Saturday, June 26, 2010

Finding God

In my last blog I mentioned all the reading time there is in Haiti. Last weekend a group of were together when one of the UN Commanders told a Swiss nurse, you Swiss have watches; Haitians have time. This is so incredibly true. Burton and I both loved the quote and have repeated it often during the week. When waiting hours for an appointment, sitting in traffic waiting on a bus to load - Or repair an axle, or waiting for bedtime from 4:00 in the afternoon on.

In Haiti you have all the time you need. One day this week I started to apologize for it being such a slow day, when the Spirit reminded me of all He had done through us that day. I instead listed those in our conversation. We were both struck by how God is able to work through us, even when we don't realize it is happening; or in the many small things we as humans tend to blow right by.

I have read several good books this trip. All very convicting. Perhaps the best has been Radical by David Platt. As I struggle with balancing working at home with my ever increasing time commitments in Haiti, this book speaks straight to my heart. If you get the chance to read it, I suspect it will do the same for you. Burton brought it with him, and it has provided us with hours of spiritual discussion material as we discussed it and challenged each other with thoughts from it.

One of the most convicting parts in it for me was where it points out that most of our churches or denominations have some kind of checklist for a "plan of salvation". Most are 4 or 5 points long depending on what type you attend. He then made the point that the true plan is to sacrifice all you own for the poor; hate your mother, father, wife and children; and pick up your cross, dying to yourself daily, and follow Him.

This seems to really be what being a disciple of Christ and living a Spirit filled life are all about. It seems so easy to get hung up on our various theologies, that it is easy to lose sight of the simplicity, and the sacrifice, required to be a true follower of Jesus. For me, I have spent way too much of my life following church instead of Christ.

From this I repent.

Peace and grace,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tuesday Night In Haiti

A nice quiet week in Haiti. Burton Wood is our only guest this week. He has gotten to work with the Haitian doctors in our hospital's outpatient clinic. Learning first hand about tropical medicine, along with how to see and treat 10 patients an hour! Tomorrow we return to the Shada clinic together to work help with their day clinic. This is the clinic I wrote about last week located in a slum that would remind you of Cite Soleil on a smaller scale. We will then spend Thursday and Friday back at our clinic seeing patients. It was really cool to share in Burton's joy when he found out how well he had done on his MCAT this afternoon. Burton will be a very good doctor.

I received really sad news today about one of the orphans that have kind of found their way under my care. Jean P., "My Little Princess" found me in January and kind of latched on. She is a fifteen year old little girl, the same age as my youngest daughter at home, with an incredibly tragic history. We have been able to get her enrolled in school this Spring, along with helping her support herself by giving her postcards to sell in the American hotels and with food and clothes money when needed. Apparently during my time at home in May the food and money ran out. She resorted to selling her little body in order to buy food. She is now expecting a child. I can't imagine the future in store for this precious child, now becoming a mother way before her time. I do know that God has a plan for her and that He will not fail.

The recognition of His power and purpose are really all that allows things, that make absolutely no sense when viewed from human eyes, to make sense - Or at least to be at some kind of peace with. Much of working in Haiti requires this kind of attitude and faith. Otherwise, a person could go nuts questioning the injustices and human failings.

God is good. He has plans for each one of us. Really our biggest job is to go out and spread His Word and bring Him glory. Oh yeah, and sacrifice all of our stuff to help the poor, forsake our families, and die to ourselves every day. Not a bad price when you consider the reward, spending an eternity marveling at His glory.

In Haiti, you have a lot of time. I spend a lot of it reading books and the Bible. This is what many of them tell me. In reality, this is all a tough concept to grasp - A tough road to walk. Maybe that's why the road is so narrow. Or, perhaps the only way is to really die to myself and let His Spirit consume me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The week in Haiti

It has been a very good week in Haiti. Any week in Haiti seems to contain a lot of unexpected challenges, but it is always so inspiring to watch God solve the problems, or provide comfort in tragedy.

We have had an unusually large amount of miscarriages with complications this week. It is no coincidence that we also had a fantastic ob/gyn, Dr. Padilla here this week as well. He was able to provide the needed care, helping to prevent further complications for the women.

We have also had a group of six wonderful people visiting this week from St. Francois' sister parish, St. Margaret's in Michigan. They were really fun to work with and provide so much desperately needed support for the parish here in Haiti. They have been visiting here for many years as well to assist in the work. This trip they bought the welcome news that they had found sister parishes for two other Catholic parishes nearby. This was a very special group of people to work with.

On Friday, Burton, Dr. Maklin, and I traveled to Jaquzyel to visit Mitch - The only currently diagnosed hemophilia patient in Haiti. We were able to provide him with a wheelchair and cell phone during our visit. Due to multiple knee bleeds, surgery, and being misdiagnosed, Mitch is unable to walk. He was having to be transported to school by being carried or on a bicycle. He was thrilled with his "new" chair. The cell phone will allow his Aunt to notify us when he has a bleeding episode so that we can get medicine to him in a timely manner.

Starting the hemophilia program here will make such an incredible impact on so many lives. Again, it amazes me how everything always seems to just "fall in place" here in Haiti. Laurie Kelley and her organization, Save One Life, will end up helping save many lives by their support of this program.

Grace and peace,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Two Week Mark

It is very easy to lose track of the days in Haiti. With the constant projects, commitments, sick people relying on you, clinic days in various communities, and everything else going on, it is so easy to lose track of when you came and when you are going. I can always sense when I'm reaching the two week mark though based on fatigue and how I start plotting strategies to use a rifle to take out the air horns on the large trucks passing by during the night. For some reason, the drivers of these trucks feel it is essential to keep Haiti awake by blowing the air horns constantly as they fly down the potholed filled highway under my window. Enough whining. Sleep may be way overrated when all is said and done anyway.

Given the poverty of the areas we have done clinics in this week, to even worry about my own comfort seems incredibly selfish. Yesterday we worked in a community named Shada. Even walking the half mile or so back to the building the clinic is located in, you realize you are amongst a people that are barely existing. The pathways between the hovels so narrow we were often forced to turn sideways to pass through. Ignoring the dark, odorous "water" we had to walk through the entire way. TB is rampant, even amongst the very young. As I held a little 3 or 4 year old girl on my lap at one point during the day and felt the familiar rattling cough in her lungs, I was so so saddened by her prospects even should she recover. I've never seen Slumdog Millionaire, the OB/GYN that was with me said he felt as if we were in the movie.

As I read Proverbs 16 last night and read the verse: "Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud". I was really struck bu the significance of the work being done by so many here in Haiti. I work closely with a very good Haitian physician that has dedicated his life to serving the poor. He spends each day of the week traveling to a different clinic caring for these poorest of the poor. As I accompany him at some of these clinics, I am moved to tears at his dedication and commitment to sacrifice his own possible gains simply to help serve his fellow countrymen. People like Eugene inspire me and others who work with him to continue on.

Burton Wood is here spending a couple of weeks working as an intern. He is a Pre-med student from Lipscomb University that felt a call to come visit Haiti. It is really special being able to watch God change Burton's life each day by the tragedies and people he is encountering as he works with us in our clinics. I am convinced that he will be a different and better doctor someday because of what he has experienced here in
Haiti. Dr. Padillo, the OB/GYN visiting from California, came to me earlier this morning sharing how easily "Haiti has gotten under his skin". In a good way. He talked of how you read about things like this, but until you experience it you have no idea what it is really like. Much like the people who visit then return home. A common thing I hear from them is that they have a really difficult time explaining to friends and family what Haiti is like. I think it is because those who have never been here have no frame of reference for comprehending the utter desperation that is so prevalent here. Soon after her arrival, Laurie Kelley shared that even though she had spent almost twenty years working in developing third world countries, nothing could have prepared her for Haiti. It really is what you read, hear about, and more.

Please continue praying for everyone working here. I urge you to please find a group doing work here that you feels deserves support and begin supporting them financially. Everyone I talk with working here speaks of how difficult it is to raise funds. Many are leaving because of this. At our very poorest, we are so incredibly blessed in comparison to the people here.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Living in two worlds

Returning to Haiti is beginning to feel like going home. I think when you pour your heart out somewhere, it is hard not to become very attached to a people and a place. I count the days until my wife can be with me here, then life will be complete.

It has been a very good week. It has been a very busy week! Being the ambulance driver, the on call resource for the residents that staff our ER at night, and distributing medications across North Haiti can keep a person very busy. I was again reminded of how easily death is accepted here this week after picking up two severely injured motorcycle accident victims and transporting them to the nearest government hospital's emergency room. Both had severe head injuries; but both appeared to be struggling to live as we delivered them there. Unfortunately the system here requires that any medications a patient needs, must be purchased by the patient or their family - Obviously impossible in this case. As Laurie Kelley, Dr Maklin, and I rushed around the hospital begging and borrowing the needed meds and supplies, we were crushed when we returned to find of the men breathing his last breaths. Very disappointing.

While at the hospital, we were approached by a young lady visiting from North Carolina with another medical mission team. Obviously distraught, she told us the story of a four year old little boy in the pediatric ward that had been abandoned there. As we visited him we found that he appears to have mild CP, is very malnourished, and had not been receiving good care as he was not an "official" patient. We spoke with the medical staff, guaranteeing payment for his care until we can find a home for him. A good friend of mine, Abraham, is a master at locating difficult placements for orphans here in Haiti. He is meeting me at the hospital tomorrow morning to assist with this. Please say a prayer for Michael.

I had some very good meetings with Laurie Kelley, founder of Save One Life, during her visit here this week. I am thrilled to tell you that we are going to be working alongside a wonderful Haitian physician, Dr. Eugene Maklin, in developing a program to identify and support hemophilia patients in Haiti. As I said earlier, death is far too easily accepted in Haiti. I imagine that as we work to "Save One Life" with this program, it will result in the saving of many lives of Haitians with bleeding disorders, that have just been allowed to die up until now. Watch for progress updates on this work beginning this week.

Very busy, but so very, very rewarding. If you know of any surgeons interested in visiting Haiti, please pass along my contact information. We are desperate for surgical teams anytime over the next few months.

Grace and peace,

Friday, June 11, 2010

On The Right Track

Again, the work in Haiti is being blessed and guided by a hand much more knowing and stronger than mine. Laurie Kelley, founder of Save One Life, a third world hemophilia outreach program, has been visiting me here in Haiti this week. She is a very special lady,  a Mother of a child with hemophilia herself, she saw the unmet needs of these patients in third world countries, and personally decided to help make a difference.

Laurie has been working alongside me as we do medical supply distribution - More than anything, we have been discussing the logistics of starting a hemophilia treatment program in Haiti. None exists at this time. This will be changing. We met with the Director of Health, Dr. Jassmin, in this area yesterday, and have his cooperation in helping to identify referral physicians and eventually locating and diagnosing the patients.

It never stops amazing me how everything always seems to work together in Haiti. The supply distribution that I work with provides great relationships with clinics and hospitals that will be our new partners in this. The surgeries we perform at St. Francois will help to identify patients with bleeding disorders. Perhaps most significant, as I begin coordinating mobile medical clinics with MMI, we will see many thousands of patients that would otherwise go unnoticed. These guys can all be assessed and screened for bleeding disorders.

Currently there are only 2 known patients in the entire country. Statistically we know there should be at least 500. In Haiti's easy acceptance of death, I am sure that this is the fate these undiagnosed patients currently face. Our immediate goal is to begin working with clinics and hospitals, training them to recognize and refer patients with potential bleeding disorders.

Laurie has probably expressed this better in her blog post here. Please take a moment to have a look.

As always, I am so very grateful for your prayers, support, and encouragement. Especially to all my new Lipscomb friends that have begun supporting this work thanks to the encouragement of my favorite (and only) Son, Chris.

Grace and peace,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Back In Haiti

I made it safely back to Haiti yesterday afternoon, despite a pretty dicey flight on one of the banana republic commuter planes from Port Au Prince. I had really hoped to find Haiti on the mend upon my return but it hasn't started happening yet. Even more people are returning to Port Au Prince from the hamlets they fled to following the earthquake. This is only swelling the populations in the already overcrowded tent cities. They say hurricanes are on the way. Not a good thing if you're living in a tent. It seems like the problem is a combination of countries being slow to release pledged aid money along with inherent problems within the Haitian government. It is a process.

I was able to hit the ground running during the night helping in our emergency room with a motorcycle accident victim,  a man who started having seizures out of the blue, and with the birth of a precious new life. My goal for this trip is simply for people to experience God's love through my actions.

I just finished a book named Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I was really convicted by the message in it that the more important I view myself, the harder it is to experience and share God's love. Only by taking self out of the picture will I really be filled with His love and be able to share that love with others. As I read and pondered these thoughts, I couldn't help but think of John 3:16. It seems easier to focus on the last half of the verse, instead of the first. Practically everything can be reduced to "For God so loved the world". Powerful stuff.