This was a newsletter article from September 2002 when Gretchen and Lori were coming back home to Haiti. We all had contracted Hepatitis A the previous December. Zach had gotten so ill that he had to go out to the states and be hospitalized in January. Gretchen had been out caring for him and was coming back in for Henley’s birth and to love and serve those to whom God had called her. From 1999 until 2002, we had always kept the kids with us in our home and took care of them ourselves. In May 2002, we rented a house, hired staff, and opened the rescue center. This was the first time that she had seen it. She spent a lot of time with a baby in one arm and writing letters or doing paperwork with the other. She had a great love that drove her to empty herself in service to the Lord in Haiti. I hope that you can hear her heart……..
—through Gretchen’s eyes—
Our day began at 3 AM with lots of bustle and excitement. We had one goal in mind – returning to Haiti, myself after an absence of almost 7 months. After a painful goodbye to Zach at the airport, we were on our way. Our flights were good and on time – we knew God’s hand was upon us. In Miami, we found the flight bound for Haiti. Seeing all the Haitians gather waiting to go back made me a little misty eyed – finally back with my people. At the check-in there seemed to be some trouble with our visas, but after a few minutes of checking and answering questions, we were given our boarding passes. Because of inconvenience to us, we were put in “First Class” by the American Airline representative – yes, God’s Hand showed us favor. The flight was smooth and quick; before long we could see the island that was calling us. Only 1 1/2 hours from Miami, but planets away from what we think of as the “real world” – our USA.
We landed safely, everyone jumped to their feet, excited to disembark. Wait a minute – and then some! A government official was leaving – strike up the band, bring in about 40 police cars, a little confusion and lots of people yelling orders. We stayed on the plane until the “all clear” was given. Then down the steps and across the tarmac to customs. I felt like I was in an oven – is it really this hot here? – I’d forgotten. Our passports in order we went to baggage claim. Because of the government official they couldn’t unload the luggage. In a few short minutes of waiting our clothes were soaked from the intense heat. An hour and a half later we got our trunks and headed for customs check. Lori and I gave our best smiles and greetings and were waved on without a search. Thank you Jesus!
Outside, we spotted Enoch, who had been waiting about 3 hours now. He went to get the car; 20 minutes passed. The car wouldn’t start. We found him, got our trunks in, and started praying. Thank you Lord! We were shortly on our way! Enoch said that he’d been trying to find fuel all day and hadn’t so we’d have a look on th way home. We stopped at 12 or more places – lost count – no fuel. It seems there is a protest against the government and the fuel is being held at the docks. The gas stations are empty and so were we. Continuing on fumes and a prayer, we made our way to the mission complex where we worked years ago. The missionaries there gave us enough fuel to get to Cazale. Merci Jezi! Soon, we turned off the main road and headed towards Cazale. There had been a hard rain that afternoon. We slid and slipped and fish-tailed our way along mud for about 40 minutes. Thanks to Enoch, 4 wheel drive, and prayer, we made it!
Licia looked great. The baby was kicking his excited welcome to us and Carmelo had grown in height and wisdom. We spent the next days together organizing my room at clinic, catching up on news, both here and there, doing paperwork and enjoying the Rescue Center. We have some real cuties starving for both food and affection. The girls have done such a good job getting things going. It has been a dream we’ve held in our hearts for almost 5 years. Now and at last, through God’s direction and grace, along with financial gifts of supporters, it is a reality. On Monday morning, we sent Enoch & Licia back to town (after he worked on the car a long time to get it started). She went to the doctor. “Anytime!” he said and sent her to rest before it was time for the birth.
Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear with a nice straight line of patients in front of the clinic hoping to be seen – all 184 of them. In eight years here, that is the first straight line I’ve seen. Lori and Licia have accomplished the impossible!
We began work. I looked into the eyes of our patients. Almost immediately, I was aware that somehow I had forgotten the extent of poverty and hardship here. Oh Lord, help us. Help THEM Lord. We were busy – skin disease and infections, TB, 2 fresh burns (both young boys), malaria, typhoid, colds, diarrhea, and worms.
We had a 4 year old club footed little buy whose hard abdomen was much bigger than a basketball – probably failing liver. We sent him with funds and prayer to a children’s hospital in town where he will hopefully obtain help and relief from his suffering.
Mid morning, we stopped seeing people long enough to make time to talk to a couple from Monoville. They had walked 4 hours to arrive here. We had sent for them. You see, they had left their 4 year old severely malnourished son, Bessieur, at the Rescue Center and he died Friday. His young body was too ravaged by starvation to survive. We bathed him, put white clothes on him (as is the custom here), took last pictures and put him in a little wooden coffin to be buried nearby. We told them how sorry we were, how we hurt with them and how their son was not with God, suffering no more. They thanked us many times. We asked them to bring their other children for a check-up and gave the mom vitamins and special instructions on nutrition.
Back to work. Severe anemia, ulcers, lots of seizures patients today, also pregnant ladies. More tuberculosis, old patients, as well as those newly diagnosed, a young man with AIDS, kidney infections, pneumonia, fungus, fungus, and more fungus. In the late afternoon, we received a man who tried to kill himself. “Something” got a hold of him and overtook him one day when he was working in the garden. He took the machete that he had been cutting with and cut a 5-inch line across his throat. He had 10 kids and not enough money to put them in school and buy food. He felt as thought he could not go on. His son, who had been working with him, found him, called the rest of the family for help, and rushed him to a hospital. He was in the hospital for many weeks, but soon ran out of money. He could not afford the necessary procedures needed to heal his throat. Soon he could not even afford his daily bed charges so they kicked him out of the hospital, still not healed. This was back in May. He still has a large unhealed hole in his throat. When he drinks water, it comes out through the hole and he has difficulty eating as well. We witnessed to him about the love and hope in Jesus. We sent him to a doctor friend who did treatment and surgery for $120 US. This is one example of how we use our support.
And so the week went. A man got in a fight with his daughter and she bit his lower lip off. We had three patients with advanced cancer – tragic stories. One is a 26 year old man already an outcast from being an albino. The harsh sun had given him skin cancer and he had many large, raw, oozing tumors on his face and head. He kept his self covered with an old towel. but his face and head. He kept his self covered with an old towel, but the stench gave clue to his illness. We gave him the money for operations to remove growths on his back about a year and a half ago, but the tumors are coming quicker and growing more rapidly. What course of action should we take now – if any? After thought and discussion, we decided to get him help in town again. He has no income or family so the responsibility falls on us. WWJD? Again, here’s another example of your support helping those who are in need.
Folks, are we downcast? Discouraged? Hopeless? Oh, we all wish that conditions were better here, but they are not. We “degaje” – a very important Haitian word that means do the best we can with what we have. God has called us and equipped us for such a time as this. His provision and grace is sufficient. Haiti is a small speck in God’s world and He cares so much about the people here. We count it all JOY! We couldn’t be happier knowing we are called to bring help and light to this dark country. It’s a privilege and adventure to serve here. The Haitians we serve didn’t ask to be born here and you and I could have been. Think about it. As you pray and give finances and needed supplies, you are very much a part of what we are doing – touching lives with the hope and love of Christ. And that friends, is what this is all about.