Faith

(Another small break from our mission trip story. A new installment will be online by tomorrow. Thank you all for your patience and understanding.  The grammar in this little story isn’t perfect, but I was thinking about this topic in church today and felt I needed to share.)

belief

What is Faith?

As human beings we walk through life filled with pessimism, optimism, and hope.  Sure our lives are also filled with despair, anger, sadness and regret, but without pessimism to keep us wary, optimism to give us guidance and hope which stems from the human race always trying to see the good in everything; in my opinion, we would never have faith.

So where does “faith” come into play?

Faith to me is a feeling, an inner knowledge, a mental security that no matter what happens during this moment in time you are a participant in its outcome. Good bad or otherwise.

When I was younger I had faith. As a church going lad, who worked his way through the ranks from 6 to 16 as an acolyte in the Episcopal Church, I questioned many beliefs, including my belief in God. But the one thing I never questioned was my ability to always have faith.  Faith in myself as a human being, faith that no matter how bad things could seem they could always be worse (and sometimes were) and faith in life’s way to throw curve balls around every corner! Yep I had faith alright!

What I didn’t have was an awe inspiring faith in God.  As I previously stated I constantly questioned my belief in an almighty supreme being that all should worship blindly.  It just didn’t make sense to me. The bible reads as a really good story, one that Hollywood should make into a block buster movie or television mini-series. (Oh yeah that’s already been done) But really, come on, a heavenly power that listens to our prayers and guides its people through the word of the lord? (layman synopsis) I wasn’t buying it!

Here’s the funny thing about faith, until you come to terms with yourself emotionally (i.e. who you are, what you are, how you wish to be perceived, what moral code you follow.) You never really have faith, you are not ready to open yourself up to the teachings of others.  A person who walks through life putting up walls can never hear the whisperings from the next room. The more walls a person places in their wake, the harder it is to be reached and at some point that person can never be found.

Faith for me changed the day I met my wife. (I know sappy huh? but true) Many walls I had selfishly placed in my wake, life was turbulent to say the least and the only “faith” I held was that tomorrow sucked, the next day sucked even more and the only future for me was one filled with despair, anger, resentment and hate. Several incidents occurred during this period, challenging my belief system and leaving me with unanswered questions. My wife listened, believed me, then set to changing every negative in my life, helping me answer those questions (not overnight mind you) with persistence, love, an occasional angry moment with the former me (I know hard to believe huh?) and a never wavering faith in my ability to become a better person.

I have rewarded her by trying my best every day.

Today, my mission is simple. Have faith.  I use this term quite frequently and those who know me have heard it recited on more than one occasion.  Have faith! It really is that simple and I am not saying it to be pompous! HAVE FAITH!  If you believe in God then you know the answers are out there for YOU to discover and a general calmness will come over you.  Have Faith! Just because an answer isn’t immediately apparent doesn’t mean its not lurking close by waiting for you to accept faith, thusly removing your blinders to witness the options.

Every moment we live, leads to an alternate moment, which may affect someone else’s moment and like a pebble tossed in the water our ripples reach far and wide (stolen from my wife), Have faith those ripples are leading to bigger broader shores!

Our faith is based upon what we believe, who we are and how we live our lives.  I choose to believe in a better picture for all of mankind, brought forth with faith, love and prayer.

Having faith has allowed me to remain calm when things turn bad, believe and encourage when discouragement should rule the moment, and have love, true heartfelt love for my fellow man. This doesn’t mean I don’t have my days filled with negativity, anger and discouragement but in the end I always have faith at some point it will all turn around.

Jacy re-awakened my faith in God, her living example guided my stubborn narrow minded beliefs into enlightenment and openness for all. Today she stood in front of our congregation and spoke about our recent trip to Haiti! Watching her speak left me in awe of this amazing woman who I am lucky enough to be married too.

Participating on these last two mission trips are a direct result of my wife, her persistence and love for all mankind. These trips have changed my life forever, filled a void left in my soul and allowed me to see the world in a different light.

Mission work is not for everyone and at one point I too believed it was not for me. But because I answered the call in faith, I feel the need to tell all who will listen of its benefits both emotionally and spiritually.

So ask me a question about our trip, I will do my best to answer. If you see me strolling down the street stop me, lets talk.  Most of all remember I had faith God had my back while we did his work. I had faith our church was behind us all the way. I had faith my children would be safe back here at home and I had faith this story I am writing about our journey will reach someone, and change the way the feel about mission work, allowing them to have faith enough to go.

I will go on additional missions, for that I have faith we will succeed.

I have faith in God.

I have faith one day together we all will do great things.

I have faith my love for this woman, my wife is eternal.

I have faith……..Do you?

I love you Jacy… Thanks for being my best friend, partner, wife, mother to our crazy children and all around coolest human being I know….

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Merriam-Webster defines Faith as;

Definition of FAITH

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty

   b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions

2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion

   b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust

3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious       beliefs <the Protestant faith>

On faith

: Without question <took everything he said on faith>

 

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Do YOU know Brent Watney

Betty feels as though she can’t continue writing without having a little fun.

So I ask?

Do you know Brent Watney?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This little question became a running joke on day one of our journey to Haiti.  Starting in the airport where oddly enough it appeared as though random people recognized Mr. Brent Watney, the elder statesman of our group.  Walking through various terminal areas you could always find Brent talking with someone, waving at a stranger or just stopping for a second to say hello.  He is a very personable man who makes it apparent right from the beginning that life should not just be experienced but actually “lived”.

austinSo with a lead in like that I ask once again; do you know Brent Watney?

Here is what I learned along the way about this man we fondly referred to as our “International man of mystery”!

He has a wonderful way of placing an anecdote guaranteed to make you smile into any situation.

He loves sports and can discuss any sport in detail at any time with passion.

His brother is in the college coaching hall of fame!  (I know cool huh?)coach

While in college he realized that hitting thousands of golf balls to participate on a team was just not as much fun as playing on the weekend, drinking a few beers with your buddies. (I totally agree)

US Open Championship GolfBrent’s son is PGA pro golfer Nick Watney, whom he is incredibly proud of and loves very much!

Sterilizing medical equipment is dangerous business and should only be done by trained professionals wearing dishwashing gloves in 96 degree heat while standing on the landing of a staircase! Seriously it goes without saying!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Swimming over a green seaweed like material is not nearly as bad as walking through garbage left on a beach of pristine white sand.

When asked where he was swimming too after jumping from our dingy one afternoon he simply looked towards the open ocean and replied: the mainland’s that way yes? And continued to swim….

imagesCAVEUJCXWhen someone with broken English and a thick Creole accent points at you and says: James Bond? You simply smile and in your best Sean Connery respond: why yes? Then smile back sheepishly.

Or

When someone with broken English and a thick Creole accent points at you and says: James Bond? You don your best Daniel Craig imagesCA0CPEPCimitation; smile and rise slowly out of the ocean for all to cherish.

Knows how to pratfall for nothing more than the joyous giggles of Haitian children.

Enjoys a good book and an even better flashlight that will last through the tremors being attacked by thousands of bugs can bring!

Is the only man I have ever met who can walk away mid-sentence and IMG_2238leave you laughing because you have no idea what just transpired?

After rooming and working alongside this man for ten days, I found myself in awe of his personality, attitude and feelings towards life.

He is truly one of a kind and I thank him for allowing me the opportunity to make his acquaintance.

So I ask you, do you know Brent Watney?

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Proud to say that I do!

Children, can you hear me?

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Your thunder roared like chariot wheels. The world was made bright by lightning, and all the earth trembled. — Psalm 77:18

Laying upon my bunk last night, our world trembled, electricity flowed through the air with the power and majesty only lightning strikes can bring. Winds howled and water poured through every crack, separation and orifice surrounding us.  Feeling very small, humble and almost insignificant I am left pondering the meaning of this very moment.  We are entombed in a culture that knows very little in regards to social change.  We bring medicine and helping hands with a genuine hope of lifting spirits, providing assistance, and shining a light for a better future. But do these people really need our light to shine so brightly or is that just imposing a change they are neither willing to adopt nor ready to comprehend? As this storm looms overhead, cracking loudly and forcing my attention am I really listening to what it’s telling me or am I reduced to ignorance forced upon me from sheer exhaustion?

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.

Exodus 19:16 NIV

Is this our message? Are we like Moses translating a message from God? Is our purpose to spread Gods love through charity, education or both? No we do not stand atop Mount Sinai but we sit atop one of the highest points of this village. Does that mean something or am I delirious?  Just for the record I am in no way actually comparing us to Moses or God but are we not a voice in his absence? We are his children carrying forward, and spreading his word? Aren’t we?  If so why are there forces working against us? Why are we met with buffers at every turn and why would God allow what his happening to his people here on this small dot of landscape? I am challenged as I listen to the roll of thunder and crack of lightning. After a bit, quietly and slowly I tell God I am sorry, for peace needs to overtake my brain and in doing so I slowly place my ear buds in one side at a time, left ear, then right ear, asking forgiveness for not wanting to listen anymore then tapping the “Zen” music trapped inside my personal radio station.  Sleep comes quickly.

Once again our morning starts out fairly well. Gathering inside our little breakfast nook for prayer and a quick bite to eat, we pray for all inhabitants on this island, and the food we are about to consume. We also take a moment to pray for Madame Jackson as we know her recovery both mentally and physically will be a long road. I say a little prayer for Kristina, she isn’t eating any of the food out of fear, choosing instead to live on granola bars and water. She is also terrified of the shower, to which many jokes roll handily around the table at herOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA expense! She has a fantastic sense of humor. We begin reminiscing about the night’s torrential downpour and ensuing flooding.  The women apparently had rats running across the rafters of their bedrooms, and water pouring in through holes in the walls and ceiling. Rats are the sign of a sinking ship!  There is some humor in the thought of rats dropping poo bombs on people during the night, of course poo bombs are definitely better than waking up to a giant tarantula walking across your leg! Now before you start thinking this living arrangement is complete crap, and the least UMVIM could do is provide decentOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA housing for the mission teams, let me get a few things out in the open.

  1. It hardly rains here and they have cisterns placed all over the island to catch any rain water that falls from the sky.  The torrential downpour we witnessed only lasted a few hours and was an amazing event that we were privileged to witness!
  2. The buildings we are staying in where built by missionaries in the 1940-50’s.  They are seriously the “luxury” resort buildings of the island, so when a little water comes through you make due and know that 80,000 other island inhabitants are nowhere near as dry and comfortable as you are!

In the end, we are all lucky enough to have a roof over our head, a bed IMG_2145to rest upon and a floor to place our feet.  It’s more than some, less than others and if we need to move a few beds to keep a drip of water or two from falling on our faces well that’s just fine.

We open the clinic a little after eight as many are mopey and dragging from the aforementioned leaking roof and rats!  We are all surprised after yesterday’s rush there doesn’t appear to be as many patients waiting outside the clinic. Oh but wrong that assumption would prove to be! By nine we are in full swing and at ten the line is around the building with children playing in the courtyard.  On Monday afternoon we finished late, not by choice as is the case when treating patients, but because as with every day the sun through rotation of the earth is setting low over the horizon! Light was growing scarce. It was an awful feeling having to explain to those left in the waiting room they could not be seen until the following day.  As we started this morning I worried many of them may have suffered through the long stormy night with no cover or dry place to rest.  I worried they may have given up and gone home, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdeciding that a little pain for another six months was better than laying in wet sand under a tree.  I worry too much..

When the doors open every one of those tagged from the night before is there ready to go! A little rough around the edges were a few, but they survived and were thankful for the care.

Our day continues and I have to say the flow between us all is incredible. I feel as though we are just getting better and better as a functioning team.  I continue trying my hardest to look, listen, and learn anything and everything I can from Kristina and Gail.  I love learning new things! The opportunity to not only learn something new but to actually put it in practice is one I cannot pass up! There is no OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAother time I will ever get the chance to do otherwise and my personal goal quickly becomes progressing to where no one will need to ask me for anything, rather whatever is needed will instinctively already be in my hand.  I don’t quite get there, but I do give it the old college try!  Orson remains on his game with post operation, information and medication dispensing. One by one he OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAworks with the patients and an interpreter ensuring everyone knows how important taking the antibiotics are to their recovery.  Orson also has a vast knowledge of all the dental equipment which comes in handy on many occasions.  François is still lurking around every turn and whenever he is in the clinic, Ronald is his person of interest. They talk, point fingers and talk some more.  I wish I knew Creole so I could eavesdrop on their conversation.  I know that not right, but neither is the hinky feeling I get whenever François is around! Pastor Jackie has arrived on the island and everywhere he goes, children are bound to follow.  You can tell he is very much respected inside this community and pulls a lot of weight where ever he goes.  Heather and Preston are awesome with the children but soon enough the little ones or “ti moun” have run dry. Before long Preston is working by his mother’s side and Heather is working with Jacy.  Watching Preston, with Heather I am missing my oldest son Cody something awful and Preston unknowingly is filling a void with in my heart. Heather and I were on the same team last year and she worked alongside Cody quite a bit so the correlation is a little overpoweringOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. Taking a break, my dear friend Caz see’s my obvious mental duress and mentions if I go down to the dock and walk to the very end, possibly there might be a signal.  Rushing down towards the beach I am feeling an overwhelming need to reconnect with Cody and can’t wait to hear his voice.  I reach the end of the dock, hold out my phone and stare as if doing so will make it work that much faster! 2 minutes, 3 minutes, no bars! 4 minutes, 5 minutes no gosh darn bars! I am frustrated and missing my son, and now that I have sat here for a while the emotional door has opened and I am missing ALL my children.  Just one bar that’s all I need, just one! But no bars show on my phone and after 15 minutes of standing at the end of the dock like a lovelorn fool, I wander back to the clinic, shoulders slumped feeling low.  It’s hard making eye contact with anyone as I work my way back to the clinic, but upon arrival I pull myself together and walk back through the door with a smile on my face.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jacy, has been busy dealing with village leaders, Pastor Jackie and the “oddities” surrounding anything financial in regards to this mission! She has also gowned up and is working the medical side of the clinic with tIMG_2246he ferocity of a lion.  She has done more care and treatment of medical issues than any of us thought we would ever see.  These people have ear, nose and throat infections, untreated wounds and a variety of insect bites, infestations and burns. There is even a gunshot wound! It is fantastic to see my wife flourish in this role.  At one point a team member leans over to compliment the fact as both co-leader and husband to this extraordinary woman I never once intervened or pushed her aside to handle any EMS problems. This person is also impressed I have not intervened during some of theIMG_2244 more serious political issues in this mostly male dominated society.  Replying with a thank you, I remind them my wife is more than capable of taking care of herself, I consider her my best friend, and an equal walking alongside me in life.  If she needs me, she will come get me, and come get me she has when the time has arisen.  (Plus once you get to know my wife you realize their really is nothing she can’t handle.) At the end of the day Jacy, Heather and Alisa have treated malnourished, infected, emaciated and just down right sick, infants, toddlers and small children.  They sing to the little ones hoping to calm their fears, the little ones cry, some scream and all the while these three women keep singing, choking back tears, and their hearts breaking over the little lives before them.  The sound of “Summer Breeze” can be heard floating through the walls.  That song OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwill forever be etched in my mind with images of small hungry Haitian children.  Hungry because no one can feed them, thirsty because their parents are not associated with the “right” group or cannot pay the fee for a bucket of water.  Sick and covered with infections, screaming because cleaning out deep infested or infected, lacerations, burns, and scrapes hurts, it hurts real bad!

At the end of the day I have lost track on the number of patients seen, but we extracted 145 teeth! As I have mentioned on numerous occasions the medical side was inundated once again and one point Jacy came and got me because it looked as though a pregnant lady was in labor! With no O.B. supplies I grabbed a couple gowns, a water bottle for flushing teeth with a small end on it to use as suction,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA surgical stitches, forceps and a scalpel. It was the best I could do and I am positive it would have worked, but when I walked into the room I had some doubt this woman was in labor. There were no real contractions, and after a thorough patient assessment it was obvious this delivery was not going to happen!  No baby Haitian for me!  But in the end it was truly a fruitful day! After closing up shop (and yes numbers were handed out once again for returning patients) our group looked like the walking dead! It was a rough day on us all both mentally and physically, we were bloody hot and we begged our new friend Captain Jackson to take us out to the sand bar some 300 yards of the coast where the water looked like a swimming pool! He said yes he would and we all smiled.  Walking towards the dock, I inquired as to Madame Jackson’s progress.  He stated she was doing well, taking her medication and that she had slept most of the day.  He promised us to keep her on the medications then shook our hands thanking us for taking care of her! I felt the real thanks belonged to Kaiti and her team for making the journey to the hospital, but I guess looking at the whole picture it really was a group IMG_2226effort. Once on the dock, Jackson called for one of his crew who brought us a dingy, we all climbed aboard and slowly rolled out into the most beautiful ocean God has ever created.  The Haitians all looked at us as if we were crazy, not because we were swimming with our clothes still on, or that we had placed more people than humanly possible into a 14 foot dingy but because we climbed aboard still dressed in our scrubs! That’s right we went straight from pulling teeth and treating people to an ocean swim in our scrubs! It was fantastic and the perfect way to end a very hot and taxing day.

Arriving back to camp all of us went our separate ways eventually meeting back at the guest house for dinner. The cooks are becoming increasingly irritated with us because our group is never ready to eat right at 5! I feel bad for them because their night isn’t over until we finish and cleanup is complete.  Tomorrow being a new day and we have all agreed to close shop at 5, not just for the cooks but because Docs hand is already giving her some trouble. She has formed some very serious blisters across her fingers from holding tools while pulling teeth.  If we can’t find a way to support her digits they will only get worse! I know it would take cutting her fingers off for her to stop, but there is no reason she should suffer. On an additional note- Kristina is still not showering! She is terrified of the shower in theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA women’s guest house! Just because it’s made of concrete with decorative cinder block windows and it strangely resembles something from cell block C or the gas chamber at your local prison is no reason to be scared? Once you are inside its easy getting used to the dark corners filled with living creatures of various shapes and sizes! But putting all that aside this woman really does need to take a shower! Of course Kristina claims swimming in the ocean has cleansed her body and there is no need entering this Haitian Dachau, but we all know that’s not the case! Jacy offers up showering with Kristina for a sense of security and hopes she will take the bait but this does not materialize. On the upside the offer does bring a slew of jokes which leaves us all laughing for a while.

After dinner all of us are lounging on the steps of the guest house reminiscing about the day? Talking about our experiences is helping keep spirits high as many lows have developed thus far.  Alisa smells smoke coming through the window of her room and before long we are all aware of its presence. It’s coming from a charcoal kiln just to the northeast of the guest house.  Kristina becomes agitated as smoke starts bothering her lungs and before we can react to this predicament she begins having an asthma attack!  Gail jumps into high gear, retrieving medications Kristina may need while the group moves her down towards the beach in hopes that clear ocean air will open up her lungs. Pastor Jackie who is still on the island is reacting to thisIMG_2237 situation very quickly with a handful of young men who are moving all of Kristina’s belongings into the men’s guest house! The men’s guesthouse is far away from where smoke is blowing so this move becomes very important in the grand scheme of things.  Down at the beach Kristina remains surrounded by our team along with many Haitian children. They’re all worried about the doctor who is here to help them. Kristina’s breathing has slowly gotten better after a few breathing treatments, she is still a little scared and so are we! Surrounded by villagers all worried about her fate, she smiles and eases everyone’s mind.  Thankfully after a half an hour she feels well enough to return up the hill to her new housing arrangement. Thank the lord!

During the commotion, Caz, Richard and Ronald head over and speak with the owner of the charcoal pit, hoping they can convince this man to smother or extinguish his fire for the evening thus allowing Kristina charcoala night of breathing easier. Many Haitians earn money by making charcoal and this fire was no different than any other on the island, it just happens to be right outside Doc’s window. The owner proceeds to argue with all three men for a while eventually appearing to give in, allowing us to cover the vent holes subsequently “smothering” the fire.  But when Caz, Richard, Ronald, Orson and I show up an hour later to cover these vent holes, the owner becomes enraged arguing with all three interpreters! While disagreements rage on a light rain falls on and off complete with thunder and lightning!  I have to tell you there is something very exciting about shoveling Haitian soil in the middle of a lightning storm at 10 o’clock at night!

Ronald disappears then heads up the hill with an extra shovel for digging. With two shovels and a hoe in our possession we proceed tearing into the earth, scooping its fine black soil and throwing it onto the kilns holes.  After placing my last shovel of dirt into the kiln/charcoal stove, I walk over and ask Caz to introduce me to the owner. The arguing hasn’t ceased and I feel it’s time for me to step in.  After introductions are finished I explain to the owner that as co-leader of our team, I appreciate the generosity shown by allowing us to cover his stove.  He rolls his eyes, begins making hand gestures while rapidly speaking and relays to me (through the interpreter) his concerns over losing this batch of charcoal due to our covering it up.  Now being one that fully understands the burning process in conjunction with Richard explaining to me (as a former charcoal maker) the entire charcoal making process! I know he is not out any money as our procedure merely slows the process down. I also know in this man’s defense his finish date will be delayed a day or two, which is worth something for the inconvenience.  I allow him the opportunity to vent all his frustrations towards me through Caz and when he finishes, I have Caz explain to him that as a business man myself I fully understand the importance of finishing a product on time for shipment and payment. I also explain that although our mission team did not come with a lot of extra money if he was so compelled to arrive at a specific number that might offset his losses I would return to our mission team and ask for help in a form of reimbursement.  But before I would do any of that I needed for him to ask himself one question: what would God want him to do? Would God want him to allow us to slow this process down, saving our doctor from further asthma attacks and possibly saving the doctors life? The only doctor this island has seen in six months! Or would God want him taking money for a product not yet finished, nor really lost for that matter as what we’d done merely slowed the process and wasn’t ruining his product. As I looked dead into the man’s eyes while still holding his hand I asked once again; what would God want you to do?  He threw his head back, stared up at the night sky and quieted down. After thinking about it for a moment or two he leaned over to Caz and said he needed to speak with his partner and his partner wouldn’t be here until the next day. I shook his hand, said bless you and as he walked away I crossed my Fingers hoping tomorrow a little good old fashioned American guilt would rue the day.

Heading in for the night, I looked at my watch to see it was almost midnight! UHG! Damp from a combination of sweat and rain, feet black from soot, and a smile on my face I lay down and stare at the ceiling. For some reason I don’t feel like a 46 year old man, for some reason I lay here with the smile of a kid etched upon my face! I am mystified by the power of God! I have faith in all things happening for a reason, always have. Maybe the grumpy old charcoal tender was supposed to meet us tonight.  Maybe he has lost his way and needed a reminder of what God needs from him.  Compassion? Maybe I am really exhausted and reading way too much into this whole episode.  Or maybe just maybe I need to sit up, quit thinking so much and stare out the window and continue watching the most beautiful fireworks show known to man!

As I stare off into the distance watching the lightning I pray for the people we’ve treated, I pray for no more tragedies to surface, no more suffering and I pray for a peaceful reserve to fall amongst both teams.

In the morning I find my prayers have gone unanswered……

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Culture Shock

Children I would like to introduce you to Kaiti Rees.

Kaiti was on La Gonave, in the village of Source a Philipe for 30 days with her team sponsored by the Wesley Foundation. Kaiti along with other members of her team became invaluable during our mission and our entire team felt God placed us together in this community for a reason. We cherished every moment spent together, I personally am humbled by this womans service to others and was proud to know her, if even for a little while.

With that being said; when those of you ask why we seem glum since returning, when those of you dont understand that a few are sad or mopey from this experience please understand it is not because we didnt succeed, please understand it is not because it was a horrible experience, please take a moment to recognize during this time (and ours was short compared to others) the human spirit touched many of us in different ways. The human condition, remains etched in our brains, the tradgedy left behind will always be left to question. all we have when we return is the knowledge we completed our task, God guided our outcome and that we remain “faithful” in our beliefs.

This is an excerpt from Kaiti’s personal experience and I beleive it says word for word what many are feeling.

Last night I pulled the covers up over my legs. I was cold. When I woke up from a bad dream I turned the lights on as I checked the house for monsters.

I woke up in the morning to the sound of rain- no roosters or donkeys or dogs or creole commotion. I realized for the first time in a month I hadn’t watched the sun set. Over an ocean. A mountain, such beauty.

Last night at the restaurant the waitress asked me what I wanted to eat. It took half an hour to decide.

I took a shower this morning. It was hot. Too hot. When I got out I dried off and stayed dry.

I went to the bathroom and put the toilet paper in the bowl. I flushed even though I only peed.

I opened my closet to pick out some clothes. More than anyone needs. Why do I have all of these?

I need to go to the grocery store, even though my pantry is still full of food.

I walk to the door but change my mind. I don’t want to go outside. There will be no “bonjou”s or “ka-tee”s. There will be no little hands reaching for me.

And i can’t help but wonder if the girls or Franslaine have eaten today.

My fiancé pulls me in tight. Kisses me goodnight. I roll over and actually sleep. I know he’s here holding me. But I dream about Haiti and I dream about her. Baby born and died in a bucket, how many more?

I keep looking at pictures and don’t know which stories to tell. Everyone wants to see smiles, hear it went well. But there’s a pain behind my smiles and I don’t know how to cry. So glad to be home, but still wondering why.

I want to run and not stop for an hour. A day. A week. I want to scream and stay silent. I want to sleep with no dreams. I want others to know and understand these memories.
I look at Becky’s stomach. 4 months to go. How can I not be exited? How can I not be sad? The same stomach Madame Jackson had.

I’m typing a note on my phone in the shower. No boys carried this water to a barrel above. No one will care how long it runs. No one will see the tears washed away in the scum. The shower walls and floor are white. No dirty rag or stains of mud. No cinder block window to let in the wind or sun. There’s no lizards and crickets to share my space. No rush to get out. No agenda awaits.
Culture shock hits you when the rest catches up. Checking the time but you’re not sure why it wont go. Sit in front of a tv you don’t watch. Eat what you want but i doesn’t fill you back up. You’ve poured out more of your heart than you know. The getting it back. It’s hard and it’s slow.

But you don’t want It back, and there lies the beauty. You want it changed- and that takes getting used to.
So you sit and you pray as you turn off the shower. Turn off lights you don’t need to use anymore. Pick a simple t-shirt and jeans from the closet to wear. Walk out the door, forgetting to even do your hair.

Life will go on both here and there. A life that’s unequal. A life that’s unfair.”

Thank You Kaiti- God Bless you..

 

Perception

Well children, Betty is terrible at asking for help, but its time.
While chronicling our Haitian adventure, please remember mine is but one perception of events during our ten days abroad. There are 9 other views in regards to every moment of every day. Although I am doing my best using the 2 hours a night of notes I kept, I am positive there are situations and personal feelings I am missing. For that I apologize. There are those who will be forever changed by this adventure and to them as a returning missionary I say; Have faith.
So please dearies, enjoy, use your imagination and know that we ALL walked through this adventure with God by our side and love in our hearts.
More entries to come…..
Much love,
Betty…

If you build it, they will come and come and come…

 

dreams

Wonderful night of sleep thanks to a little white pharmaceutical friend stowed away in my back pack. Drifted into slumber with James Taylor crooning ever so softly. It felt good allowing my brain to wander away from the troubles we’d already seen. So many questions running through my mind, I can only imagine what my wife is thinking as team leader? Although, I probably shouldn’t put too much stock into what she’s thinking right before bed as my wife has an uncanny ability to pass out within seconds of placing her head upon a pillow. Sadly I envy this trait.
Our morning starts very well, with a strong cup of Haitian coffee and a room full of anxious people waiting to see what this day will bring. Our team was warned before leaving the guest house that we would IMG_2234become inundated with patients. (a truth) This warning is imposed because the last dental team was more than six months ago! SIX LONG MONTHS AGO! Imagine just for a moment that you live where no medical or dental care is available unless you walk 5 hours or wait 6 months for a Mission team to arrive. Are you pondering that probability? Yeah it’s just like that for us too.
Our group mulls over a breakfast of eggs bananas and peanut butter. Some are doing fine with the food provided while others can’t bring themselves to eat. Kristina has allergies to so many food products, I am worried she will accidentally become ill through cross contamination. This of course would be detrimental to her health as no rescue is available off the island, so all of us remain on high alert when it comes to our food! In conjunction with this fear we seem to have a slowly growing health concern in regards to intestinal issues! Either one member hasn’t pooped yet (3 days in) or the pooping just won’t stop! Very dangerous with self-hydration being so very important! Either way poop jokes are rampant and just like school children we are laughing to no end! Water is at a premium here and ours comes from within the town’s cistern, which if you were to peer inside would never leave you willingly drinking any of its contents. (Mosquito larvae, bugs and all) But after gathering the water by 5 gallon bucket, hauling it up to the guest house, the water is then run through a UV filter, afterwards it’s run through a standard filter and finally we pour it into filtered water bottles, so chances are very good our water is clean. Still, many of us are wondering who will get “the cholera” first!
After breakfast while making the short journey towards the clinic a line has already formed and it’s blatantly obvious we will be busy again today. Walking through the people, greeting them with a hearty Bon jour and a smile, many greet us in return. They all look a little OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAscared. I assume it’s just like being a kid heading to the dentist in America. Irrational fears are clogging their thoughts. All of us are working very hard at calming those fears. Once the doors are open for business the very same process takes place as did yesterday. Wesline (the nurse) and her sister Catia, with Richard and occasionally Jacy are triaging patients, tagging them on the shoulder with the obligatory name, age, blood pressure and IMG_2241complaint. Again Francois has arrived to oversee our little venture, leering around every corner, walking into any room he sees fit at any time. Whenever he shows up, an uneasy feeling takes over the room and anyone who is assisting us clams up. Francois is once again collecting money, he is also instructing Wesline to collect money as well, but Jacy goes into team leader mode and once again does her best to circumvent this system. At our stations chairs rapidly fill, one by one we ask patients which teeth bother them, can they identify those teeth by pointing directly at them, Melissa then numb the patient, and eventually Kristina and Gail pull the affected teeth. So many teeth are bloody, some are hard, a few break and almost all of have some form of tumor, cyst or infection filled with puss. There are teeth so covered in plaque you would believe an OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAadditional tooth was filling the voids. Other teeth are knarly and rotten, misshapen, with black gum disease and the smell is slightly overwhelming. We quickly learn of those who can and who cannot handle the sight of blood, this is a benefit as it allows for an easier transition during job vacancies. One by one, patients come in, sit down, lean back have their teeth pulled then one by one patients are given post operation instructions and slowly walk out the back door. By lunch time we are hot, sweaty and amazed at the resilience of the Haitian people.
Richard has grown on me, he is a quick study and incredibly enthusiastic about helping people. Before long we have him donning scrubs as he follows us around writing down every new word he hears. He has also become an invaluable asset in Jacy’s quest for answers. I am not 100% sure, but my guess is Richard is the one who helpedIMG_2231 break the ice with our nurses. It’s because of his direct and caring form of questioning that much light has been shed on this Source a Philipe medical clinic, its lack of contents along with inability to operate.
At lunch many of us are still wondering the outcome of our pregnant woman smuggled out of town quietly this morning. It weighs heavy on our minds as a little life lay in the balance. During lunch we learn she is in fact Captain Jackson’s wife! This information I wish I didn’t know. There is an old saying in my profession; “be personable but don’t make it personal”. It’s a simple statement that reminds us to always have a smile, for this moment is possibly the worst moment of someone else’s life. It is also a reminder; don’t get to know them personally, for that is when this job can no longer become bearable. It’s a hard creed to live by as caring human beings, but live by it you must or your personal life can become filled with mental anguish. So now here I am, or here we IMG_2239are worrying about Captain Jackson’s wife! We all really like Captain Jackson, his smile is infectious and you can tell he is really happy to have us here in Source a Philipe. Making matters even more personal, Captain Jackson’s daughter who is 4 at most 5 years old has taken a liking to Kristina! The feeling of course is mutual and the two spend a fair amount of time together outside our clinic! As she continues to come around the clinic we all fall in love with her for she is seriously the cutest darn thing you would ever lay your eyes upon! She is sweet, pretty, and tougher than nails IMG_2243this little Haitian girl! Later on in the week we will find out just how tough this little girl has been forced to become!
Inside the clinic our wheels become a little more fluid, smoother as the group is working well and patients are flowing inside. One problem-ok two problems have emerged. We can’t seem to keep an interpreter in front of a patient (they wander away mid operation) and the medical clinic (which we never really intended to run) is quickly being over-run. A few of the more serious patients have made their way into the dental clinic where I am able to break away and look at whatever medical issue needs addressing. After a quick assessment I simply walk into the pharmacy, grab the medications I need then come back to the dental chair and treat my patient. I get the stink eye a few times from those working the system, but really, who is going to stop me? I’d just look at them and smile, give a shrug of the shoulders and act stupid.
Later in the afternoon I begin to realize those with medical issues are no longer making it into the dental side. That is because Jacy has now become a general practitioner! (Yep we have all heard the stories about doctors who obtain their MD abroad because it’s easier-well its true!) Patients just keep coming with all kinds of issues and when Jacy tells Richard she feels unqualified to keep treating them, RichardIMG_2246 quickly responds with a terse; Jacy with your background and knowledge, in Haiti YOU ARE A DOCTOR! So Doctor Jacy is ordained and the clinic re-opens. Wesline, joins the two of them and single handedly they treat and release many people who are very thankful. The team has expanded and through God we are helping even more than we bargained for!
Our interpreter issue becomes more of a problem as there appears to be a conflict between Ricardo (The Wesley Groups interpreter) and Richard. Keeping a watchful eye on the situation there soon appears to be an identical issue between Ricardo and Ronald! What the hell! Not being able to speak a word of creole, body language alone is all that’s left for interpretation, I quickly determine that Ricardo doesn’t wish to be working in the clinic and he is venting frustration upon the other two interpreters. Others have noticed his frustration as well, due to the Haitian male’s way of verbally communicating. To put into perspective what people are witnessing one must first understand that Haitian men can be some of the most expressive human beings at arguing I have ever witnessed! Two Haitian men embroiled in a full blown argument make angry Italian women look as if they are playing patty cake! So the first assumption is always one of an impending fist fight! But then just as up feel like you have obtained ring side seats they are laughing and slapping hands! It is a very interesting social interaction to witness if you are into people watching. Which I am…
Taking a moment to come up with a game plan it becomes obvious Ricardo may need to also vent with me. In between patients I move over to his location, square up my shoulders and as the co-leader of the group inquire as to his semi hostile demeanor. He proceeds to explain that it is not his job to work in the clinic and he is upset one of the other interpreters has gone to town, (assisting Captain Jackson wife) leaving this void he is now filling. A 2-3 minute explanation of what, where and why proceeds and I continue letting him vent as long as he feels the need. Finally there is a small break for which I calmly place my hand on Ricardo’s shoulder and explain to him the truth; he is neither prepared nor left with any argument when I tell him;
Thank you so much for working with us today, all of us here in the clinic appreciate the extra time and effort it has taken for you to be with us, and even though you feel as if you don’t belong here, you do! Ricardo, we have all been watching you work, and all of us here need someone as compassionate, kind, and caring as you are for the patients. You never leave in the middle of an operation, you help with lighting and you actually make human contact by holding hands, listening and talking softly with a smile to each and every patient we have seen you with today. Please reconsider your feelings and stay. Remember you may not have chosen to be here today, but God has placed you here and for that we are thankful”
Ricardo smiles, lowers his head and says thank you. He is more than OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwilling to stay, and does so for the rest of the afternoon. By the end of the day we all want him to return and help us tomorrow. None of what I explained earlier to Ricardo was a lie, or exaggeration to keep him working alongside us because we were shorthanded. Ricardo is truly a compassionate human being who appeared as though he personally cared about each and every person he came in contact with, a quality you cannot teach someone. Ricardo is a big man with an even bigger heart.
Brent is kicking ass on sterilization! This man is a machine! Smiling joking and talking with anyone who stops by as he works. We fallIMG_2263 behind a few times and it becomes apparent hiring someone dedicated full time to keeping the fire lit and the charcoal full is imperative. But let me tell you, overall that man can hustle! Everyone is also feeling the heat! Kristina is soaked and keeping her hydrated is becoming a bit of a challenge. Alisa who has become our “den mom” has devised a short saying to remind us to drink. At any point and time ‘WATER BOMB”! Can be heard echoing through the compound. It’s at that moment we all stop and take a drink. Hydration truly becomes the key to this operations success. We can handle many other problems, but if one of us goes down due to heat stroke, exhaustion or dehydration there is no 500ml bags with I.V.’s to rehydrate us. So water management is the key.
Heather is looking a little red, but then I remember she looks that way all the time! (The whole red haired Irish thing) But at least she doesn’t IMG_2233have 6 inch round cankles like last year. She loves working with the children and it shows. Orson is holding up well, he is handling post-operation and cleaning trays. I still don’t have a read on how he feels about this trip yet, but I pray he finds what he came here for and the answer is fulfilling. Gail and I are both soaked in sweat! Gail is a hustler! Nothing slows her down! She is incredible with our patients! She hugs them, holds them, squeezes hands and is always smiling behind her mask! She has very caring eyes and the patients quickly pick up on her demeanor. Preston, the baby of the group, is working hard and I feel a change in this young man. I have only known him for a short time, but his demeanor is changing and you can see the personal growth happening. Working with these people of littleOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA means who care so much for each other is showing him another side of humanity. When this trip is over I feel he will reflect on this moment for a long time to come. Melissa is running at Mach 10, bouncing from patient to patient setting everything in motion for Kristina. Melissa cracks me up! When things begin to feel a little heavy, there are two people (other than my wife) I look towards, Melissa and Heather! Both with the same quick wit dry humor that leaves me belly laughing! This morning as we started I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlooked out the window and there to my surprise was a small pack of horses and burros! Melissa and I share a love of horses and we both raced down to see them like school children running for the bus stop! When we started petting them, the owners thought we were crazy! After being away from our horses it was cool just to touch them.
Hardly laid eyes on Jacy the rest of the day. Apparently Dr. Jacy saw almost as many patients in her medical clinic as we did on the dental side! She is a very caring person and emotionally I am worried about her as I know she will take any outcome (good or bad) personally. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARichard stood by her side all day as they held their emotions in check and worked their way through one patient after another. Many superficial wounds, insect bites and burns. At one point she held a little boy who was deaf due to chronic ear infections from birth. Children with colds, scabies and staph, it was all there and the two of them did their very best. We could hear children with some of the more severe issues crying as they were being treated. We looked into each other’s eyes over our face masks as it happened with sympathy. But when a child has the ability to recognize at such a young age this pain is temporary, the fix relieves the pain forever. It really makes you think, no child should be forced to recognize these things. It affects you personally after lancing an infected, puss filled boil, then having the same crying child thank you with the biggest best hug ever! Given time these highs and lows can make even theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA emotionally strongest weak.
It is breaking Jacy’s heart.
Closing up shop, we once again needed to turn some people away, we had already worked until almost dark. Those turned away were once again given a number allowing them to be first in the morning line. Many of them were crying as once again this group of people had traveled from a far to be here. It’s tough watching adults cry. It’s hard to think about your own personal meaningless problems when a 50 year old woman is in tears after walking five hours in the heat to see the “white doctors”, only to be turned away until the next morning. Jacy came in and advised us one gentlemen in particular was a school teacher who walked many hours to be here. He had a few bad teeth and needed to be home in the morning to teach his class. The two of them sat in the waiting room chatting, sharing stories about their classrooms and she even showed him pictures of her students back home. Two human beings sharing a common bond formed from a love of teaching. We couldn’t turn him away for the night so while Jacy did her best pacifying those left behind, I walked the teacher from the building and smuggled him through a side door. He was our last patient of the day, Kristina made sure he would be in good shape for his children in the morning. The school teacher was very grateful and thanked us all the way out theIMG_2235 door. Gathering up our belongings and locking up the clinic, we receive word Captain Jackson’s wife has returned. She has delivered a stillborn baby, her uterus holds a very severe infection and she would have perished in days if not for our two teams. We are all sad for Captain Jackson and his family, many tears are shed between the two groups, but we must remind ourselves she is alive. Alive to raise her other children and still be here as Captain Jacksons wife. For that we thank God she will live.
By the end of the day, over 60 patients walk through our doors, 110 teeth are pulled and countless others are seen over on the medical side of the building. It is exhausting, it is thrilling, it is unnerving, and it is a gift from God. Some don’t see the pain, frustration, exhaustion, hunger, and sadness along with a myriad of other emotions and struggles we all experienced on our first day as a “gift from God”. But I do, for you see without struggle, we can never grow into the human beings God wants us to be. He puts it out there for us to experience, we just need to have faith that it’s right, in the end.
As I write this a monsoon (an exaggeration) complete with thunder and lighting is blowing overhead, it sounds like the world is about to fall in on our heads. In my life I have seen some severe storms, but I have to say this rain is one of a kind! Imagine the loudest thunder ever, the, most comfortable wind rushing over your body while standing under Niagara Falls! It is awesome.
Richard just rushed into our guest house to check on us and make sure we weren’t flooding. He is laughing heartily, when I enquired to his giggling he says the girls are flooding and it’s funny! I ask if they need any help, he says no, it’s just funny watching them react to the rain!
I love the sound of rain.

Sleep will come easy tonight.

moon

 

A time for healing?

goat

Haiti is Haiti! What do I mean by that statement? Well you can be on the mainland associated with the Dominican Republic or on an island the locals have aptly named “forgotten Island”. Haiti is still Haiti. This place is incredibly beautiful, amazingly loved by its people, adorned with symbols of God, faith and trust. It is also extremely loud! New York may be named the city that never sleeps but Haiti is the country that never sleeps. On the mainland everything is connected by streets, side streets, corner alleys and of the course the main highway. So no matter where you are day or night a reverberating ring of car horns, and loud vehicles never goes away. On Source a Philipe the small fishing village on the island of La Gonave there is only one vehicle so traffic noise is not an issue. But there is instead 100 or more goats, gridlocked by a packs of dogs, while burro’s and chickens wander aimlessly through traffic unaware of whether its day or night. Animal noise (especially for this country boy) really shouldn’t be an issue but at midnight a couple of goats baying outside your window for hours on end, can have a tendency to make someone a little cranky.
Oh by the way have I mentioned the weather yet? It’s the only place I know that heats up after the sun goes down! It doesn’t really, but it sure feels that way with the cinder block rooms of our guest house radiating the day’s heat while no breeze is moving through our building at all. I liken it to living inside a pizza oven. What the Hell!
Ok enough bitching…
Bleary eyed and tired I wander aimlessly around my room feeling as though I am ready to go home. This of course was a purely selfish thought and not surprisingly the exact same thought I held last year after the first night on the job site! Shuffling slowly up to breakfast feeling neither hungry nor willing to try and eat. My only goal was to put on a smile for everyone else, giving them some comfort in case they too had a bad night. My wife was awake, bright and smiling, a breath of fresh air to my dreary morning. We chatted about her IMG_2111presentation, cracked jokes with Alisa, Heather and Melissa about what may or may not have landed on someone’s face last night! A nice morning prayer some breakfast and idle conversation brought us all right up to dressing for church. Meeting back at the guest house we all did our very best to look appropriate for a Sunday tradition.
As doc, Gail and I talked about the clinic, Jacy was just inside the guest house reading her notes. Brent was keeping everyone else in stitches when we suddenly realized it was after nine and we were late for church! The strangest thing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAoccurred to me while walking towards this little church on a hill. I don’t see anyone walking this way, not one soul looking to head towards church! We were late and we all should have seen someone, anyone walking into church! There had to be at least a couple hundred in this village and last year in Leveque the town’s people came from everywhere ten minutes early for church! So where was everyone?
Making my way up the steep staircase with our group, I am thinking; well, maybe I just didn’t see anyone because I was busy talking. Slipping through the white and blue doors there appeared to be hardly a soul inside. A very small handful of handsomely dressed children, a half a dozen adults and a group of students from next door. Where is the town? Where are her people? Why does this feel so strange? When Doc asked where everyone was she was quietly told they were all coming! She was told they would be here because they were coming to see us! Almost as if they had been ordered too? More, strange, curious feelings arise.
Around 9:30, ten or so more adults arrive but this church should have been teaming with parishioners. The pastor allows many of his flock to speak, and read scripture from the bible. These people are humble, honest and a blessing. The pastor spends time placing children up front calling them the future of the church and having them proclaim their importance to the community. This also was cute but seemed odd or staged. The children are embarrassed the way any child would be when placed in front of a crowd. But they do a nice job and are cute. The pastor takes a moment to thank us for coming to his small community and lets us know the word of our arrival has been spread throughout all congregations on the island. This was very good news as we hoped to see as many patients as possible during our week long stay. He then calls upon my wife to come up and speak, Caz joins her IMG_2104for translation as they teak their positions in front of the congregation. Caz smiled as he rose and a quick glimpse was had between myself, Caz and Jacy as he recalled the promise made in regards to translating exactly word for word how Jacy delivers this sermon. You see earlier during a bought of storytelling Caz was reminded about a scripture reading that took place the last time they were together two years ago. Their second translator trapped between a rock and a hard place started making stuff up because the speaker from Jacys team was insensitive with comments during his reading. Caz thought no one knew about the altered translation but him, what he didn’t know at the time was Jacy spoke French and understood some of what the translator was saying. This brought a hearty round of chuckles as they imitated the reworked translations with statements like: Oh lord in heaven, this group of missionaries have humbly come before you, bringing Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for everyone on the island! PRAISE JESUS AMEN!!!!
Caz promised no matter what, he wouldn’t change the words, but OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhen Jacy started speaking he broke stride for just a moment and smiled. I knew why he smiled and I quietly chuckled.
Jacy’s sermon was brilliant! It was moving, meaningful and came from the heart. I was so very proud of her and a tear formed while watching this woman I care so deeply for shine in front of this group of fellow Methodists. She stepped down from the pulpit with a smile like no other, sat next to me and held my hand. (She is my everything, and we always feel closer to one another in church. Even if that church happens to be thousands of miles from home). The pastor spoke a few more times and an offering plate was brought forward. This offering plate slowly made its way around and as a bead of sweat rolled down my back I turned towards the associate pastor (Francois) and began apologizing as I (the treasurer for the trip) had been so focused on not being late the offering had been in fact forgotten. Francois smiled, then quickly ducked out the side door and made his way onto the pulpit through an additional side door. Leaning into the pastor’s ear to whisper, I quickly note the pastor staring at me intently while they speak. I didn’t make much of this uncomfortable moment at the time, but it was uncomfortable none the less and later on in the week it would make perfect sense as we (Jacy and I) began to learn the inner workings of Source a Philipe.
Church lets out and we are warmly met by a handful of members from within the community. As with last year after church it is so amazing how easily love for one another is shared without being able to speak a word of the same language. The Haitian people are absolutely wonderful. Their sense of community is like that of the early 1900’s and is a pure joy to be around. I love them all.
Heading off to change from our church clothing and grab some lunch, we are close to opening the clinic. Jacy and I had spoken to several key members of the community and although Sunday is strongly OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAconsidered a day of rest for all Haitians, they readily agreed that opening up the clinic even for the afternoon was a good idea. We throw on our scrubs, unlock the doors and set into our prescribed positions, hoping this half day will help work out any kinks so our team may become more efficient as the week goes on. With people traveling from afar to visit us over the week, the quicker we can get them through the better. Kristina is excited to get started and her excitement translates to us all! The pastor during this morning’s sermon equated our being here to Jesus having been born in Bethlehem, ( a stretch but hey, when in Haiti) people would come from far and wide just to lay eyes upon the doctor and her staff. It was humbling to say the least. We start the ball rolling by cleaning our interpreters teeth just to get a rhythm going and before long we have a line developing around the building! Everyone wants to see us and we quickly learn that “Cleaning” in a Haitians mind meant “filling”. We are here to pull teeth, as our situation is so primitive no other options are plausible. Kristinas son Preston is to handle all children comingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA through the clinic, check their teeth, show them how to brush and floss then send the ones with dental needs our direction. Heather was alongside him and they were housed in a room alongside the pharmacy. As the line grew I took a moment to get a feel for these people outside, since we arrived there really hasnt been a chance to do so and I thought it would be nice to share a Bonswa and a smile. Wandering around the outside of the building I take notice of the children playing on a patch of dirt adjacent to the clinic. These were some of the very same children that met us as we stepped from the boat, their friends, brothers, sisters, they were all there, happy and playing and very, very, thin. I mean sickly thin, some look gaunt. My heart is breaking at the sight of these little people so thin and frail looking. Is it a lack of food? A lack of water? Or all of the above? Questions start forming as my mind begins pondering their situation. Patting many on the head and trying my best to speak with a few who ask my name, I slowly break away and head inside. It’s time to start, time to get this show on the road.
Finding the whole dental process quite interesting Kristina (doc) places me with Gail assisting! I realize I am really enjoying all aspects of her work! Gail and Kristina start showing me the instruments and I quickly start teaching myself other tools and products needed so I can be of more help. Patient after patient, extraction after extraction, one OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtooth here, six teeth there, and every one of these people are fairly thankful when its over to have rotten, broken and in some cases fully abscessed teeth removed. I also learn their teeth have longer roots than most and a jawline which is incredibly strong. During the afternoon I also partake in some basic BLS care of sick and injured patients. It was nice treating people who truly needed the assistance and were very thankful for the care when you were done. Jacy bounced from place to place, helping Orson with post-op, cleaning trays, ensuring the line was being taken care of, and always bringing a smile to the Haitian people.
After a little while the flow was moving fairly well when while taking a break, Jacy walks up and whispers Francois has an envelope and is charging people for our care! This of course could not be happening as we raised all the money to be here providing FREE dental care to this villages inhabitants! But it was happening! We can’t let Kristina know as it could ruin her ability to keep going so Jacy took to dealing with OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe issue and I resumed keeping Kristina in the dark. My wife and I work well as a team and she was doing an awesome job as the team’s leader. Jacy gathers a phone and contacts Pastor Jackie directly who informs her that no clinic is free! The goal for Source a Philipe is to have a permanent clinic fully staffed for the people. If they receive free health care and don’t become accustomed to paying for it, then they will never come in when the clinic is opened. To some extent this makes perfect sense as the charge is nominal. But WE still brought all the supplies, we are providing the care and someone is profiting off this little dichotomy. Through conversation Jacy brings to pastor Jackie’s attention this fee is different depending on who you are. Does this mean social status health care? In a little fishing village out in the middle of nowhere! Social status health care! Really! Pastor Jackie is miffed and short with Jacy for questioning this way of doing business, so she takes it a step farther by asking the children not be charged. He doesn’t seem to like this proposal either but agrees if they have no money to pay they will still be seen by the doctor. Jacy comes back and tells me about the phone call, I am furious, and really have no words for the information I am now privy too. No one can know for now, we agree to keep it quiet and she works hard on creating an amiable solution to this strange turn of events.
All of us are back at our stations working when Jacy comes to get myself and Kristina to look at a young woman whose tooth we pulled earlier in the day. She is pregnant and made very clear to us her worry for the baby during the tooth extraction. Her blood pressure was good and she fell within acceptable parameters for oral care. Her tooth OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcame out and she went on her way. Now back she is seeking help in regards to her baby. It seems earlier she was afraid to talk with us but now after the extraction she trusts Jacy enough to ask her some questions in regards to her baby. She is having pain, lower left quadrant, she hasn’t felt the baby move for roughly 15 days and she states her belly is shrinking. I grab a stethoscope, palpate her belly and listen to all four quadrants. I start with listening to where I know the baby should be, hoping for a heartbeat, some movement, something, anything. I hear nothing. After covering all four quadrants the only applicable noise I hear is some grumblings coming from this woman’s stomach. No gas sounds, no bowel sounds at all, no baby. Doc comes in and examines her as well, many theories are tossed around, but in the end she needs to go to a hospital. Not an easy task. I walk by Jacy heading back into the dental room, lean in and tell her I hear nothing, there is nothing there, and the baby is most likely dead. Jacy responds by reminding me with lower left quadrant pain and belly shrinkage she believes the baby is dead as well and she probably has an infection. 15 days is a long time, this is not good. We can’t send her home, we can’t just take her to the hospital as in this impoverished area everyone will hear of the “free ride” and flock to our door, possibly causing a riot. We talk about waiting until Thursday and smuggling her out with us, but that’s just too long, she could die.
During devotionals the Wesley Foundation team headed up by their leader Katie, make the call. This woman is going to the hospital and imagesCAJGGNREshe is going tomorrow morning! I assume these kids are least likely to be noticed as after almost thirty days of building and fixing everything they can lay their hands upon they come and go as they please throughout the area. Katie, Jacy and Graham quietly devise a plan. In the morning Katie and Graham smuggle this young woman out first thing without any problems, taking her by truck to a hospital over two hours away. God bless them and the courage they show by doing the right thing.
Back in the clinic poor Brent is having a hard time keeping the charcoal fire lit for sterilization. Oh did I forget to mention we are sterilizing tools over a fire in a pot filled with filtered water? Yep old school all the way! This man Brent is absolutely amazing with his cheery attitude and can do spirit! We are blessed to have him as part of our team. The locals all want their pictures taken with him as we have notified them he is famous. Our group is just having too much fun carrying on the folly that is the man of mystery! So we told the locals he was indeed the famous actor Daniel Craig! That’s right citizens of Source a Philipe those clean tools in your mouth were sterilized by none other than 007 himself! They bought into the hype and we had fun at Brent’s expense. But secretly I think Brent was having more fun at our expense!
At the end of the day we saw a little over 30 patients in 5 hours’ time. It was exhausting and incredibly fulfilling at the same time. I personally witnessed our team come together and form a bond. We have four more days of treating folks from far and wide, but I definitely feel as though it will be a time for healing like no other in this little corner of the world.
On a side note, as I type this I am sitting on a concrete ledge, under a banana tree, in a place with no electricity. Close your eyes and wonder for just a moment how big and beautiful the sky above me must be. You got that picture in your head? Now magnify it by 10.

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The Rooster has crowed

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0600- Last night during orientation someone in our group asked Sarah if an alarm clock was needed to wake up on time this morning, to which Sarah replied with a sly southern smile; just listen for the rooster! Well 4:45 am Mr. Rooster took to crowing and let me tell you that is one cock who knows his job! Our group slowly gathered downstairs for breakfast bleary eyed and not so bushy tailed, yet spirits remain high as the thought of coming closer to our final destination loomed near. A quick breakfast of bananas, toast and Haitian coffee helped to upright our balance, preparing us for a two hour car ride then four hour boat ride over to the island of La Gonave. On a personal note, Haitian coffee is the best damn coffee on the face coffeeof the planet! Starbucks, PEETS, and all you other half cracked coffee hacks can bow down and kiss the Haitians bums because your roasted beans are no match for the superior flavor of Haitian coffee! MMMMMMmmm sipping some right now…. Oh yeah where was I? Our main interpreter Richard arrived and was introduced to the team. I don’t have a read on him yet, he appears friendly enough but to be honest he comes off as a bit curt and rigid. I am sure that comes with meeting 10 people you don’t know but will soon be living and working with for a week. I hope he adapts quickly because with our groups dynamic personalities we are not for the rigid!IMG_2173

The team loaded up, waved goodbye to our hosts, and headed out (once again through the UNLOCKED, UNGAURDED gate of the guest house-so promising). Moving through the streets I tried several times to strike up conversation with our driver, he was very friendly but his English was lacking, or should I say my Creole sucked. Always one for good humorous conversation it seemed as though this trip would hold no such luck, although somewhere mid trip our driver did locate a radio station playing Haitian/English Rap and let’s just say some of the music’s lyrics involved various parts of the female anatomy being used in various ways that well, just created a serious run of the giggles for those who could hear it!
Honking, braking hard, weaving in and out of traffic, it became clear that some things in Haiti would never change. The Haitian driving OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAstyle is terrifying to most foreigners, it was terrifying to me the very first time I rode through the streets of Haiti. But who am I to judge, it works for them. In America we use the horn to say: Hey asshole get out of my way, or you idiot, you almost hit me! Or Hey buddy I am telling you I think you are number one! Look over here, look over here at my waving “number one” symbol!!!! In Haiti they use the horn to say; hey buddy I need to come around! Then the driver in front will honk his horn in return as a symbol he understands and you may pass. It’s an interesting system devised of horn honking with a series of hand signals combining rapid acceleration and flat to the floor speed. It’s like NASCAR with horns and vans and Tap-Taps and Mack trucks and Water trucks and oxen with carts and-oh well you get the point!

In the town of Carrefour we were to pick up our second interpreter Caz. Now Caz was an interpreter on Jacy’s first mission and through OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsheer luck became the interpreter on my first mission. Caz feels like family, he is warm and caring, has the tact of a politician in touchy situations with the caring hand of a pastor. He loves his country, and believes in the resilience of the Haitian people to stand up and overcome all forms of adversity. When I left him last year within minutes I was missing my new found friend. I have kept in contact with Caz over the year and my heart is pounding at the thought of reconnecting with this dear man. In the distance we see the truck holding our supplies parked on the side of the road, pulling up we also see the driver has in fact picked up Caz. We roll by slowly and everyone waves, Caz is on the phone and gives a gentle wave out the window that is until he sees my child like pie eyed face beaming back at him! He jumps forward and waves excitedly as he realizes who is waving! Little does he know there are two more of his old friends wedged in the back anxiously waiting to give him a giant hug as well!
Continuing along the western coastline from Port au Prince, signs of recovery are everywhere! Sidewalks cleared, repaired and clean with OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAresidents sweeping them as we pass by. Traffic, short of the normal craziness that is driving in Haiti is moving unimpeded. For those of us returning to this area once again it is a sight to behold. There are parts of this island that astound you with the level of destruction still remaining. There are other areas teaming with recovery efforts, and there are parts of this country that leave you feeling as though the recovery process is almost complete with gleaming buildings, painted or reworked walls and fencing along with courtyards brimming with banana plants and foliage! As we climbed into the mountains my breath was taken away by the sheer beauty IMG_2076surrounding this magnificent place! Plantations built into the mountain sides, lush green rolling hills and corn growing on any free space available. Rolling over our last hill before the drop into Petit-Goave, our final destination, I am wishing I had seen this place before the earthquake to know what it looked like prior. One can have a sense but unless you have lived in that time frame you will never truly know and I wanted IMG_2073to know. Pulling down a small narrow cobblestone street we stop next to a courtyard and are directed to get out for we’d arrived! Jumping out of the van Caz and I take one look at each other and start laughing as we give each other a great big hug! Quickly he spies Jacy and Heather making the reunion complete! He is overflowing with joy at the sight of our smiling faces as we are overjoyed at the sight of his as well! We all soon find ourselves unloading luggage from the truck, then shuttling it through a courtyard to a small slab of concrete and dirt where a small skiff is waiting to take us out to the larger boat. Once our luggage is loaded the skiff maneuvers carefully off shore where our sailboat awaits its arrival. Yep I said it, SAILBOAT! Wind driven voyager of the seas, a trusted form of transportation since the dawn of time! From the first moment some knuckle dragger looked into a hollow stumpOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA, threw the stump into the water and thought; ugh I float in that, it take me far! Wait! If me put up large palm leaf, me harness wind and go farther! Yep the trusty old (an in this case I mean really old) sail boat! Capt. Jack Sparrow himself walking the port side couldn’t have made this day any better!
While our luggage is being hauled off to the boat Jacy and I meet with Pastor Jackie. Pastor Jackie runs this region for the Methodist church and is our point man for this portion of the journey. He is in his thirties, good looking and very likeable. We know from our briefingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA that he holds much respect in the community of Source a Philipe and is considered the future of the church. We move into a back room of the church alongside the courtyard where our crew currently waits to load into the skiff for a ride to the boat. Once inside we start to discuss expenses, there is $600 for the boat ride to and from the mainland. There is also a $50 a night fee per person for staying on the island. Then there is the associated costs of extra interpreters and such. Some of the costs are confusing to me due to various rates and needs. But we settle up and on the way out I feel even more confused by the whole process. Little did I know that confusion would grow stronger as the week wore on? Pastor Jackie stayed to see us off, letting us know he would be at the island on Monday to check in on our progress.
After a few more short journeys in the skiff shuttling people the last person climbs aboard, our crew pulls anchor and we set sail to the north for what turned out to be one of the most beautifully serene and calm boat rides I have ever experienced. The water is a color blue that not even I could explain and do it justice. The sky has billowing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACaribbean clouds floating lazily overhead and the breeze is warm and damp. I am in heaven. The boat rocks gently back and forth, up and down and every now then a little water would splash up and get my dangling legs. A few of our members needed to crawl out of the sun and a few more unfortunately were dealing with motion sickness. But I was laid back, legs hanging like bait over the sides, hat over my face half sleeping, half hoping this day would OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnever end. My wife is in her element as well. Sun hat on, sunscreen slathered, that inviting, warm smile of hers lighting up the deck as she spoke of Haiti and how much she loved this county. She ended up in a conversation with one of our interpreters Richard. Richard told a story of his mother passing away, living with missionaries, being educated in the finest schools only to have no money to go to college. Watching painfully as his friends went off and became doctors and engineers while he stayed home and drove a Tap-Tap (multi-person taxi). It was humiliating! To make matters worseOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA his family and friends all made fun of him for not being able to figure out how to get himself through college. He has since gone to college and he holds two Visa’s allowing him to travel in and out of the United States. He tells of others who have obtained the very same visa’s only to never return to their home country of Haiti. Richard states every time he goes he feels the need to come home, for you see no matter how educated he becomes he only sees his people, the people he cares for and wishes to help. The people of his home country, the people of Haiti. I am starting to like him.
After 4 or so hours of sailing across a magnificent sea in calm weather with nothing more than some heat stroke and nausea we slip over a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAreef into 4 feet of crystal clear water to arrive at the small fishing village of Source a Philipe. Once the anchors set another small skiff emerges from the shoreline to start an arduous journey of bringing us to shore then gather all of our baggage. My initial perception of this place is that of amazement! Source a Philipe should be on the cover of a vacation magazine! Yes the beach is littered with run down shacks, and the streets are not really streets anymore but run down pathways filled with cobblestone. But it doesn’t matter, it has beauty in its own strange way. There is IMG_2097garbage lining the sand and even more as you walk around, normal for this culture, shocking to us clean freaks and easily fixable with about a weeks’ worth of work. We are greeted by many townsfolk upon our arrival. As introductions are given we meet François. (duh da dunnnnn- villain music inserted here) François introduces himself as an associate pastor and the general contact for all things involving the community. If we need something we are to ask him for it, if payment to anyone needs made it goes through François, the self-described “Liaison” was there for our group at anywhere, anytime. François wanted nothing more than our happiness during this stay in Source a Philipe. Now don’t get me wrong, it all seemed friendly enough at the time, but Jacy and I both looked at each other and after 11 years of marriage no words needed to be exchanged. Something OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdidn’t feel right. François walked us up the hill towards a guest house where our belongings were to be delivered by the local youth. Standing on the steps the clinic is quickly spotted a few yards away and a few of us wander over, curious about what lay behind its walls. Francois follows opening the doors where we quickly discover three empty rooms, with the exception of one reclining chair and a couple of benches this is going to take a bit of creativity. Our sleeves quickly become rolled up and as medical OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbaggage arrives within a matter of a few hours we have transformed these three empty rooms into a room for dentistry, a room for education and a room for minor medical issues. We have added two more rocking chairs for patients, and a few more tables for supplies. It’s OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnot perfect, but it will do! During this time we also meet up with a band of college students from the Wesley Foundation who have been OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAliving on the island for the last month! They have fixed a cistern, some water lines and built a cinder block latrine! They are young and in good spirits, they seem to be a fairly tight knit group and are very happy to see us.
IMG_2147After setting up the clinic and meeting our new friends we all gather again (new friends too) and decide it is time for a swim. The boats captain- (Captain Jackson) offers to take us out off shore near the reef where you can stand in four foot of water, gathering starfish and sea cucumbers (also fondly known as “Kaka nan lanme a” or poop in the sea- a joke we will further discuss later) . We all make our way down the newly built dock and into our trusty skiff, laughing and joking with our new found friends. Three hundred or so yards out he stops the IMG_2125 boat and lets us know we can now get in the water! First person off is always the hardest as you upset the balance of a little skiff so when Doc rolled out into the water all heck broke loose as the skiff rocked hard from side to side! All of us laughed and joked like school children as one by one we plopped our tired, sweaty bodies into the ocean. It was fantastic! We swam as a group, we laughed as a group and we played as a group. The water was perfect and so was the swim. The OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwater is like swimming pool water, so crystal clear you can see to the bottom and the temperature is perfect! Ally came up with starfish and sea urchins, Orson found plenty of Kaka nan lanme a, to which we all chuckled! How could an animal of the sea look so much like a giant poop? Oh well questions that will never be answered.
After our swim while walking back from the beach we strike up conversation with a few from the other group and one in particular “Ally” seems to have the low down on the village! (sounds like a future alliance) Everywhere she goes children can be heard screaming her name; AAAALLLLLEEEEYYYYYYY!!!!! It’s hysterical! Reminds me of another mission trip where all you could hear through the village wasOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA children screaming MMMMAAAAAAGGGGGIIIIEEEE! (Maggie) Another young woman who had her finger on the pulse of a village through the children. Alley walks us around, giving us the grand tour explaining where everything is at, who is who and what is what. You can tell her time here has been very fulfilling as she speaks with kindness, love and generosity about these people. She breaks away after a while telling us she will meet up with us later and off she heads into the groups accommodations. It is nice knowing there is another group here to lean upon.
We finished the day off with showers and another wonderful Haitian dinner. François came back around and through conversation I met OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAour third interpreter “Ronald”. Ronald would be provided for us by the Haitian Methodist Church. We had not planned on a third interpreter but Ronald was very nice and quickly adapted to our group. Francois informed us of a 9am church service that we had already planned on attending. François thought it would be nice if one of us could speak as there was no pastor amongst us. My wife offers to speak, thank goodness because if anyone can pull it off she can! She continues to amaze me at every turn. Not because I ever think she “can’t” do something, but because over the almost 11 years we have been married she does any task better and better every time with grace and charm.

The women’s dorm is located inside the main guest house and the men’s is located on the other side of the Wesley Foundations (college kids) house. An interpreter is housed in each and we both had hired security. We all gathered and chatted for a while but one by one the day seemed to wear on everyone and we all sort of drifted off to our respective place. Saying goodnight to my wife, she was working very hard on her presentation for church the following morning. I read what she had prepared, it was powerful, to the point and moving.
Heather, Alisa and Mellissa were bunked up in one room, Kristina, Gail and Jacy were in the other. It was girls’ summer camp at its finest! (Let your imagination go wild). Orson, Preston, Brent and I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsaid our final goodnights and wandered off to our little corner of the world. Orson and Preston in one room, Brent and myself in another. I felt kind of special being roomed with the international man of mystery. It turned out to be one of my better decisions during the trip as evening conversations with this man were fantastic. I will always remember the time spent with our own Brent Watney.
Clinic set up, accommodations taken care of, dinner devoured, showers finished, goodnights all the way around, now for a little me time. Head phones on, sweat running off my legs, bugs swirling around my face and some Miles Davis. Just what the doctor ordered.
Tomorrow is a new day and only God knows what’s in store for this team and I trust he has given us a task that we can handle.

(Please dear readers be patient as Betty is trying her very best to tell this story, I am trying hard to paint a picture from my perspective and it is taking quite a bit of rewrite from my notes. I am terribly afraid I am missing key parts, hopefully as I continue through my emotions the story will come easier and quicker)

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A journey begins

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Thursday June 6th 4pm- Jacy and I arrive at church where Pastor Kathy hands us our traveling funds, afterwards we move very quickly to the dentist office where everyone is anxiously waiting to go! Excitement is high, some have nerves jittering away but all are ready to get this mission trip underway.

Our group developed laminated cards for placement on our luggage to more easily count and identify these 22 bags throughout the trip. These laminated cards are bright yellow and create a bit of visibility in a sea of American Touristers, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmaking ours easily recoverable while rotating around the turnstile at baggage claims. Tags and zippers zip tied in place, money obtained, smiling faces and photographs taken in front of Kristina’s Tea Room/Dentist office, and it’s time to load up and depart. More hugs, a hands shake here and there, along with one heavenly prayer delivered from our pastor. Everyone chips in as bags are tossed into our vans and just like that hallelujah we were off!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Heading out of town Kristina was rolling through her mental list of supplies, it was then she quickly realized some very important instruments had been forgotten. We quickly grabbed the first exit, turned back towards town and notified the lead van of our intentions. With the lead van continuing on, one of Kristina’s employees met us at the first off-ramp into town for a hand off of Olympic proportion! We now had tools in hand, anxiety squashed and were headed in the right direction!

The ride into the city was relatively uneventful until we approached the bay bridge, then all of that changed! Kristina received a phone call that Ruben (Alisa’s husband) was broken down on the side of the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfreeway in the lead van. We were given the exit name and luckily we were within a mile of their location. The van was located on the shoulder of an off ramp and pulling in behind them a tow truck was already present. It appeared as though the vans radiator had split, leaving no water for cooling. Alisa arranged a tow back to Dixon as the state funded tow company would only accept AAA. As I surveyed the damage many alternatives were being thrown about and you could sense frustration building as the thought of possibly missing our flight was more than anyone wanted to deal with. While examining our surroundings it dawned on me that I knew exactly where we were, and without hesitation my phone was abuzz as I reached out to someone who may have been able to help!

My sister lives only an exit away!

The phone rang only twice and with a hearty hello, my sister was on the other end of the line. I asked where she was and amazingly she was only ten minutes from our location! When I explained our need for assistance she quickly hung up the phone, gathered up her husband and his vehicle then headed our direction! Two vehicles to the rescue! While waiting, staring into the back of both vans, I started doing the math and quickly realized that even with both of her vehicles coming we wouldn’t have enough room or at the very least it would be very, very close! Before panic could set in a taxi pulled up offering assistance! We loaded it with three people and their luggage, sending Brent with some traveling cash for payment. (Brent is our international man of mystery) Perfect! After a quick recount of all baggage remaining the numbers work, the luggage will fit and we will all hopefully make it on time! Thank you God for showing us the way!

My sister and her husband arrived, hugs of thanksgiving were had, we loaded up and in a jiffy our caravan was together again at San Francisco International Airport with just enough time to spare as we would later find out while checking our baggage! Hallelujah! My sister and her husband wished us well, we all thanked them and our gratitude hopefully showed! Once they were gone we headed inside and just OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlike that we were a mission group ready for departure! American Airlines as in years past was fantastic! I cannot say enough wonderful things about this Airline! They waived our extra baggage fees, they waived our overweight luggage and they treated us with respect. In today’s fast paced world that kind service filled with understanding and a good listening ear is hard to find. Once Jacy had finished taking care of baggage check in the American Airlines personnel wished a safe and fruitful journey.

After a quick bite to eat we gathered at the terminal gate, many were texting, Facebooking, or reading, but all were excited and ready to go.

Our flight was uneventful (thank goodness) and landing in Miami left us a little disoriented as the world there was abuzz with 5am travelers. Unfortunately we moped around still stuck in a 2am thought process. Coffee for some, a nap for others and then a few of us walked the concourse repeatedly, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAknowing another two hour flight was in store. Yeah the thought of sitting any longer was not a pleasant one for many of us. As we wander about the airport killing time, a strange thing begins to occur where ever we go. People seem to know Brent? Not by name mind you, but for some reason people wave at him or acknowledge his presence! It’s kind of odd (in a good way) and we all notice this little social experiment in the making. Now Bent is the father to one Nick Watney, a golfer on the PGA pro circuit. This of course is wonderful in itself but we have decided it is because he looks a little like an older more stoic James Bond! From this point forward it becomes a running gag! Do you know Brent Watney? Do you?

The flight into Port au Prince was uneventful as well (double thank goodness), touching down it felt good to be back. My heart filled with joy as we dipped over the coastline coming in for a landing. I felt as though I could pick out the small town of Leveque as we flew along. I know that’s not true but it sure felt nice thinking I could. Unloading off the plane the first thing I noticed was just how much the airport had changed. It looked new and clean, organized and almost regal, compared to last year. Inside it only got better, painted walls, light air conditioning and clean floors. Customs was a breeze and getting to our luggage was much easier!

Yes we were back! It felt right! Now if only we (Jacy, Heather and I) can help others to experience why we feel this way before the week is done.

Once at the baggage turnstile it became quickly apparent some things hadn’t changed. The usual players were present, red shirts, blue shirts all of them, leaning in trying to earn your business by grabbing your bags and “handling” them for you. After further inspection we realized there to be one more bag than claim tickets which meant we were going nowhere! That was until a fin, a fiver the old Abraham Lincoln made its presence, and then through a terse quip and a short wave of the hand from our newest “best” friend Cliff, the airport inspectors were gone. Cliff, hustled us quickly over to a final check out point where another airport employee asked me if we had “medical” OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsupplies, to which I stated yes! Thinking this might lead us to a free pass, my hopes were squashed when she waved us into another room where all 22 of our bags were to be flopped onto a table, opened and inspected! (Sarcastic “YAY” entered here)Thankfully after staring blankly at about the sixth bag our inspector become frustrated and waved us through!

Cliff moved us like a pod of fish, yelling at any other red shirts vying for a piece of the action to stay away! About this time we found our old friend Jackson (the one arm man) just inside the exit door. Jackson is hired by the United Methodist Church to ensure the mission teams make it to their pick up point and driver with little hassle from the “red shirts”. Jackson swiftly moved our group outside where more red shirts clamored upon our belongings until JacksonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA yelled at them, at one point a man not happy with Jackson walked up and hit him! A little shocking, but the way of the world in a place where every dollar earned puts food upon your table. Cliff mentioned he could not leave the building and even though I wasn’t supposed to tip anyone but Jackson this man did helped us to no end. Yes I realized he was doing his job, but he blessed us for the work our group UMVIM had done in his country and went above and beyond getting us through the chaos that can become Haiti International Airport. I broke the rules and as I would find out soon enough, we would break that rule many times.

Once loaded into our vehicles (Haitian version of the Toyota mini Van) we headed out into the wild, scary, old west style, garbage filled, smelly, latrine water covered streets of Haiti! Ahhh to be back, filled with hope and optimism for the poor downtrodden people of Ha——– WHAT???????

Hold the boat! Stop the car! Slap your grandma! The, the, streets are CLEAN! (Well ok CLEANER!)Nary a piece of trash, nor mobs of people, not one child is rushing the van screaming “CHICKLET, CHICKLET MISTER” or “WATER PLEASE” or my personal favorite “MISTER YOU GOT A DOLLAR”? What the holy heck! The wrecked cars are no longer lining the streets! Instead they are gathered in a local junk yard we just passed, no one is stripping them down where they lay! Oh my goodness it looks, dare I say it? So much better! In fact we have now crossed two estuaries and I haven’t seen one man living in a van down by the river!!!!down by the river

We come to our first of many traffic lights (yes operational traffic lights) and I also notice for the most part people are obeying the traffic laws! Its pure insanity I tell you! People also seem to be traveling from one place to another with purpose! Not like a cast member from The Living Dead! Its, its,-well it’s just plain beautiful. My heart swells with OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAjoy as our group travels through province after province with nothing but wonderful signs of recovery! No country should have to endure what these people have endured and no people should have to decide on a daily basis whether to feed the dog, beat the dog or eat the dog because the dog needs food just as much as they do. (That was just a reference, they are not eating dogs here)!

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The guest house looms on the horizon and pulling inside the gates (no guard present anymore) felt like being home! The group formed up, we unloaded our gear and set to introductions with the staff! Sarah met us first, she was warm and welcoming. Some met Tom for theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA first time while three of us just took a moment to reminisce with the leader of the guest house. A meeting was called out by the pool which was perfect for our hot and tired bodies. We swam while Sarah gave us the low down on our trip, progress made in Haiti and some of the more serious issues we may face. The island of La Gonave was our final destination! A four hour boat trip lay ahead and we would be departing at 6am with breakfast at 5am. We were to drink plenty of water and layer ourselves in sunscreen.

We settled in, chatted amongst ourselves and mentally prepared for the last leg of our journey.

Dinner time was upon us quickly and it was AMAZING!! I had waited patiently all year for this style of cooking! Oh you can recreate it in the states but it isn’t the same! The fried chicken was awesome, the black beans and rice was awesome, and the plantains were OFF THEOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA HOOK!!!! Oh yeah some very happy bellies wandered off to bed after an extremely long day of travel. (16 hours in all)

I personally was out cold by 8pm after struggling to stay awake through a meeting with the onsite doctor. I retained most of the information but my brain could handle no more!

Oh well a new day and a new adventure was waiting for us all! As one by one we all laid our heads to rest, little did we know just what an adventure it would become!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Children its storytime…..

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This story like many others, is filled with a cast of hopefully interesting characters. A story containing intrigue, mystery, villains, heroines and of course the village people. No not the 70’s disco band! The people of a very proud little village helping bring this story together so that you the reader may understand this particular villages plight. Now before you get excited and start rubbing your hands together proclaiming; hurray Betty is going to tell another great story! Well my children, it will be a great story but let me warn you right from the go, this story is a tad bit sad. Now I am sorry for that, but it was not of my making. It is a story of truth told through me, by me, and also consists of witness accounts, recollections, and facts. Personally holding the hands of desperate people who want nothing more than the ability to awaken and see the sun shine another day! People who need to know there is a future for themselves and their children. Living with these people, working alongside this wonderful cast of characters and being given the ability to tell this story to you, my readers became an almost overwhelming responsibility. But God has provided the means to purchase a laptop and I ten fingers to type with and for that I am thankful.

Where to start? Hmmmm, I guess from the beginning?

Mission work is not for everyone. When I went forward on my first mission at the ripe old age of 45 it was an enormous step in my growth as a human being. It took me a month after returning to realize the impact that trip made upon my life, but an impact it did make, for you see I never wanted to go, I felt mission work was for the liberal, we must take care of all, granola eating, bunny huggers of the world. Not the gun-toting, you want it you earn it, it’s all about the money, capitalist that I was and to a small extent still am. My wife (god bless her resilience) hounded me to go after returning from her own mission trip to Haiti. Citing personal growth, perspective and a regeneration of feelings towards humanity as a whole, she told a wonderful tale and I was interested for I felt an empty void in my life.

Our dear friend John G. leaned on me a bit as well for you see he was going to be the co-leader on this latest expedition and felt my presence would be an asset to this particular team. Finally after much prayer, and some introspection, it became very clear that I needed to go. I was empty inside and was looking for something, anything that might explain this empty feeling. It turned out to be an amazing trip, with a group of wonderful human beings who will forever be bonded to my soul. After arriving back home it quickly became apparent my life had been changed forever, my position in regards to our self-indulgent society reversed and empathy for those in need doubled. I felt as though I had been reborn. The emptiness gone.

The downside to all of this personal growth; my temper became much shorter in regards to the needs of us selfish Americans. I look at our lifestyle with a bit of disdain and my opinion about the current generation of sniveling whiny adults is negative at best.

After returning from that first mission trip there was a great feeling of accomplishment, a joyous moment where the human race in my world could work as one for a common goal and I felt as though I had seen, looked straight into the eye of what true survival during adversity was and had ultimately become for human beings in an impoverished country. From my perspective it felt as though recovery was on its way and having been just a small part of that was amazing. When I flew off the island of Haiti there was hope for her people, hope in a new regime, hope in personal recovery for individuals, hope for a growing economy and hope for a country to recover and put behind it a tragedy that changed the face of a nation.

I was right and wrong all in the same breath.

Like I said; Mission work is not for everyone and I almost didn’t make this 2013 trip. I signed on then off more than a half a dozen times. My flip-flopping was worse than a cornered senator trying to save a failing career! I had come full circle and was back to a selfish American way of thinking! My only care was in regards for our children, house, animals and belongings, it wasn’t about doing my part as a human being, or using many skills God had blessed me with for the betterment of others. No it was all about my little world. My little bubble and how this would affect me! Right here, right now! Finally my wife who signed on as team leader this time, explained to me the importance of having me alongside her while making this journey. Very humbly and quietly I conceded, tickets were purchased, our children were informed of our dual departure and my destiny was before me waiting to be written.

Today June 15, 2013 I am writing this on an American Airlines flight heading back to Miami. My heart and mind are filled with emotions that over the next couple of weeks I will try my hardest to explain through word. This was a much more difficult journey both physically and emotionally than last year so please be patient as my writing may ramble. My hope being when it is done I have taken you someplace you have never been. Allowing your mind to visualize things you would never see but always wanted too or could never see out of fear or reluctance. Sometimes we see more when our eyes are closed then when they are open staring right at a moment in time. Hopefully with a little luck when it is all over and you close the last chapter of this story, you feel what we felt and that moves you.

Please enjoy, and please ask any questions that may come to mind. The best question at any given moment is one that is asked.

Our mission

Simply put, arrive in a small fishing village on the North West corner of the island La Gonave to provide dental care to its inhabitants.

Gonave Island (French: lle de la Gonave) is an island of Haiti located to the west-northwest of Port au Prince in the Gulf of Gonave. It is the largest of the Hispaniola satellite islands, situated off the mainland. The island is an arrondissement in the Quest Department and includes the communes of Anse-a-Galets and Pointe-a-Raguette. Gonave Island boasts a population of 75-80,000 inhabitants. The island is known as the “forgotten Island” as attention to its inhabitants dwindled directly after the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

The North West corner of the island holds a small community known as Source a Philippe.

This small community holds a few hundred residents who survive through trade. Main trades include charcoal, fishing (fish, crabs, lobster), and home crafts for tourism at the larger markets on the other side of the island. There is one fully operating vehicle within the community, there is no running water or electricity. A large cistern for rain water containment was developed by the United Methodist Church and is in operation. A well is located 2 kilometers from the village and as of this writing is not functional. There is an operating school-house within the United Methodist Church compound area and a few new outhouses were just completed by a team from the Wesley Foundation after a 30 day mission on the island. There is a 3000 watt Honda commercial generator which can power through the use of extension cords only a limited number of buildings during the evening hours. The United Methodist Church compound also holds three guest houses and a medical building, all of which appear to have been built-in the 1950’s. The medical building is empty and has a room dedicated for a pharmacy. Limited pharmaceutical supplies are stored there for emergencies and no regular health care is present.

The task placed before us was simple. Arrive on a Saturday, meet the locals, set up shop and provide free dental care for the residents of this poverty-stricken area starting Sunday afternoon after church. Continue to provide dental care Monday through Thursday as word would spread across the island brining inhabitants from as far as five hours away.

Our team: Dixon Smiles for Haiti was composed of ten highly motivated individuals

Kristina-Dentist

Gail-Assistant

Mellissa-Assistant

James-EMT/Firefighter

Jacy-School Teacher

Heather-School Teacher

Bent-Retired

Orson-Waste water Management

Alisa- Child care provider

Preston-College student

All of us joined together through God providing a service to those in need. All of us holding skill sets that would become important on this mission along with a can do attitude that would bring a triumphant end to a very long hard week. Our group spent months fundraising and putting together supplies needed for our journey. Kristina spent endless hours working the phones with her crew obtaining every instrument needed to cover any possible contingency. When we left for Haiti on June 6th 2013 our team carried with us over $25,000.00 dollars in supplies. When it was all said and done we pulled 540 teeth, for a total of $127,000.00 dollars in dental care. Our clinic was also overrun with medical issues and the team stepped up providing many hours of treatment, from simple cuts and ear infections to severe lacerations, staph infections and full term pregnancy health.

We left tired, mentally exhausted and a little disoriented.

Here is our story…..

(over the next couple of weeks I will do my best to add a new chapter everyday)