11 October 2011
Haiti October 2011 – Day 5
When driving around Port au Prince there are moments when you are startled by what you see. Collapsed homes and buildings are still in piles in many areas, next to homes and buildings that did not fall in the earthquake. Paved streets and rocky dirt roads with huge holes alike are jammed to overflowing with traffic, and very few traffic lights or stop signs. Instead of trains, people pile into “Tap Taps”, trucks that have been outfitted with benches that are an explosion of all the colors of the rainbow. Beautifully painted graphics adorn every square inch of the trucks and often include statements of faith in Creole such as God is My Protection, of Thank you God. Taxis are replaced by men on motorcycles who gather on corners waiting for their next fare. Goats are here, there and everywhere, walking on top of broken walls, graze on the piles of debris, and line the roads and streets. Today a large brown cow walked slowly down the middle of the road we drove on, not the least disturbed by motorcycles, honking trucks or the huge yellow school bus bouncing along the dirt road coming straight towards it as it saunters down the road. The driver has to put on the breaks. Women balance huge loads that appear to be half their body weight atop their heads with such grace. Men with machettes and carving tools build furniture right along the margins of the dirt and paved roads.
Some of what flashes by us as we drive along the roads of Port au Prince seems so different from our lives in New York city, and the things we may take for granted. Like clean running water. Or bathrooms. Or paved roads. Or the certainty that we have a home to return to at the end of the day that does not leak, and does not fill with mud every time it rains.
We notice groups of children of all ages on the streets in many areas of the city. They share with us about how they no longer have parents who are alive now, and need a little money for food or for water.
We arrive early this morning at an orphanage in Delmas 48, where 75 children without any parents to care for them live full time. They also attend a school the teachers built on a steep hillside, and children from the surrounding community also attend, with a total of 200 boys and girls.
Orderly lines of children stream into the school rooms that have been converted into the medical clinic. Although it’s early in the morning it’s very hot, and there is no breeze blowing. Yet the children wait patiently, some shy, and some smiling and laughing as we greet them with stickers and all the love we can pour out within a consultation with the Doctor and the Nurses, and a visit to the Pharmacy team. Hugs, greetings of Bonjour and prayers are intermingled.
We saw many children with rashes, fever, colds, worms, open sores on legs, and one young very skinny child with worms and a very large lesion on the side of her head from a fungal infection surrounded by scar tissue nearly the size of a child’s closed fist from constant scratching. Many vitamins, anti-worming medicines, anti-fungals and anti-bacterial creams are provided. We constantly pray, lifting up the needs of the children, and the teachers, as much of what is needed can not be touched by the medicines we bring with us.
In NYC, the majority of children have at least one parent or family member to take care of them. Here at Delmas 48, seventy-five children have only their teachers. As the stream of 144 children and teachers came to the medical clinic, a teacher sat in the pharmacy for hours. She had a notebook to write down each orphaned child’s name, and one by one, carefully notes their medications, and the instructions.
A big basket next to her began to fill to overflowing with each child’s medications. This big basket + the notebook + her careful notes = a symbol of the tender love of the teachers with these little children. Out of their own poverty, the teachers have trusted God to provide what they do not have, and the three buildings we tour are a bold testimony of God’s open hand of provision. They are praying for more beds, bedding, mosquito nets, as they only have five beds in one large room and the rest of the 70 children sleep on the floor.
A grey bearded man pokes his head into the pharmacy this morning, shouting out greetings with a Brooklyn twang. He has come from the northern part of Haiti, where he and a team of people over 35 years ago were led out of NY by the Lord Christ Jesus to open an orphanage, and more recently a farm.
Another prayer is answered! He has brought bags of rice the Lord led them to grow at their orphanage up North, and has driven four hours south to bring the Delmas 48 orphanage much needed food. Rice they grow in Haiti is very special, as apparently most rice in Haiti is imported from other countries, and much more expensive. We are laughing and smiling to meet a fellow New Yorker, and to see God’s heart in action. His face is shining with the love of God for the children and people of Haiti.
In the afternoon, we visit a tent city that is located right around the corner from our hosts Andre and Sylvie’s home. A church built with plywall sides and a tin roof within the tent city is our location for the medical clinic. The atmosphere inside and outside the medical clinic felt so calm. We felt the favour of the Lord all around us. Light streamed in through the open window. Each day the heat and humidity cause your scrubs to be completely soaked with sweat, and as those drops of water roll from your forehead a simple breeze through an open window is an answered prayer.
Some days when we set up the medical clinics in the tent cities, people who have lined up hours before we arrive may grow very anxious. Yelling and pushing have occurred in the larger camps as the crowd surges forward seeking help.
In the midst of this tiny church that is now a mobile medical unit complete with a table top pharmacy, we thank the Lord for His peace that has brought a calm to the large assembly of people overflowing the lines of people and to the team throughout a hot afternoon.
We see our oldest patient at the end of a long day. At 72, with grey hair neatly braided under a scarf, she came in with dizziness, fever and a lack of appetite, looking weary. The Nurse finished her consultation with prayer and gave her the prescription, where she headed to the Pharmacy team. After gathering her medications and vitamins, and after we had a chance to pray and encourage her, she was transformed. She smiled wide. That beautiful smile was a blessing, with only one tooth left in her mouth. She did not stop there. She came around the pharmacy table to give each of us kisses as she repeated over and over “Mesi anpil, mesi anpil” (thank you so much) and was so happy to “fait yon photo” (take a photograph) with Morales, one of the blessings God provided to us as our translator.
A final prayer answered, to bring beauty for ashes – as we wondered in awe of the God we serve, who is unlike any other! Who delights to restore hope to even the oldest bones of a woman living in a literal camp of ash and dust in a community ravaged by the earthquake…
His love never fails.