Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Finding Strength in the Midst of Tragedy

Are they just a number?

It has been almost a week since I have been back from Haiti and it has been an emotional rollercoaster. Each day I wake up and with each memory I hold onto, I still try to process it all. Here, I want to begin by re-telling some of the life-changing stories that happened while in Haiti.

At the beginning of the week, my team and I experienced a traumatic passing of an infant that cut down deep within me but changed my life forever. Bear with me as I try to vividly re-tell the story. On Monday, we had the opportunity to visit a home for dying and abandoned babies. When I first heard of this home, I was so excited and I couldn’t wait to go and hold, feed, and bathe babies, but I did not fully understand the heart-wrenching sights that I was about to see. When we arrived and I stepped foot into this home, my heart immediately dropped and I fought tears like never before.Wiping my face with the sleeve of my arm, I made my way down the stairs and before me were rows and rows of cribs filled with sick and dying infants. I cannot express to you in words how many there were; row after row and room after room. As I looked, these infants didn’t even seem to have an identity; their bed was labeled with a number. As I tried to process this scene, my mind began to think, “Are theses infants just a number here?? Is this real??” Inside, my heart was screaming as I looked at each infant. Even though they couldn’t’ understand, I told them, you matter. You are not just a number to Christ. He cares for you. He knew you even before you were formed in your mother’s womb. He loves you so much. This pain will end soon. Hold on little one. I was angry and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I walked through the row of cribs and touched each tiny little hand that reached out for me, starving for love, and begging me to pick them up. I immediately scooped up a sweet baby girl and as soon as she was in my arms, she stopped crying and her head laid on my chest. Again, I fought tears. I looked at her face to find that she had a severe eye infection. It was oozing and she looked as if she was in a lot of pain. She felt warm to touch and I’m sure was suffering from an infection that her little body couldn’t fight. In my mind, I began to think back to my hospital at home and the place where I would work. If I were to hold an infant like this in the states I would be gowned, gloved, and with a facemask on for protection from any type of disease, but with this little girl in my arms, I didn’t care. I stroked her head as she laid on my chest. I went to the side room and prayed over her as two of my other teammates gathered around with their sweet infants. Tears fell. My heart was broken and I couldn’t understand. Time passed and I held this little girl, trying to get every spoonful of food I could down here; her belly was huge (protein deficiency) but her arms and legs were so skinny; she was greatly malnourished. It was time for their nap around noon and as I placed her back in her crib, she cried and cried. I picked her back up and she stopped, as peaceful as she could be as long as she was in the warmth of my arms. I had to put her down, telling myself that I could get her again after her nap. We left the room and let the children sleep while we visited another orphanage for a few hours.

Around 3pm, we returned. I went right to the same bed of my sweet little girl and as she reached for me, I scooped her up once again. I held her in my arms as I went to all the other cribs and touched their sweet, fragile, little hands and over each child I said a prayer. Within a few minutes a scene across the room caught my attention; a young mother was sobbing as she stroked her sweet babies face that lay so helpless in crib #14. I immediately noticed that this infant was on oxygen (a very ancient and rustic machine) and as I processed the scene, “Crib #14…this child looks familiar. I think we were holding her earlier,” I knew smoothing we was not right. I scanned the infant. So helpless, she laid in the crib gasping for air. She was so desperately trying to breath from her mouth as a nasal canula was pushed up her nose. My attention kept going back to the mother as she sobbed and sobbed trying to get the attention of one of the nanny’s. They kept shoving her away and telling her to just express her breast milk. The mother was holding a small medicine cup and as tears fell from her eyes, she tried to express any drop of milk that she could from each breast. My heart hurt. I wanted to run over to that mother and hold her in my arms.I wanted so desperately to comfort her but the language barrier made it hard for me to do that. Although I couldn’t fully understand what she was saying, I read her body language. I wanted to speak up and assess this infant. I wanted to help, but I didn’t know if I really had the place to do that. There was a respiratory therapist on our team and I grabbed her asking her to look across the room at this baby. She immediately felt the same way; she knew something was desperately wrong. We watched for a few seconds as this baby was gasping and these nanny’s were pouring breast milk down this babies throat with a small medicine cup. My heart screamed, “What are you doing?? This infant is going to aspirate. You have no idea what you are doing! STOP.” The baby then starts to foam at the mouth and her eyes froze open. This image is forever implanted in my mind. A nun comes down the stairs and goes into the back room where she begins to draw up some type of medicine. My heart told me, “Lauren, go talk to this lady.” I made my way over to her and said that I was a new Graduate Nurse and this baby needed immediate help. I was so surprised at her response. She spoke English and every word pleaded, “Please help me!” In that very moment, as I remember every emotion rush over me, I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. I had to stop myself and say, “Ok Lauren, you have just graduated from Nursing school. You are going to be a NICU nurse. You know what to do,” but everything within side of me didn’t. We had absolutely no resources to work with. Everything that this place had was donated, even the expired meds. I frantically searched that back room for anything only to find nothing. I made my way to the infants crib along with our respiratory therapist and team leader. I felt for a pulse…there was nothing. We started CPR on the sweet baby girl. This moment was so surreal. We are performing CPR on this infant, the mother is sobbing right next to us screaming words we can’t understand, and every infant in this home was crying. It was as if they knew what was going on, as if this was a daily occurrence and in their mind they were next. No matter how young they were, they knew the tragedy that was taking place in crib #14. My heart raced and I cannot express the sea of emotions I was in. After about 20 minutes of CPR, we continued to get no pulse. I knew there was nothing we could do. Even if this baby did start breathing again, we wouldn’t have any type of resources to keep her alive. I prayed knowing that this situation was out of my hands and God was in control of it all. “Lord, if this child is meant to live, You are going to have to do it.” Tear after tear fell from my eyes as we stopped CPR and this infant died before us. My two team members and I along with a pastor wrapped our arms around each other and prayed and even though we didn’t understand, we knew God was still God.

This was the hardest day of my life. Part of me was so angry and I couldn’t understand all the suffering that was going on in this home for dying and abandoned babies. Most of these infants would probably never make it out or get better. They would die there. Most were lost, abandoned, without an identity, and suffering from some horrible disease that even their caretakers couldn’t define.But at the end of the day, through this traumatic experience, I find joy and peace in the arms of my savior because no matter what, God is still God. I know God changed hearts and lives that day. The mother of the baby that died saw us praying over and fighting for her infant, something she has never felt or seen before. She saw us putting our full faith and trust in God. And through this, I know she found comfort and had an encounter with Christ.

That day, after we got back to the guesthouse and debriefed our day, I laid in bed and through tears I prayed over each little hand I touch and each infant I held. And in the beauty of it all I was reminded of God’s promises. I was comforted by his word. Here are some of the scriptures I read that night. Hope they are as encouraging to you as they were to me…

Psalm 30:5 Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit

Psalm 37:39
 The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble

Psalm 46:1-2
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

Psalm 48:14
For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

Psalm 55:22 
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you;he will never let the righteous fall.

Psalm 71:20-21
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 138:7 
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me.

This was the day that changed my life forever...

Miss Lauren
Haiti Team Member

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Today was an incredible day delivering over 7500 gallons of clean,safe water on three different water runs to area's of City Soleil. The experience of pulling the huge truck onto a street filled with people, goats, chickens and rubbish piles and then seeing the excitement and chaos that soon followed was a bit overwhelming. We were greeted with children, adults and elders, some who were clothed and some who were not. The smiles on the faces melted my heart and we worked fast and furious to fill the large buckets that came before us. The line got longer and longer and you could see the desperation from the people as the water to them were like buckets of gold. As the water ran dry from the 3 loads we delivered, it shattered my soul to load up our team and drive away as so many were still standing in the street waiting ever so patiently in the line for drops of gold. Even though there was disappointment that we were leaving, the people waved and smiled as we left them on the disheveled, dusty roads of City Soleil.

My heart felt overwhelmed with joy and also pain in leaving these loving people. While water was being dispersed, many of us held, played and jump roped with the kids. They loved to have their pictures taken and then seen on the camera right away. We captured so many beautiful children who have lived through so much. It is amazing to me to see such joy in these children of the tent cities. It bothers me that our children in the United States have SOOO much and still seem to want more and more. They could all learn so much from seeing where happiness truly comes from. It is not from the material goods that we Americans gather!

It also made me realize, how much we waste: the precious water that others desperately depend on for life. I personally will let my water run while I brush my teeth. I shower once or twice a day. I water my lawn to have nice green grass. It made me feel so selfish and wasteful today after serving water to those who have no water, home, electricity or plumbing. Hard to believe I live approx 1000 miles from a place so foreign to me and my loved ones. As we sang songs of praise tonight after dinner, the rain began to pour down and has lasted a long time. It makes me wonder how all those thousands of people we saw today are managing in the wet, muddy streets and tents. If only those drops of gold coming from the sky tonight could be bottled and used to help these faithful people of Haiti.

Each day we share a word with the team that best describes what we felt on this day. Tom's word tonight was MOMENT. Each minute and hour of this day will forever be moments that we will never forget. These moments are forever engraved on our hearts and we will carry them with us for the rest of our lives. These moments will change who we are and how we view things at home in Minnesota. I have always heard that taking a risk and making a change is always a good thing. Like the chameleon who changes color to adapt to new surroundings….I truly believe this journey of risk out of our comfort zone, will turn out some really amazing chameleons!! There are sure a lot of those little creatures running around here!

I feel blessed to be sharing this experience with an amazing group of people. Our team has melded together as one to serve our Lord and the people of Haiti. The spiritual journey continues tomorrow when we go to the orphanages. Please continue to pray for our team as we reach out and stretch our arms to Haiti with love and joy.

Ask God to Bless and use your gifts of time, talent and treasures to bring hope and justice to a world in need!

Ke Bondye Beni'ou
God Bless you,

Jane Bacchus-Ray
Healing Haiti Team Member

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Senses Attacked

Pulling back from the gate is an odd feeling right now. I am not sure I can describe what I am feeling. Over the past week all my senses were attacked, challenged and forever changed.

As I close my eyes as we are lifting off, I am overtaken by a flash of all the many things I encountered. Children screaming with joy and laughter, babies crying, horns honking, trucks gears grinding and all the warm greetings of the many faces I came across.

These faces have been forever burned into my eyes, along with the homes they live in. Crowded tap taps and buses, garbage and sewage packed streets. Buildings reduced to ruble and more than tens of thousand of tents ever where you look. Pigs, chickens, roosters and dogs roaming the streets. The smell of diesel, miscellaneous things burning and the strong odor of rotting trash.

Of all the senses affected, touch has impacted me the most. in City Soleil, we delivered buckets of water deep into the streets where most people do not go, especially without some sort of escort. Along the way children would want to hold your hand or anything they could get a hold of. All they wanted was to feel that touch, even if it was for 30-90 seconds as you walked back to the truck to grab another bucket. There was no other motive. They did not want your money, your possessions, your food or water. They simply wanted to be touched, loved and noticed. It breaks my heart into so many pieces I can hardly contain it as we have lifted off and are headed for home. I am no longer crying behind my sunglasses. I am just crying with an emptiness I cannot fill or fix. I thought I would leave Haiti with a feeling of satisfaction and a sense of being full of God's love, instead I am broken and feel so much guilt and sadness for leaving them all behind. I never thought I would be this impacted. I never imagined I would get so emotional. How is it possible for me to find it so difficult to go home? I wish everyone could feel this.

So where do we go from here? Where do I lead my family? Do my wife and I pack up our four children and move to Haiti to be the hands and feet of Christ on the ground? Do we change the way we live? Do we continue to teach our children about the many sufferings around the world? Do we get our church even more involved on global missions by leading trips. I wish I knew the answer, but the fact is I have no idea which way God will lead us. A lot of praying is needed.

Lord, thank you for changing my heart and putting these blessings in our path. I pray for you to help illuminate a path whichever it may be.

Brian - Healing Haiti Team Member

Where is God?

That was our first question as we started our first full day in Haiti.

As we end the week, it turns out that God is here in Haiti.

He is in the children whose eyes sparkle with love and joy even though they are not clothed, have no shoes and live in the poorest, filthiest conditions imaginable. Many are sick and dying; many are orphaned; many are abandoned by their parents and forced to live on the streets fending for themselves.

He is in the volunteers who care for the sick and dying babies and children at Mother Teresa’s and the special needs children at Gertrude’s Home.

He is in the Healing Haiti team members who deliver water to the poorest of the poor in Cite Soleil.

He is in the elderly woman who patiently waited in line for water, but yet when it was her turn to fill her bucket, the water had run out; yet she still said “Merci”.

He is in Grace Village; that one day will be home to orphans and the elderly.

He is in Jude Jean Paul. A young man who suffered from so many seizures it caused permanent brain damage.He is a quadrapalegic. Who if he lived in the US would have been treated and suffered minimal affects.

He is in the people of Haiti who celebrate His love each day through devout worship and praise.

He is in all of us.

How are we going to show that He is in all of us?

Healing Haiti Team Members

Jeannette, Barb, Jan