Tuesday and Wednesday
It had been over a week since Jeff left to assist the earthquake victims of Haiti. The workload of responding to this disaster over the last week has been overwhelming but we have been blessed with many wonderful volunteers to help us. We are grateful for the response received and continue to ask for your prayers for the people of Haiti.
We were asked by Eagle Brook Church to accompany a videographer to Haiti to document Healing Haiti's response to the disaster and how we were attempting to be the hands and feet of Christ. Travel to Haiti right now is difficult and time consuming having to fly through Chicago, San Juan, Santo Dominto and then bus into Haiti to Port au Prince to get to our mission. Because of timing, the videographer was unable to go but I went anyway. I knew the emotional and physical toll Haiti's plight was having on Jeff and just needed to get to him.
Jeff had just brought four orphaned children out of Haiti and was able to meet up with me in San Juan on his way back to Haiti. We flew together to Santo Domingo and traveled together by bus to the Haitian border. From there we met a Haitian government official who graciously gave us a ride to Tabarre. After 36 hours of travel, we were finally back in Haiti.
Our first task back in Haiti was to continue with the humanitarian parole visas for orphans at Mother Theresa's. On the way there we stopped by Gertrude's Providence Guest House which had totally collapsed. I now start to see the massive destruction of this earthquake. By the grace of God, Gertrude and her cook were the only ones in the house at the time of the quake and both escaped to safety. Gertrude slept on the street outside her house for days. JoAnna says she is having a difficult time coming to grips with the reality that everything is gone. Can you imagine devoting your life to God, building and caring for severely handicapped children in the poorest country in the western hemisphere... and what took years of struggle and hard work to create, is destroyed in a matter of seconds? I am at a loss for words and my heart is heavy for Gertrude.
At Mother Theresa's, the damage is also obvious. The courtyard has been setup as a makeshift emergency room with blue tarps providing shade for many injured laying on cots and gurneys. There's a clinic set up and a doctor from Ireland is treating wounds. The sick and abandoned babies and children have been moved outside into the church yard because the orphanage has damage and is not safe to stay in. Visiting the sick children, I try to comfort a seven year old girl who is extremely malnourished. As I pray over her, I can't stop the tears. How can these Sisters be so strong?
The next morning, Jeff was off to the US embassy again to inquire about getting 3 more orphan children to the US. I went to Heartline Ministries clinic to help sort medical supplies. We had sent a load of medical supplies down that we had collected from several generous donors the week after the quake. I now understand the huge task it is to sort and organize all the supplies. The people who have been working at Heartline over the last week and a half were close to burn out. I could see the sadness and exhaustion in the their eyes and faces. They had just lost a baby, done several amputations and treated a severely burned child as listed on the chalkboard for the previous day. I helped comfort a woman who was having her foot treated. Her toe had been amputated and it had become infected and she now needed it closed up. She was in despair and crying. I laid my head on hers, caressed her and kissed her forehead. Her crying slowly turned into singing. A nurse came over and said that a lot of the patients start singing hymns of faith when they are in pain. It was so sad yet so beautiful. How can these poor people be so faithful?
In the afternoon I met up with our water trucks in Cite Soleil. It was good to see both trucks in action, knowing it was through the generous support of those at home that made it possible to bring additional relief during this disaster. Our first truck is delivering water bucket by bucket directly to the people in Cite Soleil, the other is filling cisterns for orphanages, medical clinics and emergency relief in the many tent refugee camps in Port au Prince.
By now I was used to seeing all the concrete and steel rebar that came crashing down everywhere... but I was not prepared for what I would feel while delivering water in Cite Soleil. There were makeshift tents everywhere. The sounds of helicopters overhead and the mass destruction made me feel like I was in a war zone. How could these people who have nothing now have even less? It amazed me how life continued to go on for those who didn't perish. It just had to... they have no other choice. A few vendors still try to sell their wares, kids still play in the streets, people still wait in line to get water. The water lines were more orderly than usual... maybe people were just tired of fighting to survive. Several people had a white paste above their lips. I asked our truck driver about it and he told me it was toothpaste that they rubbed under their nose to keep the smell of death away. We made 3 trips that afternoon and I had the opportunity to walk through much of the city with Johnny, one of our water truck workers. He knew who I needed to see and brought me to Renaldo. I cried in delight to see him. Everyone who lives in his house survived. When we left Cite Soleil the radio of our new water truck was playing "Hallelujah". I couldn't stop weeping... what was it that God was trying to teach me?
We then headed to our orphanage outside Cite Soleil to fill their water tanks. The building we rent has been damaged but by God's Grace, all the children are OK. I was overwhelmed by the greeting from our 30 kids as they came running to hug and touch me as I entered the front gate. Again I just started crying and thanking God that they were all OK. Most of the walls around the orphanage were down and there are cracks and holes in many of the building walls. Gillium led me to the back of the building where a tent city had been setup for the kids. He used money from our donors to buy tents to temporarily house these children. The rainy season is coming and we must now focus on getting these kids moved into Grace Village as soon as possible. I prayed that we will be able to provide permanent shelter for them soon. It was getting late and we couldn't stay long. The kids sang "Merci Jesus" for me as I left. How can these orphaned kids living in tents, surrounded by broken concrete and fear of tremors be thankful? For many of them, faith is all they have.
It was an exhausting day. It was getting dark as I met up with Jeff at Bobby Duvall's soccer field where we park the water trucks. Jeff gave me the news, because of changes made by the Haitian governments, no orphaned children were being granted humanitarian parole visas until the Prime Minister personally signed off on their case. We pray that these transfers will quickly continue.
I spent much of the time this morning at the clinic helping where I can... first sorting sutures, and then comforting a man who was brought in to have his amputated wounds treated. I learned that he was mute and sought pain medicine for his amputated leg and finger. Doctors asked me to help hold him down while they treated him. This was a very difficult job. One doctor worked on his amputated finger while the second doctor cleaned his amputated leg wound which showed signs of infection. God had prepared me for this task though through previous experience at Mother Theresa's wound clinic. I held the man's stump while the doctor picked, scrubbed and cleansed the wound. The man winced in pain... I wondered just how much pain and suffering anyone can endure?
Later in the day I was given the job of holding and caring for baby Ester. Dr. Jen had grave concern about her. She was emaciated, dehydrated and barely breathing. She was put on oxygen to help her breath. Ester’s mother was exhausted and emaciated herself. I held this little girl and thought about the Esther study I am doing with my small group. Before I left, I made a little box to cradle baby Ester in as patients continued to come into the clinic and no one else was able to hold her.
On our way out to Titanyen, we saw the dumping of concrete and metal debris all along our route. So many buildings are down... so many lives affected, Dump Trucks are starting to remove the debris and dump it in an area that is on our way to Grace Village. We saw men going through the concrete piles, pulling out any rebar or metal they can find. Jean says they will straighten the rebar and resell it. We saw cracks in the road and Jean tells us how our dump truck was on the bridge when the earthquake hit. The driver told us how the bridge shook and moved back and forth as he drove to Grace Village with his load of sand. When we crossed the bridge ourselves, I wondered how anyone would know if it is safe? When we get to Titanyen we see more damage, but not nearly as much as we have seen in Port au Prince. Adrenoi counted 253 houses down or damaged in Titanyen, including his own. He has lost one elderly and tells us there is damage to Lucilles house.
Grace Village had some walls collapse, but our workers were starting to rebuild. We headed to our Titanyen orphanage. Even though the building damage is minor, Yvon and the children are to scared of aftershocks so they have setup a tent made from sheets and blankets for the children to sleep in outside. We hope to make repairs to the orphanage as soon as possible so the children will be able to move back in before the rainy season. All the children are fine. We have accepted four new orphans whose parents were killed in the earthquake. I thank God that we can provide a home for these children where they will be loved and cared for and surrounded by faith. We then visit Jean Garys school that has suffered major damage and is not repairable. This puts about 300 kids out of school. We again see how this earthquake is affecting children... not only now but for the foreseeable future.
On the way home we stop by another small school that Print for Change had just presented a check for roof and floor repairs two days before the earthquake. The school was in bad shape before but even worse now. As we prepared to leave, the schoolmaster arrived and told us he is already working on repairs. He said it was a blessing to have the funds to start the rebuilding. This little school holds multiple shifts educating over 300 children. It is difficult to have optimism when you look at all the damage... how is it possible to have such determination and strong will to go on?
We headed out by motorcycle to Bobby Duvalls soccer field to meet up with our director Jean. The soccer field is now a refugee camp covered by tents and about 600 people living there. Bobby was on CNN when Anderson Cooper came to visit this “tent city”. We have provided food and water for these people since the quake and Jeff even gave some rides to the kids on the motor bike. They all had so much fun. It was like an amusement ride for them and all the smiles warmed my heart. How can these kids, who have lost everything be so happy and carefree.
We then went to visit Jeans house and visit his son Djovany. It was so surreal. Amidst all the damage, the market was still going on, and traffic was heavy. We ran into Mialta's wife and daughter in the market. Mialta runs Reiser Heights, our school in the mountains. His wife comes down to the city twice a week to sell beef. Her income helps fund the school. She said that several families have lost their homes in Lespinasse. I thank God that the school is ok and the kids can continue with their education. She sends us away with cabbage and lettuce scraps for Jeans rabbits. Jean has started to clean up around the house. 12 family members had lived there. He has set up a tent for his uncle and cousin while he sleeps in his truck at night. The rest have gone out to the countryside for now.
We go back to Tara and Troys to gather our things and head out. We decide to leave through the Haiti airport. Jeff checked with the embassy and they said military evacuation would be possible through Sunday. We just needed to show up with our passports. We arrived at the airport around 6 pm and waited till 11:30 to board a C17 cargo plane. We arrived in Orlando at 2:30 am. We were treated with such care by everyone and met by the Red Cross upon our arrival to the States.
We spent a day in Florida... never leaving our hotel room. It has been a nice way to re-enter. A time to re-energize. To not be thrown right back into our culture. A time to think about the questions I have asked...
Can you imagine devoting your life to God, building and caring for severely handicapped children in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and what took years of struggle and hard work to create, is destroyed in a matter of seconds? How can these Sisters be so strong? How can these poor people be so faithful? How much pain and suffering can anyone endure? How does anyone know if it is safe? How is it possible to have such determination and a strong will to go on? How can these kids, who have lost everything be so happy and carefree?
Looking through my photos I found an image that spoke to me louder than any words could. And it is very simple... it will be by faith, grace, hope, love, patience, and compassion found only in Jesus Christ and those who serve Him.