Thursday, June 21, 2012

Making Sense Of It All

Two years is not so long…and yet it is extremely long at the same time. In some respects it feels like we just arrived in Haiti and but it also feels like we have been here forever.  We have poured out every ounce of energy into Haiti for the last 2 years and yet I still have the nagging question of “could I have done more?” or “what could I have done differently to make things better?” So much has moved forward and changed and yet it is still not enough. It seems like there will always be the never-ending list of needs here.  In some respects the overwhelming number of needs just makes me want to throw up my hands and say “what’s the point?” But then that begs the question of, if I am only going to work in a place that doesn’t have problems what is the real goal of me being there? Is it just to feel good about myself and pat myself on the back, or is it to be available for whatever the current needs are?

It would be nice if we could neatly package up our time here in Haiti and say that everything is fixed and better than when we came. To some degree it is better, to some degree we may have added to the problems, but hopefully we made a lasting difference in some small arena…and I hope the differences we have made are not just the physical changes of the hospital, rather I hope that it has improved how the hospital is functioning on the inside (even if its just baby steps in the right direction). We can refinish and remodel buildings all we want, but if the inside isn’t changed than we’ve essentially just painted a collapsed building, which is obviously pointless.

One week and we’ll be back in California. I have been excited about leaving for weeks and didn’t think the time could pass by fast enough, but now as it gets closer to our departure date I feel more conflicted about leaving. I see so many things that still need to happen here and wonder who will be able to follow through with them. I see the people that I have grown to love and realize that I honestly might never see them again. I even think of my new little home and the blessing it has been and wonder where our next home will be. I will certainly miss parts of our experience here. (However I won’t miss the traffic, people peeing on the side of the road, phone calls at all hours of the day and night, the trash, or people swindling and cheating each other). Our experience in Haiti has taught us so much, stretched us beyond imagination, and molded us into different people then we were when we first arrived. Lots of our time here has been really tough but through it all it we are blessed to have been here.


Monday, May 21, 2012


Rest is such a wonderful thing! This weekend we actually got to rest, and not just for a few hours but the entire weekend! I honestly think that this has been one of the very first weekends in nearly 2 years that we have had a bona fide weekend in Haiti. I don't even think we got called away once to work (which was kind of erie). We were able to rest over Sabbath and then on Sunday instead of automatically working at the hospital, we stayed at home at our duplex and rested. We read, relaxed in our hammock, played with Mimi, and rested. What an amazing gift!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nothing Left to Give

Empty…drained…used up…burned out... That is how I feel at this moment. Typically when you hear mission stories they all seem to be about great success, saving lives, excitement, adventure, heroic feats and victory against all odds; but what you don’t often hear about is the discouragement, failure, doubt and frustrations that are often a more constant reality of this type of work.  One reason I believe these accounts are not shared as much is because it can’t be packaged into a feel good story that can be neatly tied up and presented as the “mission spotlight” at church. It’s hard to talk about what is uncomfortable, and feelings of uncertainty and failure definitely fall into that category, but even so I am going to share a little of those feelings now because that is the reality of what really happens.

To be completely honest, it is the middle of a weekday and I am at home, curled up on my bed not able to go out to work at the hospital because I have nothing left in me to give. If one person asks me to help solve a problem (even a little one) I might crumble onto the floor and burst into tears. I can’t seem to muster up the strength anywhere inside of me…its just not there. I feel bone dry.

If I go up to the hospital I will be peppered with questions that may not be simple to answer. A volunteer will ask me why they can’t do 12 surgeries when we only have bed space for 8. Another volunteer will be searching for me to find out why the air-conditioner in the OR isn’t working. A patient might tell me they are hungry and I don’t have anything to give. A boy might catch me in the parking lot asking for help to get tuition for school. Another volunteer will search me out because a patient is saying that they can’t afford to buy the medicine even though we just did his whole surgery for free (and then the volunteer will get upset at me because everything isn’t free even though the hospital has to buy the medicine). Another person might stop me to see if I can help sponsor their new business. Someone tells me the C-arm is broken and of course it needs to be fixed immediately even though we might not be able to get the parts from the States for weeks or more. Then I might be informed of planned demonstration in the streets and have to warn the volunteers not to venture outside of the gates. And the list goes on, but I don’t need to bore with the minutia. Most of the questions aren’t difficult or overwhelming in and of themselves, but after constantly being bombarded time after time  it has definitely worn me down.

Looking at everything at the hospital and Haiti in general I am overwhelmed and depressed. The problems are endless and the solutions are slim. Every project that we have on the "to do" list is extremely important to get done in order help the hospital come to a functional level, it needs to have been done yesterday, and yet all projects seems to be stalled out. Every project anywhere in the world is always guaranteed to come across difficulties and setbacks, but here it seems like you have to multiply everything at least by 10 in order to come up with an accurate time-line of when something should be complete.  In fact I just recently learned that Haiti is about 179 out of 185 most difficult countries to do business in. I sure believe that and even though it helps explain some of the difficulties here, it doesn’t make it any less discouraging.

Its discouraging because it doesn’t feel like we are making headway. Its discouraging because we have put time, energy, sweat and sleepless nights trying to “fix” things and yet there is always another problem that turns into an emergency situation. When visiting volunteer teams come down many of them have no idea of what the reality of the situation is here and complain because things aren’t working perfectly. I want to just tell them, “Yah, no kidding, its Haiti, what did you expect?” And then tell them to stop complaining and be flexible. In general I can almost guarantee that a visiting surgery team will experience at least 1-2 if not all of the following: the generator will go out, the air-conditioners in the OR will quit working, the anesthesia machines might not be functioning, the C-arm will brake, the digital x-ray will quit, or the water will go out. Those are just the ordinary things but every now and then a new dilemma will arise throwing everyone into a frenzy.  Then of course there are the added daily frustrations of not enough patient bed space, not enough medicine, slow OR turnover etc. Some teams are great and flow with the difficulties while other individuals get upset when our Internet is spotty or we can’t make lots of photocopies because we are almost out of ink and paper.

It is discouraging on the one hand having visiting teams not understand the situation and make their opinions and suggestions on how things should run differently here (even though they come to these conclusions after and hour or 2 of being here). On the other hand it can be discouraging working with the local staff and realizing that many don’t have the vision to make anything different or better. That many are content to have things stay the way they are because it is comfortable rather than moving forward, making the necessary changes and actually fulfilling the mission of the hospital.

Its times like these that make me wonder what the point is? What is our purpose for being here and are things ever going to get any better? I hope there is hope, but right now its hard to find it.

Through it all, I guess it is teaching me not to put my worth on man’s praise or disproval because it is so fleeting. What I need to focus on is doing the best that I can in every situation regardless of what people think, knowing that I am working for God and not man. That is easier said than done because I want to look on our time here and feel like we have made a difference, that we have accomplished the goals, and made a good impact. Deep down I want people to look at our time in Haiti and feel like we were an asset to them, but honestly I don’t want that to be what is driving me to do good. If that is the case then I will be happy or depressed based off of what people think of me rather than my worth as a child of God.

I want to be able to say with Paul “I have learned to be content in every situation.” I know I am not there yet, but maybe that is our whole purpose of being here... to learn what it means to be content in all situations.

"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."   Galations 6:9


Friday, April 13, 2012

Our New Mansion

Here are some pictures of the duplexes that we are now staying in. We went from the bright turquoise paint to a nice neutral color that blends in with the trees.

View of the Duplexes from the Hospital Parking Lot

The kitchen is in the section with the little wholes for windows.

To make it brighter in the kitchen we were able to put in real windows

Living Room Area

This view is looking from the living room into
 the dining room and the doorway to the kitchen.

Same view but with new tile, fresh paint,
new  kitchenwindow and ikea furniture!

2nd Bedroom

Same space but instead of a wooden divider
it is left open or a curtain can enclose
the "room." Just enough space to put a full size
loft bed.

From the living room looking into half of
the room that is sectioned off for a 2nd bedroom

2nd Bedroom/Living Room

Looking from the dining room into
the living room/2nd bedroom
Marc scrubbing away the grime on the doorway
between the living room and dining room

The Living Room

Jaunito working hard in the section designated for the living room
Our new furnished living room complete with decorations and our cat!
There is just enough room to put a small couch and chair and then
the other half of the room is the bedroom. 

One of the kitchens before new paint but after the windows were installed.
Believe it or not, it was originally worse than this because of dark lighting and black paint.
It was a 7'x7' cave

Still a 7'x7' kitchen, yet there is light, counters, big window,
 sink and a shelving! What a blessing!!!

Master Bedroom
One of the master bedrooms with multiple layers of paint. The
"after" picture below is of a different bedroom but is the mirror-image
to this picture.
Our new ikea queen size bed that just fits into the bedroom

The Final Product 
View of the front of one of the duplexes. Divide it down the middle
between the kitchen windows and there you have living space for 2 people in each side.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tired Feet but a Happy Heart!

Standing at the gate in front of our new home
Moving day at last! It finally happened! I still have to pinch myself to make sure that it is true. After 21 months of living in a hospital room we were finally able to move! Its not as if we didn’t try to move before this, it just seemed that every single housing option always fell through. We were only supposed to live in the hospital for a month or two so it was just a wee bit longer than expected. All of us  long-term volunteers would go through phases of trying to wait as patiently as possibly to feeling like we couldn’t handle it for another minute. But through it all we actually did survive (although I now have at least 21 strands of gray hair to prove it).

The housing that we are in is actually still within the hospital compound and just 200 feet or so away from the hospital, but regardless we are out of the hospital and have a fence around our house… so it is still a little haven that isn’t accessible to all people at any hour of the day. There are 2 duplexes and another small house that all 9 of long-term volunteers get to share. It is wonderful because now we can sit on our front porch to enjoy the outdoors and actually get a break between work and home life. I think we all might even be able to regain a little bit of sanity back—maybe.

We went from 250 square feet room and bathroom to something close to double the size. The duplexes we moved into were in major disrepair with no plumbing or electricity so it was a big feat to get them livable. We were supposed to move in the 2nd week in January but for many reasons the construction was not close to being done. They still aren’t perfect but compared to what they were there is no complaining. They are now cute little duplexes that have a little living room, bedroom, bathroom, a nook for a table, and a little kitchen. The kitchen is just of 7x7 feet but to us its seems amazing. We now have a cute little stove and even a sink that our dishes can actually fit in. We don’t have to wash them in the shower anymore! And as I was cooking the other day I realized how comfortable it was to actually cook using a countertop instead of bending over the floor or a low table.

Boxes and boxes of supplies
unloaded from the container
New furniture for the duplexes and
new supplies for the hospital!
So it finally happened, and you know what? The very same day that we started moving our worldly belongings, the shipment container with the housing furniture was finally released out of port and was delivered to the hospital. The very same day!!! If we had tried to plan that we could have never pulled it off, but seriously God’s timing is perfect! We had been waiting months to get it out and if it had come through earlier we wouldn't have had a secure place to put them because the houses weren’t finished yet.  Now we have a little couch, a bed, table and chairs and organizing bins and shelving! It is absolutely wonderful! Plus we were able to get 4 larger fridges in country so we don’t have to all share 1 or try and squeeze our produce into a college dorm room fridge. We are living in mansions now and feel so blessed!

Marc excited about some
of the new equipment.
Another huge blessing about the container is that we didn't have to pay a bribe to keep all our supplies. Once the container arrived and the customs official came to inspect it, he went over the entire list and asked what each item was. Then he wanted to actually look inside every single box. Nathan took me aside and whispered what was going on and said "pray." We all kept silently praying as we unloaded the boxes and then through a miracle the customs official left without demanding to look in every box. What a relief!

It seems like many things are finally starting to fall into place here. There are lots of projects going on and it is a relief to finally actually see some progress. We have now had a few days of “commuting” to work (less than a minute walk) instead of waking up already at work, and let me tell you…it feels great!

Nathan with his adult tinker toys-Ikea furniture
Emily also putting together some Ikea Furniture-
Our fold away table!

After a hard day unloading the container we ordered
pizza from the Auberge

There wasn't room to eat inside our houses with all the boxes
so we sat on the card board boxes and had a picnic in the dark.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


It can be quite startling and often disturbing (as it should be) when you get a glimpse of the monster in the mirror.  This “monster” may be bitterness, anger, irritation, pride, resentment… and the list can go on and on, but whatever it is, it seems to come from a deep hidden part of the heart that is deceptively concealed behind all the nice and pleasant characteristics and then presents itself in an unexpected moment.

Over the last year and a half it seems like I have faced this monster more than I would like to admit, more than the rest of my life put together. Feelings that I didn’t know I could harbor have surfaced. Feelings that are normally attributed to violent people crop up making me reconsider who I really am and causes me to wonder what damage I am actually capable carrying out.

As I have come to serve people specifically here in Haiti for this time period of my life I have realized that I am not as kind of a person that I thought I was.  I am not as loving or giving as I could be. I am not nearly as quick to serve as I should be when I am faced with someone else’s comfort over my own. I am not as gentle or sincere as is necessary to connect with others. We came to Haiti to make a difference and to help people, but I have found that I am faced with a dilemma. I don’t love people the way I should.

A couple days ago I was faced with this reality on a more personal level, and it hurt to see how callous I can be. A few months back I had employed a few teenage boys to help pick up trash around the hospital and do some grunt work for a couple days. Most of them worked half-heartedly and showed up late, so I tried to teach them some work ethic since most of them had probably never done much work in their lives. I had given my phone number to one of the boys, Ezekiel, who worked every day and he would randomly call to see if I had any work for him.

A few days ago Ezekiel called me again. I didn’t pick up the phone as there are several of the boys that call several times a week and I just couldn’t be bothered by them at the moment. It took too much effort to try and understand them over the phone and so I just ignored it. Besides, I was busy. I was in the middle of a project that I have been putting off for months--putting a slideshow together to raise awareness about the needs of the hospital and all it’s hurting people. In fact, I had just typed into the google search bar “songs that talk about people in need” to go along with the picture presentation when Ezekiel called for about the 5th time. I finally answered simply so he would stop calling and cryptically answered “bonjour.”

He only speaks creole but I was able to make out from his pitiful tone and a few words here and there that he was hungry. I felt bad, but practically everyone is hungry here. Just because he calls doesn’t mean that I need to respond, or does it? I honestly didn’t want to give him money and all the food that I had needed to be cooked so I just wanted to say that I couldn’t help him, but I could if I stopped what I was doing. If I really wanted to I could take 5 minutes out of my day and find something for him. Then the irony hit me. Here I was trying to put together a presentation for people in America to get them to help, and here I was with a young boy right in front of me that I was about ready to brush off simply because I couldn’t be bothered.

I found a coupon for him to get bread at the market and ended up finding 50 gourdes (just over $1) so he could buy a lunch. I was still annoyed at this point, although now the annoyance was equally distributed between being bothered about being interrupted and annoyed at my heartless attitude. Through it all even though I knew it was probably the right thing to do, I didn’t just automatically react in love. Even after I decided I would help him I didn’t spontaneously have love bubbling out of me. Even when I gave him the small gift it took everything I had to try and be understanding and take the extra time to connect with him, rather than rushing to give it to him and move on.

I ended up helping him, but it was probably more out of a guilty conscious than genuine love and well-being for his health. I know that I can’t give food and money to every single person that needs it, but no matter what happens or who I encounter I want my first reaction to be love.  I realized how heartless I can be to someone in need, and I didn’t like my reaction.  I also realized that I can’t just muster love up. I can pretend, but to have the genuine thing…that is a gift. A gift that truly only comes from God, because God is Love. I want that love. I need that love to transform my life.

Thankfully God promises to give us this gift of love and to remove our stony heart and replace it with his lovely Spirit. Thanks be to God! There is hope!

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
Ezekiel 36:25-26

Notice another irony: the text is found in the book of Ezekiel.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

More Farewells

The end of the year is fast approaching, and that means that it is time to start saying more good-byes. Our most recent farewells took place on Dec 1 when we had to send J’mo Dickie, our prosthetist for the last year, to the airport to catch his plane home to New Zealand (via a few days stop in California).

I can’t do Jamieson justice by trying to describe him, but in short he is a man that doesn’t fit the mold, but in being that way he is able to touch lives in a real and genuine way. He comes across as gruff and a bit crass and doesn’t beat around the bush, but it doesn’t take long to see his deep love for people and his commitment to serving them and making their life better. Through J’mo I have learned the importance of sincerity, honesty, and service.

Jamieson asked to do worship the day he left, and by the end I think he had brought tears to most of our eyes. He ended his talk by handing out a special gift to each one of us that I will treasure always. It was a soda cap with a safety pin stuck through it so that he could pin the cap to our shirt. If you have seen the cartoon “Up” you will understand its significance immediately.  I guess that means that us long-term volunteers are now part of a club. A club that I am proud to be apart of.


Left to Right: ZJ, Emily, Lynn, J'mo, Brittany, Nathan,
Amy and Brian (if you look closely you can see we
are all wearing our new badge with pride).

J'mo and Me and my soda cap pin

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


This year for Thanksgiving we actually got to take a little break for several days in a row! For the first time in nearly 1 ½ years since we have been in Haiti all of us long-term volunteers were all able to go on a little trip together over a long weekend. We didn’t have any other short-term volunteers coming in and so all 9 of us were able to take a 4 day excursion to Ile-a-Vache, or Cow Island.

It was about a 4 hour drive on the treacherous roads of Haiti and 20 minute boat ride to this beautiful little island, but it was certainly worth it. Upon arrival we were shown our little bungalows on the beach and immediately were able to start relaxing. It was a rustic little place that was just a step up from camping, but that’s all we needed. We weren’t at the hospital so that is all that mattered. We were surrounded by fresh air, crashing waves, clean space, and peace!

Even though the main reason we were able to take this little vacation was because of Thanksgiving, it was also kind of like our last hurrah before many of our long-term volunteers leave. It was a nice opportunity to be together outside of the work environment and just connect with each other in a different way before life takes us all in different directions and places.  We may cross paths again, or we might not, but not matter what, each one of these wonderful volunteers have left a lasting impact on my heart and life. They have been family to us for this last year and so they will always be apart of our lives.


Our bungalows on the beach

Lynn and Amy at Abaka Bay

Left to right: Lynn, J'mo, Nathan, Marc, and Brian

Laundry day! Things seemed much more clean and
organized on this island. Houses even had lawns!
Hiking through the island, there are no cars!

Relaxing in the perfectly clear water

Monday, November 21, 2011

Early Thanksgiving

Since we will not have an opportunity to have Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving, we had an early feast this weekend. It is amazing the creations you can come up with making a full Thanksgiving meal using a toaster over, a prosthetic oven, some electric pots, and a little electric burner. With a team working together I'd say it turned out to be a grand success!

Just a few things we are thankful for:
* A new generator that works
* Clean drinking water
* A sheltered place to sleep
* Plumbing
* An awesome team of volunteers
* Friendships
* Supportive family
* People who sent us Thanksgiving treats so that we could have pumpkin bread and pie
* Our crazy cat
* All the long term volunteers get to go on a long weekend get-away this weekend to Ile-a-Vache
* And of course a God who cares for us better than we can ever know!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Today was a sad day. A day of change and uncertainty as we said good-bye to Terry and Jeannie Dietrich. They served whole-heartedly for the year that they were here and it was great having them here. Now we will have to find a way to move on and continue the orthopedic program even without them. They will still be back for a few weeks here and there, but currently we don’t have a long-term replacement for Dr. Dietrich, which is disconcerting. There may be an orthopedic surgeon that might be able to come down, but as of right now there is a lot of unknowns about how it will all work.

The orthopedic program is not the only place that is going through changes. The rehab center will be seeing a lot of change in the next few months, in the prosthetic lab we are going to be having to say good-bye to J’mo, our medical director is moving away, and also more good-byes will be happening at the end of the year as ZJ and Lynn and Brittany will all be moving on. There is a lot of changes and a lot of unknowns as the hospital tries to continue on. There are high hopes that things will thrive but at the same time wondering how that will happen on a practical level. Please keep everything in your prayers through this time of change.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Another Water Story

Loved being able to wear the headphones and hear the
remarks back and forth between Joe and the
air traffic control towers. A lot goes on behind
the scenes when you fly!
Since there again has been a big gap in updating our blog regularly I wanted to share a little experience that happened to us a couple months ago. Since our last post was on water, I thought I should continue on that theme and reinforce the importance of water.

In Aug we had a surprise trip back to Florida because our pilot friend, Joe, had a couple extra seats on his little plane. We jumped at the opportunity to get some much needed rest and were eager to spend some time with Joe. It was pretty awesome getting to ride in his plane as it had totally been redone since the last time we got to fly with him (he and his family were on Home Makeover and part of the makeover was outfitting his airplane so that he can continue his mission work in Haiti and other places).

Part of our trip back to the States was even apart of one of his relief missions. At this time the Bahamas had been hit hard by Hurricane Irene and Joe had just received a call from Cat Island saying that they were almost completely out of fresh water and could he help? Of course he said "yes" and so part of our route home took us to the Bahamas to drop off 2 emergency water purifier systems that was able to provide enough clean drinking water for the entire island! Water definitely is a necessity!

 It was really awesome being able to be apart of this trip, not only because we really got to help some people in a very practical way, but we also got to spend the night on Harbor Island! We weren't supposed to, but by the time Joe had explained how to use the water purifier system a storm had rolled in and it wasn't safe to continue on to Florida. I was half hoping that would happen as I had never been to the Bahamas. It was beautiful in spite of the damage. Some places were hit really hard by the hurricane and there were trees bent over all around, but it was still beautiful. Especially being able to walk out onto the Pink Beach and just soak in the peace and calm! We stayed the night at one of Joe's friend's house which was only a couple blocks away from one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Nathan and I walked out onto the spongy ground up choral pink beach and we literally felt our burdens slip off our shoulders. What an amazing gift!

Perfect quote by the controls of the airplane!

Joe demonstrating how to use the water system that he invented.

Finally! I quiet moment just to think...or not think at all!

Not normally a big fan of pink...but I'll take a pinkish beach!


Carefree moment on the beautiful pink beach!