Written in response to the post on Medical Emergencies, August 19, 2018:
Thank you for sharing this hard but beautiful story. This is why I joyfully support Haiti Foundation of Hope because of stories like these. I praise God for modern day medicine and doctors who have knowledge and skills. Though it is men who give of their time and energy, it is God who receives all the glory. It is this shared vision that continues to bring positive change to Haiti.
What do you do when you get an invitation to gather with past HFH team members for a reunion? You say yes!
What a fun time to enjoy Haitian food, fellowship and hear updates on the work of Haiti Foundation of Hope. It was a great evening. Thank you, Greta and Kevin McKinney!
CHANGING THE WAY I SEE THE WORLD
I had such a wonderful time with the team. It changed the way I see the world and the people in it. I am still processing all of the emotions/thoughts I have. I am honored to have been a part of such an amazing organization, as it impacted my life greatly.
THE WIDOW’S MITE AND OTHER STORIES
On my last trip to Haiti to repair the x-ray I heard three stories that I wanted to share.
In the past when HFH medical teams came to Terre Blanche, the teams would see 1200 to 1500 people in a week – medical care was only available in this area when teams came. Now when HFH medical teams come they see around 800 people. The reason: the Clinic of Hope is staffed full-time with Haitian doctors and nurses. This is a great indication that the Clinic of Hope, working with Haiti Foundation of Hope, is making a difference in lives of those living in this area.
Another story that carries even more significance was when a Haitian patient was told “the American doctor can see you now” she informed the staff that she wanted to see the Haitian doctor. I thought “mission accomplished”. Maybe HFH’s job is winding down.
The last story reminds me of the widow’s mite. A widow came to the clinic with her two boys – all were sick. The widow had no money but the Clinic of Hope staff graciously treated her and her boys at no charge. A week later she returned to report that she and her boys were well. She was grateful and wanted to thank the clinic staff. In her gratitude she brought the only thing of value she had to give: a piece of charcoal.
HFH’s job is not done yet, but it is encouraging to know that, working with the Clinic of Hope, HFH is making a difference.
Steve Bressler (Seto)
GOD WILL BE NEAR
It has been 10 weeks since I traveled with a group of 18 with Haiti Foundation of Hope to the rural community of Terre Blanche in northern Haiti. Our group worked in a small medical clinic in this village for a week. Although many in our group knew each other from attending Columbia Presbyterian Church, we did not know each other well and had never worked with each other or in a setting like this before. Each person brought vastly different skills to this experience but the one goal we had in common was to translate God’s love in this poor community by providing health care to the sick and those in need.
This experience stretched me further than I ever thought possible. We were awakened early each morning by the sounds of rural Haitian life: chickens, goats, donkeys, people singing hymns and our patients finding their places in a long line of those hoping to be seen each day. As we gathered on the clinic rooftop to eat breakfast each morning, we could look down into the courtyard and see the gathering crowd.
Our first day’s devotion included the scripture from Philippians 4:4-7. The verses I needed to get me through the week were found within that passage: “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Our clinic days were long, hot, humid, noisy and crowded! But our patients showed extreme patience in the face of long waits in the heat of the day. They came to us with many common (acute or chronic) illnesses that we could address. However, we also had some truly heart- breaking patients with end-stage terminal illness and even one small child who died. We saw daily glimpses of the absolute grace of God being poured out into the experience.
Our group of 18 grew into a bonded TEAM and God was sustaining us and helping us through each patient situation. We also got to know the Haitian medical staff, sharing and collaborating with them in providing care. We each brought what we had to give to this experience (education, skills, past experience, language, even our worries and fears) and God blessed it and made it sufficient for the time we worked there and for His purposes.
These many weeks later I take joy in knowing the work in Terre Blanche continues. The clinic is fully functional with trained Haitian doctors, nurses and lab facilities. There is a wonderful school where children gather each day to learn. Each student receives a nutritious meal prepared by a dedicated group of women using the In-Stoves that have been donated for this use. Mothers of infants and preschool children gather together weekly to share a mid-day meal and learn more about nutrition. There is micro-enterprise trade school teaching women how to make items that can be sold in a sustainable model. Good things are happening in Terre Blanche with the day-to-day operations overseen by Pastor Delamy and his wife Elvire in partnership with Haiti Foundation of Hope.
I am very grateful for the experience of working at the clinic in Terre Blanche. I have so many snapshots in my mind of the patients we saw in clinic that week. The warm smiles of our patients, in spite of their discomfort, are something I will not soon forget.
WE ARE THE SAME…
So being a non-medical person, and having never been to a third world country, I was severely out of my element. As a non-medical person, we worked in the pharmacy filling out prescriptions, we assisted the medical team in whatever capacity needed, and we welcomed the Haitians needing medical attention with a poor version of Creole and a smile. We helped with about a thousand consultations, ranging from malnutrition, to prolapsed uteruses, to AIDS and even death.
Haitians are very affectionate; they love physical touch. I remember leading this very elderly, probably 80 year old woman, to the doctor. I reached out and took her hand. These were the most leathery, callused, work hardened hands I have ever felt. I later found out she was 55 or 60.
Life is hard in Haiti. With an average lifespan of 56 and malnutrition, the youth look far younger than they actually are and the elderly look far older.
But through all of that, there is an unbreakable spirit in the people of Haiti. There was a playful joy in the little kids and the older citizens as well. They were quick to smile, quick to laugh and quick to show trust and affection. I enjoyed standing on the balcony, listening to the crowd gathered outside singing songs of praise as they waited to get into the clinic. I enjoyed our walks down to the river where all the children surrounded us and held our hands wherever we went.
The very first Sunday we went to church to worship together. They were singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in Creole and I was moved to tears, because the fact is that they are not that dissimilar to us. We are the same body of Christ.
Clinic ran each day until 5 p.m. after which we had some free time before dinner at 7 p.m. Most days I would take a soccer ball we had brought out to the field and a soccer game would begin. I would leave by about 6:30 to get ready for dinner, but the kids would continue playing until dark around 8 p.m.
As the week went on I began to wonder when the kids would eat, since before the game started seemed too hot and after it was over it was dark and they had no electricity. Would the kids eat in the dark? Did their parents need them home at a certain time?
I asked our team leader about this and the answer came as a shock: they don’t eat dinner. Most of the kids only have one meal a day and that would have been the meal provided by the school lunch program at noon. After discovering this I stopped telling them I needed to leave because we were having dinner….
FULFILLING AND REWARDING
Thank you all for your prayers – the trip couldn’t have gone better.
Team: It was a wonderful group of people. We laughed, sang and enjoyed our time together; true unity might be the best descriptor.
Weather: Oh my, beautiful days but hot and humid, thankful for every whisper and major gust of wind.
Clinic: Our days were full and fulfilling seeing more than 1,000 patients over five days. The non-medical (like me), Haitian translators, full time Haitian clinic staff and the visiting medical professionals worked so very well together. My role over the five days was to work in the pharmacy, assist the pediatrician and assist the OB. I learned so much; to use the term rewarding seems an understatement.
My brain was flooding with not only being at the clinic and doing the work but also looking at everything as a board member. I had a chance to visit projects I’d heard about, have long overdue conversations with Delamy and Elvire (our Haitian partners) that were delightful and to see work we’ve talked about and voted on over these past few years.
Thank you again and again for holding me and us up in prayer. I am ever thankful.
LOOKING FOR JOY
Prior to going to Haiti in February, I had been reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henry Nouwen. The last chapter talks of the Father rejoicing – God rejoices and we are called to enter into that joy. I purposed to look for joy in the small things during my time in Terre Blanche.
It was not difficult to make a list: Sunday worship; Pastor Delamy praying for me; Jeanty’s enthusiastic Creole lesson; 3-month-old twins…
There was joy to be found.
MOMENTS LIKE THESE
There are moments on every team that remain forever in my heart.
In February, I was blessed to work in the eye clinic as we evaluated and cared for those with eye concerns. We were especially looking for those with cataracts to be considered for Friday surgery by a Haitian ophthalmologist who would be coming from Port-au-Prince.
On Thursday, a young woman, carrying her one month old daughter, led her 57-year-old father into the Clinic of Hope – three generations. M. Derilus was blind because of cataracts and had come hoping the ophthalmologist would be able to give him sight. He was evaluated and cleared for surgery.
After surgery and while in recovery, M. Derilus, held his granddaughter and softly hummed her to sleep. Watching this bond between grandfather and granddaughter touched my heart.
On the day after surgery, when the bandages were removed, M. Derilus saw his precious 1-month-old granddaughter for the first time. His smile lit up the room and there was much rejoicing. Upon observing this the surgeon said, “It is moments like these that we do this work.”
I couldn’t agree more.
REENTRY IS THE HARDEST
Here are my top 3 (they all seem to satisfy equally well):
- We got a lot done. Saw 1,262 people.
- I got the frig installed.
- The weather was nice.
It is a little bit strange, coming back or experiencing culture shock in reverse. Reentry is always the hardest. Long warm showers are always a blessing, who knew that the ability to always flush the toilet could be such a luxury.
I ran across a Franciscan benediction that I thought was appropriate.
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships – so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people – so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war – so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world – so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen. (Franciscan Benediction)
I especially like the last line, about being blessed with enough foolishness to think you can make a difference. Well, that was certainly true of this team… you made a difference, good job to all.
Steve Bressler (“Seto”)
BLESSED MY EYES
It has taken me a while to process!!
Hope: I found hope in Terre Blanche. HFH is making a difference in many ways.
Community: One person can make a difference but when we join together – God multiplies our efforts.
Seeing: From Frederick Buechner – “He laid his hands on me and blessed my eyes to see God’s image deep in every man.” I saw God in all of you, in our Haitian friends, and in all we encountered both inside and outside of the clinic.
There is a story about a child finding stranded starfish on the beach and so he was throwing them back into the ocean. A man stops and tells the boy that he can’t possibly make a difference because there are just too many to save and the boy replies, “I made a difference to that one,” as he throws another one back in the water.
That story sums up what happened with Anelson, a malnourished 17-month-old little boy brought into the Clinic of Hope by a desperate mom on Monday. He was dehydrated and in severe need of medical care. By Thursday, he was able to sit independently and was alert enough to have eye contact. He went home on Saturday morning. His life was saved by concentrated care by a pediatrician and a nurse on our team. It doesn’t get much better than that!
There were other stories that should/could be told and many can bring tears to your eyes. The difference made during a week working in Haiti is a two-way street. We help the Haitian patients with medical care, but they enter our hearts and open our eyes to what really is important in life.
LIFE-CHANGING TEN DAYS
Terre Blanche is the most beautiful place I have ever been. Every morning I woke up and drank my cup of coffee on the roof and watched the sun rise up over the mountains and in the background I heard our patients singing Haitian songs while they waited for the clinic to open. It was priceless.
I wish I had the words to describe how amazing this trip was. It was the most amazing/tiring/meaningful/challenging/life-changing ten days of my life. We saw over 1,070 patients in five and half days.
1. One sad recollection is when Dr. Joe discovered a mass instead of a fetus in a young lady. Both the young lady and her mother were fighting back tears of sadness and stress – but so was I.
The good part is that now she can proceed. Hopefully, have this resolved; and then, hopefully, have a successful pregnancy later.
2. The last patient Dr. Joe tested that day showed a mother was going to have twins.
3. Again many little kids (cutest ever) holding hands with us as we walk around the village. One little boy was helping me as we crossed the dam. Just like a longtime friend he was there really trying to protect me. You just have to love all those children as they show love so easily.
SENSE OF PURPOSE
- It was so good and so much harder than I thought it would be.
- I felt a deep sense of purpose and autonomy.
- My biggest fear going into the trip was connecting with the team, and my biggest joy in coming out of the trip was connecting with the team.
- We were so well loved by the Haitians who cared for us in the clinic.