Saturday, June 18, 2011

Haiti, Day 5

Thursday we set up a medical clinic at The Apparent Project. (Pete wrote about their mission in the previous post.) On the drive to its location we saw some of the devastation caused by Monday night's flooding. Although most of the area was dry, signs of rushing water was evident. Retaining walls intended to protect areas from water were demolished.  Contents of homes were either carried away by the water or left soaked and caked with mud. One road on our route was blocked by a large pile of rocks and other debris; the flooding caused numerous mud/landslides. As we approached the home that serves as The Apparent Project, a young boy ran behind our truck. He asked for money and we said no, as we have been instructed to do. Still running behind us, he darted off to another street. Little did we know he was taking a shortcut to our destination! He was waiting for us at the front gate when we arrived.  Our translator allowed him to carry some bags inside for us; he earned a tip for his effort.

The Chadasha guest house (where we stay) sells the jewelry, journals, and bags made by artisans at The Apparent Project.  We were excited to see the artisans in action. We saw numerous men and women cutting cereal boxes and magazines into the narrow strips that become beads. Others wound paper into beads around skewers and covered them with glue. Upstairs we watched a group of young men string the beads into bracelets. This is where we set up the clinic. The kitchen became a pharmacy and one of the bedrooms was a patient room.  The benches on the porch were full of people waiting to be seen. We saw men, women, and children. One woman reportedly nearly drowned in the flood waters (see previous post for her picture with Pete) and the amount of water she ingested made her sick.  An adorable set of twins arrived with their mother; she wanted them checked because they, too, spent considerable time in the water.   We are fortunate to have an incredible group of people from LifePoint with us. Each person is willing to do whatever is needed at any time.  Our team worked well together as we shared the duties of bringing back patients, running the pharmacy, handing out vitamins, administering medicine, and helping Pete. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, "Musch!"  Honestly, I love working with my husband.  It is one of the blessings of serving together.

Once we finished the clinic we walked downstairs to the boutique. There we saw hundreds of necklaces and bracelets, journals made from recycled oil drums, handmade cards, crosses and globes crafted of metal, and handmade bags. I am sure I've left out something.  We loaded up on goodies and headed back to the truck. The young boy from earlier was waiting on us and there were several others too. One boy approached me and said, "Hello, how are you doing?" in perfect English.  I smiled at him and he continued, but in a low voice, "Sister, please, I have no money, I have no food." There were many questions that went through my mind. Does he have parents?  Is he providing for younger siblings? Why is he so good at this? It is heartbreaking that these children are so adept at asking for money. I have learned that the most prudent reply is no. I get on the truck.

On the way back to the guest house we drove through downtown Port au Prince. It is crowded with traffic and people; buildings damaged by the earthquake remain in shambles yet life goes on around them. The Presidential Palace is no different.  Its structural damage is extensive but it has not been repaired. It sits unused.  The damaged Palace is symbolic enough of Haiti's current state, but across the street from it lies a tent camp occupied by those displaced by the quake.  The paradox is vivid.

That's all we can get to for now....the baseball field is calling. :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Reflections on the week....Sustainability

From Pete:

Sustainability...but let me digress for a moment. On my way up to the Roberts' house from the Chadasha guest house, in the still of the night, I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a rat. That's cool - I'm not scared of rats. Then Michelle says to me about the thing that is scurrying toward my feet, "Look, a tarantula." It was the size of a large grapefruit. It wanted to eat my leg. Can I have another pair of underwear, please? You have never seen Peter Cobb scream like a little school girl as I did that night.

Having been to Haiti three times now, I can only help but ask myself the question, "Is what I am doing making an eternal difference?" After all, Haiti has always seen a flood of aid and evangelism, yet the ride home each night serves as a reminder of past failures. Still, Haitians as a populace have little hope. Salvation lies in the balance for most.

So what is the key to success? Sustainability. Only until we have continued support of Haitians helping Haitians will me make a difference. Let me illustrate the point. If a mission team comes down to help a clinic by putting in a water filtration system, that is a good and worthy cause. The patients at that clinic now have fresh water - a hallmark of healthy living and a key to eradicating many disease states.  Yet the team does not leave directions on how to care for the system if it breaks down or educate how to change out the filters or manage their cost.  Over time the filtration system breaks down and simply sits in the clinic unused.

This is what we as mission teams have done. With good intentions we come to this beautiful country only to set up an infrastructure that is doomed to fail. We come and go and cannot be relied upon for sustained help. Imagine counting upon someone only to see them go and never return.

The leadership of The Chadasha Foundation understands that it must be Haitians who raise up Haiti.  The Apparent Project,  the group with which we partnered to provide medical care via a mobile clinic,  follows the blueprint for impacting Haiti in a sustainable way.  Please visit their website, which states:

"The Apparent Project artisans guild uses discarded materials such as cereal and cracker boxes, oil drums, and trash paper to create beautiful “upcycled” pieces of jewelry, journals, and stylish home decor. While redeeming the Haitian landscape, these artisans are also bringing new hope to their families, employing themselves for a brighter future and earning the means to pay for their children's food, shelter, and education. That means less orphans, less crime, less garbage, less stress, and a whole lot more beauty."

This is making a lasting impression and allowing Haitians to climb out of poverty and support their families. Brilliant and simple. Successful. Lasting. 

All is needed is servant leaders: people willing to give all of the glory to Him and take none for themselves; people who come behind the beautiful people of Haiti and lift them up so that they have the stature and strength to lift up other Haitians. 

May God strip me of any and all desire to be praised for this past week. I am ashamed at times for even feeling good about myself because I am here. Bonje bene ou Haiti! May God bless you. I will be back!

Patient we saw during clinic at The Apparent Project. She was carried over a mile from her home by recent flooding.

Joyce, Joy and George at the "pharmacy."

Beautiful necklaces made by the artisans at The Apparent Project.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Haiti, Day Four

 Wednesday we awoke to another beautiful day. The air is thick with humidity but fans in the guest house are plentiful; the shower begins the week as "cold!" but with each passing day becomes just what we need. We enjoyed coffee (Haitian coffee is amazing. You can buy it here.) and a breakfast of Haitian oatmeal. Lonnie runs the kitchen at the guest house and her meals are always delicious. Her oatmeal is spiced with anise, cinnamon, and lime peel. She simmers the whole spices in water before adding oatmeal, sugar and evaporated milk (Carnation, I think). It is SO good. There will be an attempt to recreate it at home. Pete is being really pushy about this.

We headed back to the orphanage this morning. Most of us remained there to complete physicals on the children we did not see earlier in the week. Peyton and George accompanied John, our leader from Chadasha, to the tent orphanage to load the remaining belongings onto the truck. Before we left the guest house we challenged ourselves to go outside our comfort zones today. God can use these experiences to shape us but we have to be willing. Each of us commited to it and we planned on sharing the results during evening porch time. I looked to the day uncertain of how I would stretch myself but, of course, God challenged me where I most needed it. I realized that I have approached each day with a guarded heart. The guard unexpectedly came down on Wednesday and that was hard, but it was good. It further convicted me to see through that which God placed on my heart: help provide education for these children. I'm sure there will be more to come on that subject! We enjoyed hearing about George and Peyton's day. They made two trips between the tent orphanage and the new home; much of it was spent sitting in traffic. As it turned out, their purpose consisted of more than moving furniture. The multiple trips and congested traffic allowed them two hours in the back of a truck with a Haitian gentleman who works at the orphanage. The language and cultural barriers fell as they pieced together the French and Creole and English each one knew. By the end of the trip it was just three guys talking about faith and life experience. Very cool.  Everyone had great stories to share that evening: there were attempts to speak Creole for the first time, there was a willingness to hold child after child infected with scabies, and there were those who worked long after the point of exhaustion. The challenges were different, but every one in our group stepped out of their comfort zone. We have an awesome team!  That evening's porch time was our best of the week. There were stories of God's work in each of us and there were tears. It was a reminder of the blessings that come when we walk in obedience in spite of challenge or uncertainty.

Another blessing of the week has been Mathieu. He is Peyton and Elizabeth's son; they are in the process of adopting him. Mathieu spent a good deal of time with us and we all grew to adore him. I think we all consider ourselves his aunts and uncles whether his mom and dad like it or not! Peyton and Elizabeth have an incredible story of being called to adopt Mathieu. Click here to check out their blog and read their story. They also have awesome t-shirts for sale and a silent auction coming soon.

Coming next.....a post from my husband, Dr. Pierre.
The new orphanage

Elizabeth in the orphanage's courtyard, holding Mathieu (please note his shirt - WAR EAGLE!)

Debbie, the one-armed bandit

Heather, Peyton, George, and Joy
Unloading the truck

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Haiti, Day Three

Monday night we experienced a significant storm. The accompanying torrential rains caused mudslides and flooding, and yesterday we learned that many lives were lost. It was a reminder of the fragility of life in Haiti. As we set out yesterday morning for the children's home, we carried shovels to help clear impassable portions of the road. We made it through but I noticed how quiet the streets were. Typically the morning is bustling with traffic: cars and people are everywhere. This morning was different. I later learned that many offices closed due to the significance of the damage.

Our group split yesterday. Peyton, Joyce, and Pete went to the clinic to see patients. Heather, George, Debbie, Joy and I visited the children's home in Pernier, which is a community of Port au Prince. (It is a different home than the orphanage we visited earlier this week.) There are 17 children and several are in the process of being adopted by families in the US. The children are very well cared for by several ladies and one man, Shama. Shama has a time of school lessons each morning with the children. He showed us each child's folder that included the writing, math, and art lessons they complete. The teacher in me is amazed at his ability to discern each child's ability then create appropriate, challenging lessons individualized for each one. Shama also sings and plays guitar. The children love to sing along with him; he's taught them worship songs in both Creole and English. We loved playing and singing with the children.

Later in the afternoon, Pete and I walked with Kessy, our translator, to the homes of Bertha and Guerda. This is without a doubt one of the highlights of our trip! Bertha and Guerda stayed with us last summer while Bertha was in the US for surgery; we have looked forward to seeing them since they left last August. Guerda was about 5 months pregnant when she returned to Haiti. It was a joy to meet her baby boy. She asked if I continue to cook the Haitian recipes she taught me, and I told her that I try but I just can't do it as well as she does. That comment earned us an invitation to come back for dinner.

Last night, after a delicious Haitian spaghetti dinner, our group sat on the porch together. We listened to music and talked about our day. The "porch time," as Eddie calls it, is something special. We can reflect on what God is doing in Haiti and in us. It is great to just hang out together. Tonight we will sit on the porch and be led in devotion by Peyton.

Thank you for the prayers!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Haiti, Day Two

Yesterday we went back to the new orphanage to do physicals on the children and spend some time loving on them.  Our team worked well together; we are grateful for a group who is willing to do whatever is needed! Downstairs in the orphanage, Joyce, Heather, and Elizabeth handed out toys to the children and played with them. They also shared hair ribbons and bracelets with the girls, and they painted their nails too. The boys enjoyed tossing balls with each other; it wasn't long before they started a game of monkey in the middle. Upstairs, we set up a clinic. Each child sat with Pete and he examined them from head to toe. Kessy translated for us. He was Pete's interpreter during his first trip to Haiti immediately after the earthquake. Kessy taught me to say, "What is your name?" and "How old are you?" in Creole.  This allowed me to talk with each child as I documented everything. I love working alongside my husband to help him do his job.  Joy gave each child a vitamin and took a picture for the records, and she managed the suitcases of medicine we brought. Almost every child we saw has scabies. Nearly all show signs of malnourishment, and many have old scars. When asked about the scars, the older children reply, "It happened when I was young." We know their scars go beyond the physical, and we pray for God's healing on their hearts.

After Pete completed the exam, each child went to Debbie. She administered antibiotics, played keep away, and showed the way to the scabies treatment area. George and Peyton slathered the children from head to toe in permethrin, which will kill the scabies. The children were wonderful patients. It was a privilege for each one of us to spend time with them.

Mid-day, we took a break. During this time the children went downstairs and were led in a time of worship by their caretakers. They are led in song and prayer. In prayer they repeat their leader's words then pray individually for several minutes. Their prayers are spoken softly but the steady hum of 60 children praying at once makes a loud impression. Following worship, the children ate a hot meal. We then resumed our morning's activites until heading back to the guest house. In all, we treated about 30 children. We will see the others later this week.

Today we are dividing our group between the clinic and a warehouse. There is a shipment arriving from Samaritan's Shoes and we will ready the warehouse for the boxes. Thank you for keeping up with our journey!

Pictures upload slowly so we can only get up two for now. From yesterday:

                              Heather, Peyton, George and Joy on the porch at the orphanage

                                                One of the precious girls at the orphanage

Pictures, Day One

We intended to post these last night but we had a huge storm. There were some of the loudest claps of thunder we have ever heard. It also poured rain for at least a couple of hours; we lost internet service.

Here are some pictures from our first day:

             Pete presenting the sound equipment to Daniel, the sound guru at Pastor Jude's church.

                                                              The tent orphanage.

Pete on top of the truck, loading supplies from the tent orphanage. This is also our means of transportation. We love riding in the back and enjoying the infamous Haitian potholes!

Monday, June 06, 2011

We arrived to the guest house Saturday afternoon as an amazing series of events was unfolding; it is something only God could orchestrate. In the past week, 60 orphans and their caretakers were rescued from a flooded tent orphanage in Cite Soleil, a slum outside of Port au Prince. They were brought to temporary housing as those working tirelessly on their behalf searched for a more permanent home. The temporary housing happened to be the guest house where we will spend our week. It was a joy to hear the sounds of children coming from the upstairs! To be here at this time, to witness God at work through many people, to see God's immense love for and faithfulness to His people, it is an extraordinary blessing.

God provided a permanent home for these children. Yesterday, it was ready. Our first task was to drive to Cite Soleil and load the orphanage's belongings onto a truck for transport to their new home. Before we began, we visited Pastor Jude's church. It was a busy Sunday morning at the church and we had the honor of presenting brand new sound equipment provided by Billy Crain and friends. Thank you, Billy! We spoke with the pastors, enjoyed some of the service, then continued to Cite Soleil. Once we arrived, we climbed over a gate to enter the property that was the tent orphanage. Many of the tents were washed away by the flooding but several remained. It was still muddy and there were many small pools of mosquito-infested water. Needless to say, the living conditions were appaling. As we waited for a key to the storage
unit to arrive, the Haitian men with us cut and peeled sugar cane for everyone to enjoy. We also had time to take in our surroundings to more fully understand the place from which these children came.

We delivered the belongings later in the afternoon and toured the new home. It is beautiful! After several bumpy rides between the home and the guest house, everyone was present. It is a moment none of us will forget: we watched as these orphans and their incredible caregivers were introduced to their new home. To have seen the area where they lived, a muddy patch of land where they slept on burlap sacks, and watch as they looked through their safe, dry, new home, we were humbled and blessed. Following is a video of the "ceremony" that unfolded at the new home.

Today we are preparing to return; Pete is going to perform physicals on the children. Some of us will help him and others will return to Cite Soleil to retrieve the remainder of the belongings. We'll post pictures tonight.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hello from Haiti

Hi, everyone! We arrived to Port au Prince yesterday afternoon after two easy flights from Nashville. Our only issue was with immigration after our arrival. We had no clue where were staying - at least not the street address - and that blank space on our immigration form earned us a trip to the boss's office. When the door to his small office opened, about eight people spilled out. It didn't take long to figure out why. The blast of cool air and the TV tuned in to the World Cup garnered quite a crowd! We tried to explain that although we know where we are going, we don't know exactly where. When the official finally asked, "Missionary?", we smiled and said yes. Close enough! And that became our address: missionary. 

We are staying at a home that is used to house the medical teams that serve one of the clinics here. It is the same house where Pete stayed in February.  Our meals are cooked for us and we have plenty of clean water, working bathrooms, and a comfortable place to sleep. The staff that works in the home (they cook,clean, and provide security) is wonderful. The doors and windows always remain open and we have numerous fans. The bugs aren't too bad and although it is hot, we can tolerate it fine.

This morning we rode through the community that is served by the people with whom we are visiting. This community, Pernier, is part of Port au Prince. The church and clinic operated by our hosts are here. The community, by American standards, is poor. Here, it is considered "middle-class." The roads are narrow, usually not paved, full of potholes, and if you drive, it is every man for himself.  People sit along the roadside on walls. There are street vendors everywhere -- selling sugar cane, food and drinks, mosquito nets, medicines, you name it. Just as many people are wandering the streets. They estimate unemployment to be at least 85%, so that explains the numbers of people milling about and trying to earn a living on the street. There are numerous buildings, many that house shops, but most are closed. Alleyways off the street appear to lead to numerous homes. They are concrete, cinder block, often falling apart, one room, and one after another.

This afternoon we will talk with the pastor of the church that runs the clinic. Later this week we will visit an orphanage, we will travel downtown where the quake damage is, and we will work a day in the clinic. I think Eddie and I have to learn a little nursing! At the clinic, we hope to meet the husband of one of the Haitian women who recently stayed with us. Finally, the church would like to build a Christian school, and we'll look at some potential sites for the school. It should be an amazing week. We miss our kids a TON, but all in all, we just know it is God's will for us to be here. We are very content.

Thank you all for your prayers. An enormous THANK YOU to the family and friends watching over our kids. We could not be here without you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Joy and Great Food

Our kitchen will never be the same. Since our new Haitian friends arrived on Saturday, Guerda has taught me a thing or two about cooking.  She made for us: trout (head and all, by the way) and chicken, both cooked in sauce that you want to lick from your plate; rice and beans with black bean sauce; butter cake; sweet potato bread (like a bread pudding) with grated coconut, lime, sugar and spices; potatoes and cooking bananas (the green ones) with meatballs; and more. She can cook anything and do it well. We anticipated that Bertha would be on a liquid diet given her tumor but, that is not the case. She eats everything. You can imagine our surprise on the first night when Guerda took a full plate of food upstairs for her, and a clean plate returned a few minutes later. Her nutrition is good; the strength it gives her will allow her to better tolerate the surgery.  Bondye bon....God is good.

We spent yesterday at Vanderbilt for Bertha's initial appointment. Kari, the nurse who saw Bertha in Haiti then took on the US government to plead her case and obtain her humanitarian visa, drove from Knoxville to join us. It was a joy to witness their reunion. Bertha had a CT scan followed by a visit with Dr. Netterville, the surgeon. She negotiated the IV, the CT scanner, and the doctor's exam with ease. She does not speak English but, between the wonderful care of the Vanderbilt staff and Guerda's explanation of what was happening, the language barrier meant nothing. She was, in Guerda's words, "Relax!" Dr. Netterville, a distinguished head and neck surgeon, is a man with a heart of gold. He is an outstanding physician who embraces the opportunity to serve those less fortunate.  He and Vanderbilt are offering their services free of cost. We will tell them as often as possible: thank you.

Over the past week, bits and pieces of the women's story have surfaced: the story about Bertha's tumor, her quest to find someone who could help, the prayers and dreams of Guerda, and, once they heard the news about coming to the US, the difficult road to obtain a passport from their own country. That last one doesn't make sense, but such is the state of affairs of Haiti. For comic relief, there is the tale of their trip to the US. Guerda told this story to us yesterday while we waited at the hospital. I understood a lot of it (she speaks with me in French), but I didn't need to. Her facial expressions, her gestures - they told the story. We were rolling with laughter by the end.

Many thanks for everyone's prayers and offers to help. Bondye bon!

Friday, June 11, 2010

God's in control.....remain flexible

Pete just called from the airport to tell me that Bertha and her daughter-in-law did not clear customs in time to make their connecting flight. He spoke with the agent and found out that they are booked on a flight in the morning. We do not know their overnight arrangements. Please pray that they remain safe.