for his life.
In the midst of this sad time a blessing came into the church in the form of a screaming woman. At first we didn't know why she was screaming, but we quickly learned she was about to deliver! I was so excited and draped a blanket on a broken table on the ground behind the church to prepare a place for her.
During the painful delivery, the mother and I became very close very fast as I got to support this 19 year old mother as she rested her head on my leg and squeezed my hand. I got to assist the Haitian doctor deliver a baby girl. When we were finished the doctor asked the mother what she wanted to name the baby. She answered, "Rachelle" after me!

Baby Rachel and her namesake

I was looking back at my blog from my first trip and God reminded me of how He was teaching me about humble sacrifice. I blogged this:
"The sacrifices we may have made to come here to Haiti (time, money, etc.) seem pale in comparison to the sacrifices the Haitian people make each day to live, many still praising and serving the Lord. Sacrifice: Haitian doctors have the ability to practice in the States or in their home part of Haiti yet they choose to work with NC Baptist Men serving in some of the poorest areas of Haiti. They even sponsor children for schooling from their own meager salaries. Sacrifice: I observed the children who so graciously shared so much when they have so little. **One such family came to me, all three children with chicken pox, and very high fevers 103-104 F. I immediately gave them Children's Tylenol. After they took their medication, I gave them my one last dumdum sucker. It amazed me that without even being asked each child passed around the sucker to each other. Never complaining but calmly waiting for their turn. We saw this throughout the day. We gave some of our left over PB & J sandwiches to the workers that helped us and a few hungry children. They began to break the sandwiches and divide them among the others."
This theme of sacrifice I would see carry over into my third trip to Haiti. Having had just finished my first intense semester of PA school and just finished finals I had one day to pack and prepare for my next trip to Haiti. I felt rushed in getting ready for this trip, but I knew God had provided for me to go, and I just prayed that God would use me and reveal Himself to me in new ways. God had already been using me even in the U.S. I had been able to speak to my church and to my work about Haiti, and I had been able to keep in touch with the Haitian workers from home, building relationships with them, learning more about their lives and continuing to lift them up in prayer and be support for them.

God opened my eyes and heart to seeing the struggles that the handicapped face in Haiti.

One lady, almost fully blinded by cataracts, guided to me by her son. It was so sad to see: this woman losing her sight due to something that can be fixed in the U.S. Just to think how much this woman is having to endure and go through just to make it each day. Living in Haiti is hard enough but being handicapped is unimaginable to me.

One of our coordinators shared about a woman at her clinic crippled from rheumatic fever; she usually crawls each week to clinic to get needed medications. It’s hard enough to walk miles and miles to clinic in the heat but to crawl and walk on your hands to clinic is astounding to me. This woman also brings her three children, one she papooses to her stomach and the other two follow close behind. This was unfathomable for me to hear, showing true dedication this woman has to life and for her children! Seeing them makes my struggles in life seem so meaningless compared to what she goes through each day.

During this last trip God taught me firsthand to see how the sick and handicapped truly feel and what they experience in Haiti. I had three days where I worked at the clinics, which was such a blessing, but on the third night I got severly sick.

I did not expect to get so sick and miss the last two clinic days. Yet when my control and comfort were taken from me and I was struck down by a violent illness, I had to rely on God to get me through. During that time of pain and suffering, I clinged to the praise song:
“I may be weak but Your Spirit’s strong in me, my flesh may fail, but my God You never will... I may be weak… but Your Spirit’s strong in me… my flesh may fail… but my God You NEVER will… all I am I surrender… give me faith to trust what You say, that Your good and Your love is great, I broken inside I give You my life…" - “Give Me Faith” by Elevation Worship
I am unsure what I actually had or how I got it but through it all God was so faithful and I was able to get better for the plane ride home. Although this was not at all what I had planned, God taught me new things during that time.

During my time of pain I tried to think about the sick patients in Haiti whom are outside, sick and lying on the dirt, no bathroom, no IV, no doctor. I tried to think of the little child whom I may have gotten this illness from and it broke my heart to think that even if we gave that child antibiotics, without IV fluids, he probably will not make it this night.

Earlier in the week I shared a devotion from the Bible verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for thee for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” In this passage Paul is praying to God to remove the “thorn in his flesh” which was causing him constant pain. It was such a deep difficulty that Paul pleading with God to have his suffering taken away.

Although God did not remove the painful burden Paul had, He answered his prayer promising something more: His grace. God not only gave him His grace for this particular difficulty but promised His grace throughout life, in every trial. Though Paul would suffer, he was still able to exalt the name of Christ. When we are helpless God’s strength and power is even more evident and able to shine through. These struggles we face are opportunities to fulfill God’s purpose as a Christian, more than we ever could in a pain-free life.

This week I did not believe that this devotional would manifest so readily in my life, but God’s power was an answer to my prayers this week. I originally presented this devotional thinking only of the Haitian patience and what they endure in their daily struggles and pain, but God taught me first hand I too needed His grace this week. I know God is preparing me through these trips for the mission field. Once I complete school I hope to serve in medical missions more long term.

Giving away clothes and school supplies in the clinic tent
Katie: How can we best pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti?
  • Since NCBM responded to help the people of Haiti following the earthquake, we have see 124,847 patients and had 1,519 salvations! Wow, praise God!! Please pray for this upcoming year that God may do even more amazing works through the missions organizations in Haiti and through our medical missions teams serving at the mobile medical clinics each week.
  • Please pray for Haitian staff that God will provide for their needs, give them encouragement, and strength to continue the tiring work week after week.
  • Please pray for the new government and leadership in Haiti, that they will have God's guidance in deciding how to best establish a better Haiti. To provide schooling, jobs, healthcare, housing, electricity, clean water, safety, etc. To address sanitation and water issues. To care for the growing number of orphans.
  • Pray for the doctors that they will be able to establish more long-term clinics.
  • Pray for my Haitian friends tha they will have opportunities for more schooling and for continued jobs.
  • When I went to Haiti, I experienced the closeness the people face to life and death. Death is an all too common occurrence in Haiti, so please, please pray for those who don't know the Lord. Many die daily from the small infant plagued by malnutrition and fever to the adult who dies suddenly from a heart attack.

Me and the Haitian staff

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