Saturday, August 6, 2011

I made it!

Greetings from Haiti! 

It has been an absolute whirlwind since the moment we landed on the tarmac to this moment as I sit on my blown up mattress with fans a going covered from head to toe in bug spray. 

Having spent a full day in Haiti, I am left without words to adequately describe my experiences. I want to say it's wonderful, it's amazing, it's incredible and while all of those are true, it is also gut wrenchingly painful and despairingly sad. 

Let's start with the most chaotic and quite incredible airport arrival I have ever walk from your plane to a bus which takes you to the immigration area. No big deal right?! Well immigration, baggage claim, and customs are all in the same one room warehouse. There's no defined line for immigration at all so you push your way to the front. And then you move to the one conveyor belt that has all the luggage of all the planes that have arrived. You would think that all luggage from one plane comes together but no that's not the case. You would also think that people wouldn't take luggage off the conveyor belt that didn't belong to then, well that's not true either. You might also think that the building might be air conditioned and that people would be polite. Wrong and wrong. Add a couple of hundred people into the mix and then get ready to fight to find your luggage...two hours later we got to the end of the gauntlet with only one bag missing.

We visited Mother Theresas nutrition center after the airport and were told to take a deep breath before we walked in. We entered a room where cots lined the walls and ran down the center. Some cots were home to two babies and others held just one sicker baby hooked up to an iv. The only instructions we were given was to find a baby pick it up, hold it, and love it. I found George in the last cot starring sadly up. The funny part of this story is that they dress all the babies in dresses because it's easier to change them and so I didnt realize my little George was a boy till oh about five minutes from the end... Gender aside, we became friends and not 10 minutes in, his little body just sank into my chest and his head fell heavy on my heart. He napped peacefully for the rest of the time as I held him and rubbed his little arms. Something as simple as human touch was the gift we were giving. Not remarkable or front page headlining news, but basic and amazingly powerful. When I laid him down in his crib as we were leaving, he began to cry. With every little touch of our hands, the tears would cease and then as i pulled away, tears again. I left  him knowing I had so much more to give, feeling guilty for leaving, and brutally aware of where I was leaving him. In that moment, I feel like I got a tiny glimpse into what the love of a parent for a child or God for us might feel like and it was indescribable.

Our journey today took us to St Josephs clinic in the heart of Port au Prince. We passed tent cities and slums and a perfectly crowded, busy, maniacal market morning. The clinic sees up to 600 people some Saturday mornings and though none of us have any medical training, we were on board to help. After a brief stint in medication, I was moved to wounds. And this is where the story becomes out of this world. With gloves on and sterile pads in hand, i was assigned a make shift bed and patients began to appear. The first lady had gotten in a motorcycle accident and had four open, infected wounds on her side. We shuddered as she flinched in pain and we cleaned her wound and dressed it with ointment and bandages. I could not believe I was doing this...and that it was this bad. I convinced myself that we must have jumped right in and started with the worst case and that it would get better from here. I couldn't have been more moved from awful to terrible to absolutely horrific. We cleaned wounds of an infected mastectomy and other diabetes related wounds. And then a woman came in asking me to remove bandages from her breast. As I peeled back the bandages, the gauze closest to her body revealed signs of a terrible infection. The smell of rotten skin filled my nostrils and my eyes began to sting as i fought back tears. Her breast, barely recognizable, was almost entirely consumed by an infection most likely caused by cancer. Raw skin, yellowed skin, infection. I could not and still cannot get this image out of my mind. I cleaned the wound as best and as gently as I knew how to, bandaged it up, and gave her some antibiotic cream to go home with. She did not once wince in pain or shed a tear. But I did both. She will probably most likely die from the cancer that has destroyed her breast and I could do nothing to stop that. What I could do was be one person who in that moment cared deeply about making her feel better. If only that was enough....

I am being forced to ask questions of my faith that normally are so easily answered, but here those answers don't seem to fit. Where are you God in all of this? I ask over and over again. I know God is here, at work, but I am blinded by the despair and the suffering. Yes, I have had moments where I have felt Gods presence, but the times when I have tried to reconciling a living, loving God with what I see and feel and found no answer have been far more numerous...

I came here to be challenged, to be taken out of my comfort zone, and it's happening. And it's only just the beginning....


  1. I am in awe of your courage, Alice...I pray for your continued strength in the face of such pain and suffering...

  2. Alice, you are in my prayers as you minister to the people of Haiti and in turn are ministered to by those you serve. It takes great courage to step out of your comfort zone as you serve God...and to see Go where you serve.

  3. tht is to see GOD where you serve.