While in Haiti, during one of the evening team meetings we sang a song by Phil Wickham called “Beautiful”. It resonated with me and so I put some of the pictures to the song. I think it tells a story… The beginning audio clip is from a worship service outside of the area we were using for a clinic. There’s no way to convey what we saw or how it felt to be among those in the Haitian church, so this is mostly for the team that went.
The Problem with Words
As we begin the fifth day or our trip, there are few struggles that are just setting in. It’s hard to write about Haiti, and not just because the bugs are trying to eat me alive, we don’t have solid internet connections nor because down time to write is scarce. It’s hard to write, because instilling in the reader the enormity of the problems is almost impossible. They say pictures are worth a 1000 words – I’m going to need a lot of pictures.
Who’s Ministering To Whom?
Almost always, missionaries come back from either short-term or long-term trips very changed by what they see. Working with the people in Delma, and the Baptista Church has given opportunities for the Haitians to minister to us as in hospitality, patience and faith. They are an incredible people, many of whom praise God for the blessing of survival and do not blame God for their poverty and devastation. We spoke to one local pastor who said that when his home fell (a high-end home compared to those around him) he laughed when we got out of the rubble – He laughed at an attempt to take his life, and then praised God that he was still alive. I’m not sure most American Christians would do the same. I don’t understand a word of Creole, but their music, worship and prayers are amazing!
Let It Rain
The day was one of our longest, after a half day clinic, we than visited the survivor camps around us to pray and bless those people. I’ve never seen anyone so grateful for house visits. It’s overwhelming and sad to say the least. We met some people, many of which spoke English (thank goodness). It was amazing to hear their stories and plans. It was touching to see them cleaning rubble from around their home and try to keep clean. The Haitians treat what they have very well. Frankly, they are far more concerned about their appearance than we have been. They bath two-three times a day and are constantly sweeping and cleaning. Rarely do I not see the Haitians brushing dirt from themselves. They have a very healthy level of personal respect.
We had initially planned to take a break at a local hotel and get some dinner, maybe go swimming. However, the schedule just didn’t allow it. On the way home, it began to lightening and thunder, as we arrived it began to rain. Several just stood in the refreshing down pour after a long, hot and humbling day.
If I could stay….I would.
Don’t forget to read Amy Umble’s from the Free Lance Star, as she travels with us.
I can write all day, show video and pictures of our past few days and I feel that I would not give justice to what is occurring here in Haiti. The Haitian people that we’ve engaged in the church and in clinics have been very grateful, very open and hospitable. They’ve done their best to make us feel welcome.
Entering the Church on Sunday gave me a feeling of home, even if just for a moment. Of course I didn’t speak the language, but the songs I knew; the mothers trying to be patient with their little ones was familiar and the spirit of the church-family resonated. The time after the service, which was delivered in French by Pastor Earnest, stirred them. As a side bar; I am now ready to implement at least one Haitian custom in the church – a church usher walks about shaking the head of those who nod off – that I like! I want that job! (although don’t count out the fact that I may be the one sleeping)
Walking Through The Streets
After our church service, we began walking the courtyard in the Delmar area, one that is serviced by the local church. We saw “tents”, which were little more than pieces of fabric held together by any materials available and fastened to four sticks. Most were about 6×6 and were considered their housing. There was an estimated 1000 people living in these shelters, in what equated to be about a one,maybe two city block section.
As we walked the children unabashedly ran to us and took our hands, as some sort of Creole- speaking-two-foot-talk-guide, who we could not understand. Regardless of our language barrier, these children told a story. A story that I wish I could do justice.
We did our best to make it to many homes to sing, pray and talk with members of the community. To you, reading in America, that seems perhaps benign. To them, having pastors and friends visit them and spend time with them seemed to be a delight.
Returning to the Compound
On the way back, after a quick introduction and planning session at the clinic/church a huge storm hit. Our travel home was… indescribable, but I’ll do my best. With the strong rains, and insane traffic, our tap-tap did it’s best to snake through the crowded, chaotic street. As it did Dr. Mandall and I noticed that the streets became rivers and the lack of drainage made a tidal wave of trash and debris fighting against our transport. The thought of the health risks gave a bit more clarity to the medical issues at hand. Since the Earthquake much of the debris and trash has simply been piled along the city streets.
Upon arriving back to our camp, we were soaking wet, sun burnt and grateful… very, very grateful to be able to serve.
By the way, we do have journalist with us from the Free Lance Star. Amy Umble, is doing a great job of telling the story.
Note: Due to bandwidth and scarcity of connection in Haiti, my posts will be without video or pictures.
Entering Another World
After a long day of flying and waiting and flying again our missions team, made of doctors, pastors, support folk and a reporting team from the Free Lance Star arrived at Port-au-Prince Haiti. The airport (previously damaged by the January earthquake) was a cacophony of movement, sounds and people – lots of people. The plane from Miami to Haiti was full and by listening to most of the plan it was Christian missionaries and many were arriving, as we were – ready to provide care, love and support for a people in need.
As much frustration as I sometimes have with the church-universal, it was amazing to see His people in action. Actually doing something – actually fulfilling The Great Commission. Within minutes of leaving the airport it made the frailty of what we Americans consider consequential; insignificant. We were met at the gate with people there to make any money any way they could, children with hands held out asking for food… It was hard to not feel immediately overwhelmed by the needs of the people.
Etiquette for Benevolence
We’ve been well warned that giving food or money to anyone could cause big problems. We knew that we had to provide care and support in very specific ways or the help could just create more problems. The ride to the compound which we were staying was rough and dusty. The aroma of poverty and illness passed through our open transport like cigarette smoke lingering in a crowded bar. The entire team was exhausted from the day’s travelling; but you could see in all our faces that we were ready to help. It’s such a blessing to have team members who have been here before and have planned for an organized approach to emotional, spiritual and physical support.
The Week’s Home
The compound that we are in is a Christian School in Port-au-Prince. It was a school created in the 70’s for the children of missionaries and then later allowed children from all over. Now, after the earthquake, it’s a basecamp for missionary aid. The school continues to teach, at a very decreased capacity. After unloading about 50-60 bags of supplies and medicine that we have brought with us, we were debriefed by the school staff. Many of the folks I had seen on the plane ride down were re-united at the basecamp.
At one point during the debriefing a gentlemen of mature years asked “Is there support staff for doctors who have come?” The answer came quickly, as another person a few seats down, said “We have nurses, but no doctors…” Isn’t if funny how God works?
I’ve been here now about four hours. Unpacking organizing and cleaning. In that time I’ve heard at least six different languages and met a few people. All here to help. All united by the significant need of these people.
Least you think that the discomfort of sleeping on floors, 100+ weather and the overwhelming atmosphere a sacrifice, it isn’t. We’ve only driven through the town and heard a few stories – we’re still living blessed lives in our compound that has running water, electricity and food. It puts a great deal in perspective. It trivializes the insignificant things that we consider “stressful” in our blessed American lives.
Awake, Awake Oh Sleeper
I awoke at about 2am this morning after a series of very vivid and disturbing dreams. In each of the four sequences of the dream, I was a different person at different times in modern history. In each sequence I began having a conversation or engaging a person, only to find that I was dead and the other person was the spouse that I had left behind. Each sequence was reliving the memory of how we met or a favorite date and the spouse was always lonely and also reliving the same situation. It’s as if the spiritual self I was in and the widow were meeting to celebrate some profound mutual memory of a landmark time in our relationship. It was so real and so painful, that I’m tearing up, even as I write this.
During my dream, after awaking and even now five hours later while writing this, I felt the vivid pain of being both the widowed spouse and the frustrated lover that couldn’t comfort the person that had been left behind. The pain was not for myself, but because in each sequence I couldn’t convey to the widow that I was in a better place and I was deeply sorry for their continued pain.
The thing most interesting to me about the times of reflection in each sequence – the times that the four couples were recalling were not wedding days, expensive cruises or elaborately planned holidays. The most impactful monuments being recognized in the sequences were holding hands and gazing upon one another at a quite restaurant, the first corny pickup line at a social event, holding each other during a benign movie and walking in the rain at a park. These are the times when each couple felt the strongest connection and most peace in their relationships.
I’m glancing around my living room now and wondering what random movie, conversation or trinket would stir such profound sorrow in me, should anything happen to my wife. I have a blessed marriage – an incredible gift from God – that I daily take for granted. I’m sure to tell her how much I love her and to spend as much time pursuing her as humanly possible – I would be loss without her. It’s not always been this way, and that makes me even more grateful for what we’ve been given.
I have no real understanding of what it feels like to lose a close love one. I’ve faced the pain of others that have. The closest I came was in 1986 when a favored grandmother passed away, but I was too young to truly appreciate the value of life and still was comforted by the thought of an angelic patriarch looking over me. I’ve never faced the loss of an immediately family member. Even my dog is 16 years old and seems to have no will to sleep eternally.
My theology is such that I do not believe we’ll be floating around as ghosts after we’re dead, looking for ways to fix our loved one’s lives. I feel that Bible is clear on this issue that you will end up in one place or another. So, I feel the dream was symbolic or instructive. Rarely do I have such full-color, vivid and emotional dreams. This meant something more.
I assume that this is tied in to my upcoming missions trip to Haiti, where we’ll be running a medical clinic and taking time to counsel the survivors of the tragedy. I’ve been studying the country, culture, history and time since January’s devastating earthquake. These are a people who have suffered much since their existence. They aren’t strangers to pain and suffering, but this magnitude is so pervasive. All I can do is pray for our team to be able to provide some comfort. I’ve never been to the country, but I know that in the practice of medical care that providers can sometimes forget about the non-physical pain that others are going through.
Even outside of going to another country, there should be an ongoing effort in our daily lives to identify and be sympathetic to non-medial pain…
The Pain of a Savior
I can’t help but think of the unbearable pain of Christ as I write this. I got just a glimpse of four lives torn apart by loss in my dreams last night and only that glimpse has given me profound sorrow.
I Peter 2:24 – 24 He took our sins on himself, giving his body to be nailed on the tree, so that we, being dead to sin, might have a new life in righteousness, and by his wounds we have been made well.
It reminded me that in my daily life, in my struggles and in my times of frustration that Christ is there. He is present during my pain and wishes more than anything, that I would know that it’s going to be ok and His comfort is like no other.
It started with answering a message from a friend on Facebook… On May 1st, I’m going to Haiti with a great team of 10 from the Grace Network of Churches. The primary focus of the mission trip will be to man a medical clinic and support doctors that are going to be attending to countless victims still needing medical care.
Much of my function will be to work with the victims of the devastating earthquake and work as a layman counselor to help with post incident stress and debriefing. I’ll be spending some time with their church’s leadership to help them learn how to train others and continue working with their church members.
I have a great deal of trepidation due to the great need. I’ve had one team meeting and a group conference call with the person who went before me. Those who have already went have relayed significant pain and need on behalf of the victims. We’ll be taking medical supplies with us as well.
I need your prayers and even your support. I’m asking for financial donations to help offset the cost, but also to help with the work. Any funds that are donated and not used will be given to the team for additional supplies. If you’re interested in contributing, you can do so on the widget below by credit card. If you wish to help and prefer to do so by check, please make it out to Grace Community Church of Caroline and put “Haiti Missions” in the memo field. You can mail it to 224 Village Court, Ruther Glen, VA 22546.
Thank you in advance for your support and your prayers!