Sunday, October 31, 2010
After the clinic closed on Friday, a visit was made to Dr Stephanie's house in Jacmel. She is a dermatologist who also practices general medicine. We were told by Verbo at HTF that Dr Stephanie has been seeing patients and giving away medicine for many years when HTF brings people to her that can not pay. The group decided that we would donate all of our unused medicine to her. It was a short visit, but she was incredibly grateful to have the supplies.
The tent building continued. The bracket system finished going up and Mark, David and Reed were able to teach the local Haitians how to put up the steel bracing that is needed to stabilize the structure before putting the tent over the top of it. Given the set-backs early on in the week with materials and tools, the men felt like they got to a good point where the locals could finish the project. The medical team closed out the clinic and went out to the tent site as the sun was setting to see the progress that was made this week. The tools were all given away, clothes, shoes and hats were lovingly given to our new friends in Haiti.
We headed back to the hotel with a sense of accomplishment that we showed God's love and grace to the people of Haiti.
The hotel proprietor surprised us with fresh lobsters for dinner (not the normal mission trip meal!) as we talked about the week and starting making plans for our next trip to Haiti.
It was with mixed feelings that we packed up what was left of our personal items and got onto the bus early on Saturday morning. We left behind the remaining donated items including school supplies, soccer balls, toys, clothes, musical instruments, and a lap top computer for our new friends at HTF to distribute amongst the schools we had visited that week. We saw first hand the impact that organization is having on the community. Thank you to all who donated to the trip. Through your efforts, you are touching many lives.
We know that we can not capture all that we experienced in the words and pictures that we have shared with you this week, but we hope that you feel more connected to the people of Haiti through our journey. They are wonderfully hopeful people that despite their circumstances, still have faith that life will get better. Please continue to pray for them as hurricane Tomas is headed toward them this week and keep them in your prayers as they face a very long road to recovery even 10 months after the devastating earthquake.
We all have arrived back in the US safely. Thank you for your prayers and support.
To see pictures of our final days in Haiti, click on the following link to see my Facebook album (no need to have a Facebook account).
Thursday, October 28, 2010
While sitting with the tap tap (Haitian taxi), waiting for the rest of the team to bring supplies out of the hardware shop, I met a family of three who are living in the tent city that had cropped up in what used to be a small park. The boy was no older than 3 years old and he lived in a tent with his mom and dad. They were kind enough to allow me in to photograph their current living space. All their worldly possessions were in that small tent. It was a lesson in humility that I won't soon forget. (See the link below for photos.)
We settled into our work and found a groove as the medical team of Leith, Carol and Barb were invited to the Cayes-Jacmel hospital to assist. They were surprised to see that when someone checks into the hospital for surgery, the whole family checks in and brings towels, sheets and food. The family congregates in the patient's room around the rusty bed. There is a area out back where the women can go to cook the food they bring. The Haitian culture is all about the family and supporting one another.
It shouldn't surprise anyone to hear that the hospital conditions were not what we are used to in the US. The team saw 2 gallon jugs filled with water used for traction. Used needles were discarded on the floor and medical charts were hard to find. The operating room looked sanitary. The hospital was filled with aid workers including some from Duluth, GA. They were all very appreciative of the help provided by our team.
Brita was at the rehab clinic working with a translator, a physical therapist and a PT student. Every break they had, the translator kept thanking Brita for her gentle touch and the care that she was showing to his people.
The theme of our trip is "God's Grace in Haiti". Every day we strive to "walk the talk". Our devotions at the end of the day were about recognizing our spiritual gifts and utilizing them. For some of us, it is the ability to heal. The gift of touch. For others it is the ability to teach. As the leader of this group of amazing people, I have been able to witness first hand the unique gifts that everyone brings to the team. As we get down to our closing day, I think back on all that I have witnessed this week and at the risk of embarrassing the team, I want to share the small gestures that I have seen that show His love in Haiti. David gave away his wrist watch to a school administrator who will wear that proudly for a long time. Mark is leaving his shoes behind for a man who has been assisting on the construction site who was in great need of some footwear. Barb took the clothes off her back when we started to pull together care packages for some of the people that have been helping us this week. Brita and Reed share all that they have with others. It wouldn't be a mission trip if we didn't rely on Brita for something essential. I watched as Reed took the time to teach the local Haitians how to use a hacksaw to cut through metal piping. Carol brought an abundance of donations including school supplies, learning aids and toys, that the Haitians were so excited to receive so they could continue to teach the children English. Leith was seeing patients into the evening as they came to the hotel with their medical records during dinner for her to review. There is no "off" switch for this group. McGyver (Mark), was fixing things around the hotel and David was leaving the proprietor with his can of pepper spray and the handy man with his pants. I have no idea what we will look like boarding the plane home on Saturday, but our bags will surely be much lighter!
We may not get our tent all of the way up as we had hoped, or seen as many patients as we wanted to, but we did what we came here to do. Show God's grace in Haiti.
For those interested in seeing photos, please check out my Facebook photo album. You do not need to have a Facebook account to view the pictures.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Our friends at HTF had prearranged to have Carol, our Registered Nurse and Leith, a Physician's Assistant work in the hospital today. They showed up at the appointed time to find that the Jacmel hospital administrator who was to meet and introduce them into the system (a requirement) was in Port Au Prince today. There goes that plan. They were driven back to the rehab clinic that HTF sponsors, where our PT Brita was working, and saw patients there. In fact, they met a woman who was in her 60s and had hypertension. They came to learn that she had lost all five of her adult children in the earthquake. It is difficult to imagine spending your whole life raising your children, sending them to school and watching them grow up to be professionals knowing that in the Haitian culture, your children will take care of you for the rest of your life. It gives new meaning to the definition of a retirement plan. Needless to say, she was devastated by the loss of her family and not knowing how she would survive (literally) without them. Carol and Leith prayed for her and found her some food and medicine. This is one of those situations where we never feel like we can do enough, but then we get grounded again in the power of prayer and give it up to God.
Brita treated a man named Wilton who is a self described man-of-action. Wilton was trapped in the rubble after the earthquake and saw no way out of his situation except to cut his own arm off, below the elbow. He was in the clinic to be treated for spasms and phantom pains in his amputated arm. Brita was able to treat him with new exercises to help work through his pain. This man's example of patience reinforced what we needed to learn today.
The third group was sent out to work on the tent construction in a neighborhood co-op. The tent kit was picked up at the HTF site only to find that some of the components were missing. We discovered that finding the right tools in Haiti was challenging. While we brought concrete drills and a lot of other basic tools with us, we found that we needed a hacksaw, cable cutters and metal drill bits. The group persevered and worked side by side with the local Haitians. Despite no interpreter for a good portion of the day, we were able to communicate with them through a series of charades, goofy descriptions and lots of laughter.
While not everything went according to our plans today, we had a bigger lesson to learn. We are here as God's hands and feet and not with our own agendas. We will see what He has planned for us tomorrow.
Thanks for the prayers of support.
Photos from today can be seen at:
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
First thing this morning we witnessed Verbo from HTF placing signs all over town educating the people of Jacmel on the cholera outbreak. Maya will be giving away purified water in one community tomorrow afternoon, and teaching people about the deadly disease and how it is transmitted and more importantly, prevented.
Our first stop was at the rehab clinic just down the street from our hotel. This is where Brita will work this week seeing patients along side the local physical therapists and collaborating on the latest techniques with the providers there. They have about 30 people a day that come through the doors and are treated for free with support from our friends at HTF. This clinic is a blessing in Jacmel as it treats the physical and mental issues as a result of the quake.
We also visited the hospital in Jacmel. We came to learn that the main building had 80 beds and was severely damaged in the earthquake. The maternity ward collapsed, resulting in several deaths and women having to give birth in tents for months to follow. Leith and Carol will be at the hospital working in the outpatient area this week. We all had deja vu as we toured the area and saw many people lined up to see medical providers. It reminded us of our clinics in Nicaragua over the years. Swish and Leith will be in their element and are looking forward to helping the ailing people of Jacmel.
We traveled to the building site to get a look at what the rest of us would be working on this week. There is a 30 x 48 concrete slab poured in a grassy field which is part of a co-op area where families were displaced from their homes. Construction will begin tomorrow . Each family will be living in approximately 288 sq ft. It's hard to image living in that space when we are used to living in 1,500 sq ft or more in the US. The families will be gratefully working side by side with us as we build the tent structure to get them out of the deplorable situations they are currently living in.
We also visited several HTF partner sites:
Tetkole - is a school for kids who were taken off the street and had no permanent home. HTF searches for sponsor families to take these kids in while they teach the children a trade so they can grow to support themselves and their new families. They are taught agriculture, sewing, mechanical repair among other trades. Tetkole also has an afterschool program that provides a needed service for the community.
Trinity House - is an amazing live-in home for boys along with a school for the poorest of children. They teach the boys to become self-sufficient by learning to bake and other trades. They sell their goods to help fund the home. They have a very impressive water filtration system at the home which they share with the community. Some of the local children attend school in shifts. The morning session kids performed several songs in French Creole and English for us and stole our hearts. We left behind soccer balls for them and will be donating school supplies and learning aids to them as well. Your donations are going to some very grateful children.
Pazapa - is a home for the mentally and physically handicapped that has been around for 20 years. The morning session is for the disabled children and the afternoon classes are for the deaf. This school was forced to relocate due to the earthquake. They are now in mostly makeshift tents on a parcel of land they recently purchased. The students make peanut butter to sell as one means of supporting the school. It was great to see the parents at the school, cooking and tending to the most severely disabled.
It should be noted that most of the HTF partners feed the kids 2 meals a day when they are able. This has a tremendous impact on their lives.
We felt like we saw a good portion of Jacmel today. While we walked in the morning, we were driven around in a "tap tap" which is the Haiti version of a taxi cab (which is really just an old pick up truck with benches in the back). The open-air truck bed reminded us that we need to lather on more sunscreen tomorrow.
In just two days, we have become close to our HTF guides Maya and Verbo. They have shared their personal earthquake stories with us and we continue to marvel at their dedication to helping others. In the aftermath of the earthquake, they cared for US missionaries in Jacmel even though they were uncertain whether their own families were safe. These are two remarkable men.
Last, but not least, Reed turned 50 today. We sang happy birthday to him at breakfast and continued to tell him all day how this will be a birthday he will never forget. We topped it off with a special birthday cake we arranged for him after dinner and learned to sing happy birthday in French Creole.
Despite the devastation this country has experienced, we saw God at work around every corner. In many faces and organizations. For this we are encouraged and ready to get to work tomorrow.
To see photos from today, you can visit my Facebook photo album (even if you do not have a Facebook page). Follow this link: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2083609&id=1009577762&l=2b4243333e
Monday, October 25, 2010
The flights went smoothly and we all converged on Miami. Barb traveled from Idaho; Mark from South Carolina; Brita and Reed from Orlando; Kristin, David, Leith and Swish all from Atlanta.
The crutches Kristin found at a second hand store will surely come in handy at the clinic this week with the record number of amputations being done as a result of the earthquake. They definitely were an advantage at the busiest airport in the world as security took the group of us to the front of the line thinking one of us was actually injured.
The jewel colored water of the Caribbean was so beautiful flying into Port Au Prince. It is only when we landed and saw the utter poverty and devastation that we quickly forgot about our idyllic approach.
We were thankful to have two Haitians traveling with us to help navigate the masses at the airport. There were so many desperate people wanting to assist us with our bags, it was overwhelming.
We spent the next three hours in a bus traveling through PAP and on our way through the mountains (note to self; bring Dramamine next time) to the port city of Jacmel. We have plenty of pictures to share of our journey which was a total dichotomy. The tent cities are for real. The rubble-filled streets are for real. The disgusting river waters are for real. It's difficult to understand how millions of people live in these conditions. Once out of PAP, the mountains were beautiful. We saw several rainbows and witnessed birds flying below us. The scenery was breathtaking.
We checked into Hotel Florita, which is an old building that was once used for coffee storage and distribution. The beds have mosquito nets which is a blessing because the air is thick and filled with those little pests. We are all taking preventative meds because Malaria is a very real threat in Haiti. There are no preventative meds to take for Dengue Fever (also transmitted via mosquitos), so we are liberally applying the Deet bug spray.
The hotel proprietor has assured us that they are washing all our food with purified water and we are buying sealed bottles of water to stay hydrated. The cholera outbreak has reached PAP and we are taking nothing for granted.
It was good to break bread with Verbo, one of our Haitian escorts. Haitian Timoun Foundation (HTF) is doing some amazing things in Jacmel and we can't wait to witness first hand tomorrow when we get out to the clinic, hospital, and other partner organizations we will be supporting.
More to come after we get some well-deserved rest tonight.
We feel your prayers. Please keep them coming.
I am not having luck posting any photos from today on this blog. Follow the link below to get a visual of today.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The Redeemer and friends mission team will be working to construct large tent structures in Jacmel and LaMontagne to be used as a school and in a market area that was devastated by the quake. The tents alone will impact more than 100 families lives. The medically trained missionaries will be put to work in a clinic in Jacmel.
The missionaries are privately funding this trip with support from their friends and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Stay tuned for posts and pictures from Haiti next week.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
· READ: On pp. 76-77 Fryer laments (as do I) that we tend to have a “pastor-centric” Church. Because of elevated and professional clergy who are paid to carry out the work of ministry, congregations have come to believe (for the most part) that their job is to pay to have someone do the ministry for them and to “take care of them,” a sort of contractual “payment for services rendered.” (PT’s language) I have had families patiently sit around for 45 minutes in the fellowship hall at a family reunion following 11:00 worship because they had to “wait for the pastor” to get there, both because he was the only one who could pray and because he might be offended if anything at church started without him (or so the family supposed)! Most of us know the pain at Redeemer of all of the recent pastoral transitions, BUT….what are some advantages that either potentially or actually came out of having a bit of “pastoral void?” (imagine smaller congregations that when their pastors leave there is nobody there for a time except perhaps on Sundays!)
· See article V of the Augsburg Confession (1530, Philip Melanchthon) on p. 78 and also the Ephesians 4 passage on p. 80. Read those aloud in the group. What do you think of the one and only biblical job description for pastors, that is, to equip all the rest of you to do the ministry? Sounds to me a lot like parenting…equipping your children not to need you anymore! This may be vocational suicide, but it’s biblical wisdom!
· Why, according to bot. p. 82 and p. 83, “must” pastors preach, preside at baptisms, and at communion? (good order). Did you know that you can perform a baptism? Did you know that in extenuating circumstances, the bishop can appoint a non-ordained person to preside at communion? Why is “good order” important when it comes to sacraments? (Or is it?)
· READ: In my experience, churches are often organized to be long drawn-out, divisive, and overly-careful bodies whose ultimate purpose is largely to say “no” to new ministry and missional initiatives. Yes, that’s a fairly caustic statement, yet it is my experience. In my first parish, a woman came to me and wanted to start a church daycare center. She was a licensed daycare supervisor. A building two blocks from the church that was already a daycare was for sale. She had all the employees, program, etc. lined up. I took it to Council. They asked her to come the next month, at which time they referred it to the Christian Education Committee, which didn’t meet for another two months, and they came back with a list of questions. Two years later, the Council voted to “table” the idea, but long before that the woman had left our church, joined another church, and they bought it and ran the daycare, thereby getting virtually all of the young families that were moving into our growing community. What’s wrong with this picture? Why must we primarily see ourselves as gatekeepers and permission givers? While we say we’re glad to have new members (and staff), are we glad for the new energy and ideas they might bring?
· If as individuals we’re told that when we save our life we lose it and vice-versa, how might this apply to congregations? Might Redeemer “find itself” by being a bit less about Redeemer and a bit more about “the least of these” and those around us? All of this is about “renewing” and “transforming” the Church. What if we, like the Pharisees of old, don’t think we need to be renewed or transformed? Is Redeemer already the fullness of who God intends for us to be?
Prayer: Mighty God! We are your people. Give us a new vision for our lives and for our church. Fill us with creativity and courage. Set us free from everything that holds us back so that we can really BE your body in this world. Put us to work, Lord God! use us to make a difference. in Jesus' name. Amen.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
· READ: We know that FEAR and THREAT are very powerful motivators of behavior. In what ways does American 21st century Christianity capitalize on fear? What are the risks of proclaiming LOVE as the greatest force in the cosmos, and unconditional love at that?
· READ: Consider biblical figures who were loved and welcomed and were transformed through such love (Zacchaeus, e.g.). Are you willing to share a personal story of love, perhaps unconditional love, of a parent, spouse, child, friend, etc., that transformed you into not only different behavior but into being a different person? I know how to deal with conditions….”If…..then.” How is living in response to love hard work?
· What happens to children of whom little or nothing is expected? What happens to our spiritual life and our lives in general when we aren’t really expecting or believing that God’s love can change us and that our love can change others?
Prayer: God of heaven and earth you are truly the Lord of our lives. Your welcome has gladdened our hearts. Your love has changed us. Give us the courage to follow you, now, wherever you lead. Help us grow closer to you and clearer about what you are calling us to do...and to be. Make us more and more like you every day. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
READ: Fryer’s first “Guiding Principle of the Church” was last week’s basic and ancient confession that “Jesus is Lord.” This week the second principle is that “Everyone is welcome.” Can you think of a context, church of otherwise, in which you were clearly unwelcome? On pp. 51-52 Fryer points out the urgency in Mark’s Gospel. When Jesus is Lord things change quickly. Why, do you suppose, then, we are so slow to change especially in the life of the church?
Fryer reminds us that Jesus, the Lord, welcomed everybody and got in big trouble for it. He disrupted the religious system of insiders and outsiders. Who’s “in” and who’s “out” at Redeemer? (Please note that your answers will certainly vary based on your perspective and experience.) What are the “lines” that are drawn in the church, especially the Lutheran Church, and maybe even at Redeemer? Racial? In a city with a very diverse population, how diverse is Redeemer? How diverse should we strive to be? Economic? How many people below the poverty line worship with us? Pietistic? What if someone were to come to church who had no idea what to wear or how to act? What if someone sat there and text-messaged the whole time or answered a cell phone call during the prayers? Someone with a squirming child? What is the cost of welcome?
READ: The flip side of being unwelcoming because we draw too many lines, in my opinion, is that when there are no lines at all, we lose our identity and fall into chaos. It would seem to me, then, that the question isn’t so much “Do we draw lines?” as it is “Where do we draw the lines?” How big is the box? Is the church’s ministry primarily to the church itself or to those not yet a part of it?
READ: Luther said that we are simultaneously saint and sinner. He certainly was, and I know that I am! Think of the flaws of great biblical heroes. Think of the gift and blessing offered by the least desirable (Rahab the prostitute who sheltered the spies in Canaan and helped them escape, Moses the murder, David who personally slew all the blind and the lame on both sides in the battle with the Jebusites and then committed both adultery and murder and lied to cover it up!) Even if we determine that certain folks are sinful and messed up, are they still welcome? Who gets to decide? What are some ways Redeemer might be more welcoming?
Prayer: We give you thanks, O Lord, for your overflowing love! How do you put us with us?!? For welcoming us when we had wandered far away from you, we thank and praise you. For showering us with forgiveness when we had turned our backs on you, we thank and praise you. For saving us, again and again, from our own stupidity and selfishness, we thank and praise you. Help us welcome one another the way you have welcomed us. In Jesus' name. Amen.