Haiti Mission Trip

First Pres Haiti mission team and HOM partners

The 20-member mission team returned from a week in Haiti April 2-9, where they worked in the Haiti on Mission (HOM) clinic in Cite Soleil, providing primary care, acute care and surgical services to our Haitian brothers and sisters.  Eight members of the team taught English in three HOM schools.  The team took pharmaceuticals; children’s vitamins; medical, surgical and diagnostic supplies; books, games and other teaching materials critical to the success of the English teaching effort; and reading glasses donated by members.  Your prayers helped make this trip a success.

These are updates received from the team:

Dateline Port-au-Prince Haiti – Wednesday, April 06, 2016
   People sometimes approach me after I speak about Haiti and say: ‘Why bother? Nothing ever changes in Haiti.’  I smile and point to more than 1,300 kids in the HOM schools.  Twenty-five years ago the four HOM campuses didn’t exist.  They were an optimist’s ‘pie in the sky’ dream.  But, Pastor Leon Dorleans had faith that God would provide.  How’s that for change?
    This morning before work the team toured the new HOM high school campus.  We met Haiti Classroombright young men and women who are Haiti’s future.  A recorder band serenaded us with several songs played from hand-written music scores. This impressive new building endeavor was spearheaded by Palm Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, who committed $500,000 to the project, which will ultimately cost more than $750,000.  The 7th & 8th grade building was completed last summer, just in time of the rising 7th graders to enter last fall.  Imagine that – kids in the worst slums of the Western Hemisphere actually have the opportunity to attend high school.  These kids will be the change agents.
   After the high school tour, we departed to our respective mission stations in the schools and clinic.  The medical team had the option of continuing to work at the Cite Soleil clinic or joining the Haitian medical team at the HOM Repatriote campus.  It was a tough choice because we have enjoyed getting to know Dr. Quensy, the Haitian medical director.  We decided to stay in Cite Soleil, so that community would have medical coverage today.  That decision turned out to be fortuitous for the two trauma patients that ended up on our doorstep as we were attempting to wrap up for the day.  Both suffered from serious lacerations that required cleaning, disinfecting and suturing.  God’s plan was at work once again.
   We quit work early today so we could spend a couple of hours sightseeing.  With so many new team members, we chose to revisit the Apparent Project, a group whose mission is to keep single parents with children together.  This mission began after the earthquake to provide daycare and employment for surviving spouses and children of the many victims.  It has expanded to serve at-risk children with single parents, of which there are many due to Haiti’s high early mortality rate.  The good work that this organization does is heartwarming.  We toured their factory, daycare center and retail store.  They make a variety of arts and crafts products including jewelry and metal artwork that is sold worldwide. We purchased souvenirs with the satisfaction of knowing that the money was going to a great mission.
   After another good Haitian supper, Betsey Vinton led our devotion, which she based on St. Francis of Assisi’s Prayer.  Perhaps we are in Haiti because, in some small way, we are being used as God’s ‘instruments of peace’.

Dateline Port-au-Prince Haiti – Tuesday, April 05, 2016
   Sometimes our plans and God’s plans don’t intersect exactly the way we expect.  Judith Lawrenson, one of our teaching team members, came to Haiti expecting to teach English.  Judith’s background is in assessment of learning disabled and special needs children.  There are roughly forty students in the HOM schools who are lagging behind their classmates. The principals were anxious to discover ways to help these students, but don’t have the resources that would be considered routine in the US.  When Judith’s background was discovered by Leon Dorleans, HOM head pastor, a new plan quickly developed.  Judith was asked to assess and diagnose these struggling students so help might be provided.  For the balance of the trip, Judith, with the assistance of Jan Fatzinger, will be assessing students in hopes of designing a plan for them to catch up with their peers.  Thank you Lord for laying your hand upon ours so that we might put our talents to better use in Your service.

   At the Cite Soleil Clinic, our medical team saw eighty-eight men, women and children – more than we had ever seen before in a single day.  By the end of the day, we had treated rashes, tropical fevers, diabetes, hypertension and more.  We began to worry that our stock of medicines and supplies may not be large enough to serve the patients coming in the next three days.  Grateful patients said ‘Thank you’, more times than I could count, despite sitting for hours in the heat waiting to see one or our providers.

   We arrived back at our guest house in time to eat another great Haitian dinner.  After cleaning up, we shared devotions and sang ‘Amazing Grace’.  As we reflected upon our day, here were some of our thoughts.  God’s plan is always there, if we stop to listen for it.  The affection shown to us by our students and patients spurs us to work even harder. Finally, we are very blessed to be here.

 

Dateline Port-au-Prince Haiti – Monday, April 04, 2016
   The first day of mission work is filled with hope and trepidation.  This first day was no different for our teams.  Would our lesson plans be effective?  Would we be able to successfully treat our patients’ various ailments?  Would we be able to form a good working bond with our new interpreters?
   Before going to work, we were treated to a tour of the school at Terre Noire.  We learned that we could sponsor a child for $360 per year.  Most of the 1,300 students in the HOM schools would not be able to attend school were it not for the generosity of the mission’s supporters.    Each parent must pay $30/year to enroll in HOM schools.  The balance of the annual tuition is covered by donations.
   After the tour we were off to work.  Our education teams departed for three HOM schools.  They encountered well-behaved young Haitian kids who were eager to learn.  The trepidation melted away.  Alphabet songs, number games and other fun learning techniques had the kids squealing with laughter.  Hope was replaced by satisfaction and joy.
   The medical team arrived at the Cite Soleil clinic to a throng of people already lined up to see us.  After the usual awkward beginning, the medical team quickly developed a comfortable rhythm.  We performed wellness exams, sick visits, surgery and pediatric sick visits, seeing more than sixty patients.
   Things seemed to be going well until a patient began to crash, requiring immediate attention.  An IV was started and treatment administered, eventually stabilizing the patient.  Thank goodness we had an ER doctor and ER nurse on the team this year.  Haiti has no national health insurance, so we sent the patient to the hospital with $20 so the patient would be admitted.  Patients forced to wait longer than usual because of the medical emergency, exhibited great patience.  They continued to thank us for our service.
   Takeaways from today’s mission experience were: 1) Haitian families are invested in their children’s education; 2) Young Haitians really to make their country to be a better place to live; and 3) Haitians are quick to offer sincere thanks for our fellowship and the assistance we provide.

 

Dateline Port-au-Prince Haiti – Sunday, April 03, 2016
   We awoke at 5:30am this morning to a cacophony of crowing roosters, barking dogs and alarm clocks.  We dressed in church clothes and ate a quick breakfast.  Then we were off to church across the HOM campus at Terre Noire for our first church service.  We joined thirteen hundred Haitians in hymns of praise and communion.  As is the custom, our team was introduced by Pastor Luc and thanked for our willingness to serve in Haiti. After a sermon we barely followed and communion that we followed perfectly, we quietly departed for Cite Soleil to participate in a second (for us) worship service.  Again thanks were offered for our service.  
   This pattern was repeated yet again when most of the team participated in a third service at the HOM Rapatriote church.  I underlined ‘most’ because this was the moment where, in its inimitable way, Haiti ‘happened’.  Two parishioners of the Cite Soleil church collapsed during the service.  Members of our medical team were called upon to render aid.  A group of six stayed behind to treat these two folks while the rest of the team went on to Rapatriote.  Fortunately, the prognosis for our first two unscheduled patients is good.    
   Our team eventually met back up at the guest house.  After lunch we did a little sightseeing and purchased groceries for team and interpreter lunches during the week. Pastor Leon Dorleans, the founder of HOM joined us for dinner.  It was a treat for those of us who know Pastor Leon as well as those who met him for the first time.  After dinner, we had devotions and made final preparations for our first day of work in the schools and the clinic.  
   Looking back on the day, we encountered several obstacles to what we thought would be our plan for the day, not the least of which was our unexpected patients.  We were reminded of this well-known axiom: ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff’. This applies especially in Haiti, where life would be unbearable if you ‘sweated the small stuff’.
   We look forward to our first day of work tomorrow, with great anticipation.

Dateline Port-au-Prince Haiti – Saturday, April 02, 2016:
   We awoke to thunderstorms at 4:30 am this morning.  Visions of flight delays flashed before our eyes.  How would that affect our travel.  Undaunted, we loaded people and luggage into the airport shuttles.  It took five trips to get all the people and luggage to the departure terminal.  Once at the airport, the baggage check-in belts failed and we had to run all fifty bags to another part of the terminal to a baggage line that did work.  Despite our best plans, we got to the gate just as the plane was boarding.
   We departed Jacksonville on time at 7 am, despite the storms.  The first thirty minutes featured the worst turbulence in recent memory.  The air finally smoothed out and we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale in time to make a quick connection to our Haiti flight.  An uneventful flight soothed our nerves a bit.  We then ran the usual gauntlet at the Port-au-Prince airport with our fifty bags in tow.  Finally, we arrived at the Haiti Outreach Ministries guest house in Terre Noire at 11:30 am. 
   Bags were unpacked and repacked as we separated educational supplies from medical supplies.  We were beginning to work as a true team.  After the supplies were separated and repacked, the educational team met with Nadege Gay, the assistant superintendent of HOM schools to review the week’s lesson plans.  The medical team departed to set up the clinic in Cite Soleil.  We all met back at the guest house after a hard afternoon’s to share our experiences.
   After a dinner of pumpkin soup, a Haiti favorite, we took time out for a team devotional.  Different team members shared a song, scripture and a story of faith. We came to the realization that despite our pre-trip anxiety, God’s will prevails.  We find a reminder of this in Isaiah 40:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”    
    Alarms are set for 5:15 am tomorrow morning.  We will have another busy day sharing Christian fellowship with three HOM churches.

   Dateline Jacksonville, Florida – Friday, April 01, 2016
   Severe storms swept through the southeast on Friday night hampering our travel to Jacksonville.  We finally all arrived safely at the Doubletree Hotel around 9 pm.  Today is the first time the entire team has been together in one place, although we conducted several trip planning meetings via teleconference and video conference. We held a brief meeting to finalize the logistics of getting 50 suitcases of donated supplies to the Jacksonville airport the next morning and then to our guest house in Haiti later the same morning.  Then we set our alarms for 4:30 am, hoping to get a few hours of sleep as the predictable pre-trip anxiety grew.

 

The team packed supplies to take with them, pictured below.
Packing Supplies for Haiti 2016 (1)Packing Supplies for Haiti 2016 (9)