Saturday, May 26, 2012

My word of the day is MINISTRY

Tent Worship Service

My word of the day is MINISTRY.  We started our day at a sunrise worship service in a tent that is almost beyond description.   The Haitians are so unabashed in worship and so filled with the Holy Spirit.  It set the tone for a beautiful day.  After breakfast we traveled to Titanyen, a village outside of Port-au-Prince where Grace Village is located.  On the way there we stopped at a school with dirt floors, no bathrooms, no playground, no food, and hundreds of children.  There are so many opportunities to make such a huge difference in Haiti.  We also stopped at a mass grave where tens of thousands of Haitians were buried, unidentified, after the devastating earthquake in 2010.  One of our Haitian guides and translators, Wilson, shared the story of how he lost 55 classmates in the earthquake.  He had stepped out of his school to buy a bottle of water, and was across the street to witness the collapse of his three-story school that killed all of the students in his class.  He also lost his father in the earthquake.  The next words out of his mouth after describing his losses were, “I give thanks to God.”  What an incredible example of faith.  God calls him to great things.


In Titanyen I had the opportunity to serve the elderly through what I will call guerilla health care and meals on wheels.  Guerilla health care involves 3 untrained women (me, my sister Ann, and our teammate Shelley), attempting to minister to the needs of the forgotten elderly with Neosporin, powder, basins, peaches, Spam, straws, water, washcloths, clean sheets, clothing, and wet wipes.  Shelley gave sponge baths while Ann and I applied powder and distributed food and water in their shanties.  My heart was broken wide open when we ministered to Antonia.  A paraplegic, Antonia suffers from bedsores and a fungal infection on her feet, and was on a flea-infested blanket on a filthy mattress soaked with her feces and urine.  If a dog were found in such conditions in the United States, the owners would be charged with animal cruelty.  I couldn’t stop crying.  We did what we could to clean her up, apply ointment, change her bedding, pray with her and give her nourishment.  But it was clear that what she truly needs is 24-hour care in an elder care facility.  This is not an option for Antonia…

Haiti's forgotten elderly


After guerilla healthcare I set off on a 4-wheeler with our Haitian guide and translator Andrenoi.  At age 29, Andrenoi is compassionate beyond his years and ministers to the elderly.  Six days each week Andrenoi delivers hot meals in Tupperware containers to 10 suffering elderly in Titanyen.  He will soon expand his ministry to 20 elderly.  Andrenoi supports his parents, brothers and sisters on his salary from Healing Haiti, and feels so blessed to have the opportunity to do what he does.  Half way through our meals on wheels deliveries Andrenoi asked me, “What is your ministry?”  I have never been asked that question before and wasn’t sure how to answer.  I told him about Reiser Relief and Fr. Reiser and the ministries we support.  But, after all that I have seen this week, I can honestly say that the ministry closest to my heart is the elderly.  People like Antonia are beloved children of God, and as such deserve to live their final days in dignity and love.    Thank you, Andreoi, for revealing my ministry to me.  Thank you, Haiti, for opening my eyes and heart to God’s will.

Today was our day of endings.  First of all, it was our last full day in Haiti—our last day to take in a few more pieces of this beautiful, complicated country.  We started with a 6 a.m. tent service that was anything but an ending.  It was an inspiring start to our day inside a huge white tent filled with people of all ages singing and praising the Lord.  Haitian people are filled with the love of God, and watching them praise His name is a joyful thing to behold.  Thankfully, the tent service gave us the strength to witness some of the things we experienced the rest of the day.

Our first stop was at Redemptor School, another very poor Haitian school with so many needs but yet, like the other schools we have seen, it’s filled with the smiling faces of Haitian children who seem to find the beauty in every day despite a poverty-filled existence. We then visited the mass graves in Haiti made after the 2010 earthquake.  It was painful to look out at the crosses and memorials scattered over the mass grave and think of the horrific way these thousands of peoples lives had ended in the earthquake and even more painful as we listened to the stories of some of the Haitian men with us who shared their stories about loved ones lost in the earthquake.  

Mass Grave
From there, we went to Grace Village.  It was such a contrast in comparison to what we’d seen so much of what we’d seen during the week—a beautiful complex of brightly colored buildings and so much more building still taking place.  Besides the 43 smiling orphans we met who were so lucky to have been placed in such a love-filled environment, there is a feeding center and plans for elder care, a church, medical clinic and much more.  Good things ARE happening in Haiti.

But, sadly, the next part of our day was back to all about endings.  We made visits to sick, elderly people living in one-room huts who were sleeping on filthy, flea-infested mattresses on the dirt floors (if they were lucky enough to have a mattress at all), with soiled clothes, painful bedsores, little or no food and water, and little or no loving care.  What we were able to do to help these elderly people in their final stages of life were so small, yet they were better than the alternative of nothing at all.  In the United States, we rightfully put so much emphasis on dying with dignity, and to many poor elderly people in Haiti, there is no dignity at all in dying--only loneliness, hunger, thirst, filth, and pain.  It was such a tragic thing to view on our last day in Haiti.  Yet, maybe God had that in his plan for us, because now, besides leaving Haiti with a passion to help the children of Haiti, we are leaving with a passion to help the elderly. 

I have truly been blessed to have the opportunity to see, hear, and touch Haiti, and I am filled with a sense of urgency to come back here.  There is so much left to do, and so many hands are needed to complete God’s work.  I thank Father Reiser for “giving me the nudge” to go to Haiti, and I thank the people of Haiti for being so willing to share a piece of each of their lives with me.  My deepest gratitude and love to every person I have met on this trip, and my sincere thanks to those who have supported our mission and continue to do so.

I will end my Haiti blog with a quote from Mother Teresa:
“If we want the poor to see Christ in us, we must first see Christ in the poor.”


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