The First time I went to Haiti was in October 2011. There was no way to know the effect that trip would have on my life. I went to help out and have fun with the kids. When I first stepped into the orphanage my heart broke into pieces. Children, starved for food were running past what may be their only meal of the day to claim an ‘Blon’, or white person, for their own. Even though I wanted to scream and break into tears for the conditions I couldn’t. They didn’t need somebody spending time on worrying about how to fix everything. They didn’t need you to know the language, because by sitting there and spending a moment with the neglected and abused child you understood everything they needed. To be special, just for a moment. They needed someone to remind them what it’s like to smile, laugh and feel loved. I don’t remember anything else from the trip but that orphanage. I wept as the airplane took off and we headed back home. The picture of those kids acted as a relentless tugging on my soul. I knew I was going back.
A few months later in January on the day I was leaving I stopped by the kid’s school to say goodbye. They got pulled out of class and all of them were “uh…what’s up Dad?…. Oh yeah, have a good trip…love ya bye.” They didn’t get it. I’m holding back tears, knowing, as I do on any trip like this, that this may be the last time I see them. I’m not afraid that I’m going to die on a trip, but I make sure they knew the last thing I did before I left was think of them.
This was another strange experience for me. I really felt like I was going to be an outsider on this trip, having no medical training and only knowing one person. I wanted God to stretch me spiritually, physically and emotionally on this trip……. and boy did He. What I’ve come to know as ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ for Mission Trips the schedule started getting screwy. The redeye flight from LAX to MIA was interrupted by the captain saying, “Hey everyone, this is your captain. There is some fog in Miami…soooo….we are gonna pop over to New Orleans to get some gas.” We spent close to 3 hours on the tarmac waiting to leave. When we finally arrived in Haiti it was almost dark, not ideal for traveling through politically unstable 3rd world countries. After a chaotic hour or two we were loaded on the bus headed for Carrefour. I sat toward the back of the bus and was kinda quiet still processing the fact that I was actually back in Haiti and really wondering what role I was going to fill and if I was even supposed to be here. I looked out the window and back to some of the other team members during our drive. I was enjoying watching some of them experiencing this “sort of thing” for the first time. I remember the first time I saw poverty at such a level. It takes a few hours to really set in that’s it’s very real.
The poverty in Haiti is like a thick mist that you can feel burning within as you breathe. The need for Jesus is innate in Haiti and is being sought out by every sacred grain of sand.
The team dynamics began to form at the house and I began to feel like I was just there for comic relief. I wanted to be more than that, but figured had no idea what that would even look like. I didn’t keep detailed notes while I was there. I was just taking it all in. I couldn’t document what was happening at the time because I find that, like this experience, it is too hard to explain the power of a storm until the clouds have passed.
When we went to the clinic everyone seemed to gravitate toward a certain field….Registration, Triage, Provider, Nurses station/Lab, Photographer and Pharmacy….. I was at this point kinda in limbo, a runner/gopher of sorts. Kristell was making sure things were going as they should and I was charged with being, “keeper of her list”. There are so many moving parts to opening a clinic…I had no idea, BUT why would I? I build swimming pools and do standup comedy.
We popped by the Son of God Orphanage to see the kids. It was so cool, a lot of the kids remembered me and the silly stuff we did back in October. From the faces we made to the songs we sang. Some people ask, “What difference does it make that you go there for a week or so then leave?” Valid question. When I walked into the sea of children and the expression on their face changed from, ‘here is someone else to hold me or play with me’ to, I know that guy and look he remembers ME TOO! I then realized the impact we all make. I know the impact they had on me….I think of them and I smile when thinking about the time we shared and how it changed me. How much more do the memories of a loving interaction change the texture of their neglected heart forever?
After less than 5 minutes with the orphans, Kristell says to me “Josh let’s go now!!”. I left the kids and we ran through the cobble street to the clinic for our first patient, named My Love. She had a horrible burn and sores that had to be treated, and they were.
The opening day of the clinic was upon us…..Watching people start to line up and being able to see Andy, Kristell, Pastor Eduard, and Dr. Carlo praying and cutting the ribbon to open this clinic, which was just a vision for a long time, was amazing. John Jacques, an amazing man, was there with a few other policeman to protect us in case things got out of hand. They had machine guns and bulletproof vests. My role of runner and list boy, were quickly found to be just as crucial as any other part of this machine we call the clinic. I just kept moving and when people needed things I was able to get them. My personality meshed right in with all the others and I quickly felt right at home. Relationships and bonds have formed with the members of the team as well as dear friends in Haiti….no words can explain..
The clinic, thanks to every single member of the team went so well. Each time there was an issue, or something that could be done better, we talked about it then implemented change and moved forward. I have a slide show in my mind of what seems like everyday in the clinic. Registration was a tough task but you never heard them complain EVER… I would look downstairs to triage to see that the nurses are drinking their water and see if they needed anything, always with smiles, forging ahead. I would poke my head in on Val and give her a look…..she would quickly grab her water and say “I’m drinking..I’m drinking” which means she wasn’t. I would open the curtain to Dr Kabango to hear him lovingly telling someone.. “It doesn’t hurt anymore….you can’t even feel it… stop your crying” (always with a sarcastic/reassuring tone). I would flip the next curtain and Kristell would look up and smile….(which meant, things here are good, nothing needs to be on the list, go check on the others). I would step into the labs waiting room and usually do something to make those who were waiting smile. I would poke my head into Lab and just ask….”all good?” it always was Brook, Mo and Kellie seemed to be the staple 3 in there….they were a well oiled machine. Finally I’d stop by the Pharmacy and check in on them……they were cool as ice….never did I even for a moment detect panic….
There are so many layers to this trip that I could go on for days…..but I wont. God had me on this trip for many reasons. I shared my story about the crash during devotions and had a little bit of time dealing with that and am thankful for the shoulder that I needed. I was in the Operating room for several procedures, whether holding a light getting supplied or wiping blood behind the scalpel. I was able to work diligently with a servant’s heart. I was able to see honest, open, unconditional Love with no prerequisites or alternative motivations….just raw, natural, organic Love, which in the heart of a torn land yearning for Jesus….It left me wanting more knowing I could no longer just watch. I wished I could have spent more time at the orphanage, I knew I was coming back.
Read my story from beginning to see how I ended up here.