Serving Beyond the Team: Part 2
By: Kacie Morgan | Read Part 1
The morning after our arrival was filled with anxiety and excitement. None of us were sure what to expect. After stuffing all of our supplies into the two vans, we set off for our first location, just outside the center of Port-au-Prince. The building was small, built of gray cylinder blocks and mortar. With the colorful murals on the walls beginning to fade, we could see that the building functioned as the community school as well as the meeting place for the church. The wooden benches, tables and chalkboards had already been set up for us in a manner that resembled triage stations, diagnosing rooms, a waiting area, and a pharmacy. Upon our arrival, the little church was already bursting with people waiting for care.
As we began seeing people at each triage station, it was evident that the learning curve for our group would be significant. Both nursing and non-nursing students did the same tasks. Some took blood pressure, others gave injections, while still others sought to understand the symptoms more fully. At times, understanding what the patients were explaining proved to be quite difficult. Not that our translators were unable to relay what the patients were saying, but that often what they said was not comprehendible in its plain form. For example, many of us heard things such as, “I have a forever baby in my stomach!” or “There is gas traveling throughout my body and it is screaming.” Confused? Us too! Eventually, with the help of our translators, we began to see that when they said “gas” it did not mean gas in the sense that we think of with our western minds, and the sensation of being pregnant was the only way for the patient to be able to describe to us what she was feeling.
After recording vitals and symptoms, patients were given education about natural ways to prevent prominent health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis. Each was instructed about healthy foods, proper lifting techniques, stretches, and the benefits of regular activity. Beyond all of that, however, the most important thing we sought to do was pray with them. Prayer, as it is all too often overlooked, was crucial to our work in Haiti. After all, it was God’s work we were doing – God’s trip, for God’s people. Healing for the body was our mission, but even more importantly, healing for the soul. It was our goal to make sure that nobody left that church without knowing that they were a beloved of the Creator God – a God who saw them and loved them.
Our first two days were finished, and we prepared to move to our next location, one that was a place of significant spiritual warfare. It was, then, only fitting, that we received some encouragement from the body of Christ before we left. At the very same place where we had done our clinic the day before, on the very same benches, we sat among the people of that place for church. It was indescribable the joy that was present in that place! The singing was loud, jubilant, sincere and joyful. There were no hymnals needed, for everyone knew the words by heart. I couldn’t help but think, “Why don’t we worship God like this, it is so fun!” The pastor ended with an inspiring sermon, teaching that the “secret of success is to live by the words of God.” It was just what we needed to end our time in that place.
The following morning, after rising with the sound of the local dogs barking, we set off on our three-hour journey into the mountains – to Saut D’Eau. The countryside was beautiful, almost seeming as if it was untouched by the natural disasters that had so recently taken place. At our arrival, we found that our guest house was downtown. As it was a small city, we assumed that it would be quiet and peaceful compared to the busy streets of Port-au-Prince we had just previously experienced. On the contrary, however, it was almost the opposite. We had many a laughable experience with flying cockroaches and scrambling geckos, but were even more taken aback when each night, all night, we could plainly hear the voodoo that was happening outside all around us.
After a less-than-restful night’s sleep, we made our way up the rough road to the next clinic. There, we experienced many of the same things that we saw at the previous location, except on a much larger scale. Many of the people we diagnosed were malnourished, as they ate the same three things each day, only when they could find them. They were mostly all farmers, and had been working since they could walk. Many had never received an education. The four most common ailments that were treated were worms in children, hypertension, acid reflux, and vaginal infections. It was at this location that education became more important than ever. As said before, many of these people were farmers. They worked with their hands and put a lot of strain on their backs and necks when they tilled the ground or carried 50-plus pounds on their heads for miles at a time. It was important that we showed proper lifting and carrying techniques. If you could have only seen the smiles on the faces from the soothing sensation of Icy Hot!
Young women came in with questions as to why they were bleeding every month; others were unsure how to properly care for their nursing child, while others complained of heartburn and headaches. There were, however, those that came in with more serious conditions. We saw things from inguinal testicular hernias to sickle cell anemia, from typhoid to yellow fever, and from breast cancer to paralysis.
With us for those days was a Haitian doctor. He was incredibly knowledgeable and sought to help us understand exactly what was going on inside the bodies of the patients. His presence was a blessing for us, of that I am sure.
On our last day, as dinner was being prepared, we brought out all of the old George Fox men’s and women’s soccer uniforms to distribute to the kids of that community, along with two soccer balls for the church. The kids were overjoyed! One kid in particular, about 4 years old, was walking around with his jersey at his ankles until his sister came and tied it up for him, exposing his behind. As I like to say, “Sun’s out, buns out!”
With jerseys on, and cows in hand, the kids led us through their tilled fields to their own soccer pitch. They had driven two tall branches into the ground to create the goal posts on either end. All they needed was a ball, which we provided! It was amazing to us, to see sports crossing cultural and language barriers. It was the game of soccer that brought all of us together, young and old, Haitian and American. Everyone knew the language of fun.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6