Junior High National Finals Rodeo-Iowa 2014



“Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.” – old cowboy proverb author unknown

8 months spent practicing, working hard, traveling, keeping our horses and children healthy have all led to this one moment in time.  Jake and I standing in awe at the spectacle that is the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The Junior High National Finals Rodeo! A compilation, a cross-section, a melding of all the very best junior high students who have competed their hearts out in multiple divisions! Some have bested competitors and friends in several categories, some made here in only one, but they are here and ready to do battle!

Just so you understand why we are in “awe” here is a sample description of what our eyes behold, straight from the ISF web page. No better description could have been penned.


The internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. Annually attracting more than a million people from all over the world, the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is Iowa’s great celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. It is the true heartbeat of the Midwest, unequaled and reduplicated.

The Iowa State Fair, the inspiration for the original novel State Fair by Iowan Phil Stong, three motion pictures and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical, is without a doubt the country’s most famous state fair.

National media frequently rank the Fair as one of the top events in the country. In 2004, USA Weekend named the event the #2 choice for summer fun in America, topping New York City’s Times Square, Cedar Point Amusement Park Resort in Ohio and Disneyland in California.imagesIMG_0910

Midwest Living magazine named the Fair one of the “Top 30 Things Every Midwesterner Should Experience.” The Fair is also the only fair listed in The New York Times best-selling travel book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and the subsequent travel book, 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before you Die.

Iowa’s Fair is also known as “America’s classic state fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs in a park-like, 450-acre setting (the Fair’s home since 1886). The grounds and the adjoining 160 acres of Campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the buildings pre-date World War I; many are priceless examples of American exposition-style architecture.

Throughout its history, the Fair has been a unique institution, serving to educate, inform and entertain people from all walks of life. It is an outstanding agricultural showplace, boasting one of the world’s largest livestock shows. Also home to the largest art show in the state, the Fair showcases visual and performing arts with a variety of special exhibits and activities.

We (the California team) have been graciously welcomed to Iowa. The people here are fantastic! Polite, friendly and caring.  The show that has been put together for these IMG_0928kids is without a doubt unrivaled! From the moment we arrived on Saturday each and every contestant (all 1000+ of them) have been treated as if they all had gone pro! Nowhere have I seen such generosity towards giving each and every child “their” moment. Yes at the end of the week there will be winners, and there will be losers, but each child will have had “their” moment in the sun!

It starts with a green lush campground, where care has been made to keep each state together, golf carts have been provided (at a fee) to help travel across these expansive grounds with saddles, feed and nervous competitors.

Moving to the center of the fairgrounds, the entire area is closed of to traffic (golf carts only) to lessen any chances of injuries to spectators, competitors and animals.  Every manufacture is here in one gigantic pavilion, showing the latest in rodeo gear, tack and animal care products! There are numerous raffles, covering clothing, boots, saddles and yes even a new Dodge truck! Practice roping stations are everywhere for fun and another large building is set up inside as a kids zone for competitors and their family members to go play games, shoot pool or practice roping some more!

The California team consisted of the top competitors in their divisions determined at the state level (just as with every other state). This band of misfits have banded together and for those who didn’t know each other they all are becoming fast friends.  Many of the other states are joining up as well cheering each other on and everyone (parents included) seem to be having a great time.

Sunday morning started with a two-hour meeting which filled the main arena. The rules were laid out and policies explained. The grounds are filled with eyes and any infraction will cost a participant the chance to compete! Sitting in the stands you could feel the electricity as the building was filled to capacity with rodeo kids, friends and family! Flags from all the states represented are flying, including Canada and Australia! Each performance is comprised of 5/6 states with next Saturday being the short go!

The first go was Sunday night, it was a real testing of the waters as far as competition goes and man did the kids live up to the hype! The performances put forth were outstanding! Large groups of parents cheering for their states, kids cheering for friends and the ability to watch everything from both arenas on a large split screen television overhead made the events very entertaining for all involved. By the end of the evening it became clear it was definitely going to be a long week but one they all would remember for the rest of their lives!


More to come!


The Face of Leukemia (December 7, 2013)



We trim it, grow it, wax it, shave it, style it, comb it, do crazy things with these human DNA carrying follicles for attention. Hair, its funny we don’t really think all too much about hair as it’s an assumed portion of our anatomy. From the day we are born all of us walk through life with hair of some kind layering our bodies; some more than others and some less than others by choice, but hair none the less. imagesCAQUXXXU

But there is an elite crowd of human beings walking this earth. They belong to a very special club. A club that no one wants to join, no one person is standing at the clubhouse door banging fervently to get inside. No one..  Yet rumor has it close to one million people are card-carrying members of this fraternity.  One million people have come as close to death as you can get then climbed their way back inheriting a lifetime membership along the way. One million people. Think about that for a second….

So what do these one million plus club members have to do with hair?

They don’t have any! That is right, not one single follicle, not a stray, a sprig, a whisker or unkept eyebrow. It hasn’t been shaven down to the epidermis or plucked by a crazy tweezers wielding lunatic. Every single hair, all 140,000 strands of color enhanced, vanity driven strands are gone.

This of course is the norm when you are enrolled in the chemotherapy club, everyone’s worst nightmare right?  Its funny really when you think about it, we as a society put so much emphasis on our hair.

Turning grey or tired of your look- Color it, trim it, shape it.

Falling out- Rogaine

Thinning- Hairclub for men/transplants/comb over

Trends- Shave it, mohawk it, pixie cut, curls, bun, dreadlocks, cornrows, bob, etc..

And yet when it has all fallen out, what emphasis is there? To wear a hat or a scarf? As a chemotherapy club member you never have to worry about haircuts, dyes, styles etc.. All you need to worry about is whether or not your noggin stays warm.  There are thousands of hats, scarfs, and bandanas to choose from, or hey just step out like Mr. Clean and rock that shit!

Imagine waking up one morning and finding all of your hair-and I mean ALL OF YOUR HAIR gone. You are lying in a bed of your own hair. Pubic hair, pit hair, leg hair and arm hair and of course the hair from your head. What would you do? How would you feel? Would you smile taking the high road and consider it just another chapter in your already interesting life? Or would you curl up into a ball, terrified to walk amongst the hair gifted for fear of being spotted, ridiculed by the insensitive or pitied by the ill-informed. I am not making a judgement for one way or the other, but if I had my choice I am pretty sure a bitchen tattoo would make its way onto my dome, helping me to celebrate the obvious. I am still alive and kicking cancers ass! Now in no way am I advocating for my wife to get a tattoo on her head. It was purely a rhetorical question.

Why am I traveling down this little pathway? Because that is exactly what happened today. Jacy started officially losing her hair. Its coming out a thin handful at a time, and when she sits up in bed her hair looks like a dog when it sheds. Strands poking out of everywhere with strands littering her pillow. Staring at this and fighting an overwhelming urge to pull them out myself (it’s the ape in me) I found myself pondering those very questions. Thinking about all the times I cracked ignorant jokes about looking as a chemo patient to friends. How would I feel? How would you feel if this was happening to you?

Now luckily enough a sense of humor is what all of our friends and family have and my wife is no different. We have joked heartily about her losing hair and tomorrow I am going to shave it all off to save her from choking to death in the middle of the night on an unruly chia pet looking clump! But just the same it has changed my sensitivity level or judging from that last crack maybe it hasn’t? I digress…

Do you really want to know how much you love someone? Do you really want to understand if you or your partner are shallow and vain? Shave each others heads and see if one of three things happen.

  1. You both laugh until snot blows from your nostrils then fall into each others arms with smiles upon your faces.
  2. You realize in that moment you partner is hands down the most beautiful person you have ever known.
  3. You stare at each other uncomfortably acknowledging you are so shallow that you cannot see the beauty within. Only the trappings of what is on the outside.

Lucky for me as I stated previously this has changed my sensitivity towards others, and as far as my wife is concerned, well I have always seen the inner beauty of this woman. When I look into her eyes and kiss her lips there is nothing else. Bald or full of hair, when she smiles at me the world is a better place.  I don’t think she really knows the power her smile and personality carry in this world but I am pretty sure she is about to find out.

Anyways, Jacy already knows how to rock the bandana! That my friends is just freaking awesome!


Kicking Cancers Ass once cell at a time!



Returning to normal?


Sleepy haze, disoriented, unsure of my whereabouts are all descriptions in regards to my mental state of being this morning. It was a fantastic night’s sleep as I remember nothing from the moment my head hit the pillow. Staring at the bunk above me this uncomfortable, possibly 30 year old mattress perched upon springs tied into a prison style metal bed is now the luxury treatment of a lifetime. No longer will I sleep atop a two by four flat adorned with foam two inches thick covered with bed sheets. Gone from my senses the smell of urine and garbage. Absent from my subconscious, a fear of awaking to a tarantula feasting on my big toe. No moths the size of bats hovering overhead looking for a face to land upon or a wall to bounce off. Instead in this room are three of my colleagues, a fan spinning overhead, and clean tropical air left over from last night’s rain. It should leave me blissful, pleased to be here in the guesthouse after a job well done, but it did not, for now that I’m awake, thrust back into reality, my brain focuses solely on processing this entire week! It’s like mental TiVo running in your head and someone is continually pressing fast forward. It’s all there for me to see, lying on my back, reliving emotions I was hoping to put away. Feeling broken, worried, and tired, I eventually roll off the bunk head into the bathroom and brush my teeth. Time to wake up, put on a fake smile and go downstairs, it’s our anniversary today (Jacy and I) and I want to look somewhat coherent while telling my wife how much I love her. My heart aches to see her, but as I wander off I find my heart also aching for something else; our children.

Time seems to be running short this morning as we hustle through breakfast, gather our belongings, make one last round through the guest house and move into the loading area out front. I am finding it hard to keep a straight thought, blaming it on fatigue I wallow through most of our chores for the morning. Taking a moment before its time to go I see a small child wander through the patio area. I start thinking about the harmless unassuming children of Source a Philippe and how their little souls steal a piece of you. Bright, funny and carefree, unaware of any struggle that lay before them.haiti 3 These children run naked through the village, swim unassuming in the ocean and are left to their own devices on many occasions. Their parents love them as any parent loves a child. The village church considers them the future, holding them in high regards, or so it seems. But as a parent myself from what I have personally witnessed they deserve so much more. Maybe it’s my “American” way of thinking, maybe it’s the way I was raised, or maybe it’s possibly an assumption built upon years of education and experimentation in the parenting department. But the way I see it a child should have a chance to grow up safe, healthy and educated.

You can argue the same could be said about our growing population of forgotten children back home, the very products of poverty, drugs, physical and mental abuse, divorce, death and hate. Children trapped with baby daddys and mothers who never claim them as their own until cashing the monthly welfare or federal assistance checks provided by a local government. You can argue assistance is needed or OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnot, that’s not my point. The difference as I see it? These children here in Haiti are loved by their parents, these children were wanted and are not the product of someone else’s inability to be responsible. These children are considered part of a “bigger” picture and considered a gift from God. Children who are trapped in an ideological system that punishes them for simply not being born into the right family. Haitian children right now in this century of rapid knowledge, ground breaking technology, advancements in medicine can’t even receive simple health care. If a child here gets a cold, parents pray, if a child is bitten by one of the many creatures of La Gonave the family prays, if they fall and break a bone and that particular family has a few extra dollars they may travel by foot to a local hospital to have it set. But in most cases the family will set it themselves and then everyone prays. It is unacceptable. These children, their smiles, sunny dispositions and fantastic senses of humor steal your heart. When you leave, your heart breaks looking into their eyes, because you know there is better out there for them in this giant world. I am sad because I know many of the children I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmet and played with this week at some point will become seriously ill and a few may even perish as a result of this lack of basic health care. Is that Gods will? Or is the reason I am here because God called for me, asking me to use what few talents I hold to help these children, these adults and their families? I am not sure. The answers I am looking for are not readily available to me right now, my mind filled with more questions, undoubtedly clogging my receptors, leaving me incapable of receiving any information that may benefit my dilemmas.

We have eaten a fast breakfast and relayed our goodbyes. Shaking Toms hand for what will be the last time here in OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaiti as Toms three year commitment comes to an end next month. He has done some very good work and I am sure its nerve racking turning over a project you have headed up for so long without fear. But none the less the work stands on its own and I think this operation will not be the same without him, it was truly an honor to meet this man. As I walk away, I pray it is not goodbye but instead, “until we meet again.” Sarah is also transferring out OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnext month and anxiously awaits the opportunity to reconnect with her husband. They have been apart for 6 months and she longs to see him once again. Hugs were had by all and as with all heartfelt goodbyes love was felt in the simple human connection we all share. Loading into a Tap Tap for the ride to the airport, our driver brings his behemoth machine to life OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAonly to kill it just as quickly. We all stare at each other in disbelief as he tells Tom there is no fuel in the tank. After a moment of silence a small giggle turns into chuckles, for running out of gas while trying to make it to the airport is the least of our troubles after what we have been through over the last 10 days! Surviving dysentery, heat issues, emotional turmoil, almost capsizing our boat on the return ride home, lots of vomiting, and an accident in the compound van, being out of fuel is just funny. I think we will be just fine.

Driving through many side streets it’s very obvious we are taking the scenic route and before my suspicion is confirmed we round a corner into one of the last tent cities still OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAoperating. It smells awful, looks just as bad and all I can think about are the reports of gangs, crime and rape that comes from inside these places. Thankfully fabric tent like clusters are becoming fewer as infrastructure is rebuilt, allowing for even the poorest to find a roof over their heads. But none the less tent cities still exist, many are looking a little more like permanent structures, I pray the last of them are demolished soon, they are after all ground zero for a majority of the health issues still plaguing this city. Turning down one more street surrounding this lost compound we run across a group of Haitians exiting a main OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtent city thorough fare. They seem to have a “look” about them and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it resembles the 30 mile stare I have referenced before. It speaks of hunger and exhaustion held together by pride. As we drive away I remind a few not to take pictures as we wouldn’t want to upset anyone.

Arriving at the airport once again red coats descend upon us like locust, grabbing our bags, being told no, then lunging again hoping we let them cart our stuff away. I wouldn’t mind the assault so much but it becomes tiresome after refuting their advancements more than half a dozen times. Either way we press up like a herd of cows using numbers for safety and make it into the airport with money and belongings in tow. The airport flow is faster than last time, people checking in without any issues, it is a very welcome sight indeed. In the blink of an eye we are processed, ticketed then pushed through one security checkpoint only to do the same shoeless dance again once we reach our gate. Its ok with me, I would rather have too many security measures in place than not enough when it comes to flying. Sitting together near gate 2, my chest begins to hurt and so does my brain! Looking around our terminal everyone else looks beat OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAup as well so I won’t complain. We make idle small talk, jokes about talking pimples, smelly body odor, giant tarantulas, and goat! Eating goat, seeing goats, smelling goats, wanting to cut the vocal cords out of goats! (Kidding, no goats were harmed in the writing of this piece) Everything and anything but what is really on our minds. It’s painful to watch these people trying to process an entire 10 day journey in the few minutes we have before boarding our plane, but you can see that is exactly what many of them are trying to do. Why now? Because the gravity of this trip has taken hold, the anticipation of making this journey is gone, the excitement about performing such a huge task is over, it’s complete and all that is left are memories. Many appear lost in disbelief, almost 10 months of planning, hundreds of man hours and thousands of dollars raised! Now all that’s left are memories. It just can’t be true.

Boarding our plane other missionaries are wandering the cabin, we exchange pleasantries along with the nod. I call it the “nod of completion”. It is an almost arrogant nod, and it should be as we’ve earned the right to look into our fellow missionaries eyes and have a fair sense about what others have been through. Seated near the window, several more jokes are bantered about seamlessly. Melissa is cracking me up as usual and Heather is the Abbot to her Costello. The plane taxis down the runway, slowly turns and sits. Four jet engines begin to strain against locked wheels held in place by our captain. Its time. Time to go home, time to put this trip in the books, time to see our family and share our joy of missionary work with all who will listen. This trip may be a little harder sell when it comes to promoting missionary work, but then no one said our journey was to be easy. There are no promises on each trip, it is not a vacation though many of us use our yearly vacation time to participate in these missions. No; part of doing God’s work is knowing it may be a challenge or it may be a breeze, but either way if you have faith there is nothing that can’t be handled.

Somewhere in the terminal while passively eavesdropping a statement was overheard that really struck a cord with me. “Finally we are leaving this mess and going back to a normal way of living” This got me thinking; What is normal, and what does normal look like? 3 years ago if you asked me what normal was I am pretty sure a trite response would have drifted from my callous mouth. But today, here in this terminal I’m not sure I would have an answer. For normal is what we make of it, waking up every morning to a cup of hot coffee, a wonderful family of 2.5 kids (it’s statistics, no I don’t have half a kid somewhere) nice car and a great job may seem normal to some, but normal for others may include living in squalor, being beat by an abusive parent/spouse and wondering if there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So who are we to say what normal is for the Haitian people? To often I believe we as Americans barge into situations from our little worlds of wealth and privilege (ok, if you own a Ford Pinto you are still poor in Haiti) then unknowingly look down our noses while entrenched within the social dynamics of a society. What that person said wasn’t wrong in its context as they are heading home to their rendition of normal, but for some strange reason it struck a nerve.

Hurtling down the runway a feeling of weightlessness then sinking gravity let us know our plane is finally off the ground. We slowly bank left then right and over the Dominican Republic climbing higher as we go. Turning one last time I can see straight into the Gulf of Gonave and out in the distance an island, a giant piece of rock, the home to so many precious souls, La Gonave. Gaining altitude we slowly disappear into the fluffy white cumulus clouds of the Caribbean. With my face pressed against a window seeking an outline of Haiti, I realize she is gone, so I stare blankly into the distance. My wife has ahold of my arm and is squeezing it tightly, looking into her eyes the gravity of all we have accomplished, our journey, surviving possible corruption and the children we left behind strikes me hard. Feeling sick to my stomach I am doing everything to not crumble in front her and all these wonderful people on our team. Unfortunately Jacy can no longer fight against her emotions as tears begin streaming down her face. Drawing in a long deep breath refortifies my emotional stability as she rains tears upon my shoulder. Jacy says I am her strength, her rock, her best friend. She tells me there is no her without me, and together we can accomplish anything. Leaning into my shoulder unobserved she can shed any stress associated with being team leader, she can let her emotions loose no matter how raw. She no longer needs to be political, compassionate, caring, scared, strong, or brave, all she needs is too let out all the emotions she’s held back for an entire week and cry; as her husband I will be dammed if anyone is going to take that moment away from her.

Looking over my shoulder ensuring some form of privacy, it appears she is not the only one traveling down a river of tears. Sniffles and sobs are coming from many various positions around me, wishing I could give everyone a hug I simply smile; letting them know all will be ok. One thing I haven’t taken into account is some of the sniveling could be from learning our inflight snack is the dreaded Haitian corn muffin! And to that, a small tear is finally shed from my eyes.

Pulling out my laptop I feel driven to write. It is after all my form of therapy and since a little decompression is in order, there is no better time than the present! It’s going to take a while for me to fully understand the big picture in this whole trip. Much more needs to be done in Source a Philippe. This little village by the sea needs help, lots of help! I am pretty sure going back for another medical mission is in my plans, but there are some very big questions needing to be asked and some even bigger answers that must be forth coming. Wondering what part I carry in this real life play derived from travesty and injustice, I know changes must be made. Am I one of the few that will make a difference? Will this mission change the lives of our team for the better or will they go home feeling tainted and unsure? Only God knows the answer at this point.

Leveling off at 35,000 feet, our plane is pushing further towards American soil, I feel the pull of Haiti growing stronger in my heart. She grabs you in the most disturbing of ways. Haiti is clean yet filthy, angry with life’s injustice, yet joyous about life’s rewards, rich in history yet poor in political support. Haiti stands still broken not just physically but mentally as well; yet repairs to the physical, mental and emotional are everywhere for you to see feel and experience, she (Haiti) is a living contradiction in human survival. I don’t believe she has the ability to have it any other way.

Piti piti zwazo fè nich.

Little by little the bird makes his nest.

Meaning: Many incremental changes will eventually make a significant difference

Haitian proverb….

May we live to witness change, not just within our sight but in our hearts.

Haiti, I will see you again someday….


Time and tide wait for no man


There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

                                                                                                                                                                          ~William Shakespeare~

Like ants are we; a stream of human flesh winding effortlessly through pathways towards one common goal. The shoreline.  Its 0330 a mass exodus has begun. Not one person missed the 0300 wake up call, every bag has been transported by head, back or drag, they are all accounted for on the beach and now many stand in awe under such a brilliant night sky.

I stand alone, facing a blackened shoreline, no light outlining its many features yet I still stare, eyes wide open hoping to trap light, any light, so I may gaze once more into the heart of this village. Our time here is finished, no grand parade, no tear filled goodbye, no one to see us off, just 10 half-awake missionaries, 6 passengers, and 5 crewmembers lining the sides of a freshly built rock formation known as the boat dock.  My heart aches for the people I leave behind, the unknown in regards to the future of many and the state of being in a village run by tyranny.

As we begin to board a warm breeze covers my face, our boat is creaking with every movement of the tides, expanding then contracting under pressure from the water for which it lay.  Loading is done as many hands form a chain, ensuring all contents and passengers make it aboard without a slip into the water or injury from the sharpened volcanic rock from which we are perched.

A pile of suitcases fill the belly of this wooden albatross, a vessel measuring at least 16 feet wide and 5 feet deep.  It is the same sailboat that ferried us into Source a Philippe, therefore we are very familiar with its lack of substance.  Looking more like a gigantic canoe with a series of sails attached there are only a few locations for passengers to travel; so we sit lining the rails, bow to stern.  Captain Jackson fires up a 75 horse outboard motor, then directs crew members to slacken all lines and like a leaf in the breeze our ship slips quietly into the night.

He that will not sail till all dangers are over must never put to sea.

                                                                                             ~Thomas Fuller~

Silently we glide under the stars, it’s would be shameful not to notice the brilliance of this night’s sky.  No ambient light to ruin its majesty a canopy of shimmering light from one horizon to the other is amazing. Looking around I notice people are chatting, some staring into the distance obviously half-awake and a few showing the signs of nervous stress, twitch about as the thought of making this journey again is more than they can bare. While taking account of all aboard I find Ms. Melissa half-awake; due to a combination of sleeping pills and anxiety medications she quickly has found her 6 foot by 2 foot piece of real estate aboard this SS Minnow and is drifting off to sleep. Looking at her peaceful demeanor one would deduce she has in fact found the only planks aboard this rotting vessel that resembled a sleep number bed! Eyes closed tight, slight smirk on her face, oh how I envy this mental state of mind.

Ten minutes into our journey the winds appear have picked up quite a bit.  Trying not to become overly worried, I do my best shrugging off many thoughts rapidly filling my head.  For you see if the winds are picking up here within the protection of this reef then out on the open water they will become much stronger, creating waves that I am sure will leave many aboard leery at best.  Striking up a conversation with Preston, hoping to squelch my thoughts, he asks what the men standing in front or on the bow are doing.  I reply they are using the stars to navigate us outside the reef.  Little do I know (but find out later) they are using the stars not just to navigate outside the reef, but in hopes we miss a giant boulder that lays just beneath the water’s surface?  A boulder that has damaged or sunk many a ship navigated by the inexperienced. Preston bluntly asks how I seem to know something about everything. Chuckling I explain that I really don’t, I am just one of those guys who clifffocusses on things no one else would normally pay attention too.  A mind filled with loads of useless information! I ask him if he’s ever heard of Cliff Claven? When he replies no; I laugh and suggest he watch an episode or two of Cheers, when he gets home, then all will become clear! He agrees; turning away I quietly take my potato that looks like Richard Nixon and put it back in my backpack as I now know Preston would never understand.

Gazing over the ships side, luminescence from plankton are brilliantly lighting up every wave that splashes from beneath the boats hull.  This sight is amazing! There are so many wonders of this earth I have not seen! I yearn for more and am saddened at a lack of being able to video all nature’s beauty surrounding me.

Water is spraying every now and again with the rise and fall of our ship’s bow.  Brent and Preston are taking the brunt as I only catch about a half of the water they are now wearing.  My wife who is sitting to my right has leaned in to tell me she doesn’t feel good about the way the ship is moving.  I respond with an understanding nod of the head, then in my simple honest way (which I hate and wish I could control better) tell her it’s going to get much worse! When she inquires as to how I know, I respond: I just know.  Great answer huh? In the end it’s much easier than explaining wind, tides, geographic shelter, trade winds, along with the lunar gravitational pull on earth.  When Preston hears this, he too inquires as to how much worse it could possibly become? My only answer is this; I have done a lot of fishing, and one thing I know for sure, if the wind is blowing here, the farther out we get the harder it will blow, for there are no land masses to slow any movement of air.  No one seems to like my answer as they both smile a nervous smile in return. Jacy is hoping I am wrong as she hates when I am right, and unfortunately I am almost certain I will be right once again. Judging from the looks of this group and the age of our ship, I pray really hard it’s one of those times I am wrong. Not just a little wrong but dead wrong! So very wrong that being made fun of for being wrong will feel right and eating crow will be my pleasure.

30 minutes aboard and our ship has begun heaving to and fro. No doubt we have cleared the reef as our ship now slides down the back sides of waves as opposed to riding high upon their crest.  Captain Jackson’s father is in charge and he calls for full sail. The crew scurries about rigging block and tackle, pulling lines and unfurling the main sail.  The waves have increased in intensity and now this wooden relic is not only fighting the pull of a half unfurled sail but seems to be unable to find its way out of the trough! Up and down, back and forth, side to side this ship is moving about as though it has been thrown around by a tub bound five year old! People aboard are becoming worried, we have hit pretty hard on the downslope of many waves.  Jacy nervously watches as our crew is bantering about! Leaning in their general direction she is hoping to pick up a misspoken word during the heat of the moment! She is not disappointed as suddenly crew members begin yelling at each other! Jacy sits up, leans into me and says; this is bad, very, very bad! When inquiring how she knows, she looks back and replies; because that’s what the crew just said! Astonished, before I can reply to this revelation our crew is tossing life vests to everyone within arm’s length. All of us now fully understand the dire situation we are in as no time is wasted putting these neoprene vests on our bodies. It becomes quite a challenge doffing these vests as our ship continues slamming down hard from bow to stern then rolling violently from port to starboard, resting mostly on its starboard side!  Soon a rhythm develops and just as it feels as though we may be evening out, the sail fully extends and we are hit very hard from the port side by a gust of wind! Our ship yaws hard to starboard with the mast almost touching the water! The crew is screaming and motioning for everyone on the starboard to side to get up and move onto the port side for ballast! Water is splashing overboard, people are terrified, and I have a death grip on Jacy and Preston! My butt is sitting on the side of this ship, not the rail, not an inside plank, but the outside of the ship!  My hands are locked tight upon the two of them and my foot has something hard underneath it for pushing against. We roll upright for a second and then are hit by an even bigger gust of wind that drops the boat upon its side once again.  My only thought is if the mast catches we three are going over the high side, not forward into the rigging. Then we can swim around and hopefully assist those who need help getting back to our boat! Looking around taking mental note of all aboard not everyone has a life vest and hopefully the boat capsizing will never happen, but ever the doomsday prepper I have mentally come to terms with what may or may not happen within the next few minutes.

The next few minutes turns into 10 as the ship continues riding hard over onto its starboard side?  It’s like riding a horse out of control, left, right, unstable for a moment then just enough stability to gather your seat! There is no Haitian coast guard here to rescue us, there is no distress signal to give, and there is no radio to send one.  No one will know where we are, no one will know what happened to us, no one will come rescue us; there will be no one! So what do we do? Jacy is praying, Alisa is praying, Preston is quiet, Brent is reciting scripture, Heather is quietly wondering what the Hell! Melissa is sleeping, oh to be Melissa.  Richard is terrified and holding Jacys leg while standing in the hull of the boat fighting the urge to vomit (which he loses valiantly).  Jacy has begun unravelling a little and starts yelling what do we do?? Who do we call? No answer is forth coming from many terrified individuals.  She leans over to Richard and yells even louder over the wind and waves; who do we call Richard, who do we call? Richard without missing a beat responds; GOD!

Alisa has pulled out her cell phone. Now there is no cell service out here, we have all tried many times during our tenure on and off La Gonave.  But strangely enough here, at this moment, somewhere past the reef, out in the open ocean during a particularly stressful combination of events, one cell phone has service.  Alisa quickly calls her husband Reuben per Jacy’s request! Reuben answers and Alisa spends the next few seconds telling him she loves him, where we are and what is happening. Then she tells him to listen carefully, explaining that if he (Reuben) doesn’t hear from her in 4 hours to call the American Embassy and report us missing.  He agrees, and through tears Alisa hangs up the phone.  That was the moment this situation became real for many of us.

Jacy quickly grabs the phone and tries reaching Sara at the guest house.  When Sara IMG_2181answers Jacy explains our situation to which Sara replies; Ya-all think you may need to get into the center of the boat? Jacy say no the boat is tipping over and feels the safety of its crew and passengers are in jeopardy.  Sara now grasps the urgency in Jacys voice. Jacy then repeats the very same request given to Reuben not more than two minutes ago; if you don’t hear from us in 3 hours please send out a search crew as we have most likely capsized and are in the water.  Sara says she understands and will pray for us, before Jacy can answer her back, the phone is dead, no more cell service.  Both women look at each other, Alisa looking nervous and Jacy still wondering what will become of us.  During this time on the phone our boat has pitched wildly several more times to the gasps of several passengers.  Some are beginning to vomit, others are holding one another, and the crew is still scurrying about.  Still frantic, Jacy is doing her best to ensure everyone is ok when Kristina yells from across the boat; Jacy! PULL IT TOGETHER! Perfectly placed at just the right time my wife straightens up, takes a deep breath and agrees to this powerful suggestion.

Rocking and tipping, rolling and creaking, our boat continues bobbing around like a cork in a washing machine.  This dance of hard wind gusts, our boat leaning all the way over, water spraying us from one end of the ship to the other along with heavy hits as we slide from the apex of one wave into the trough of another goes on for another 20 minutes to a half hour.  We are all beginning to feel exhausted from battling the hard movements of this ship, when suddenly we are in a sustained rhythm.  The boat seems to be gliding not bucking and our Captain has ordered full sail! We pick up speed as she cuts through the night air with less resistance from wind and wave.  A sigh of relief overcomes me as I feel the worst is over. The darkness has definitely been the hardest part of this excursion.  Not seeing a horizon line to focus on during the turmoil has indeed made this whole adventure more challenging mentally as it lends itself to those with a heightened sense of disaster. As IMG_2178the sun slowly rises Preston begins to feel the warmth of a morning sun.  This boy is soaked from our 30 minute adventure upon the high seas and his teeth have been chattering for most of the last hour. Leaning in to ask me a question; He wonders what I was thinking during that moment of near disaster, I simply reply; faith. One has to have faith.

There are still sudden slaps of the hull every now and again, Jacy is pressed up against me and lets out a tiny gasp.  Her nerves as with many others are a little frayed. She asks me if I was scared. If I thought we would die? I reply yes, for a moment I was scared.  She smiles and looks away, to check in on Richard between vomiting spells, the poor lad was not born to be a mariner.  Truth be told, when the mast almost hit the water my heart jumped, I felt the same panic as everyone else, but I had already devised a plan and when you have a plan, fear can be conquered, used to your benefit.  But overall, yes the whole event made me nervous and for a moment I was scared.  What strengthened my resolve during this moment of crisis?   Faith! A calmness overcame me at some point during the calamity, I remember it vividly as a warm feeling enveloping my soul. My heart rate lowered, my eyes opened a little wider and my breathing relaxed! It was as if I knew everything was going to be ok.  I had faith.

The next three hours or so are spent slowly spreading our bodies back across the hull.  Everyone soon has a new spot of real estate claimed as she (the boat) rides gentle, slowIMG_2176 and upright in the water.  An ocean filled with waves of the slow rolling variety await our journey, which suited this group much better than the previous encounter.  Melissa has come out of her coma every now and again, only to chuckle at our inability to stay calm and sleep through disaster! She definitely is the smart one in the group.  Richard is still vomiting but now spends more time curled up in a ball then actually throwing up in a bucket. Alisa joins him at one point but she also appears to be much better now.  I lay upon the deck marveling at this ships hap hazard construction and pondering just how many journeys this old battle horse has made? Before long, to our relief the shores of Petite Gonave are in sight.  Jacy picks up a cell phone to inform the guest house we are fine; A few chuckles, some banter and Jacy is off the phone.  Alisa calls Reuben, I can only imagine what this man has been thinking for the last 3-4 hours.

Gently we motor into harbor, the sails come down, and before we can count the number of crab pots passing by the crew drops anchor and a small skiff makes it way our direction.

Setting foot on hard ground feels great, if the terra firma wasn’t covered in bits of garbage I believe dropping to my knees and kissing it would have been appropriate! Standing under a coconut tree in a small courtyard the gravity of all we have encountered/accomplished begins to set in; there are the many people we helped, the pharmacy we stocked and surviving this final journey back to the mainland. It is mentally more than I can handle as delirium takes over.  Gazing at my friend, my face grows long and my heart becomes heavy at the thought of saying goodbye to Caz. It feels like yesterday we reconnected after a yearlong absence and I feel as though we barely spent any time together. Milling around we gather our bags, head to the street and begin loading the transport. It appears after our voyage on the high seas all any of us can think about is getting back to the guest house for a little sleep and possibly a relaxing swim. Exhausted, covered in salt crystals from the waves coming over the side of the boat and dirty the thought of riding inside our transport is not appealing in the least.  Please lord let this trip be safe and quick.

Driving through the streets of Petite Gonave, we are hot and sweaty, there is no air conditioning, the temperature is in the 90’s and humidity is at least 40%.  Add a few hundred cars, streets filled with burning garbage and pollution from unregulated vehicles that race up and down these tiny corridors making up the provinces we are passingIMG_2187 through and well our ride is interesting at best. Our driver swerves, then weaves, runs up to 60mph on side streets then sits gridlocked on thoroughfares. This reckless driving goes on for two hours until Preston needs to use a bathroom. Our driver slows down checking a few places until finally stopping at a little hotel on the beach. I find it to be a quaint little place with all the charm one can muster on a dilapidated road between Petite Gonave and Carrefour.  Once back on the road I have come to the painful realization my ass is killing me! It seems after four hours of sitting on hard wood in a boat, this jump seat I am currently perched upon is leaving my ass and lower back writhing in pain! Looking around the van it appears we are all in various stages of nodding off, the early morning has taken its toll upon the masses.  Looking over at Kristina  she seems determined to fight off any chance of an asthma attack by wearing a respiratory mask! A good thing too as it seems every corner we turn has burning garbage, rubber or plastic! It feels as though you can taste the air with your tongue.

Entering Carrefour and Ronald is on the phone in what appears to be quite the heated exchange. At one point Ronald hands the phone to Richard who also ends up sternly speaking to the recipient on the other end?  Confused by what is transpiring, Jacy leans in and whispers to me that Francois is on the phone.  Ronald has asked Francois (his father) where the tip money we left them is , Francois has responded by telling his own son there OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAis no tip money for him to have! Our suspicions have now been 100% confirmed. Francois is a greedy crook! As we stated earlier any father that would stiff his own son is dirty, rotten and untrustworthy! Our little ruse to flush him out has worked as planned! Although I feel sorry for Ronald, it really was the only option we had to flush out his father.

In Carrefour we also end up dropping Ronald off on a side street.  He politely says goodbye as we thank him for all his help during the week.  It is more than obvious he is dejected by what just transpired over the phone, but in the end it is probably better as hopefully Ronald will realize to become a great translator for these missions groups he may need to think about destinations beside his home town and working alongside his father.  I truly wish him the best as he slings his backpack over his shoulder and disappears into a very crowded street.  We are two and one half hours into this trip when low and behold we end up in a minor fender bender while doing some not so favorable jockeying through the market of Carrefour.  Our driver Johnny gets out and begins waving his arms about while yelling at the driver of the other vehicle! It appears from the outside as though two Italians have squared off with an astounding round of insults! At one point it also appears as though the two might exchange blows, but to those of us who have been in country we know this is a normal exchange between Haitian men that ends with a wave.

Four hours of winding through city streets and we have finally entered the guest house compound! Sara greets us as we stretch our backs and shuffle off towards our rooms. Tired and sweaty we quickly all jump into the pool for a much needed swim.  After an hour in the pool laughing through delirium about all aspects of our journey home, complete with aOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA little Melissa bashing for sleeping through the entire journey, we crawl out and begin to go our separate ways. Jacy and I pull Tom, the guest house director aside to discuss some of the issues we witnessed and wrangled our way through in Source Phillip.

Tom is astonished at some of the things we tell him.  There had been some murmurings about Francois’ abuse of power but nothing had been confirmed.  We spend the next hour talking about costs, matching funds, paying the nurses, staffing the clinic and expired drugs in the pharmacy.  Tom suggests we meet with Pastor Jackie who will be stopping by this evening.  Reluctantly we agree as our mission will not be complete without some form of closure in regards to the issues at hand.

It is time to say goodbye to our interpreters.  Richard gives us all hugs, emails are exchanged and kind words are shared.  He leaves with many new clothes for the children he supports at a school he has founded back home.  Caz also gives hugs all the way around.  When he reaches me, we hug for a long time.  I love this man, he is seriously one of the kindest human souls I have ever encountered.  Last year I presented him with our department coin.  This was my personal challenge coin so I would have to earn a new one,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the coin cannot be given away unless a person has done a selfless act thus upholding the standards, morals and ethics befitting a firefighter.  He had done all that and more! It was a privilege to present him with my coin and earlier in the week he showed me he still carried it a year later. This man will do great things in his country, his love for all humans and God is very powerful and resonates when you are around him.  Caz and his family are in my prayers every night.

After a small nap and highly anticipated dinner (none of us had eaten since the night before.) we hold a debriefing with Sara where everyone’s feelings about our journey are OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAheard and processed. She is amazed by what she hears and offers good support to all who listen.  We have been at the guest house for only a few hours and this trip is already beginning to feel like a memory.  Jacy finds me sitting alone, I am cranky and I don’t know why, I really don’t feel like talking, I have heard all I need to hear, my brain is fried and emotions confused.  I am worried about the little ones we left behind, I am exhausted from continually playing this financial game of extortion with François, I no longer need to worry about the responsibilities associated with being an assistant to my wife, and my overprotective side is no longer worrying about the health of all associated with this trip. I’m tired and I just want to cry but I really have no reason too.  My insides feel as though there is no pillar to support me should I collapse emotionally. Trying my best to explain the way I feel to my wife I just end up sounding like a selfish jerk.  She says I don’t sound like a selfish jerk and she understands, but to me it’s just the opposite.  I am supposed to be the one who helps people, I am supposed to be the one supporting you when you are down or taking care of you when you hurt.  For me to feel as though I need help when I can’t even place my finger on one singular problem causing disillusion is unconscionable.  I say goodnight to all, kiss my wife and disappear to bed, sad and blue, wanting to cry but not knowing how.  Eventually I end up sitting at a table downstairs while everyone sleeps, listening to neighborhood dogs, feeling the cool moist air of a storm front rolling in and writing.  Even now at 2345 hours almost one month to the day as I sit in the comfort of my fire station, recalling this very moment my throat is tight, my chest hurts and it’s all I can do to keep tears from streaming down my face.  But why?

A question that I suppose will remain unanswered…..




Dawn rises slowly over a dry Haitian landscape, birds are calling, chickens crowing and Mothra queen of all Haitian moths travels carefree between island shrubberies. Off to my right hoards of goats are gnawing, chewing and pawing their way across this rocky compound! These four legged creatures providing limited sustenance to the inhabitants here in Source a Philipe are driving me crazy! All night long the sounds of goats traveling unrestricted throughout our compound resonates within the night air. I could loathe these devil eyed creatures but I don’t, for their presence means survival to these people; but I must say if I never hear a goats cry again it will be too soon! As the sun continues to rise it is not quite light, not quite dark outside. This is my favorite time of day, no sun baking your skin and just enough light shadowing the surrounding beauty that a different perspective is visually stimulating. This is my last true morning here on La Gonave as tomorrow we depart under a cloak of darkness. At a time like this you end up fully appreciating the opportunity provided to sit in this very place, trying your hardest to absorb every second, every minute because that’s the moment you’re in right now. My emotions are raw, contemplating a future for these people. They are the result of a broken system which has left them hungry, thirsty, and in need of regular medical attention. But what is one small, middle class “Blanc” from America to do? So I sit, on a set of concrete stairs erected over 60 years ago, perched upon by countless other souls who felt a calling for something greater within themselves. They worked hard, saved money, stocked supplies then packed their bags and made this journey. What they found was a village in disarray, but through empathy and Christ’s love struggled to improve life for these people. How many missionaries before me have traveled this far? Why was I chosen for this particular mission? It’s one of those rare moments where personal humility and guilt leave you wondering whether you’ve fulfilled your obligations.

At home through repetition we wander the same paths every day; for we are creatures of habit moving endlessly in circles like hamsters on a wheel. Our sphere of existence consists of visiting the same stores, wandering the same parks, surrounding ourselves with the same friends, moving like herd animals across the plains we roam. But here, on La Gonave, in this small fishing village known as Source a Philipe, like an unwanted stray I feel as though I have broken away from the safety of the herd. I am now on my own for predators to stalk without trepidation. No longer tied to a singular way of thinking, my brain aches as I attempt thinking outside the box looking for solutions. Staring into the distance it has been an incredibly long week and I am left asking myself; HAVE WE MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE(S)? In my heart I know we have, there shall be no regrets. Less than 24 hours to go before we depart and already I miss this sad hurtful place.

Sitting under these trees, watching the sun rise, sweating at 0530 in the morning for some strange reason this already feels like a forgotten memory.

Heading back into my room overcome with the urge to write I sit down and can’t quite bring myself to pull the laptop out. My head is submerged in variables surrounding today’s mission. Our last few days have been a mental struggle. Keeping information from the group, supporting my wife during multiple dilemmas while holding back my emotions in regards to human suffering are weighing heavy on my mind. Doc’s having an asthma attack of such severity we all sat stunned, pondering the ramifications of disaster only magnified my sometimes doomsday attitude. Dealing with the worst in people on a daily basis back home has definitely prepared me for this journey, but it has also damaged me as well. My care banks are full, I feel I have nothing left to give, and as I stare at the floor pondering the next 48-72 hours my wife walks in greeting me with a cup of coffee and a smile. I am bleary eyed and must look a mess, but seeing her is just what the doctor ordered.

“Side note; in regards to Docs asthma, a strange thing happened the following morning, she awoke with what appeared to be some form of writing or marks on her arm. Now both groups are closed up and guarded during the night, so for someone to enter one of our structures IMG_2130undetected is a bit unnerving so my first impression was one of doubt. When personally asked about the markings my response was; they must be charcoal rub marks from sitting on logs down by the beach! But after studying the markings a little further it became obvious they were indeed writings, and placed purposely upon her arm. Voodoo is big within the Haitian culture so I snapped a few pictures for identification purposes then cleaned had Kristina clean her arm. We chose to investigate this back at the UMVIM guest house as to not create a commotion here in Source a Philipe.”

With morning pleasantries out of the way we sit side by side holding hands and talking. This trip has been good for the two of us; the daily stress in our lives surrounding a family of 6, both of our jobs and a working horse ranch we had somehow lost the ability to just sit and enjoy each other’s company without distractions, interruptions or otherwise. I haven’t felt this connected to my wife in a long time and secretly I hope it lasts long after we get home. Sipping coffee we decide it’s time to formulate a plan for the day. For today is THE day, the day everybody gets paid, the day we make decisions as to where, what and how they are paid. Today we not only need to treat as many people as possible in the clinic before our departure; but we are required to take inventory of all pharmaceutical supplies, the remainder of our supplies, tear down the clinic and leave behind anything we don’t need or want to benefit the community. Yes TODAY IS THE DAY!

As easy as all of these happenings TODAY sounds, we know vultures will be circling, waiting patiently for the moment, any moment we are not vigilant to abscond our belongings. Sitting next to my wife I note a tone of seriousness within our conversation, for as I have previously stated ALL payments, gifts and donations of clothes, food, medicines and so forth are to be made through Francois! Those are the rules! But Jacy and I are breaking from policy in regards to this agreement. There will be no ALL for François, because yesterday Jacy and I carefully determined how much was to be distributed and to whom! All that remains is for the two of us is to decide where and how payments will be made without alerting François, thusly causing a potential disturbance of great proportions! Double checking to ensure all our planning is in order, we cannot underscore the obvious; we still need François to get off this island.

Our plan? Stretch payments out slowly during the day! She and I believe this will draw the least amount of attention leaving little chance for François to corner a payee or recipient if suspicion arises. The last thing we need to happen is for someone to be accused, embarrassed, harassed or punished because of this team! Reaching into my computer bag, many carefully sealed and marked envelopes are handed over. My wife now carries all monies needed to execute this plan, reminding her to be careful, she smiles and reminds me all will be fine. I hope so, it is a touchy situation and if things go south it could be bad, very bad.. Walking up to the guest house with her, ever the worrier I simply take a deep breath and remind myself to have faith. What else can I do?

Inside the dining area everyone has gathered for a quick bite, except for one. Heather! Ducking into her room, I find her covered in sweat and feeling poorly! It appears as though the very same bastard virus that knocked down Jacy the day before has latched its ugly teeth into Heather. We let her know all will be fine and remind her to sleep. After a slew of jokes and one liners delivered in only the way this red haired Irish woman can, she drifts off amongst the sweat, growing humidity and heat. Another person I care about down, another bit of worry to carry, another team member short. This day is shaping up quite well!

Chair after chair patients move through the door. The quality of teeth today seem to be a little worse than previous days, it’s as though the worst ones spent all week pondering whether or not to seek our help. One mouth in particular has a gum line so deteriorated that small pockets of puss explode at the slightest touch of a periodontal elevator! There also appears to be a rush on individuals needing to have ALL their teeth pulled! All their teeth! As though life would be infinitely better with no chompers what so ever! It’s as if losing one’s teeth is a badge of honor to these people! It’s frustrating, but either way doc continues working overtime accommodating every patient’s needs! The signs of her hard work are definitely showing; her back, face and hands strain as she is wearing down. Just before lunch we break into an in depth conversation regarding the sheer will and tenacity of the Haitian spirit. All Haitians are without a doubt extremely tough! But for some reason Haitian women seem to be just a tad bit tougher than the men. Maxed out on Lidocaine? No problem for a Haitian female, she will grab ahold of you and bear through the procedure as if it were child birth! Afterwards stand up, give a halfhearted smile and walk away. Most of the men on the other hand, fidget and whine a little before finally allowing you to finish the job. When they are done they walk out shoulders slumped as though you just took their lunch money.

Midday arrives and Heather appears to be looking a little better! She smiles while sitting on her bed, lying through her teeth that all is fine. Everyone takes a turn checking in on her wellbeing; its awesome watching these people care so much for another. Someone is getting her water, ensuring she is taking her medications and not one person complained that she smelled horrible and looked as though she slept
with a homeless person the night before! Not one! Gosh, that’s what friends are for? Thank the lord Heather isn’t afraid of the shower of doom for if she was a full scale mutiny may have ensued!

The afternoon was a tough grind and turned into a bit of a blur for me personally. All I could see was the end or finish line and I wasn’t the only one. One after another each patient brought us a little closer to that end. Kristina’s hands are about finished, she now struggles to pull teeth as her back and hands bear the brunt of the last four days. Many of us have taken over providing preliminary care within our scope, trying our best to ease some of her burden, but we know it won’t be too long before it is all over and she can finally give those poor hands a rest.

End of the day and people are still being smuggled in through the side door, when out of the blue Captain Jackson is noticed lurking around the threshold. Calling him inside he motions towards his mouth and through a translator expresses his desire for us to pull his other two teeth! We’re all excited as we knew he’d return to finish the job and alleviate his pain. As soon as he’s seated he stops smiling, starts perspiring and a nervousness is once again written all over his face! Caz starts talking in hopes of calming him down but it doesn’t appear to be working. Suddenly out of the blue, Captain Jackson looks up with the face of a boy and professes why nervousness overtakes him. Quietly, looking almost ashamed he tells Caz that he likes rum! Not a nip now and again, but a lot! It is why he was nervous the first time adamantly demanding only one tooth be pulled out of fear, and it is why he is nervous this time. It seems he knows enough about his liking of rum to understand too much rum and anesthesia do not mix! He promises he hasn’t had any rum today, he also promises to have eaten something prior to coming. He then very stoically asks; could we please remove the other two teeth because they hurt?

How could we not oblige?

Jacy has once again disappeared, I am positive she is doling out the dough, and my protective hackles are up! But thankfully François is lurking just around the corner so I know he is not following her around. It’s as if he is counting every patient, and taking personal mental inventory of all items that could possibly be left behind. He makes eye contact with me a couple of times, he can’t see I am sticking my tongue out, these masks are fantastic! I really want to believe this man means no ill will, but my suspicions are strong, mix them with mounds of fact and a sprinkling of hearsay and the evidence is tremendously hard to ignore. Yesterday Francois came to Jacy and asked for donation of money under the guise of throwing a party for the school children on our last day. It all sounded amazing; Francois would take money from us and the Wesley group, head into the larger neighboring town then purchase items to create a wonderful feast for all of us to serve and share with the school children! Sounds like a selfless act yes? One problem, when Jacy offers $150.00 dollars to François he proceeds to hem and haw, playing the “aww shucks that’s not enough card” to which my wife simply states; that is all the extra money we have to provide for your lunch, take it or leave it! Francois begrudgingly takes the cash then wanders off. Our interpreters later explain that $150.00 dollars was more than enough as all François would purchase were bags of rice and snacks for the children, which at today market price, equaled approximately $75.00! Wow $75.00 to feed all 300 children! Jacy and I look at each other in amazement and quietly I grumble; he’ll be back. Anyone who feels as though they can fleece missionaries on a regular basis will return with a new story hoping to fleece just a little more. Not much later Francois arrives hat in hand like an English beggar spouting; “please sir may I have another?” or “Just a bit more governor, please?” Francois tells a convincing story of walking over to the Wesley group asking for another $150.00 dollars to cover this luncheon of 300. When the Wesley group responds by turning him down due to a lack of funds, well the only thing left was to wander back and ask Ms. Jacy for just a bit more! The problem with Francois plan? There is no more for his scheme, and Jacy made that perfectly clear! In the end he simply hands her the cash, throws down some Haitian guilt and walks away! This left me wondering? If he truly was dirty would he have handed the money back or was this part of his plan, hoping Jacy wouldn’t call his bluff and pony up the extra? Either way I wish I spoke creole! A man lives by his actions, but I can tell a lot about you within minutes of hearing your spoken word. It’s a gift I have always held, it drives people close to me crazy and I am not always right, but more times than not I am dead on the money! So even if all his actions point one direction, if I could have just spoken with him personally I would have known for certain right away. AS it was my feelings (as others) about him were coming to fruition regardless of my ability to talk with him one on one.

Arriving at the point when one should relax and call it a day, the last of our patients exit from the clinic. Jacy has given me the nod, indicating all payments short of two have been paid out. The one payment of course being Francois’ the others being a little cash we put together for Captain Jackson. But that one payment, oh yes that one lone payment we have decided will have to wait. During her disappearance Jacy and Alisa wandered off to visit the twins. She reports they are doing quite well, they are being fed and cared for and look healthy (relatively speaking) for what they have endured. It is good news for sure and brings a light of sunshine onto our project. As she tells us all about their visit we are tearing down the clinic. It’s sad for it means an end to our journey is near. It is also a happy moment as we can all imagine feeling a warm shower, a soft bed with no tarantulas, and an ice cold beer waiting just around the corner! Mentally heading down this trail of self-serving thoughts is probably wrong, but right now like a prisoner staring at his last 48 behind bars, we can smell the freedom.

Brent finishes cleaning the last of our equipment and brings it in to cool. Orson is sorting through what stays and what goes, Kristina is sitting as she should in a chair staring at the floor. Gail and I are moving suitcases back and forth filling them with supplies for the pharmacy. Jacy is in the pharmacy working with Richard and Wesline to determine what meds can be hidden, used and distributed among the people without knowledge of others who wish to profit. I join them and am on the floor discovering more out dated supplies. I have given up trying to do an inventory as it would take me three days alone to organize this room no bigger than a walk in closet. Richard, Wesline and Jacy instantly quiet down with Jacy abruptly changing the conversation, it means only one thing, Francois is lurking around the corner. Sure enough walking out like I have somewhere important to be, he is leaning against a wall eavesdropping. Before I can come up with a plan to move him somewhere else, one of our team comes and says Ronald is moving bags filled with supplies for other people into a pile for himself. I find what he is doing is looking for a suitcase (we have plenty to spare) as his is worn out, but it remains odd the way he’s gone about doing so. Before long Francois is also roaming through our supplies and we end up retrieving them all, sorting and smuggling what we need for Wesline and her pharmacy. We also create a bag of supplies to send home with one of our interpreters who runs a program through mission work to save his home village. Then we fill a suitcase with medical and dental supplies for Caz, he is soon to be a new daddy so anything we can send home for him and his wife is much appreciated. In the end we hold off Francois, distribute all funds, clothing and medicines to the appropriate people. It is truly a feat of maneuvering and deception as a shell game of great proportions has taken place. For every suitcase holding important items that needed to “disappear” two empty suitcases were treated as though they were filled with gold. Suitcases were shuffled about, with some carried up to the guest house and some given away without Francois knowing which one was valuable and which was just empty. All of this action of course intrigued Francois. Unable to handle his curious side he wandered about, confused by our little charade. Little did Francois know those extra suitcases held exactly what he was owed; absolutely nothing.

During our tear down time another unexpected problem emerges. One child after another arrives for continued medical treatment! From cuts and bruises to opening an infected cist upon Captain Jacksons daughters elbow. Crying, screaming and tears could be heard from anywhere near the compound. Crying and screaming from the children being treated, tears and sobbing from our brave tired personnel who attended to these children. Captain Jacksons daughter was so strong, right after she had her elbow drained she came back to show a large cut over her eye, which we fixed with crazy glue and homemade steri-strips. All the while smiling at the gentle care given her by Jacy, Kristina, Richard, Alisa. She was a real trooper and I have to say her sweet face has been permanently etched in my mind.

Dinner time was very mundane as all had become mopey, possibly coming to terms emotionally with of our last night on the island. Word has passed we are departing at 4 am with all belongings at the dock no later than 3:30am. Some were excited to be going home, others saddened at the thought of leaving this place. It had become very hot and humid during the day with no signs of an evening shower in sight. A few grabbed dinner plates and headed out to eat on the stairs or rocks surrounding the guest house. But once
seated many who lived in the village were soon staring at the bounty laid upon our plates, it was embarrassing, and hard to stomach as we were not allowed to feed anyone for fear of showing special treatment. All who walked outside were quickly back inside sweating miserably as they tried to stomach their food. So much food before us, while others stand starving, thirsty and longing for any crumb thrown their way, we cower unable to provide anything for those in need. My appetite lost, life is truly unfair.

Ditching on dinner, Captain Jackson has offered to return us onto the reef one last time. Joining him on the walk towards the beach Caz and I quietly pull him from the group behind a shack where no one can possibly see us. Through Caz I explain how thankful we are to have met such a wonderful caring man who has treated us well all week by providing rides out to the reef. I also do my best explaining how much we all cared about him and his wife during their crisis on Monday. Then while reaching into my pocket he humbly tells of his gratitude for our help, promising us his wife is taking her medications and feeling better every day. Smiling I gently place a wad of bills into his hand, explaining its for him and his family, a small way we can say thank you for helping us get out to the reef. He smiles the biggest smile, shakes my hand and with little more than a fast trot we have rejoined the group without a soul discovering our absence.

Out on the reef, the warm Caribbean waters sooth the soul. Floating around everyone’s laughing, having a great time, I can only assume they are glad the day is over and looking forward to our boat ride home. As quickly as we have arrived, Captain Jackson motions for everyone to load back up as it is rapidly becoming dark. All week long it has been hilarious watching people try and get into the dingy without tipping it over and I am glad to say that humor has not faded! Seriously watching people flop back and forth across the beam, while Jackson looks as though any moment he may need to abandon a capsizing boat is seriously funny stuff! Laughing so hard I am choking on sea water, I decide once again to make the 300 yard swim as opposed to toppling the Poseidon adventure! Once again Brent has joined me for this nightly swim which is more rejuvenating than anything I can remember in recent history. I am always glad to have him as a swimming partner, although as I stroll onto shore I see Brent has accidentally changed headings and is swimming slightly out to sea! Nothing to worry about, with a slight course change, one of his patented anecdotes he is back on track and before long wading up alongside the dock. The Timoun have joined us and are following us from the waterline to our guest house. One in particular, my little deaf buddy has joined us and is once again tapping on my back, proclaiming; tattoo! Kneeling down for what would be the very last time, he outlines it, smiles brightly then taps my shoulder and walks away. He is another face I will remember forever and wonder if we could have done more for his situation.

The guest house is abuzz as clothes are separated, suitcases for traveling home are filled while others are left for scavenging. Piles of clothes are handed out to individual recipients, while we leave a piles of scrubs and crap clothes as a ruse for Francois. Water bottles filled, personal effects stowed, and the night is finally winding down. Francois has made several passes, asking for Jacy, but each time he swings by the team redirects him with a simple; she is busy. Jacy has used this excuse a time or two today, and each time Francois wanders away only to resurface a bit later asking for her whereabouts once again. This time though Jacy apologizes for being previously unavailable then walks outside to meet with him. She motions for me to join her as I hold the two hundred dollars we agreed upon for payment. Jacy initially felt 150 was more than enough, but I reiterated that we needed to make it appear as though we were not just paying Francois for Ronald’s time, but a small gratuity for a few others involved as well. I felt it needed to look like an appropriate amount otherwise we may be stuck showing our hand. She concedes and we arrive at the two hundred dollar bench mark. The three of us stroll to the far southwest corner of the building where Jacy shakes Francois hand and with the skill of a seasoned politician says;

“Francois, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for all of your generous hospitality. It is obvious to me and my entire team that you care for all the people in your village. You have helped us in many ways over this last week and for that on behalf of my team I once again say thank you. I trust after we leave this island you will continue helping many people by providing water, food and assisting those in need with only the best care, using medicines we have left behind for free to help the sick and injured within your community. I feel Francois you will and I feel as though we are leaving this village in your very capable hands. And that makes me feel good about all we have accomplished here for you and your people. (Francois is semi smiling to everything Jacy is saying but there is no real emotion showing from his face. Instead he appears as though this whole process is bothersome, wishing instead for closure and payment.)

As you know we hadn’t planned on a third interpreter but thanks to Ronald whom I believe is your son? We were able to work much faster in the clinic, achieving a success we could only dream of, so with that here is some cash for you to give your son and redistribute any extra to those you see fit.”

Jacy turns to me and I excuse myself to “go get the money”. Jacy knows right away what I am about to do. Walking into Jacys room I pull the wad from my pocket, tear off $50.00 taking it back down to the original $150.00 (solely based on Francois attitude) then walk back outside and offer Francois the money. Francois takes the money, smiles says; “thank you so much” while shaking Jacys hand, then walks away. Jacy turns to me and asks how I felt that went? To which I proclaim; Brilliant! It was brilliant! She laid it on thick, built up his ego then exposed his lies, quietly letting him know she was on to him. It was brilliant. As I helped her finish packing I remained in awe of the day long con we had perpetrated upon the thieves of this community. Finishing up, I am thinking of Ronald, will his dad give him the money or will he keep it all for himself? Expressing my concern, Jacy reminds me of a conversation we held in my room while dividing up payments; if Francois is what we all believe him to be, he will have no morals, with no morals his destiny is written, therefor he will not pay his son, by not paying his son he will have confirmed what we feared, what the community has described and ultimately what God has shown us all along. Doubt will stand no more.

Francois emerges from the darkness, there is no question after scurrying home he counted the money and now returns for more. Our interpreters work him over verbally until he slowly wanders away. It is the last time we see this man. I earnestly pray for Francois and all the Francois of Haiti, for what he is doing is a learned procedure brought forth by generations of those who wield power in an impoverished arena. In my heart I still wish to believe he is a kind and gentle man who knows no different of his actions, but truth be told if the stories are true, he is at the very least a tyrant. Keeping water from your people is unforgivable, choosing to feed only those who can pay in a village of starving poor individuals with no chance for improvement, unfathomable. Keeping anything donated by missionaries to sell at market for personal profit unconscionable. I have shaken his hand, shown him my kindness, it is his to cherish or abuse. A choice made, right or wrong is still a choice and once made a man should own that choice.

Final packing finished, water bottles filled, anticipation is high as the clock turns 11:00pm. Four hours left until we arise, gather and leave this island. I feel as though we accomplished many great things, treated many more than we had intended and worked very hard at forging ahead when obstacles were continually set in our path. But as I sit on my bunk typing, listening to Richard tell me his life story (very interesting I might add) I can’t help but feel a sense of loss. My trip last year was filled with community camaraderie, good times and hordes of friendly caring people. This year, through all the hard work we were barely able to meld with this community at all, and when we did have an opportunity to take part in activities that would have brought us all together, an outstretched hand of greed awaited our arrival. Confused, tired, and worried about hearing my alarm clock in the morning, Richard politely excuses himself and I lay down. Its hot tonight, no rain insight, no breeze rolling off the ocean and somewhere past midnight my eyes begin to close. A giant moth has perched upon my toe, something is buzzing my face and the unforgettable roll of sweat turning down my sides to saturate the sheets is all I remember as the lights grow dim. Goodnight Source a Philipe. Tomorrows light will find us miles from your shores.


I promise

Well my children, as this Fourth of July weekend draws to a close, I find myself tired, sunburned and just a smidge dehydrated.
With the extracurricular fun coming to an end its back to the laptop I go! A new edition of our Haitian adventure will be up by tomorrow evening. I promise!
And we all know Betty would never mislead you!!!
(Insert Betty Rubble giggle here)

Eye of the storm


Wednesday June 12th.

Entering the guest house this morning I am groggy, tired and my back hurts. Making my way through the entry it becomes apparent I am not the only one who is tired. Alisa hasn’t slept well, Heather is looking a tad worn-out, and everyone else is holding a thousand yard stare. Striking up conversations hoping to bring a smile into the house it dawns on me, where is my wife? Is she up? I didn’t pass her by the clinic? Looking around there is IMG_2121no sign of her! Making my way down the hall Alisa makes eye contact with me as I turn the corner to Jacy’s room. The look is that of empathy, and I quickly see why, Jacy is still asleep on her bed, and she is covered in sweat. Feeling her forehead, I find she is burning hot and wet. My wife slowly opens her eyes just long enough to explain how severely bad she is feeling. After a small breather she tells of the night’s escapades it doesn’t sound like much fun at all. Around three am Jacy awoke feeling strange with a tummy rumble that wouldn’t subside; trying her best to be quiet and not wake anyone she struggled but couldn’t find a flashlight (as there is no power from the generator after 11pm), this translated into her fumbling around the guest house attempting to make it into the bathroom. Alisa who wasn’t sleeping and really hasn’t slept since we arrived, found her first. Soon Jacy was also accompanied by Heather, then Doc and Gail, it eventually turned into the entire house helping her as she spent the next 2-3 hours vomiting. Before long whatever had a hold of her was working its magic all the way around and she couldn’t leave the bathroom for fear of bodily fluids expelling at any moment. This explains the exhausted look upon everyone’s face. After the full briefing, Jacy tells me she wants to get up, to which I say; No. She explains the need to get up, as team leader she doesn’t want to let anyone down. I understand this feeling fully and after explaining the ramifications of her not resting, the importance of taking her medication and the reality that letting us handle things for the day will be ok, she reluctantly concedes. I kiss her on the forehead and after tucking her into bed we all head out to open the clinic. Jacy (thankfully) was asleep before leaving the building and Alisa, Heather and I spend the better part of the morning checking in on our fearless leader.

After starting this morning while aimlessly staring at a wall it dawns on me that I’m feeling a bit woozy. My tummy is rumbling, my legs are quivering and my back is really hurting, but not in that “oh my back hurts, whiney kind of way” but more along the lines of someone really mad beat the crap out of my kidneys! Doing a rapid self-assessment I determine dehydration has taken over my body. Wanting so badly to learn as much about dentistry as I can, even with “water bomb” being yelled constantly I have OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAneglected my own water needs. Knowing this is very important I do my best to catch up without letting anyone know, push the pain deep down and proceed to ignore how I feel. There are three other people in worse shape than me and one Doctor with her fingers wrapped in bandages, shoved in two medical gloves, hoping this will cushion the raw flesh long enough to pull just one more tooth.

A while later I am looking around the room (spacing out really) and it occurs what a true blessing these college kids have become! These are full-fledged voting adults, but at my age any one of them could be one of my own children so calling them “kids” is really no sign of disrespect. These wonderful “kids” have saved this Haitian dental team of 10! Every OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAday since Monday at least one and as many as four of them have assisted us in the clinic at all times. Kaiti, whose fiancé is studying to become a dentist has gone from participating in behind the scenes work to standing at the head of our patients. Amanda stepped right in on the very first day, she did so with the caveat; she couldn’t take the sight of blood and (with a smile on her face) she may pass out! But this didn’t stop her, oh no! This young lady held trays at patients heads and whenever teeth were pulled she stared off at the ceiling, or over towards the wall, or down at the floor and she may have even fidgeted a little! But gosh darn it she was awesome! By Wednesday she would actually stand in front of a patient without looking up anymore! Ok more like off to theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA side, but not nearly as far to the side as earlier in the week! She was very brave and a complete sweetheart! Graham became Kristina’s favorite light holder! Tall and steady the light was always where it needed to be when it needed to there, regardless of how long the procedure took! Many held the light and only a few knew or understood how important this tedious job was! Kristina announced Graham and her would be Facebook friends! Of course this offer could be rescinded depending on the time of day and the level of performance from its recipient.

Ally was priceless with the children, just as we knew she would be! She is loved by all the kids in this village and an enormous comfort when it came time for pulling teeth! As fear of perceived pain loomed overhead one look at Ally and Ti-moun knew everything was going to be alright! Children and their parents trusted her implicitly and so did we! Andrew, Matt and John were assisting us in many facets throughout the week. But what our team was most thankful for was the countless time these young men spent filtering water! Without clean, filtered water there OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwould be operation, no clean instruments and no life for our exhausted dehydrated bodies! Reflecting back now I also believe these were the same lads helping Preston with many of the children when Heather needed to switch over to the medical side of our operation. None of them ever complained (at least not in front of me) and all of them were always willing and able to jump right in! I regret not remembering everyone’s name for they all deserve to be recognized. But if for some reason any of them read this posting I hope they all know how thankful we were for each and every one of these young selfless souls. God Bless you all…

Alisa and Heather have taken over the medical clinic with a vengeance, ensuring treatment of all who come is performed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving only made it over to that side during extreme cases, I am not fully aware of the mental anguish placed upon these women. I have an inkling, after all part of what I have learned over the years is the ability to listen and observe, but not until tomorrow afternoon will I know the full extent of sorrow and pain left in the wake of their hard work.


Lunch time comes and Jacy has made her way back onto the floor. We are all worried about her stubbornness creating a situation where ultimately she will become run down allowing whatever made her sick during the night to rear its ugly head once again. Checking her status it’s nice to see the fever which had her burning up four hours ago has decreased and the medications ingested are doing their best to keep whatever she contracted at bay. Some of the team is talking and believe it to be food poisoning, but my argument remains the same; if one had food poisoning, odds are all would have food poisoning! This little observation continues to go unheeded and the argument rages on. My theory is she picked up a virus from one of the many OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAchildren seen over the last few days. We are all wearing masks but at some point or another a patient or two has been seen sans mask. It’s wrong, but unfortunately it is the way things are when push comes to shove in a stressful patient after patient atmosphere.

As we prepare to head back into the clinic after lunch (or lack thereof), Jacy pulls me aside and wishes to discuss our financial situation in regards to services rendered in Source a Philipe. We duck out unnoticed and head back into her room where the topic of Francois comes up again. All payments are supposed to be made through François, but as we have learned over the week, Francois in most cases keeps the money for himself. Or so the assumption goes. We can’t prove this, and I am trying to believe in innocent until proven guilty, but the desperate look behind the eyes of those who have come forward tells a different story. Jacy and I discuss compensation for interpreters, nurses, cooks, the lady who tended our fire all week and of course the laundry crew who is currently washing our clothing. We also need to come up with a fair price for Ronald which would include a nominal tip. We hadn’t planned on Ronald, but he ended up being a big help and even though we determined through his actions and accounts of others in the community that he may have been spying for his father, he still deserves monetary compensation for his hard work during the week. Once the finances are solidified we return to another topic of great concern. Jacy reminds me of our obligation to visit “the twins” before we leave Source a Philipe. The twins are two OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAinfant children whose mother passed away not long after their birth. These two children were left in the care of their grandmother with no breast milk, powder supplements or baby food to sustain their little bodies. The guest house asked our team to look in on them, with malnutrition being of great concern, the fear is they won’t make it through the year. Jacy’s plan is to take Alisa, Heather and Caz later today to check on their wellbeing so she may treat them if need be and report on conditions back to the guest house.

With our game plan in place I inquire as to how my wife is feeling, she lies (I can always tell) and lets me know she is good to go! I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAstill think she should rest but as per usual when it comes to my wife, she ignores my advice and heads back through the clinic doors.

Captain Jackson has returned to the clinic entrusting us to pull his teeth. So thankful is he in regards to our treatment of his wife that he now braves sitting in our dental chair for some treatment of his own. Captain Jackson has three obvious teeth in need of pulling but for some reason is only allowing us to pull one. We plead with him to allow us the opportunity to pull the other two but he refuses. He begins acting strange and we can’t figure out why, its odd really, the man who is all smiles currently sits, gripping the arms of a chair while the process goes off without a hitch. Then as quickly as this stoic statue of a man sat down, he is back out the door.

Our day is filled with more than a few patients returning, claiming we left portions of tooth still inside the gum line. What they are experiencing, feeling with their tongues is actually their jawbone. Some teeth have become so rotten (the associated gum disease is atrocious) the resulting effect being a gum line broken down exposing root and jaw, so when the tooth is pulled away this further exposes the inner jawline where the human tongue can feel it giving a false sense of a ‘broken tooth”. I feel sympathetic for these people as they wallow their tongues around inside their mouths trying to determine if what they are feeling is a good or bad thing. But the answer after inspection is always the same; take your medications, don’t swirl, swish or spit for the next 24 hours and good luck.

Being on a mission team is a little like joining the cast of survivor; Alliances are formed, friendships forged and somewhere along the way someone needs to be voted off the island! I am happy to report there have been no major blow ups between anyone leading to the inevitable knife in the back during tribal council. One instance led to a team member yelling at another during a tribaltrying moment late in the day and another incident was cured with nothing more than a walk, a breath of fresh air and some contemplation of events. This left our group pleased as any trouble ended right then with no outward hard feelings rearing an ugly head. Our group appears strong as I personally have witnessed amazing performances from all ten of these very unique individuals! By 4 o’clock, ten patients remain, our interpreters are exhausted, the team is drenched in sweat and I haven’t seen Jacy all afternoon; with her not feeling well I have become concerned. Nearing 5pm it appears as though no one will be turned away from the clinic tonight and that is a very good thing. Our people are milling about still cleaning up equipment, dinner is almost on the table and I am feeling extremely mentally exhausted. The sight of Francois lurking around every corner, watching, almost chronicling every one of our movements has me on edge! Feeling the need for a walk, I slip out the side door andOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA disappear into the island air! We have been advised to never walk alone and always take an interpreter whenever we go away from camp. But I have no use for these rules and even if I did no desire to follow them right now. Wondering along street after street with nothing more than my thoughts, I am surround by some of the poorest living conditions I have ever witnessed! Shacks (and I mean shacks) lined up with holes in the ceilings, holes in the walls and in some cases front doors made of sticks or old damaged wood! In fact the word shack really sounds nice compared to the visual reality that currently surrounds me.


Psalm 127:3 KJV

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Up one street then down another, Haitian villagers are so friendly, greeting me with a hearty BONSWA, shaking my hand, smiling and waving! Why aren’t people this friendly at home? There are goats everywhere, dogs running freely and mules, plenty of weight carrying, people transporting, tired, withered old mules! ChildrenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA are also everywhere I go, some clothed, some naked, and for the first time I have a moment to stop, recognize their existence and actually look into their big beautiful eyes! Staring back at me with smiles on their faces, I don’t like what I see. These children are hungry, thirsty and looking for any tidbit of food or water you can spare! That “tidbit” is not reserved for just food, but love, affection and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe ability to play with the Blanc (us white people)! It is the definition of poverty, poverty at its worst, in my opinion a homeless person in the United States is wealthier than a citizen of Source a Philipe! Deeply saddened by what I am witnessing, it’s affecting me greatly and while pondering why things are this way; a light bulb shines bright overhead! Wrapped up in this new world of dentistry I have only focused on one thing, not allowing myself to remove the blinders and see what’s happening around me. In a village where Methodists have built the cisterns, providing free water for all why are these children thirsty? In a village where every team leaves behinds scores of clothing for all its needy citizens to distribute amongst themselves, why are these people naked? In a town where matching funding is provided by each team that travels here, where are the results of those monies? Becoming angrier at my lack in ability to answer my own questions I turn up the next street to see 3 well-built newer concrete homes with nice porches and scores of young Haitian men donning newer OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAclothing, laying about and trying their hardest at a tough guy vibe. These young men look like rappers with aviator sunglasses, bright clothing and converse shoes. I exert a hearty Bonswa in passing and in return get the thirty mile stare from them all. One youngster even goes as far as glaring over the top of his sunglasses, staring, watching every step I take. The whole village is struggling to survive, yet here sits these well dressed, well fed, fit young men, obviously better off than most, carrying a very machismo chip on their shoulders. I begin to wonder if I am looking at our matching funds in action.

Back at the guest house some inquire as to where I have been, not wanting to show my obvious distaste for what I’ve seen I simply tell the tale of a nice walk among the community. Inside, my minds reeling and temper seething, but I need to remember what OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI saw was merely an appearance as I have no concrete proof as to my perceptions. Thank goodness Brent is out front, deep in conversation, a little distraction is exactly what I need. After speaking with Brent for a bit I once again acknowledge my wife is nowhere to be seen. Wandering about I find her sitting on the steps of the school chatting with Kaiti. During their conversation it’s quickly apparent this discussion is focused on some shady practices put forth by none other than François and his band of followers. Having been here almost thirty days Kaiti has a real insight to some of the more serious problems in this village. We listen with open ears and before long everything I witnessed during my little walk about makes perfect sense.

During the week while walking around shirtless under the Haitian sun it came to my knowledge that many of the smaller children were following me around saying “tattoo” “tattoo”. Seeing an OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAopportunity to make new friends one day I stop, kneel down and allow them to touch my tattoo. One child in particular, a small boy who happens to be deaf from years of ear infections has taken a real liking to the large bird and cross on my back. Every day he stops me and points at my back, I kneel down and allow him to trace it with his finger. He smiles brightly and follows every line slowly and carefully until he returns to the starting position. After finishing his trace, he smiles again, taps me on the shoulder and walks away. He is adorable.

While talking with Brent and few others on the front steps of the guest house a loud commotion erupts from alongside the clinic. In a cloud of dust, filled with laughter, several young boys appear running our direction holding a giant bird! (Pelican) Others watch in confusion over the commotion as Jacy and I both start IMG_2248 IMG_2247laughing! These boys are bringing me a present! The present of a real bird they feel resembles the bird tattooed across my back. It’s flattering, it’s funny, and it’s freaking cool! We all laugh, the boys hang the bird up alongside my back for pictures and as quickly as they arrived the youngsters are gone, giggling, pushing, and I only assume by their body language praising themselves for a job well done. Funny how simple moments, arrive just when you need them most to change the course of a day.

After dinner a party has commenced in front of the school. Music, dancing, laughter and good times as many villagers are participating. Some of the College kids are present, Alisa and Heather are also in attendance. Alisa’s camera is working overtime while children jump up and down waiting for a chance to see a picture of themselves. Jacy and I stroll down to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAexperience the scene. Caz is in the middle of what some back home would call a mosh pit! The only difference being there is no “moshing” going on, but instead people are dancing up and down and everyone really seems to be enjoying themselves. These people are so pure, so honest and their love for one another is very apparent. All ages are present at this little soiree, and many of the women arrive donning their very best clothing. Caz cannot break from the group as he is loved by all. I envy his enthusiasm, his ability to show happiness and love for his fellow man at any moment. Rain starts to fall, it’s our cue to leave so we call it a night.

Arriving back at the guest house a young woman has made her way up the steps and lingers nearby, waiting, and staring, as if she has something to say. We instantly recognize her as one of three women who washed our laundry yesterday. Calling for Caz, he asks her if she is ok. She states no, she hadn’t been paid for doing our laundry! Richard asks her a few more questions and the picture becomes a little clearer. Now washing laundry is quite a simple business proposition in Haiti. You have dirty clothes, they charge a dollar an article, you have them wash your clothes and in return you pay a dollar an article to the Madame in charge. Simple process, simple math! Jacy explains payment was made this afternoon to the large woman (widow of the former associate pastor) who was in charge. She said yes she knew but this woman was refusing to pay her and the other woman for their work. She is distraught, hungry and very upset. Stuck between a rock and a hard place if we provide her with additional funding it will start a riot amongst our help. If we pay her nothing extra odds are she won’t receive a dime of the money owed her and continue to struggle without. In the end, we are told by our trusted interpreters NOT to interfere! We follow this advice tonight, but after this episode, our discussion with Kaiti and my walk around the village, it will be the last time we do so in Source a Philipe.

A long day has come to an end, wandering off towards my room, my head is spinning with uncertainty. Who is benefiting here in Source a Philipe? What will happen to these people when we are gone? Have we made the right choices? Jacy has done her absolute best! She is a solid leader, her people know this and trust her, and little does she know as she lays her head down to rest this evening, tomorrow will test her leadership ability even more.

On an up note? Kristina, with some prodding and the help of our leader, finally stepped ever so cautiously into the shower of doom! Praise be to God!



(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.)


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….


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>


Children, can you hear me?

lightning two

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……



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,