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