JANUARY 17, 2017

I think the number of gray hairs on my head has doubled in the past two weeks and yesterday certainly contributed. Cherlie and I had been in Port-au-Prince since January 6th, due to unrest and violence, not only in Jérémie, but on the road to Jérémie from Cayes. On Friday, the 13th of January, Guy-Philippe appeared in court and the charges were read to him, to which he replied, “Not guilty”. So, another court date was set. We were waiting to see the reaction of his supporters after this court appearance in order to decide our further steps. While there were still daily demonstrations in Jérémie, there was not widespread unrest as there had been last week. So, we decided to try to make the trip by vehicle from Port-au-Prince to Jérémie. We were going to “make a run for it”, so to speak. But, because of potential violence, we felt it would be best for me to “hide” in the jeep as we traveled, so that no one would see my white face and be tempted to kidnap me. I certainly didn’t want to end up as a hostage or something worse.

Yes, I realize it’s quite comical to think of someone my size “hiding” in the jeep! But, that’s exactly what I did. We put our duffel bags in the jeep behind the front seats and then packed the rest of the jeep with boxes of meds, groceries and supplies to take with us. We then covered the whole back of the jeep with a huge tarp. We left Port-au-Prince at 4am. After passing Cayes at 7am, with two and a half hours left to travel, I climbed into the back of the jeep and curled up with my knees bent, lying down on the duffel bags. A laundry bag full of dirty clothes was my pillow and my bare feet were pushed up against the side of the vehicle. Off we went with Miller, our driver, driving!

All weekend, I had been mentally preparing for this ordeal, thinking that my greatest problem would be pain from arthritis in my hips and knees. I was sure I could endure the pain because my desire to get home and back to our clinic was tremendous motivation. I really felt very much at peace with the decision to travel. I had taken some acetaminophen before we left Port-au-Prince and as I lay on the duffel bags, I felt quite comfortable. But, after only a few miles of driving, I suddenly began to feel claustrophobic. My face was up against the front seats, my head was pushed against one side of the jeep and my feet were pressed against the other side. The tarp covered my whole body with a thin slit of light coming through from the front of the vehicle. I felt like I was trapped in a cave and needed to get out immediately! So, I sat bolt upright, moved the tarp away from my face and said, “I don’t think I can do this!” Cherlie and Miller looked over at me with looks that said “What’s your problem?” So, after I sat up and gulped in some breaths of fresh air, I felt considerably better. We realized that I could prop up on my elbow and peer through the opening of the tarp except when we went through areas that were heavily populated or areas of expected problems. Then, I would lie down flat and stay out of sight. And, that’s what I did. In fact, in the two and a half hours that we drove, I propped myself up on my elbow so often that I got an abrasion on it! But, with the air conditioning blowing in my direction and a little light coming in and periodic views of where we were going, not only was I not claustrophobic any more, I didn’t even get car-sick. As it turned out, we got stopped at a couple of police stations but passed no road blocks or other gangs of demonstrators. At many, many places, rocks were piled along the road where roadblocks had been previously placed. And, there were a few areas where young men were sitting near piles of rocks, looking like they would throw some at likely targets. Fortunately, we weren’t targeted. As we drove through the town of Jérémie itself, Cherlie saw evidence of burned tires (I wasn’t looking at that point), but no active demonstrations were taking place. In talking with a friend later, we found out that very early in the morning, a group started to burn tires in town and the police came up and said to them, “No tires are to be burned today. You can demonstrate any other day of the week, but today, you can’t.” When I heard that, I thought, “Yes, Lord, you wanted us to get home safely, indeed.”

Our plans now are to go up to Gatineau tomorrow and re-open our clinic. The people up there have been asking about us and have pledged that we will be safe among them! So, we’ll stay up there through the week and only come down to Jérémie periodically (like to watch the Packers’ game). We are still concerned about the political situation here, as Guy-Philippe’s next day in court is January 27th and local elections are being held on January 29th. Until the next president is sworn in on February 7th, things are still unstable. As things develop, we will let you know. In the meantime, thanks for all the prayers and support from you, our Home Team!!

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