Haiti: Jim Brown’s story – The day emotions hit

We traveled to Carrefour for our next medical mission. Carrefour was the epicenter of the earthquake, and from what we could tell nobody had reached there yet. We passed the American military lines, and we were in much more devastation and poverty than I had seen before. The first place we unloaded was so bad that some of us were frightened to be there, primarily because of the piles of garbage and human refuse at the corner we had stopped at, and because of our fear of disease or of being unable to leave or control the crowds. Again though, the team pulled together really rapidly, and I was impressed to see several team members calming those that were worried, and others praying for a solution which quite rapidly appeared. About a block away we found an area with a still standing gate, and no garbage or refuse, which suited our purpose wonderfully. It allowed us to control the number of patients that got in, and provided some shade and kept the dirtiest and most infectious concerns away from the treatment area. It was once again a testament to the fact that our plans simply weren’t going to work, and that we needed to simply rely on God and rely on grace to make the mission happen, both in terms of the logistics of where and how we operated, and in terms of the emotions of the team members and the ability to work together as a team. Our “strife” lasted all of 5 minutes, and everyone pulled back together (though it would be a huge exaggeration to ever say we were “apart”) and got quickly to work.

The injuries and illness were more severe in Carrefour, and again we did not have the supplies necessary. This day, however, we were more experienced and more able to keep things organized, and I believe we helped far more people and were able to connect with far more people. Everyone found their “groove” that day, and everyone found what they were good at and we worked diligently and faithfully trying our best to get out as much medicine, food, and donations as we could. We could have gone on non-stop for a very very long time were it not for our lack of supplies and our need to get back to the orphanage before dark and before we collapsed of exhaustion.

Despite all the wonderful efforts of the team to distribute -things- (even medicine and medical care), our impact in this regard really felt like a drop in the ocean, or even less. There was just too much to do, and not enough of us and enough “stuff.” Our real impact was on a person to person level. I called my son that day, and he asked me if any of the children in Haiti were “wearing his underwear.” He had donated some clothing, and I believe that question most properly answers how donations were used, and how helpful they were. We couldn’t feed or take care of large numbers of people, but I was able to tell my son that some particular person was helped by him. Often times I hear from charitable organizations that “such and such amount of money buys enough food for 10 children for 10 days,” or some phrase like that. I don’t know how much your money and donations impacted the trip in those terms, but I can say that I saw with my own eyes particular people helped by those specific donations. Some little boy got Jacob’s underwear. A father got the antibiotics, a little premature infant girl whose arms were so thin that they looked, literally, like twigs, and whose temperature was very high, and who was crying so hard and moving so much that I couldn’t get her pulse rate, got the formula you donated. I personally used quite a bit of the sanitizer on myself, and also used the sanitizer on my gloves (which were donated too) every time I switched to a new child patient. We didn’t have enough gloves or sanitizer for us to switch every single patient.

The team, myself included, personally handed out food that was donated to the Haitians; the vast majority of it went to children and pregnant mothers. If you sent something with me, or with any of us to Haiti, it was used and used well.

This day was also the day that I encountered the saddest part of the trip, for me. One of the people I took vitals for was a father. He spoke broken english, and I couldn’t understand his story, but I believe that the mother of their infant girl had died in the earthquake or was at least missing. He handed me his infant girl, who was very young (no older than 3 months) and in a pretty pink dress, and said: “You take her. You take her, adopt her, to America.” I was not the first, or only member of our team to encounter a situation just like this. As you probably know, it is impossible for us to adopt these children due to Haitian law, though with all my heart I would have taken her home if I could have. It was heartbreaking for me not only to hand her back to her father and say “No, I can’t,” and to see how much it upset him, but also to know, as a parent, the pain and humiliation he must have experienced to try and give his child up. I love my son very much, more than my life itself, and I can’t imagine the pain I would go through if I was in a situation where I knew my child would probably not survive if I didn’t give him up, and then to muster the courage and the grief to actually hand him to someone and ask that question, only to be turned down. That moment will probably forever define the trip for me in a special way. All of my problems and all of the things I stress out about here in the states just seem… pardon my language, “stupid,” in comparison. Somewhere in Carrefour tonight that man and his daughter are struggling to survive. I’m in Pennsylvania, warm and drinking a coke, and I know where my next glass of water is coming from, and where I am going to get my next meal, and I have every reasonable assurance that I will hug my son again and that he will grow up and be happy and healthy. Please pray for this man, and for his little girl. She, too, was one of the children that received your donations of infant formula and children’s medicine.

That night, during our meeting at the orphanage, I heard another story that showed the strength and beauty of the Haitian people. A child, probably 14 or 15, who lived at the orphanage, told us about the night of the earthquake. He said that he was sitting right where we were when the earthquake hit, and that at first he presumed it would be like any other earthquake and that he would just sit still and it would pass quickly. When it did not, and when it grew stronger, he grew afraid. The shaking threw him around the room, and he grasped the wall by a window and said that when he saw the buildings around him collapsing and the houses falling down, he knew that he was going to die. He called out to Jesus and began to pray and cry, because he knew that his life was going to end. He was fully convinced that he survived, and the building he was in did not collapse, only because of the prayers he uttered in that moment of distress. When I listened to his story I was moved, but I was so tired and exhausted and full of emotion that I couldn’t pack any more in. It wasn’t until later that night when I went to my spot by the damaged school to look at the stars and decompress that the enormity of the entire day, and of the trip until that point, hit me.

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