2017 Medical Progress

2017 Medical Progress

One of the most exciting aspects of the HCDP is the ability for short-term groups to plug in and support the long-term work here in meaningful ways. Not only is this encouraging for our staff here on the ground, but it also lends a deeper purpose to short-term trips.

Though medical mission’s teams can provide temporary relief to many, often they are not able to provide lasting solutions to major health concerns. A good example of this is hypertension (high blood pressure). When high blood pressure is detected in a patient, they need lasting treatment with a consistent supply of medication. Instead of giving a month’s worth of medication and hoping for patients to seek further treatment at a hospital or clinic, HCDP has helped train and hire community health workers Olina and Fedeline to provide the follow-up care these patients need!

Recent improvements in record keeping and organization have enabled our health workers to be more consistent in their treatment. As a result, we pre-screened 4 communities before HCDP’s short-term health team arrived, and regular participants of the Hypertension program were served first, receiving the care they needed.

Even more exciting was the referral system used during the mobile clinics. In communities where HCDP has a hypertension program, potential candidates for care were given a referral card with information about the date and time for our next visit. Through this referral process, we have added more than 25 people to our program. The need is great, and the Hypertension Program now has more than 75 regular participants. Through good dietary advice and management with medication, many people with critically high blood pressures have been able to reach a more stable level.

A second example of short-term serving long-term has been coming to fruition at Clinic Jubilee, in downtown Gonaives. Partnership between Dr. Smith and clinic director Cody Smith led to the donation of lab equipment and training for staff who serve some of the neediest in the Gonaives area. Over the course of three trips in a year, James Strother, Nancy Cornwell, and Lindsay Gilbert set up equipment and trained staff members on various lab procedures, including urine testing and blood draws. In a recent visit to Clinic Jubilee, I was thrilled to see Lab Technician Jonas perform an excellent blood draw and professionally and kindly serve a patient. It’s exciting to see months of prayer, coordination, training, and logistics pay off so that even more Haitians can have an opportunity for basic healthcare in Gonaives.

What a thrilling prospect that the work done by those who came in February can be continued by Olina and Fedeline, along with the health teachings provided by Fefe and John. How beautiful to see Jonas and the lab at Jubilee serving so many so well. And their work is not limited to Blood Pressure and health teaching – every single week the Gospel is preached, and service is accompanied by truth. The long term medical care continues to open doors for the good news in rural communities where gaining trust and building relationships are key to establishing the church.

Thank you to all of our volunteers who supported HCDP to help these medical programs come to life. In 2017 we anticipate another year of God’s favor, blessing, mercy, and grace. Your gifts have allowed us to be His hands, His feet, and His voice to the people of Haiti.

You Make a Difference

You Make a Difference

Stepping outside of Toussaint Louverture airport into the parking lot, we made our way to the giant bus parked in the back as several men rushed over and offered to help with our bags. Each member of our group pulled at least two or three bags of luggage behind them full of food, clothing, and medical equipment for the week. As I looked around in the night, I could see all the thousands of tiny lights shimmering on the mountains that surround Port au Prince. These familiar people, sights, and sounds have been missed by those of us that have been here before – it’s good to be in Haiti again.

After traveling about three hours on the “Haitian highway” to our headquarters in Gonaives, we had the wonderful opportunity to worship together with the Poteaux church of Christ on Sunday morning. This is a Haitian led church that is closely connected with our organization and has had a tremendous impact on the surrounding community.

As we walked into the church building, we immediately noticed the signs and decorations that had been prepared for our arrival. To show their appreciation, the church had made signs that read “You make a difference to our lives. -The church of Christ of Poteaux.” As we prayed, sang, and had communion together that morning I was greatly encouraged; but perhaps the thing that stood out to me most was the writing on that sign – “You make a difference to our lives.”

Church Service Poteau copy

Worshipping on Sunday morning with the Church of Christ of Poteaux.

The rest of the week, we travelled from village to village setting up mobile clinics to serve the rural poor. An overwhelming majority of these people don’t have access to healthcare. Many of the weary or sick that come to receive care have been waiting for years for an opportunity to find relief. In each clinic, the optometrists, dentists, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists work a full day to see as many patients as they can, but there are always more than they can see. In addition to the clinics, several members of our work group spent the entire week putting a roof up on an earthbag building to serve as a vocational school and storage house for the farm.

As the week drew closer to the end, many of us were reminded that as we work in the midst of the materially poor, we ourselves often discover more about our own poverty; poverty of the heart. Whether it’s our own desires for wealth, or our lack of effort to care more for the suffering, we find ourselves challenged to be more like Christ when we leave. One t-shirt that members in our group purchased in a gift shop there read: “Dust in my eyes, now I can see.” As we left Haiti exhausted and worn down from a week of hard work in the sun, with dust in our eyes from the dirt roads and soccer fields, I thought back to that sign in Poteaux on Sunday morning and realized that maybe now I could see better. In my mind, the sign read “Church of Christ of Poteaux, you make a difference to our lives. -The 2016 medical work team.”

Bois Marchand Farm, Pt 2

Bois Marchand Farm, Pt 2

The Bois Marchand Farm Part 2: The Rains Came Down

After discussing the beginning of the Bois Marchand farm and its initial success in the previous blog post Part One, HCDP Waters but God Grows, Pacius proceeded to tell me about some of the greatest challenges the farm has faced over the years.

In September 2004, just four years after the farm was purchased, a tropical storm caused a great flood to sweep through Artibonite Valley. Many people were unable to react in time to escape the rapidly rising water. In Gonaives alone, news sources reported as many as 2,400 people dead or missing from the flood. Some of the dead were even found on or near the farm and were buried honorably by Pacius and others who lived in the Bois Marchand community, who mourned their loss.

This flood was a major setback for HCDP and the farm in several ways; the walls surrounding the farm were swept away, equipment was lost or damaged, and the powerful currents moved tons of sand overtop of the rich soil that had been carefully cultivated for growing crops. But despite this hardship that the flood brought for the families of the Bois Marchand community, Pacius would not let go of the dream that he had for the farm. HCDP would begin rebuilding the farm as soon as the waters receded.

In time the old walls were rebuilt, farm equipment was repurchased, the layers of sand were removed, and crops were harvested once again. But just as the farm was beginning to see its former glory, heavy rains from Hurricane Hanna hit Gonaives in September 2008, followed by 3 more hurricanes within a 2 week time period. Another four years later, the flood was back, and this time with even greater force.

When Pacius recalled memories from the 2008 flood, he shared what it was like for he and his family during those first days of heavy rain. In the middle of the night, he recalls gathering his family on the roof of his house to stay above the rising water. For the first three nights, they endured the torrential downpour with no food. After 5 days, just after the rain had stopped, Pacius set out for the capital of Haiti, Port au Prince, in search of food to bring back for his family. The only way he could leave his house was by swimming; even after 5 days, the streets were still buried with mud and water. Fortunately, Pacius was able to find a boat while he was swimming that could transport him to what was left of the highway to Port au Prince.

When he arrived in Port, he bought as much bread as he thought he could carry and immediately began the journey back to be with his family. After he had found another boat in Gonaives that would take him closer to his home, he found himself swimming again to the rooftop where they were waiting. He put the bread he was carrying in plastic bags and tied them around his neck to keep them from getting wet while he swam. When he finally arrived home it was late in the evening. Pacius had left at 5 a.m. that morning and returned around 4 p.m. that afternoon. It must have been an incredibly long day for both he and his family as they waited for reunion.

It would be several more days before the roads in Gonaives were usable and Pacius could reach the farm. Even after the waters receded, Pacius said thick layers of mud prevented anyone from using the roads for at month after the floodwaters receded. The roads were only usable again once the mud was carried away in trucks.

Once again, the farm was devastated. Pacius could not get to the farm for over a month. At the time, HCDP wondered if they should give up on it all. David Smith, a dedicated founder of HCDP, remembers wondering if HCDP should just pull out of Gonaives and quit the development altogether because so much invested time and money had been lost in the flood.

That’s when David visited Haiti and the church in Poteau, the church where Pacius and his family worshiped. Here, David found himself worshipping with so many brothers and sisters in Christ who had suffered loss in the flood. David was so moved and encouraged by the perseverance of the church, that he’ll never forget singing with them the words to the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers that Sunday morning in Haiti.

 

Onward, Christian soldiers!

Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus

Going on before.

Christ, the royal Master,

Leads against the foe;

Forward into battle,

See his banners go!

 

David said that was one of the most significant moments of his life, and for HCDP, because it inspired them to move onward in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Today, it’s hard to imagine that the Bois Marchand farm was once buried under such great and powerful floods. It’s almost always a peaceful and quite place. There are children eating mangos and playing beneath the shade of the mango trees. Early in the morning, Pierre Charles and Lionel are tilling up new soil and scattering okra seed. Late in the afternoon, children are coming back to the farm to look after the goats, tying them up outside to graze while the sun sets in a beautiful ruby red island sky. On Sunday morning, the community is gathering to worship the God who has sustained the farm with the entire world that it rests on. And I, though I could never feel the full impact of the farm in the same way this community has, find myself grateful to be a small part of this great story and a witness to some amazing things God is doing in the part of his kingdom we call Haiti.

Matthew 6:24 – Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

Bois Marchand Farm, Pt 1

Bois Marchand Farm, Pt 1

The Bois Marchand Farm – Part One: HCDP Waters, but God Grows

The Bois Marchand Farm impacts the life of everyone who comes into contact with it. In my judgment, it’s one of HCDP’s greatest accomplishments. It’s the simple things, like walking over to the farm to have a mango with the kids and say hello to Pierre Charles who is working in the field, or helping the children tie up the goats and plant some okra seeds, that mean more and more to me as the story unfolds.

In the year 2000, HCDP bought a small piece of farmland just outside of Gonaives, Haiti, near a tiny village called Bois Marchand. At the time this land was purchased, it resembled something like a swamp – a watery mess that used to be a rice field. And so, a transformation of the land needed to take place before it could produce in abundance.

Pacius Gueston, HCDP’s development director, was the man who had a vision for this farm. By applying hard work, persistence, and the agricultural education that he had received, he would transform the old rice field into a land of harvest within a year of its purchase.

By any standard in Haiti, this was an amazing accomplishment! This wasn’t just important for HCDP, but also for Pacius’ family and many people from the Bois Marchand community. To many, the farm represented a source of sustainable food for years to come. For some it would become an opportunity to work and earn a living where they had none before. For others, the farm would be a model that they could learn from and then go apply to their own piece of land.

I was most impressed to learn that shortly after the first harvest, several of the surrounding Haitian farmers came to Pacius to learn agriculture. For other Haitians, improving their own farms would change their lives. It meant more food, work, and education for their children. When I go to the farm today, I see the affects of Pacius’ training these men throughout the entire village. As I walk or ride my bike to the farm, I always see others farmers working together to water their crops and use farming methods that Pacius taught them.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of all is that the farm continues to grow more than just fruits and vegetables. The farm has become a location for a church plant in the Bois Marchand village. Last Sunday, I worshipped at the farm with some Haitians from the village. I recognized several people I had seen passing by on my way to the farm during previous weeks. When we prayed, sang songs, and had communion together, that place became more than just a farm to me – it became the church. To me, this is an inspiring accomplishment in Haiti that has made the last fifteen years of hard work worth it. And let’s remember that as HCDP continues to plant seeds and water them, it is God who continues to make his church grow.

Be watching for the next story, Bois Marchand Farm Part 2, which will tell about some of the hardships the farm has faced over the years, including two great floods that almost took everything with them!

The Singular Story

The Singular Story

Haiti and the Danger of the Singular Story

Every person and every country with its unique culture has a story. To every story, there is a complex web of perspectives, characters, places, and events.

It’s important to understand that Haiti does not just have one singular story. The danger of telling one story about any person or place is that it becomes a stereotype.

“The problem with stereotypes isn’t that they aren’t always true, it’s that they’re incomplete. Show a people as one thing, and only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When the media only covers violence, tragedy, and failure over and over again, it becomes the singular story you know of Haiti in your mind.

After just a few short weeks in Haiti, I’m beginning to see many other stories unfold; stories of survival, success, and light in the darkness. In the blogs that follow I hope to share with you stories that tell a different perspective of Haiti than what you see in the media.

There are stories here that offer hope and serve as a reminder that God is working to establish His kingdom. Please come back and look in the near future for these stories, my prayer is that they will move you to see something differently. And of course I need your prayers that I can see things here as they really are.

Thanks for your time,

In his service,

Kolton Thomas

 

See this video for a great presentation about the danger of the singular story: