Sarah's Haiti Mission Trip
Sarah goes to Haiti (180)
"If there is a poorer country in the world, it's hard to imagine!"
That was our daughter Sarah's assessment. She was just back from a missions trip to Haiti. Sarah, with a group of Franciscan University students, participated with the non-profit Catholic group "Haiti 180."
Haiti 180 runs an orphanage, a home for the elderly, a school... and they are in the process of building a medical clinic.
Sarah's group flew into Port au Prince, Haiti's capitol.
Sarah said she had never seen so much "stark poverty." [And we had lived near the inner city of Cleveland doing outreach work for five years. What's more, Cleveland was the listed as the poorest city in the country at the time.]
Port au Prince was 20 times worse.
There was little running water throughout the city. Virtually no electricity. Cobbled together shacks were crowded in everywhere. Port au Prince looked, basically, like one big slum. What's more, Port au Prince actually has no Sanitation Department, so garbage is piled everywhere, emitting a constant, extremely rancid smell.
After a brief time in Port au Prince, Sarah's group headed up the mountain and into rural country. Where the poverty is just as bad, if not worse.
However amidst this rural poverty, was Haiti 180's rather new, attractive House of Mary Orphanage. There were 35 kids there. Many had arrived at the orphanage's gate in desperate straights and some near death.
Sarah talked about a little six-year-old girl who had been abandoned by a desperate mother who didn't think she could feed the child anymore. The orphanage crew heard about the child's plight and immediately headed out to "rescue" her.
The scenario with the Haitian mother is not uncommon in the Third World. A Compassion International worker tells the story of a mother in Africa who drowned her two young children in the sea -- to save them from enduring a slow agonizing death from starvation.
Back in Haiti, a middle age man was about to endure a slow agonizing death. The mission group visited him with Katie, a Haiti 180 worker who had been there from the U.S. the past seven years. Katie knew the man.
There was a pronounced lump in his throat from cancer. It was in an advanced stage, and the man could barely swallow. He, imploringly, had Katie check the medication from the hospital "...to make sure it was the right kind."
It was a small bottle of multi-vitamins and a bottle of cough syrup. Haiti has virtually nothing in the way of adequate healthcare services.
Katie had to swallow hard herself, hold back a tear, and lie to the man that, yes, the "medicine" would help him.
He'd be dead within a month.
Speaking of healthcare services, eye clinics are almost non-existent. So a significant number of the elderly go blind. Haiti is close to the equator. The sun is intense. Cataracts develop. (Cataracts are basically a calcification of the eyes.) In the U.S., this is usually treated successfully in the early stages. In Haiti, people regularly go blind from it.
Like another woman the mission team visited.
Sarah guessed this woman was probably in her mid '60s. Not only was she blind, but partially paralyzed. Her family had basically left her alone in a small hut, to die. Yet the morning the mission team arrived, she crawled to the door, welcomed them, then started effusively praising Jesus for allowing her visitors.
Sarah said that given the circumstances of this woman, she was absolutely stunned by her spirit and gratitude.
Shortly after, the mission team was to come across another elderly woman. She, too, had been left in a small hut to die by her family. There was simply not enough food to go around.
Sarah said the woman was lying almost motionless on a dirt floor with a sheet over her. She was stick thin and had apparently been like that for a long time. When Katie lifted the sheet, to the horror of the mission team, they saw red (biting) ants all over her body.
Katie arranged with the family to take the woman to the Haiti 180 Kay Martina Elderly Home. When they were initially picking the woman up from the floor, she looked up in a daze and said.
"Are you taking me to my coffin now?"
Yet another man the mission team came across was not long for his coffin. In his early 40s, he had been paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. Without access to healthcare, with little provisions themselves, the family had left him alone in a hut to basically die as well. [A seven-year-old son would bring him morsels of food and wipe his bottom after a bowl movement.]
He'd been in bed in one position for a couple months when the mission team arrived. When they went to move him to another position on the bed. they noticed an absolutely horrendous open bed sore on his hip. What's more, it wasteeming with worms.
Katie removed close to 100 worms, yet there were many more. The team ended up spraying insecticide into the wound to try to kill the rest.
The team also lovingly witnessed to the man about Jesus [in word and action] during all this. He was so moved that he converted. And Katie arranged for a local priest to come and hear his confession. (He had been a gang member in Haiti prior to the accident.)
Back at the orphanage, three of the children were confined to wheel chairs. One of these three children was interactive, joyful at times. The other two, said Sarah, often just stared off in a catatonic state with virtually no emotional affect.
Sarah said, in general, the kids in the orphanage were flourishing. The malnutrition was gone, they were attending school, church services and just, well, playing together as children do. What's more, the older youth were pitching in with the staff to help with the kids. Love permeated the place.
The same was going on in Haiti 180's elderly home complex. Seniors who were on the verge of death, were recovering, joyfully interacting with each other, with the children. Love permeated here, too.
Haiti 180 'lit one candle' in the midst of a whole lot of darkness.
Sarah ended by sharing a vignette.
On one of the days that the mission team went into rural villages, they came across a group of children. They spent time with the kids, played with them, then headed back. A few of the kids rode back with them, not wanting the day to end. However at the complex, the rules were that the kids couldn't come in this day.
As the volunteer group was eating their dinner, Sarah said they kept glancing over to see the kids staring in at them. The group was aware that these children may not have eaten anything all that day. And Sarah said that was absolutely agonizing to think about -- for all of them.
Simultaneously, these American volunteers got up, walked to the gate and shared half their dinner with the children.
Note: I once sat in on an "Oxfam Meal." [Oxfam International is a confederation of 18 ngo's that partner with 90 countries to try to end poverty.] The Oxfam Meal consists of three dinner portion sizes, depending on which kind of country a participant draws out of a hat. If you got a First World country, you got a good sized portion of meat, potatoes, a vegetable, a desert and milk. If you drew a Second World country, you got a potato, a vegetable, an egg and a full glass of water. If you drew a Third World country, you got a half a bowl of rice and beans and a half a glass of water (not allowing for in many of these countries it would be unclean water).
A short ways into the meal, inevitably, First World people (and even some Second World people) would, feeling quite guilty, offer to share significant portions of their meals with the Third World people. Because being face to face with it, very few human beings (with any kind of conscience) could do otherwise.
Yet we are face-to-face with it daily. We see the pictures of these desperate Third World people in the TV news, in newspapers. We hear the agonizing reports of their plights. But many of us go on eating three square meals a day, spending billions on non-nutritional junk food and beverages, buying way more, and way more expensive, clothes, getting the next car with all the options...
We have come up with a foreign affairs platform that, unlike most of the current presidential candidate foreign affairs platforms, is way more focused on addressing world wide poverty, in all it's forms. Not only will it help many more people in the Third World, but it will position way more Americans for a better shot at a positive outcome: in the afterlife.
"But Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, sick, alone...?"
To Haiti with Love...
"As described in the story below, Sarah's mission trip to Haiti brought her face to face with some of the most stark poverty on the planet. Yet in it all, Sarah also saw some rays of hope. Through the highs and the lows, Sarah (as with so many people in Haiti) clung to her faith. The mission team put together a short video chronicling some of their experiences in Haiti. It's quite moving, actually." --Joe