Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Year Ago....

You know we all have those dates...those, that you'll never forget.  As important as an anniversary or a birthday.  Last year...January 12, 2010 will be one of those for me.  Probably all of us that were on the Dream Ministries team.  At 4:53 pm a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti...it is estimated that over 300,000 people were injured, 1.3 million were displaced and over 97,000 houses were destroyed and over 188,000 damaged in Port-au-Prince and Southern Haiti.

Our hospital team, which I was a part of, were riding in the back of the red truck on 10 minute journey back from the hospital at the end of a long hot day...it's not an easy ride...kinda bumpy, so we would have never known any different.  We pulled into the gravel drive leading to Playazul, our hotel, when some of the clinic team came out to meet our truck.  They began telling us about the earthquake.  One of our docs, who was reading in his room had felt 'a little disoriented and dizzy' but didn't realize what was happening.  Needless to say, it was a little un-nerving to realize that yes, we were across the border, but only about 90 miles from Port-au-Prince.  Then the topic of the tsunami came up and the alert that was showing on the Spanish CNN station.  We were all very calm realizing we were together and knew whatever came God would take care of us...and if anything should happen...what better way to go than to be in a country doing God's work.  Once I kinda rationalized where we were in proportion to Port-au-Prince and yes the body of water that connected us were the same...we were tucked under the SW side of the island of Hispaniola and our little hotel was up on about a 60 foot cliff.

However...we knew, our families back home were probably worried to death...so a few of us climbed back into the trucks and made a journey back down the road toward Barahona to where we had phone signal to reassure our families to spread the word, we were all safe.

I won't lie to you and say it wasn't un-nerving a bit to see the pictures they were showing on TV, to see the structures of block, crumbled like a sandcastle...the picture of the hospital totally destroyed and how it very much resembled the one we work in each year, each day.  There was a lot of prayers for those who were in a living hell in Haiti watching their loved ones die or worse..were trapped, scared, and alone.   It wasn't us, but watching those pictures...realizing it could have easily have been...that same fault line runs just few miles out of Barahona...it could have been us.  But, you can't dwell on it...you have to be thankful and prepare for tomorrow.

We knew we would see some of these faces...it was very obvious the next morning when we pulled into the hospital and there were multiple ambulances from other areas...knowing they were transporting patients from hospitals in Haiti, or the triage locations just over the border.  They would begin dispersing these sweet people and God would bless us with a few to cross our paths.  If you know me, you've heard all about these sweet people...if you don't I won't go into it, but will tell you that these faces will forever have a part of our heart and their faces and stories of survival taught me more about the things I take for granted.  Modeline...was trapped under debris for several days...she could hear people saying there was no more survivors, there was no one there...all the while she's trying to scream out...and finally she was heard.  Modeline, would learn when she arrives to us in Barahona and then later confirmed in  Santo  Domingo that she was paralyzed from just above the waist down...she is a beautiful young woman who spoke fluent English....she would never walk again but thanked her God that someone finally heard her.  A sweet girl from Haiti who spoke Creole, so it was difficult to communicate with her...she had lost her right arm due to a crushing injury.  It had been amputated like so many other people at another hospital over the border.  She was in pain, all alone...it hurt my heart that she was there all alone.  We bathed her, applied powder, changed her gown which had been donated by someone and changed her bandages on her open wound to her leg....all she could do was smile.  A small 18 day old baby who had been brought in by a man bringing his daughter...no one related to the child was with him, so we feared the worse...that he had been orphaned.  He had a major laceration just above his mouth below his nose...approximately 3 inches long.  He had lost his little pinky finger and almost the top part of his hand.  Dr. Mike was able to patch him up and we found out a few days later...his dad had been brought to the hospital a little later, so we were relieved to know he was not orphaned.

Then there was Thalia...a little 6 1/2 year old little girl in the E.R....her little sister had been killed in the earthquake.  Her grandmother was killed, her mother is somewhere in Haiti at another hospital with injuries unknown...her dad was the man that brought the baby in as well as Thalia.  His name is Jacque....Thalia has an open laceration approximately 5-6 inches from her forehead through her hairline...she has a open fracture of her leg, is in great pain...had blood hanging and brought up to us on a piece of cardboard.  My heart is breaking...this is when it really all hit me...'the least of these'...the pictures of what had been on TV in the last couple of days...this could have been us...this is real, this is real!!!!!  Jacque came up and just as we were about to have one of our Creole translators begin to pray before they would take her back for Dr. Mike to try and sew her head together....the translator began to pray and before he could finish his first sentence...this little girls daddy, Jacque...in his brokenness....started praying and his first words were "Mercy Papa"....it was the sweetest prayer I think  I've ever or will ever witness.  In his grief from loss of a child, his mother...he praised our God for getting them there and for Thalia to now receive treatment.  This man had been trying for 3 days since the earthquake on Tuesday to get someone to take care of her and said all anybody would do is 'look at her head' and run away....

Thalia was taken to surgery...Jacque was exhausted, hungry, and just Praising God verbally to anyone who would listen and thanked the Dominicans for opening their borders allowing the Haitians to cross....this is a huge thing knowing the history of these two countries.  We all had already went through our bags...had given money to Modeline and her sister as they were there without anything.  We wanted to make sure they had money to go get food, to make phone calls if they could get through to anyone to let them know they were safe.  Now we were doing the same with Jacque...we began feeding him, cereal bars, crackers...anything we could find.  We found him some clothes...and finally put him in a pre-op bed in our room there at the hospital...covered him with a prayer blanket with Psalm 23 on it and put him to bed.  He slept for hours...finally to awake and see Thalia had done beautifully in surgery.  Dr. Mike had done a great job with the stitching up of her scalp but we couldn't do anything other than clean her open fracture of her leg due to not having an orthopedic surgeon with us....but she was resting and pain free. 

I know....I've rambled...but I wanted to give you enough history to know...that when Mike looked at me on the bus Saturday back to Santo Dominigo, as we were all sitting around talking about our week...when he said 'we never know when we will be the least of these...'  it hit me like a ton of bricks.  We get so comfortable in our little lives...our cozy homes, our great jobs, our freedoms here in the states...and we are not immune to this kinda of tragedy.  I had seen so much of God's Grace over the past several days...maybe not in all the people who had died...but in the ones who had lived and their stories...their faith, their level of belief...and though they 'walked through the valley of the shadow of death"...they feared 'no evil' and their faith taught me so much of how meager mine was at times.  How would I have responded?  How would I have reacted?  Would I have praised God like Jacque did while praying over Thalia...or would I have been so heavy into my mourning of my child and mother ...that i never would have been able to pray?  I don't know...I can't answer it because I'm not in their shoes...I do know that taught me so much. 

Modeline has a framed picture on my desk at work...Jacque & Thalia share a frame on my mantle in my home.  They are a part of my family and though they don't share my skin color...they are my family and their stories will be passed along to my grandchildren. 

Matthew 25 - since I started doing mission work about 8-9 years ago...this parable between the sheep & goats has been one of my favorites...but with last years trip it became more personal....I've thought of it often during the year when things come up in my life.  It makes me look at people who are grieving...or who are going through hard times and see God among them...to give them encouragement telling them there is the presence of our Lord in their midst....He wants us to know He is there, especially among the least of these...so reach out, help where you can....take a special notice...seek them out....for we never know when we will be the least of these and you will need someone to reach to you. 

Connie DiLeo, a Methodist Missionary, and I am blessed to call her my friend...she is a delightful child of God and was so calmly following where God led her in the weeks, months following the earthquake.  She worked hard to make sure Modeline was returned to Barahona for her rehab after it was determined in the capital, Santo Domingo, that nothing could be done and Modeline's paralysis was permanent.  She put a plea out for a wheelchair that was accomplished here in N.C...which is a God thing and another story...she helped to support Modeline's emotional needs, made sure Modeline's birthday was  celebrated and deeply missed her once the decision was made for Modeline to return to Haiti.  I wished I could tell you how Connie impacts the people of Barahona...heck, I wished I could tell you how she makes me want to be a better person just by being around her.  She is one of these 'real' people...doesn't sugar coat things, but the love of God pumps through her veins and her dedication to the people of Barahona, especially the batey's of LaHoya & Bombita benefit great from her gifts.  I love you Connie and am blessed God put you in my life so sweetly.

So...a year ago tomorrow...1-12-11...say a prayer....a prayer for Modeline & her sister...for Jacque, Thalia, and their family...for the creole Haitian young girl who lost her right arm...for the baby with the facial laceration.  Say a prayer for the hundreds of thousands who are still homeless...those that received countless amputations, which in a way has disabled this country beyond anything we can comprehend.  Find a good cause and continue to help those people...there are multiple ones out there...do your research, make sure they're reputable and donate.  If you need suggestions, let me know...I'll be happy to make suggestions. 

The media isn't always giving correct information...there are many good things happening over there...is it still bad...yes, it is....but there are lots of stories of hope, and God's grace. 

I close with this....at the end of our week last year, someone on our team made the statement, "I wished we were coming a week later that way we could have cared for more of the Haitians."  My reply was "I'm not...then those Dominican's who also needed those surgeries that were planned and the clinics who went to different Batey's...wouldn't have been able to provide the care we did to them...and that work was very important." 

In the midst of all the chaos each year...as we do have to deal with Dominican's who live on 'island time' motto's...what happened last year was just what God had in mind...it never fails....as much as we try to plan for the week.  Changes have to be made but at the end of those 10 days...you look back in retrospect and see how God had His hands in it all alone...and if we are obedient...it turns out like He wants it to be.  We can't fix it all...and in some cases...the things we do are life changing and in some, well...it's just a band aid.  But, we make a difference in someones life.  We all can't do everything...but each of us can do something!!!

The Starfish Story adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley
1907 - 1977

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "I made a difference to that one!"

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