Haiti March 2010 PDF Print E-mail

Mission Journal
February-March 2009

Harry L. Whitt

Saturday, 27 February 2010

We flew into Haiti on 26 February 2010.  The airport was busy with helicopters, military style tents here and there.  It was the scene of a military operation.  We were taken by shuttle bus to the luggage area.  We easily found our luggage among the piles of bags -- no conveyor belt this time.

We traveled through Port au Prince fairly well.  You could tell the streets had been cleared of debris.  We passed by refuge type tent communities one after the other.  Directly opposite of the crumbled National Palace was a big tent city -- perhaps that is a symbol of the situation.  It was amazing to see one building totally crumbled and another somewhat unshaken.

I arrived at my home away from home.  I am staying in a building formerly used as a children’s home dorm.  It is a house size building situated like a duplex.  It has concrete walls and a metal roof.  I ate an MRE for supper and had piece of homemade pizza provided by my Mennonite hosts.

The night started off muggy but cooled off as it got later.  The mosquitoes are not too bad.  I put my big roller bag with some snack food under my bed and this morning I realized a rat had enjoyed some of my cheese crackers -- rats do love cheese after all.

The Mennonite people are very hospitable; they cook for everyone here, their work crews from the states and a group of four doctors working in a clinic in Leogane.  This morning we had fried eggs, sausage and toast.

Today, Pastor Fanfan, Johny, his two freinds, his brother and his daughter came to Buteau and we ate at an outside restuarant in Leogane.  It was very good.  I had a whole fish complete with head and eyes, rice and beans, fried plantain and pickleze (a spicy Haitian slaw).

We visited the church today.  The church is in amazing good shape.  One school building is repairable and the other must come down.  I think our best plan at this time is repair the one school building and add the rooms we need to it.  I am trying to get a price of what it will cost.

While we were at the school, I felt we needed to pray inside the church.  There were four churches in Buteau and ours is the only one still standing.  We are no better than they are it is only by God's grace and mercy ours is still standing.  I felt like we needed to pray inside and Johny's friend's wife (Ellsa, the mother of the children with Widliene) and Johny's daughter would not come inside because of fear.  I thanked God for His mercy in allowing our church to stand.  We are His children and all we have comes from His hand.

The people are scared to sleep inside at night.  Johny was uncomfortable with me sleeping inside.  I told him the building stood at the big earthquake and after the 4.7 last week and it was historically safe since an aftershock would not reach 7.0.   If someone is killed in an automobile accident, we do not stop riding in cars yet we may slow down.

There is so much rubble and destroyed buildings here.  It is almost more than your mind can really comprehend.  There will be one building totally crumbled and one across the road almost untouched.  It is crazy.

We went through a Red Cross distribution point in Buteau -- Pastor Fanfan said that was the first time they had a distribution in Buteau.  There were people lined up way down the road.  It looked like they were receiving a blanket, a tarp, two boxes (possibly of food) and two plastic collapsible water carriers.

I talked with two different parents today whose children were killed in the earthquake -- Pastor Lavache and the father of our school teacher Cherlie.  I expressed our concern, sympathy and love to them.  How can you take away the pain of the death of a child?  You can only show them you care, there are no proper words.

We will have church tomorrow and I am scheduled to preach.  I feel like I need to encourage the people to trust God more than their fears.  They have been through much pain and suffering.  I want to encourage them -- by the power of God to put courage into their hearts.  I have been struck by the fear the people have -- that has moved me more than the buildings destroyed.  God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, and of love and a sound mind.

There is much to do here in Haiti.  Yes there are buildings to build and mouths to feed but over the long haul, there are lives to renew in Christ and lives to rebuild.  I had two Haitians to tell me that the organizations who only want to feed the people for a short period of time is not what is needed but organization who want to build up the people so they can support themselves.  Yes, there is an immediate need for food, medical assistance and housing but one day the urgency in the world will die away and the people of Haiti will still be here.  The old proverb: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man how to fish and he will eat fish for the rest of his days." is still true.

I am praying for knowledge, understanding and wisdom as to how we proceed from this point.  Pathway Outreach Ministries has always been about spreading the Gospel of Christ.  We need to demonstrate the love of Christ by helping others.  We need to help both in short term emergencies and in long term commitments to help the people help themselves.

Monday, 1 March 2010

I am staying at an American Mennonite Children's Home.  I am bunking in a building formerly used as dormitory, the building is about 24 ft wide and 48 ft long with our section on one end.  It is pretty rustic but very functional.  We have a working toilet and shower in our section.  Johny Pierre Charles (a Haitian American) who came with me to Haiti is staying in Port au Prince with his family so I am a group of ONE in Leogane.  There are others guy bunking in my building, Mennonite work crews from the States.

Sunday morning Pastor Baptist picked me up for church at 8:00 AM.  It had rained the night before so the roads leading into Buteau were quite muddy.  On Saturday, we crossed a dry river bed going to the church but on Sunday, it was up to the bottom of the door on the Pathfinder.  Where's Moses with his staff when you need him!!

Even though the church is in good shape, we are still having the church service outside.  Several years ago we sent a basketball goal for the kids and they had poured a concrete pad for the basketball goal.  The goal is now gone but the concrete was a great place to have outside church.  The black soil around the church turns to thick, black sticky mud.  Walking around, I became one inch taller, not from pride but from mud.

The people in Haiti are so afraid.  At every opportunity, I have been trying to encourage them not to fear.  I know they have been through a lot of trouble but I feel I need to impart courage to them.  Pastor Baptiste said he had the people convinced to begin church inside on the second Sunday of March but when the last big aftershock hit they are having second thoughts.

Pastor Baptiste taught a Bible lesson on church authority.  I was following the scriptures he was using but catching very little of his teaching.  It sounded good to me (it it funny, how you can tell by someone's expressions).  At the end of the lesson, the church served coffee and bread for a breakfast.  This is a typical breakfast for Haitians.

As time for church approached, the number of people grew considerably from the Sunday School time.  The yard filled up, setting on the benches brought inside.  We had a great time of worship and prayer.  The people were raising their hands and voices in praise to God.

We have a good number of mango trees on the church property and they were great shade for the worshippers at Buteau.  It was funny to watch them move entire sections of benches as the sun changed directions.

I preached from 2 Kings 4:1-7 where Elisha told them woman to borrow vessels, fill them from her one jar of oil, pay the creditors and live off the rest.  I encouraged to people to look at what they had not at what they did not have.  God would bless what they had and He is the ultimate provider and protector.  The people were very receptive and responsive.  I think they appreciated our presence as we shared the love of Christ.

I asked the people who had a loved one or a close friend who had died in the earthquake to raise their hand -- almost every hand went up.  We recognized Cherlie (one of teachers) and Pastor Lavache's son who died (Pastor Lavache is our school principal).

After the church service we provided a meal of rice and beans, chicken and salad.  Since the earthquake, Pastor Baptiste has been providing breakfast and lunch for the church people.  It provides a meal for them and raises their spirits.

Sunday after church, Pastor Baptiste and I made our way to Port au Prince.  Johny wanted us to come and visit his family.  We had a meal of rice, congo bean, fried plantain, pickleze and pork--it was delicious.  We had a home prayer meeting with his extended family.  I was able to preach a short message of encouragement to them.  I spent the night in a tent in their yard.  Again, the people are afraid to sleep inside even thought they stay in the houses during the day if they are livable.  During the night I heard two gunshots.  It was kind of weird because it did not really bother me too much.  It was like, “that sounded like a gunshot” and you roll over and go back to sleep.  The next morning, Johny said a lot of people had guns in that community and they would fire up in the air at night if something was suspicious so as to scare away a would-be intruder.

The destruction is hard to process mentally.  After you see so many destroyed homes and businesses, your eyes and brain cannot really process what you are seeing.  I have taken many pictures but there is only so much a camera lens can convey.  The picture will show only one destroyed building but in reality, there is one behind it, one beside it and then another and another.  Then there will be one a building almost untouched. 

More striking to me than even the destroyed buildings are the tents--literally thousands and thousands of tents everywhere.  Coleman camping tents, relief agency tents, tarp tents, shanty houses the size of a kid's playhouse, and tents made of bed sheets and scrape pieces of wood and tree branches.  There are tent cities in fields, vacant lots, in yards, on the edges of the street and the weirdest of all places in the median of the streets in Port au Prince.

The Haitian people are quite resilient.  They seemed to be coping with life pretty well now except for the fear factor.  They have many needs but for many that is as it has been.

I visited Pastor Baptiste shanty house today.  He has it situated on the campus of New Mission in Leogane.  His ‘home for now’ is about 10 feet by 10 feet and build of old used roofing metal.  It wasn’t much!  That is going to be one of our goals is to get a home for him.  He had a house under construction when the earthquake hit.  He had a foundation and all the block walls up.  Now it is just a bunch of crumbled blocks.  We plan to use the foundation and floor to begin a new house for him.

I also visited another mission’s church site where the church was destroyed.  They were busting up the concrete slabs with sledge hammers and hauling away the debris with wheelbarrows and five gallon buckets.

We plan to do a food distribution at the church on Wednesday.  Tonight we are meeting to discuss our plans for the school.  We have some funds available to begin the repair and rebuild of the school.  Pastor Baptiste also needs a place to live as he is living in a 10 x 10 shanty.  There is much work to do in the weeks and months ahead.  The emotional appeal of Haiti earthquake relief will soon fade but we will still have things to accomplish.  Please pray for the people of Haiti.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Here is an update for Tuesday and today (Wed).  Yesterday, Pastor Baptiste and I went to Buteau to measure the structures that need to be repaired and finalize plans for a rebuild.  Monday night, he and I discussed the priority of the recovery for our mission.  The vehicle he had been using was not available so we took a motorcycle taxi.  It was an interesting site with three people on the motorcycle (one driver, one Haitian pastor and an Alabama pastor).  It was an interesting ride to say the least.  I thought driving down here was a 'theme park' ride in a vehicle but a motorcycle makes it real interesting.  At first thought, I wasn't too keen on the idea but I went for it.  I actually enjoyed it.

One of our school buildings with two classrooms is all but un-repairable.  We will be able to eventually use the floor, foundation and perhaps some of two walls to rebuild for a kitchen area in the future.

Our other school building will need some repair.  We plan to repair it and add sufficient classrooms to take care of all our classes.

One project we plan to do immediately is to obtain tarp material to build a large tent area so they begin school and also for the time being have church under the tarp tent.

Our church is in good shape but it has a flat concrete roof and many of the church people are afraid to have church inside or to use it for school.  They will have church inside in three to four weeks but for now they are traumatized by the earthquake and aftershocks.

Tuesday evening, William Borden, Pastor Oznel, Mickey Jones, Kevin and Dana Atkinson came over to Buteau and viewed our facilities.  It was good to be with them for a few hours.  William brought me a spare mosquito net -- the night before was pretty rough.  The heat at night is sweltering.  My room is not very airy and it gets so hot during the night.

At 4:30 PM, Pastor Baptiste had a new convert class.  It was funny, the group started out as about fifteen and they continued to assemble over the space of thirty minutes until finally we had a group of about 100.  He taught a lesson and then I shared with them for about 30 minutes of the importance of Bible study, prayer, church attendance and Christian obedience.  Afterwards, they asked me personal questions and I was glad to answer them.

Today, we originally had plans to do a food distribution but Pastor Baptiste had a situation he needed to take care of and I joined up with Heart to Heart (a medical group).  I was able to help them with some basic translation for medication instructions (like "Take one pill each day").  The doctors saw the patients and wrote a prescription and the nurses procured the medications and I helped them tell the patients how to take the medications.  It was interesting and I was able to practice my limited Haitian Creole.

I arranged for the same group of medical workers to do a clinic at our church in Buteau.  I was excited for the people there to get some needed help and assistance.  I am thankful for the Lord's hand in making this come together.

I have about two productive days left and one traveling day before I get to feel the cold of Alabama and the warmth of my wife's love.  You can tell I am missing both.

Friday, March 5 2010

Yesterday, 4 March 2010 we did our first medical clinic at our church in Buteau.  Pastor Baptiste and some of his church staff had went through the community and gave tickets to those who needed medical treatment as the doctors said they would only have time for about 50 patients.

The medical group was Heart to Heart.  They provided two doctors and three nurses.  Each doctor had a Haitian translator.

When we arrived at the church there were already a good number of people gathered for the free clinic.  We got set up pretty quick.  The process was quite simple.  Patients were directed to a doctor who examined them with the help of a translator.  The doctor wrote a prescription that was brought out by the patient to our medication table.  The nurses basically filled the prescription and I helped communicate to the people how they were to take the medication.  I am not even close to being fluent in Creole but I was able to give some basic instructions on how to take the medications.  The previous day at the other clinic really helped me learn some vocabulary and phrases.  The practice was a great way to learn.

We saw about 65 patients on Thursday.  The group was impressed with the need and the organization of Pastor Baptiste that they agreed to come back on Friday.  Some of the group had to leave Leogane for Port au Prince.

On Friday, we had a limited time for the clinic.  We provided medical care for 173.  There were two doctors and one nurse.  I helped the nurse bag up doses of medications in plastic baggies.

I had given Pastor Baptiste money for the purchase of rice.  After the medical crew left he returned with the rice and cooking oil.  The rice came in 25 kilo bags (55 pounds).  The church people bagged up the rice in smaller bags for distribution (each smaller bag had two large coffee can scoops).  When the people saw the rice coming to the church, they began to assemble outside – we had more people than rice.  Pastor Baptiste said it would be best to distribute the rice the next day as he could be more selective in who received rice.

Saturday, 6 March

I awoke at about 5:00 AM with my bags all but packed.  I got my cold water shower, ate a (cold hash brown potato with bacon bit) MRE and awaited for my ride at 7:00.  We traveled pretty well to the airport.  It had been raining so there were not as much people on the road.  There was a big crowd of people flying out.  We finally got inside the airport and had to go through three security checkpoints before arriving in the waiting area.  It was air-conditioned (a welcome relief).  They had a water dispenser but no coffee shop or even a soft drink vending machine.

Our flight left on time and it was great to be heading home.  We had a week of great experiences.  My head was filled with plans as how we were to proceed and my heart was filled with faith as how God would provide for the help we needed to give.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

I arrived home from Haiti last night about midnight.  I had a good trip and was able to access our facilities and situation in Haiti.  I was able to accomplish my goals for going which was 1) to bring some immediate relief 2) access the damage to our facilities and needs of our people, and 3) to encourage the people of Haiti.

There are many needs to address in the future.  One of the largest overall immediate needs is housing for the people.  Many of the Haitian people are gripped with fear to sleep inside standing structures.  And many of the needs of the people are still the same as it was before the earthquake but are now magnified because of the tragedy.