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Greetings from Jérémie.  As some of you know, Cherlie and I were supposed to be in the US right now, travelling to NY/NJ to visit with family and churches, Milwaukee for a board meeting, Louisville for a medical missions conference and back home before Thanksgiving.  Then, Hurricane Matthew came along and changed our lives forever and our plans immediately.  We decided to stay here in Haiti in order to keep our clinic open and to serve as a bit of hope in the midst of despair.

Cherlie and I re- opened the clinic on Monday, October 17th and our patients have been grateful to see us.  Many of them are coming for medication refills, some have fevers and some are recovering from injuries sustained during the hurricane.  All of them have lost their houses and many of their possessions.  But, most of them somehow held onto their clinic receipt so we can look up their clinic record!  Amazing with all the water around that their receipts are intact (many of them were kept in a plastic medication bag, so they were protected from the water).

Nurse Vetelie Charles does some patient teaching at the start of our first day back in clinic.

Nurse Vetelie Charles does some patient teaching at the start of our first day back in clinic.

 

As we go up and down the mountain, we see signs of re-building, albeit not always polished.  Some people have collected tin that came off of other roofs and have put it on their house.  Others have built both walls and roof out of tin scraps.  In fact, people frequently recount how many people with thatched roof houses now have tin roofs!  Others have repaired part of their roof with tin scraps and used a tarp to cover the rest.  And, others have used the bark of fallen coconut trees to construct a new, little house until they can repair their old one.

Tin scraps cover a house that lost its roof

Tin scraps cover a house that lost its roof

 

Trees are starting to get new leaves, corn stalks are standing up, banana trees have sprouted new growth and the hills are greening up.  No longer is there that “scorched earth” look to the hills and valleys.  The worst is over, better days are to come.

CATCHING UP

We always like to acknowledge our visitors and didn’t have time to write a blog about our last visitors before the hurricane.  I wrote and told them that they were the last ones to see Jérémie as it was, not as it is now!  In September we had a wonderful team from Avera in South Dakota spend a week with us.  The team consisted of team leader and nurse Kathy English, nurse practitioners Theresa Hansen and Greta Martin, respiratory therapist Sharon Haverty, ultrasound technicians Paige Paquette and Aimee Hardy, ER nurse Karen Heideman, ER tech and pre-med student Dylan Goehner and technician Nicholas Romereim.  They helped with patient consultations, brought us an oxygen concentrator and taught us how to use it, taught Cherlie and me to do ultrasounds, painted, sanded and packed lots of medications.  We appreciated their help and their service to us and to our patients.  Thanks Avera Team!

Cherlie helps visiting RN Karen start an IV on a dehydrated patient

Cherlie helps visiting RN Karen start an IV on a dehydrated patient

 

Sharon and Kathy stand beside the oxygen concentrator the team brought down in their luggage!

Sharon and Kathy stand beside the oxygen concentrator the team brought down in their luggage!

 

Nicholas (L) and Dylan (R) paint a door for the pharmacy building

Nicholas (L) and Dylan (R) paint a door for the pharmacy building

 

Nurse Practitioner Theresa in her consultation room

Nurse Practitioner Theresa in her consultation room

 

Cherlie with her ultrasound teachers Paige (L) and Aimee (R)

Cherlie with her ultrasound teachers Paige (L) and Aimee (R)

 

Nurse practitioner Greta Martin helping out with Pap smear exams

Nurse practitioner Greta Martin helping out with Pap smear exams

 

The whole Avera team outside the clinic

The whole Avera team outside the clinic

 

For many years, Avera has been providing funds to build houses for rural Haitians such as those who live near our clinic.  While the team was here, we took them to see the home of a woman who has helped us out with light yard work since we first started our clinic ten years ago.  Marie has raised three sons on her own and they live a short distance down the hill from the clinic.  While they were visiting in September, the team went to see Marie and her home:

Avera team going to visit Marie’s home in September

Avera team going to visit Marie’s home in September

Unfortunately, Marie’s house was one of the thousands that were destroyed by the recent hurricane.  We think Marie and her family need some of those rebuilding funds soon!

Marie stands in front of what’s left of her home after Hurricane Matthew

Marie stands in front of what’s left of her home after Hurricane Matthew

 

THE VALUE OF POSSESSIONS

A few months ago an elderly man came to the clinic for consultation.  When he came into my consultation room, he carefully placed his satchel on the floor beside his chair.  Then, he covered it with an object that caught my attention because I couldn’t, in a brief glance, figure out what it was.  I took a history from him, trying to concentrate when my attention was really on the “object”.  I didn’t want to stare at it and make him feel uncomfortable but I had to figure out what it was!  I found my chance as I got up to listen to his heart and lungs.  He dutifully took deep breaths in and out and I was able to look straight down onto the object of my curiosity and, thus, solve my puzzle.  Here, draped across his old fabric satchel was a threadbare worn out towel.  The fabric had become so thin from use that it was difficult to tell that one day it had been made of terrycloth.  My patient now obviously carried it to wipe his sweaty brow as he walked along the mountain paths from his home.

One’s natural inclination would be to replace the old towel with a brand new one, presented to the patient in a grand manner, as evidence of our wonderful generosity.  But, looking at the towel carefully draped over the satchel, I began to think.  “How many brows has that towel wiped,” I thought.  “How many tears have been shed into its worn fabric?  How many gallons of bathing water has it absorbed for its owner and how many visitors has it served in his small, simple rural house.

I didn’t say anything about the towel that day.  Some time, when the time is right, I’ll offer him a replacement.

The object of my curiosity

The object of my curiosity

 

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There was a death yesterday of a sixteen-year-old boy.  When we heard about it, Cherlie and I both lowered our heads and cried.  They were tears of pain and frustration, at the country we live in and the limitations of our own capabilities.  We had seen the young boy in the clinic on Thursday, orphaned at birth and cared for since then by his aunt.  She brought him in to see us in consultation.  She sat rather casually in her chair as he writhed around on his in pain.  “He’s had abdominal cramps that started about ten days ago”, she said.  “Then, he got a fever and diarrhea and the pain has been worse since then.  He could hardly walk to come to the clinic this morning.”  “Walk to the clinic,” I thought.  “This boy doesn’t look like he can walk across the room.”  His abdomen was distended, tight as a drum and tender all over, especially in the right lower quadrant.  “Well, “I thought, “it’s either appendicitis or typhoid fever but it’s mostly certainly ruptured.”  “Why did you wait so long to come in,” I asked.  She shrugged her shoulders and said that they were hoping it would get better by itself.  Tragic mistake.

“You need to take him to the general hospital in Jérémie immediately”, I said to her.  “He needs to have emergency surgery and you need to go right away or he’ll die.”  I was hoping the dire prediction would make her jump into action.  But, she just sat there, shook her head and said there was no way she could take the boy to the hospital, no matter how sick he was.  She kept talking as I quickly wrote out a letter of reference for her to take to the hospital.  Letters usually ensure faster care, although nothing can be assumed at the government hospital.  But, it was his only possible chance for survival.

When I was finished, I asked Cherlie to talk with the aunt because I was concerned about her nonchalant attitude and wanted to be sure she understood the possible consequences of not taking the young boy to the hospital.  So, Cherlie talked with her in the frank way only she can and when they left, we knew the aunt wasn’t going anywhere except home.  The boy died later that night.

Our prayer is that some day we’ll have another jeep and a driver on salary and thousands of dollars in a Poor Fund so we can personally take a patient like this young boy to the hospital and be responsible for their initial care.  We can’t do it with everyone but we certainly can try with the urgent ones.  As things are now, we’re left with difficult decisions because we can’t leave 40 or 50 patients sitting in the clinic in order to drive an urgent patient to Jérémie to the hospital.  Someone else in the waiting area might be as much in need of our care.  So, we have to rely on the families to take responsibility for their loved one, and we often do give them money to help them out.  But, they have to make the ultimate decision on what to do.  Life here in Haiti is always a series of small choices that become more significant due to the poverty and lack of resources.  Money is only one of them.  Having others help at home and at the hospital are others.  Understanding how to get around in town is another.  Finding a place to stay and cook the patient’s food are others.  There are no safety nets here, no community resources, no social services, no one to go to outside of their own circle.   And that lack of resources sometimes makes us cry.

Microcephaly

Zika virus has certainly been in the news lately, especially since it has been diagnosed in several patients in the US.  Zika is a mosquito-borne viral illness that causes fever, pain and burning of the eyes.  It is a mild illness and has no specific treatment but the danger of Zika comes from the fact that pregnant women who have the disease have a higher incidence of having infants with birth defects, especially microcephaly.

I recently saw a young mother in the clinic with an infant who was developmentally delayed.  The mother was concerned because the one-year old child wasn’t yet standing by herself or walking.  When I examined her, it seemed that she most likely has a mild form of microcephaly.  The mother stated that she did have a fever while she was pregnant.  Whether that fever was Zika or not, we’ll never know.  But it is possible that the virus was responsible for infant’s birth defect.

As many of you know, we have been functioning in the clinic with our pharmacy temporarily located in the same room as our registration desk and medical records.  The “actual” pharmacy is located in the adjacent lab/xray/pharmacy building but we were unable to move into that area because we didn’t yet have wooden windows installed.   Well, thanks to our most recent employee Viel Laurent, our windows are now in place and two weeks ago we moved the pharmacy into its rightful place.  Look at the results below:

Shelves in the new pharmacy with bins for medications

Shelves in the new pharmacy with bins for medications

Cherlie and pharmacy technician Guy-Johns Chevalier stand in front of the new pharmacy shelves.

Cherlie and pharmacy technician Guy-Johns Chevalier stand in front of the new pharmacy shelves.

Over the next few weeks we hope to be able to move most of the stock medications from our house down in Jérémie up to the clinic pharmacy.  What a relief that will be!  Pray with us that we will soon be able to install windows in the laboratory area as well and get it set up to do more advanced laboratory testing.

 

There is no doubt that Haiti is a difficult place to live and work.  Many of the things that we take for granted in the US are lacking or limited here in Haiti – things like electricity, clean water, good roads, internet access, etc.  So, we learn to make do with limited resources and to protect the precious resources that we are given.  Acquiring medical equipment and supplies and shipping them to Haiti, bringing them out from PAP and getting them up the mountain to our clinic can be a logistical challenge.  It is truly a situation where “anpil men, chaj pa lou” (many hands make light work).  Below is an instance of people working together for the good of our ministry and the people we serve:

We recently were given permission to have some medical equipment and supplies shipped down to Haiti through HarvestCall, the mission outreach of the Apostolic Christian Church (ACC).  ACC is now responsible for managing the mission hospital (Hopital Lumiere) where Cherlie and I previously worked in the 80’s and 90’s, in partnership with the MEBSH church denomination.  ACC has a large warehouse in Bluffton, IN and regularly ships containers to Haiti with medical equipment and supplies for the hospital.  We had some supplies in Milwaukee that we packed in drums with the help of Don Richmond, Ray and Donna Moon and Yvonne Ducharme in April when we were in town.  Then, Cherlie and I, along with my mother Virginia, went with the Moons to IN to deliver them to the ACC warehouse.  At the same time, other large medical equipment was donated to us by the Avera Hospital system in Sioux Falls, SD and shipped to IN.  It all arrived at the warehouse at the end of April and was shipped on a container to Haiti a few weeks later.  The container was cleared through customs by ACC’s very competent broker and staff and delivered to its Construction Department in Cayes, Haiti.  We were notified that the shipment had arrived and made two trips to Cayes from Jérémie (three hour drive) to pick up the equipment from Brent Wagenbach, an ACC missionary, who did a wonderful job in getting the crates loaded onto our truck with a forklift.  We then brought them out to Jérémie and up to the clinic.

Unloading two crates from the truck, each weighing over 1400 pounds, without a forklift presented a logistical challenge.  We figured it would take at least 15 men to even lift the crates, much less move them off the truck and put them on the ground without dropping or tipping them over.  Here’s how the process unfolded:

Deciding how to get the two large, heavy crates off the truck and onto the ground outside the clinic

Deciding how to get the two large, heavy crates off the truck and onto the ground outside the clinic

Contemplating moving the crates from the truck onto a pile of plywood where they could be opened and unloaded

Contemplating moving the crates from the truck onto a pile of plywood where they could be opened and unloaded

We decided that even if the first crate could be pulled onto the plywood, it would most likely tip over before it could be moved onto the clinic porch and unloaded.  So, we decided to take the crate apart inside the truck and unload each item separately.  Our helpers did a wonderful job and within a couple of hours, both crates were unloaded and all the equipment was safely inside the clinic buildings.

Taking equipment off the truck with the help of local Haitian men

Taking equipment off the truck with the help of local Haitian men

Carrying a heavy operating room light into one of the storage depots.

Carrying a heavy operating room light into one of the storage depots.

Carefully taking an infant isolette (for future use in a maternity center) off the truck

Carefully taking an infant isolette (for future use in a maternity center) off the truck

Infant warmer safely in one of the clinic rooms

Infant warmer safely in one of the clinic rooms

We give thanks to the Lord first and to everyone who helped in this process.  You are all wonderful!  We especially want to thank the following people:

Micheal Stebbins and Kathy English and the Avera Hospital system, SD

Brent Wagenbach, Mary and Bob Honegger, Cindy Shorb, Gary Barger with Apostolic Christian Church

Ray and Donna Moon

Yvonne Ducharme

Don Richmond

Our Haitian staff and workers who helped unload the truck

 

As you may know, we began a wonderful partnership a year ago with Avera, Health, a hospital corporation that is based in Sioux Falls, SD and serves rural communities throughout SD and neighboring states.  For many years they have had an Avera Health Haiti Mission that has sent volunteers, supplies, equipment and medication to organizations in the Jérémie area of Haiti.  For the past year, we have had the privilege of being partners with Avera Health and have benefitted from their dedicated volunteer groups coming to help out in our clinic in Gatineau.  A group of 6 visited us in late May and we were delighted to have them.  We love their commitment to the Lord and their desire to have an impact in Haiti by working through a long-term, stable, on-site organization such as ours.  It is so much more effective than bringing down a team of volunteers to work for a week and then leave without anyone on the ground to continue the work.  In our opinion, this is an ideal partnership because they help us do our job of service better and we give them a place to use their skills and expertise in a global health setting where the medical needs are tremendous.

The timing of the group’s visit was perfect, since our pharmacy technician, Guy-Johns Chevalier was scheduled to be in PAP at a seminar that week.  So, nurses Pat Erpenbach and Rosemary Murphy filled in for Guy-Johns, assisted at times by Adrien, Cherlie and myself.  They did a great job filling prescriptions, taking money and giving receipts and packing medications.

Nurse Pat fills out patient receipt for purchase of medications

Nurse Pat fills out patient receipt for purchase of medications

Nurse Rosemary helps in the pharmacy by counting pills and putting them in small plastic bags to sell to patients

Nurse Rosemary helps in the pharmacy by counting pills and putting them in small plastic bags to sell to patients

Geri and Jerome Malsom came as a dynamic team – Geri as a nurse and Jerome as mechanic and overall fix-it man.  Geri helped with patient vital signs and patient education and Jerome fixed broken generators and batteries, helped build and stock shelving units in the residence, put up shower curtain rods in the residence bathrooms and inspected all the tools in our workshop.

Geri and Jerome Malsom made a terrific team!

Geri and Jerome Malsom made a terrific team!

Nurse Geri helps Dr. Wolf perform a Pap smear on a patient. The group takes the Pap smear slides back to SD where they are read and reports are sent back to the clinic for follow up.

Nurse Geri helps Dr. Wolf perform a Pap smear on a patient. The group takes the Pap smear slides back to SD where they are read and reports are sent back to the clinic for follow up.

Jerome stands next to shelving unit he and Christian built. He then organized all the linens and supplies in the residence store room.

Jerome stands next to shelving unit he and Christian built. He then organized all the linens and supplies in the residence store room.

Kathy English was the group’s team leader and did another magnificent job in keeping everyone fed and organized.  She assisted with Pap smears and helped Cherlie distribute gifts of clothing and sacks to our patients that week.  She also helped organize our storeroom full of gifts to be given in the future.  Wherever she goes, there are smiles of gratitude!

Nurse Kathy sits with a patient who has just received gifts.

Nurse Kathy sits with a patient who has just received gifts.

Cherlie and Kathy engage in an intense conversation in the clinic

Cherlie and Kathy engage in an intense conversation in the clinic

Christian Swenson, the youngest member of the Avera team proved to be a very adept carpenter, finishing construction of a large table and several shelving units in the laboratory room and a large cart to hold gastroscopes for future use doing GI endoscopy.

Christian working in the clinic workshop to create some beautiful shelving units

Christian working in the clinic workshop to create some beautiful shelving units

Not only was Christian a good carpenter, he was a good cook. He got up early and fixed coffee and oatmeal for the rest of the team. Here he’s cutting up a fresh watermelon – a treat in Jeremie.

Not only was Christian a good carpenter, he was a good cook. He got up early and fixed coffee and oatmeal for the rest of the team. Here he’s cutting up a fresh watermelon – a treat in Jeremie.

In addition to all of their hard work, the Avera team also transported medications and medical supplies for use in our clinic.  We are grateful for their generous support of FHH and our ministry in Haiti and look forward to the next Avera team in a few months.  Thanks for all of your efforts on our behalf!

Pat walking in the clinic hallway with her hands full of medications to pack for the pharmacy

Pat walking in the clinic hallway with her hands full of medications to pack for the pharmacy

Rosemary takes some time out to love on a little baby

Rosemary takes some time out to love on a little baby

This little boy’s tears soon turned to joy when he received a toy car, thanks to our Avera friends

This little boy’s tears soon turned to joy when he received a toy car, thanks to our Avera friends

Here is the whole team together on their last day at the clinic:

Avera team (Top row left to right: Pat, Jerome, Christian, bottom row left to right: Geri, Rosemary, Kathy)

Avera team (Top row left to right: Pat, Jerome, Christian, bottom row left to right: Geri, Rosemary, Kathy)

 

In our blogs, we like to highlight the visitors and groups that come to work with us in Haiti.  They are an important part of our ministry here, since they help us to offer additional services to our patients and the communities around the clinic.  We are appreciative of the supplies and medications that they bring to us as well, since it helps to reduce our cost of operations here at the clinic.  Kudos to our visitors!

Nurse and team leader Kathy English brought down another group from Avera in South Dakota in March.  The group included Dr. Scott Peterson, a family physician who was on his second visit, and nurses Miranda Doss, Nicole Goodroad and Joy Gebhard.  They saw lots of patients, did a lot of Pap smears that they took back to the US for analysis, did patient teaching and helped give out gifts to our patients.  Here they are in action:

Here is Joy giving a dress and Beanie baby to a young girl who came to the clinic with her Grandpa

Here is Joy giving a dress and Beanie baby to a young girl who came to the clinic with her Grandpa

Nicole found a friend in one of our young patients. They played Frisbee together in the clinic yard!

Nicole found a friend in one of our young patients. They played Frisbee together in the clinic yard!

Kathy English shows off another donated dress with its proud new owner

Kathy English shows off another donated dress with its proud new owner

Scott, Miranda, Nicole and Joy taking a break outside the clinic.

Scott, Miranda, Nicole and Joy taking a break outside the clinic.

The Avera team leaves their mark on the beach near our home in Jérémie

The Avera team leaves their mark on the beach near our home in Jérémie

REMEMBER THOSE KNEE INJECTIONS?

Once again, we were blessed by having a visit from former FHH Board President Dr. Greg VonRoenn and fellow internist Dr. Dan Tanty.  One of the highlights of their visits to us is the opportunity for us to offer our patients steroid knee injections for arthritis pain.  The doctors bring with them the expensive injectable steroid and we have patients come in to the clinic specifically to get the injections.  It is a huge service to the patients and provides them with some short-term relief of what is sometimes very debilitating pain.  When rural Haitians can’t walk and climb hills, they can’t fetch water or harvest food to cook for themselves.  So, arthritis is a significant illness down here and one with limited treatment options.  If acetaminophen and Muscle Rub can’t help the pain, sometimes knee injections will!

Greg injects a patient’s knees while Dan assists. They made quite the team!

Greg injects a patient’s knees while Dan assists. They made quite the team!

Greg VonRoenn checks the pulse on one of the clinic patients

Greg VonRoenn checks the pulse on one of the clinic patients

Dan Tanty writes up the chart of the man whose knees were injected with steroid medication.

Dan Tanty writes up the chart of the man whose knees were injected with steroid medication.

Greg Dan Cherlie

Greg, Dan and Cherlie at the end of a hard week of work in the clinic

 

REMEMBER THE ANNUAL FHH FUND-RAISING BANQUET!!!

We want to remind everyone of our annual fund-raising banquet that is being held at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee on Saturday evening, April 23, 2016.  Complete details here!  This year we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Friends for Health in Haiti, so if you are in the area, please do come help us celebrate this important milestone in our development.  And if you can’t be with us in person, you can share with us in spirit and in prayer!  The Lord has accomplished much in these past ten years and we look forward to what is to come in the future!

 

 

We were blessed recently to have a visit from a group of friends from Milwaukee that included Ray and Donna Moon, Bob Chase, Yvonne DuCharme, Lawrence DuCharme, Brittany DuCharme and Dr. Ron Schroeder. They served with us for two weeks and did they work hard! We had asked that they come down to build cabinets for our laboratory and pharmacy and they accomplished this in splendid fashion under the expert eye of Bob Chase and with the assistance of Lawrence DuCharme and the rest of the team. Even Dr. Ron was put to work helping out after seeing patients with Dr. Wolf in the clinic.

Master cabinetmaker Bob Chase (left) and Lawrence DuCharme directed the team

Master cabinetmaker Bob Chase (left) and Lawrence DuCharme directed the team

Brittany (Lawrence and Yvonne’s niece) and Donna staining the cabinets on the pharmacy sidewalk

Brittany (Lawrence and Yvonne’s niece) and Donna staining the cabinets on the pharmacy sidewalk

Beginning of the installation of cabinets in the laboratory

Beginning of the installation of cabinets in the laboratory

Lab cabinets installed

Lab cabinets installed

In addition to making and installing the cabinets in the laboratory and pharmacy, the team painted and organized the electrical and plumbing rooms.

The women did most of the painting of the electrical and plumbing rooms, cleaning and organizing them as well.

The women did most of the painting of the electrical and plumbing rooms, cleaning and organizing them as well.

They also emptied out drums of clinic and laboratory supplies and organized them in the clinic and laboratory storerooms.

Boxes of laboratory and clinic supplies organized in the laboratory storeroom

Boxes of laboratory and clinic supplies organized in the laboratory storeroom

This team was the first of our visiting groups to stay overnight in our new second floor residence quarters. Once the iron doors and windows were installed in the residence to secure the building, we felt that it was safe enough for our visitors to stay up there during the week. This enabled them to start work earlier, finish later and avoid the fatigue of the drive up and down the mountain each day. We had two full beds and several cots up there with extra mattresses, linens and towels, canned foods, juice, milk and other staples, dishes, silverware, pots and pans and kitchen utensils. The team fixed their own food each day and seemed to enjoy their independence and the cool mountain breezes! Cherlie and I went back to our house in Jérémie each day to re-stock our clinic meds and check on the house and our dogs!

Dining room and kitchen of the residence

Dining room and kitchen of the residence

Donna, Ray, Bob, Brittany and Lawrence enjoying lunch up at the residence

Donna, Ray, Bob, Brittany and Lawrence enjoying lunch up at the residence

Engineers Lawrence and Brittany rigged up frames over their cots for mosquito nets.

Engineers Lawrence and Brittany rigged up frames over their cots for mosquito nets.

In addition to all of their other work, Bob decided that they should construct bunk beds for the residence bedrooms. So, after working several days on the design, the group set to work cutting and varnishing the pieces, after which they installed 4 bunk bed sets. Of course, they made sure they slept in them before they left the site!

All the plywood bunk bed parts lined up and ready to be installed

All the plywood bunk bed parts lined up and ready to be installed

It took a team to install the beds (Ray, Ron and Yvonne)

It took a team to install the beds (Ray, Ron and Yvonne)

Bunkbeds after installation in the bedrooms of the residence

Bunkbeds after installation in the bedrooms of the residence

While the construction team was working hard, Dr. Ron Schroeder was helping us see patients in our clinic. As a gynecologist, he offered specialty services to our patients that were very much appreciated and he performed almost 90 Pap smears during the two weeks he was here. He was a huge help to us and to our patients.

Dr. Ron consulting with a patient in our clinic

Dr. Ron consulting with a patient in our clinic

During the time the team was here, there were two situations that clearly showed us that people were praying for them in their service with us here in Haiti.

The first situation occurred late one afternoon after Cherlie and I had left to go back to Jérémie. As Ray was finishing work in the work shop, he accidentally cut his arm on the miter saw. Fortunately, the whole team mobilized and found instruments, suture material, gauze and gloves for Dr. Ron to use to suture the laceration. Ray was a good patient and was quickly patched up and ready to work again the next day!

Dr. Ron putting sutures in Ray’s arm laceration outside the clinic. Natural light is a wonderful thing!

Dr. Ron putting sutures in Ray’s arm laceration outside the clinic. Natural light is a wonderful thing!

Ray and Donna Moon, team organizers, take a little break from their work

Ray and Donna Moon, team organizers, take a little break from their work

The second situation that showed us God’s wonderful grace happened on Friday, January 29th, when the group was returning to Port au Prince (PAP) to fly out the following day to the US. During that week, there had been a lot of violence in PAP and the rural areas as a result of the cancelled Presidential runoff elections on January 24th. We were apprehensive about the political instability and considered several options in trying to get our visitors to PAP safely and on to their families in the US. We decided that we would have them go to PAP in our large jeep with Miller, our driver and Cherlie to accompany them in case of any demonstrations or problems on the road. They left Jérémie at 3am and were making wonderful progress when, an hour outside of PAP, a vehicle pulled out suddenly in front of the jeep and the vehicles collided in a noisy crash. Due to the grace of God, no one was seriously injured in either vehicle, although our jeep sustained major damage to the front end. If it wasn’t for a large iron bumper that we had installed when we first purchased the jeep, the damage and injuries could have been more significant. We are dismayed by the damaged jeep but praise the Lord for his protection of the passengers and driver. They were picked up by the guesthouse driver and made it back to the US without further problems and Cherlie came back to Jérémie on a bus. The jeep will stay in PAP until it gets repaired.

POLITICAL INSTABILITY

We appreciate your prayers for the political situation here in Haiti which is very unstable at this time. President Martelly is due to step down from power on February 7th and there is no duly elected president to take over from him. There is talk about a transitional government being set up but this has not yet been done. Every day there have been demonstrations in PAP and sometimes they have spread into the rural towns outside the capital. We have had to cancel visitors for February due to the instability and hope that the situation calms down so we can continue on with our normal activities and trips back and forth to Port au Prince in the near future.

Whenever we have visitors here in Haiti, Cherlie and I try to be creative in designing activities for them that use their skills and gifts and also enhance our ministry here. Since we are in a development stage as an organization, we sometimes use our visitors to “test the waters” for us, asking them to plan and implement activities in the local communities and churches around us in order to see how they are received and whether they meet their stated goals and objectives. January 2 – 9 we were blessed to have a wonderful multigenerational group from Eastbrook Church in Milwaukee here to test some waters with us!

The group consisted of the Riebe family – Katherine and Alan and their teenage son Joshua and daughter Charis, Geri Koterman and her grandson Josiah, Michael Borst and his daughter Natalie, college student Betsy Boggs and Leona Bush. Everyone in the group spent some time observing and helping in the clinic, packing medications and helping to distribute toys and clothing to our pediatric patients. On Monday and Tuesday the group worked with various age groups in a young Protestant church that is being pastored by our clinic chaplain Adrien Jean Jacques. The church is located a short walk up the mountain from the clinic and many of the church members are our patients.

In the morning, the young people and Mike and Alan held a soccer clinic with the church youth, leading them in a devotional and then doing soccer drills and playing games in such a way as to foster team work. They also played a game of “ultimate Frisbee” with the Haitian children and discovered that they were quick learners.

Natalie, Charis and Mike sitting with some of the soccer participants

Natalie, Charis and Mike sitting with some of the soccer participants

At the same time, Geri and Leona were leading the adult members of the church in a Bible Study lesson on Ruth and Naomi, having the Haitian church members share their interpretation of the Bible lesson with everyone. It was a great time of interaction and learning from both sides.

Geri and Leona acting out the story of Ruth and Naomi for the church members

Geri and Leona acting out the story of Ruth and Naomi for the church members

Then, in the afternoon, the group held a Vacation Bible School (VBS) session with the children from the church, sharing a Bible story with them, doing crafts and playing games. The children were enthusiastic participants and loved the attention they got from the American youth.

Natalie, Charis, Josiah and Joshua enjoying their new Haitian friends

Natalie, Charis, Josiah and Joshua enjoying their new Haitian friends

The Eastbrook team leads the VBSers in an animated song

The Eastbrook team leads the VBSers in an animated song

Children attending one of the VBS sessions

Children attending one of the VBS sessions

Two of the boys comparing one another’s artwork during craft time

Two of the boys comparing one another’s artwork during craft time

Charis, Betsy and Natalie take a selfie with some of the VBS attendees

Charis, Betsy and Natalie take a selfie with some of the VBS attendees

On Wednesday and Thursday, the group did similar activities at a small Baptist church down the mountain from the clinic. This is Gemi’s (our Community Coordinator) home church and is led by a Haitian lay pastor. He and the church members were thrilled to have the visitors participate with them and they also had very lively discussions.

 highlight of Leona’s afternoon was “babysitting” for this little boy who attended the VBS session with his older brother.

highlight of Leona’s afternoon was “babysitting” for this little boy who attended the VBS session with his older brother.

Geri stands with the lay pastor of the Duchene church and his wife

Geri stands with the lay pastor of the Duchene church and his wife

The little Baptist church in Duchene – one of many churches in need of our encouragement and support

The little Baptist church in Duchene – one of many churches in need of our encouragement and support

We’re grateful for teams like the Eastbrook Church team who are able to minister to community members and support local churches on our behalf. They brought their skills and the warmth of their personalities to bear witness to the Spirit of Christ within them and their fellowship with Haitian believers was very much appreciated. We thank them for their encouragement and support and pray for them to return again in the future.

NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION

I’ve always heard it said that “necessity is the mother of invention” but I didn’t realize how true it is until this past week. We have been having a severe water shortage at our house in Jeremie and each time we have visitors, we wonder if we’ll have enough water for us to wash all the sheets and towels after their visits. Last week we were feeling a little stressed when we realized we had ten sets of sheets from our visitors from Eastbrook and five sets from the Avera group in December that needed washing and we had no water in our cistern under Cherlie’s closet. How were we to prepare beds for the seven visitors coming in over the weekend? We didn’t have enough spare sheets and now we had no water to wash the dirty ones. A dilemma! Typical of life in Haiti.

Well, we just happened to have an automatic washing machine that we had sent down to Haiti a few months ago with the intention of using it up at the residence quarters once we started living up there. It was sitting on our porch and hadn’t yet been used. So, we decided to take it up to the site and with the use of a generator that was already up there, we got water out of the cistern under the sidewalk of the pharmacy building using buckets and filled the washer with it. The water is rain water collected off the roof of the clinic. So, once we got everything set up, Cherlie proceeded to wash five sets of sheets while clinic was going on. She put up a clothesline under the trees in front of the clinic and by the time I had finished seeing all the patients, our sheets were washed and dried and ready to be folded up and taken home! Water is plentiful up at the clinic and we discovered a new use for it to help us deal with a difficult problem at home. We’re grateful that we have options to consider in dealing with the necessities of life here!

Cherlie and I and our staff aren’t getting any time off from our clinic this holiday season, since Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Fridays, which is not a regular clinic day for us. But, we did try to make the season real by playing Santa Claus ourselves. As any of you know who have visited us here, as we get within a couple of miles of the clinic, we start noticing an interesting phenomenon. As our jeep slowly wends its way up the mountain, all the little children who live by the side of the road come running out to shout “Goodbye” and wave to us. They’re all between the ages of about 2 and 5 years old and our morning and afternoon passing has become a sort of ritual for them. It’s become quite comical to us, especially when we hear one child call out to another “the doctor is coming, the doctor is coming”!

Well, this year on Christmas Eve afternoon as we made our way down the mountain and past the waving little ones, we had special gifts for them – large stuffed animals (Beanies) and brand new hot wheels cars still in their packages. The squeals of delight were a joy to behold and we felt certain that we blessed the lives of at least a few little souls this holiday season. Santa couldn’t have been more pleased himself!

Gifts for our little friends

Gifts for our little friends

Squeal of delight!

Squeal of delight!

Something for everyone

Something for everyone

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