As we write this, our 2½ weeks in Bombarde is drawing to a close. As the deadline for the February newsletter is approaching, we were asked if we might consider sharing with you our experience here for this edition. Where do we start? There's so much we can write about, and much that we don't fully understand having been here only a relatively short time, but we're giving it a shot.
First Things First
We can't thank Steve, Faith, Dan, Sharon and Betsy enough for inviting us, feeding us, sharing their time with us, putting up with us, and including us in their lives here. It has been such a pleasure, which must be the reason our time here has flown. Time flies when you're having fun, right?! Steve's strength and wisdom, Faith's untiring & diligent administration and effortless meal making (even when the guests have dietary restrictions), Dan's passion and focus, Sharon's calmness and graciousness, and Betsy's love for children and infectious laugh have been an inspiration. And for all of them, their dedication, steadfastness, and sense of humor have been a joy to witness. They have enriched and affected our lives in ways they may never know. We are so grateful.
A Little Background
We first visited Bombardopolis in July of 2010. It was a short 24-hour stop, as part of a one-week trip that took us to several different locations in Haiti, but IMF was a stop that we continued to remember as a mission doing so much with so little. Six months later, we had a call from Dan, then President of IMF, asking if we would be willing to create a new website for the ministry, and in June of 2011, the current website was launched.
We've been posting information and photos on the IMF website for 2½ years, and have become familiar with the various ministries involved, but it didn't adequately prepare us for the reality of our personal encounter. The hospital, which is the primary function of IMF, is a perfect example. Two doctors, various nursing staff, a large general hospital room, a maternity room, a pediatric ward, a pharmacy, a lab, a room for TB patients, a room for x-rays and sonography, the HIV/AIDS program, nutrition programs, and more than we can remember, are housed within several buildings taking up not much more space than some Stateside doctor's offices. We do, however, remember the 13-year-old boy, who looked no more than 8, skinny and subdued, whose x-rays confirmed spots throughout his lungs from TB. We, also, remember the woman who wasn't aware that she was having twins until Faith did her sonogram. We remember the families cooking food in the cookhouse and washing clothes as they cared for their hospitalized family members. We remember the full benches in the halls and waiting rooms, some people arriving at daylight. And we can't exclude the memories of the ambulance, which travels over these EXTREMELY rough roads to bring patients that are too ill to get to the hospital. We had the opportunity to experience several ambulance runs. So much going on. So much being done. It's hard for us to wrap our brains around the fact that, after monies received for targeted programs and what we would consider a minuscule fee per patient, it costs only $4,000 a month to run the hospital. This even includes Dr. Leandre's salary and those of the staff. It's a huge credit to the folks here. For this reason, we found it terribly disappointing that the hospital is only 50% funded. Please pray for a solution to the hospital funding. Hospital Evangelique is meeting the needs of people in a remote area of Haiti, who would not otherwise have any other options for the type of care they are receiving. In fact, this care is better than what they may receive in Port-au-Prince.
Sunday, 26 January, we were blessed to go to a little church in the area to show Lespwa (The Hope). Mars-Hill Production created this 80-minute film, which nicely explains the truth of the Word from creation through the crucifixion and resurrection, and translated it into several languages, including Haitian Creole. And even better is the fact that, instead of it being an American produced film being dubbed in a given language, it is produced using native-speaking people. This helps make it feel that it is made for them and not just an afterthought. Mars-Hill did a terrific job.
We left the compound at 4:30pm, giving us plenty of time to travel the rough roads (we just can't say that enough) to the church in Fel Sab. Kids began to gather as we and Ascillio and the pastor got things set up. As the start time approached, a young girl and then the pastor rang the church bell, an empty air canister hung from a tree that they hit with the nearest rock. Quite effective. They showed a BBC nature DVD while the folks arrived. At 6:00pm, Ascillio picked up the microphone, and after his introduction, song and prayer, Lespwa began. The little church (13' X 26') was busting at the seams and they were several deep at each of the windows and at the front door. We estimated there were 120 people. We won't soon forget the image of one young man standing on a bench in order to see over the people crammed together at the front door, leaning forward the entire time, his fascinated expression never faded. When the film ended, Ascillio explained the truth of what they had just seen and heard and then finished with a song and prayer.
Ascillio, Dan & the Pastor of a second church where we showed the film
The timing of our visit was such that we here for the first cistern project of 2014, which began 27 January. The cistern team is made up of four hardworking, conscientious men, who are the proverbial well-oiled machine. The family receiving the cistern is responsible for arranging for additional manpower as needed. A cistern is built in stages: the base, the walls, plastering the walls, and the top, with each stage occurring on consecutive days. Ideally, they build four cisterns in a week so Monday they construct the base at home #1, Tuesday the walls at home #1 and the base at home #2, Wednesday is plastering at home #1, walls at home #2, and base at home #3, and so forth. Therefore, Thursday is the ideal day to go out and view all stages of cistern construction. We headed off with Dan first thing in the morning and arrived on a pretty mountain ridge with marvelous views either side of the road. The crew was plastering the walls of a cistern as several groups of men transported the recently removed wall forms to the next location.
Everyone helps hold the rebar in place so the crew can secure them prior to pouring the base
Pouring the cement mixture to form the walls
Preparing to plaster the walls
Preparing to pour the top of the cistern
As it turned out, Dan had recently received the great news that a church in the U.S. was donating the money to build three more cisterns. Filie, the foreman, who shares responsibility for determining who gets a cistern, asked Dan to follow him down the trail to talk with some families about building cisterns for them. We walked a mile or so to the first home. The wife had previously asked about a cistern and was hopeful as to why we were there. Filie and Dan looked at their home to ensure that it was feasible and then Filie discussed the requirements, such as supplying the rock, sand and water, as well as coffee and bread as a snack and a noon-day meal for the crew. The owners have to agree to the terms to seal the deal. They did and were extremely happy. A neighbor was there, hopeful that she might be fortunate to receive one. We followed her to her home, and after the same discussion with the family, we saw some more grateful folks. The older woman at the third house had no clue why we were there. It wasn't long before her reserved demeanor was replaced with smiles and raised hands. She stood visibly straighter as though a burden had been lifted. Filie and Dan were quick to point all thanks and glory to our Lord and let it be known that we were just doing what God has asked of us. It's hard to express how blessed we felt that the Lord allowed us to witness this part of the project.
Filie explaining the requirements to build a cistern to the woman at the third house
After you've seen both the young and old, as well as poor, skinny donkeys, laden down with plastic containers and buckets of water walking along every type of road and trail imaginable, sometimes very steep, you get a sense of the effort it takes to supply this basic need. Transitioning from having all of our water needs met Stateside to being extremely mindful of water use on the IMF compound is quite an adjustment. It's a whole new set of rules when it comes to taking showers, flushing toilets, washing dishes and such. Even so, it still doesn't begin to compare to a small home whose entire water needs are met with a jug or pail of water at a time. It's almost unfathomable for us.
We were happy to be given the project of going computer-to-computer updating security software, gathering information to set up a more detailed inventory list, and giving them a general cleanup. Ten laptops and seven desktops shouldn't be a big deal, right? A day or two, tops. Ah, but we were trying to accomplish this in a remote area of Haiti. We won't go into the frustrating details of using a satellite internet service that slows you down to a crawl if you exceed 550 MB (less than a CD's worth) of download per day, a generator that runs during peak hours during the work week (what would we have done without solar panels and an inverter?), and a Digicel thumb drive that gives you sporadic, and often negligible, internet service. Ugh! It takes a lot of patience or banging your head against the table. Not to mention what it takes to download a needed software installation. The job took over a week.
During our short time here, we now have a new appreciation for what Faith has to deal with administering the hospital using the Haitian information highway when there are constant cracks, speed speed bumps and dead ends. After our return home, we won't soon forget what it takes for them to do such simple tasks as check emails or see photos of family on Facebook, especially when you want to see your sweet, week-old grandchild.
- You can't go very far or work very long outside the gates of IMF without gathering a large group of kids. Adults will gather to watch a cistern build or installing guttering but children will gather behind you as you take a walk. If you only know a few words of Creole, you're interaction is expectedly limited but still enjoyable. However, if you have Betsy with you, it becomes a real joy. She has such a way with kids. She converses with them, hugs them, tickles them, sings with them. They squeal with joy, run back and forth around her, and grin from ear to ear. You'd just have to be there.
Betsy surrounded by kids
- Okay, we have to say it again. The roads are crazy rough. How these vehicles hold up is almost a miracle. Imagine going on an ambulance run to a location seven miles away but it takes you an hour to get there. If you're fortunate, you might have several yards where you push 10 mph but more often than not, the speedometer doesn't make it over 5. The vehicles may not have much in the way of mileage but they have hours of drive time. In fact, driving hours may be a better way of determining the life of a vehicle here. And there's the toll on one's back. You quickly learn to make yourself limp and sway with the vehicle. Bracing yourself against the almost constant jostling only sets you up for aches and pains the next day; we learned that after the day trip from Port-au-Prince to Bombarde. You can only imagine the toll it takes on the missionaries here, who travel these roads on a regular basis.
- There is a hidden beauty here. From the air, it looks brown and bare but there are still remnants of the beauty of God's creation here. Up here in the Northwest, there are some surprisingly lush valleys, and the mountains have a surreal beauty.
- Some days it seemed like Faith's phone would not stop ringing. She is on call 24/7.
- The missionaries' front doors stays busy. From the lady bringing bananas, to the hospital staff needing forms or information, to Wilna needing money to buy some needed items for the widows, to rebar being delivered, to Filie making plans for cistern builds, to a motorcycle driver picking up an item to transfer to one of the two clinics in the area, to . . . you get the picture.
- The kids look so nice in their school uniforms, which are different for each school.
- A lady does laundry for the missionaries twice a week. One day involves washing and hanging clothes out to dry, followed by a day of ironing on the front porch. And this isn't a washer or an iron you've seen recently.
A charcoal iron and a Maytag washer/wringer
- Fruit is limited at this time of year but the bananas and pineapple we've eaten have been delicious. They have such a pure, sweet flavor. And there is a fruit they call Corisol, from which they mix the pulp with milk and honey to make a delicious drink. And we can't forget fried plantains or a fritter called akra made from the grated root of the elephant plant. Yum.
We truly cannot put into words all that we have seen and experienced on our journey. We will say that prayers are needed for so many aspects of the mission, but please pray specifically and often for the missionaries, who deal with a life that we in the States would consider frustrating and would choose to walk away from.
Curt & Tricia Meadows
Photos we want to share
Rice paddies along the road from Port to Bombardopolis
A view of the water when we made our last stop for petrol
Yucca blooms on the mountainside
Steve tending to the seedlings
It's hard to explain ;-)
Curt helps pour the walls
Dan takes his turn shoveling the concrete mixture into the buckets
Kids and adults alike enjoyed Curt's two magic tricks. He'll have to learn more before our next trip.
Tricia and Betsy
Dan, the resident cameraman, and Sharon
Tricia had fun with these young girls - too cute!
Sunset at Gran Boulage
Please visit the website at haitihospital.org during this month for updates.
Please do not respond directly to this email, as it goes to an email address that is not monitored. If you would like to contact someone at IMF, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to our website at www.haitihospital.org. Thanks!