Friday, December 2, 2011

Psaumes 124

"Cantique des degrés. De David. Sans l'Éternel qui nous protégea, Qu'Israël le dise!   
Sans l'Éternel qui nous protégea, Quand les hommes s'élevèrent contre nous, 
Ils nous auraient engloutis tout vivants, Quand leur colère s'enflamma contre nous;   
Alors les eaux nous auraient submergés, Les torrents auraient passé sur notre âme;   
Alors auraient passé sur notre âme Les flots impétueux. 
Béni soit l'Éternel, Qui ne nous a pas livrés en proie à leurs dents!   
Notre âme s'est échappée comme l'oiseau du filet des oiseleurs; Le filet s'est rompu, et nous nous sommes échappés. 
Notre secours est dans le nom de l'Éternel, Qui a fait les cieux et la terre"

"...Se Senye a k'ap pote nou sekou, se li menm ki fe syel la ak late a."

"... Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."

I saw this on the back of one of those colorfully painted taptaps (buses) on my way home from one of the clinics and I've been pondering the Psalm ever since.

I'm sure Haitians believe, by and large, that God is the creator of heaven and earth, but, since I don't speak the language and the only English speaking Haitians I know are devout Christians, I wonder if they actually believe that their help comes from the Lord.

I wonder if they ever wonder how God, the creator who clearly demonstrates His power over nature in the Bible, could shake the earth, kill hundreds of thousands and then send such feeble and clueless "helpers" to clean up the mess. I wonder how they reconcile this. I'm not sure how I reconcile it. I know Haitian men who are much younger than me who are spiritually much stronger in their faith and more spiritually mature than I am, but might be offended by this question.

I love God, I trust Jesus as my Lord and savour and believe that His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection brings me the promise of eternal life and I put my trust in that fact.

How someone who doesn't know the love and grace of God can actually believe that God is helping them is difficult for me to wrap my head around.

Chronic preventable illness, devastating communicable diseases, horrible water that is poisonous to you and rampant malnutrition can't be fixed by me or my team. We can't even put a noticeable dent in it. How is it that that appears to be God "helping" anyone to them?

God may be a God who allows some to suffer and others, probably like you and me, to flourish and thrive, but I understand Him to be a God who has suffered and still suffers with us all. Maybe I needed this trip to comprehend that.
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Thursday, December 1, 2011


This was our second trip to Boudon today. The drive seemed shorter this time. The village feels to rural and so isolated even though you can see the not-so-modern urban sprawl of Port-au-Prince just about 20 or so miles away, as the crow flies. Yet, this village is so remote and might as well be in the isolated interior of Africa.

Today, though, we couldn't see Port-au-Prince. We were high up in the clouds all day covered in a mist with only short periods of sunshine that showered my sun-burned skin with painful radiation to the point that I felt like hiding under one of the very few trees in this grassy step into the mountain side.

This was clearly an inclimate day for the villagers sine they were all bundled up until late in the afternoon, shivering and collectively complaining of the cold. To us, however, it was the most comfortable weather so far.

We weren't expecting to see too many people, or at least as many as we had in Boudon yesterday, but actually ended up see about twice as many. Some were very sick.

First was a young girl,maybe about 10 whose eyes were not just blood shot but the sclera was in fact completely red. I didn't treat or examine this girl, that was Darla, I just took her vitals. She had been trampled yesterday in a mass panic that really speaks to the terror that is just beneath the surface of every Haitian's psyche following the January 2010 earthquake.

I first caught word of this incident yesterday. I'm amazed by how fast rumours spread through such a remote area. While seeing patients yesterday, one woman I was getting medical history from became very distracted as I heard wales echoing throughout the vast mountain side. She didn't yet know what had happened but somehow knew something was bad.

I asked on of the interpreters and he told me that the villagers were frantic about a school that had collapsed an killed everyone inside. The hysteria was growing rapidly since this was a school that many parents in the area trucked their kids off to and I knew that the only thing we could do was get some reliable information instead of the unreliable mountain "corry" or an exaggerated rumour that is so common a phenomena that even Haitians have a creole name for it.

I asked Dr. Sorg to make a phone call to the mission to find out what really happened. Rob Baker, while driving back from dropping our team off in Boudon, had actually witnessed the event. He saw kids and parents scurrying out of a school carrying children who appeared injured. What had happened is two very big water trucks involved in the road construction had passed by the school and made the whole two-story brick and mortar building shake causing the kids to run for the exits with the bigger kids trampling the smaller ones in the stair way and in the bottle neck while going out the door. There was no real damage to the building, but, as a result, over 20 kids were treated and released from the Fermathe Mission Hospital with concussions and soft-tissue injuries. This girl with the bright red sclera was one of those who was trampled. She'll be ok according to our doctors, but she did take a beating.

Second was a young woman who had just recently had a c-section in which her baby had died. She was at home near Boudon and was too sick to go to the distant Fermathe hospital. She was number 75 in line to see the doctor and we were on number 39. Her husband walked her to the front of the line. We were short one interpreter today, so I was on my own doing crowd control with Abby taking vitals while the ever increasing crowd of people became a vocally perturbed by the apparent crowding in line.

I advised the husband that she'd have to wait in line, completely unaware of her medical issues as we had yet to even begin her intake. When he got upset with me I called an interpreter over who was doing another job to help me. He explained that this was a prior arrangement from yesterday and assured me that this had been cleared with Dr. Sorg, who was a couple hundred feet away in a tarp covered shack treating patients. I allowed the man to then take his wife to see the doctor and Abby kept her head down (wisely) while the crowd grew upset now with me. They were pointing their fingers at me and scowling at me. I got a very uneasy feeling and asked a couple interpreters to explain to the restless crown why she was permitted to skip ahead in line. The interpreters all shrugged at my predicament and made it clear that they didn't want to deal with the angry crowd either.

I appealed to Johnny, Darla's interpreter for the day, who seemed inpatient wit my silly request and ran up to the crown and asked them collectively if they were upset with me (the apparent equivalent to "you gotta problem? Good!") And every one smiled and said no. The second Johnny disappeared from view, the scowls began again and I again started to get that uneasy "oh crap" feeling paramedics who work in urban areas know well. I returned to the treatment shack and stressed to Dr. Sorg that I felt we were reaching a critical mass and someone needed to finally explain to everyone why this woman was allowed to go in front.

Dr. Sorg returned to the crowd and apparently realised the direction the mood was heading and implored one of the interpreters, I forget which, to explain the circumstances. The collective tempers cooled and everyone was left smiling. I was left scratching my head, but didn't have the time to process it before our next serious patient was thrust into the mix.

A tiny 28 year old girl sat down at our triage table out in the drizzle and rain. Her pulse was thready and fast. Her blood pressure was critically low. She was 5 months pregnant, hadn't eaten or had anything to drink for some time, possibly due to chronic nausea.

In a country where infant mortality rate is already higher than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere, I considered my resources, which are few, we had to be slightly more aggressive in treating this patient. I had an interpreter explain to her that she was very sick (which she already knew) and that the abdominal cramps, dizziness and near syncope was indicative of need of some "special medicine". I carried her down the hill (she weighed MATBE 90 pounds) to our temporary pharmacy and started an IV. With 1 litre of Normal saline, almost all of her complaints were resolved except that she kept saying that she still wouldn't be able to eat because her throat was sore. We gave her some antibiotics, ranitidine and prenatal vitamins and I sought out so family to explain that she needed as much nourishment that they could muster to keep her and the baby alive.

After these, every other experience today seems mundane. The mist is lower in the valley now and I can actually feel it coming in my open window. I'll leave it open. I think its helping my dust-plaqued lungs.
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Big Red 1 broke down. That was the first hang up. We thought we were going to get an early start this morning, but while waiting at the mission gate, the Honda 2 seater ATV, the one that Dr. Sorg, Abby, Johnny, Wilner and Hebron were in just decided to stop running.

We actually didn't find out until we were about a mile up the road following Rob Baker with Chelsea and Darla and he pulled over to let us know that he needed to turn back to sign a check for something. We waited up the road a little ways, but when Dr. Sorg never met us in Big Red AND we never saw Rob again, we grew concerned and turned back at the suggestion of Tee, my co-pilot.

Dr. Sorg was standing at the gate smiling with Abby and our translators when we arrived. They just resolved to pile into the pickup and leave Big Red 1 behind. We followed in Big Red 2 while wearing surgical masks and glasses to protect us from the increasingly unbearable exhaust fumes and dust.

I saw something on the way up that I've never seen in Haiti before. Road construction crews paving the single lane winding mountain highway.

Well, that's not exactly accurate, there are no official lanes in this part of Haiti and apparently only one speed limit sign (which said 50 km/hr, an impossibly dangerous speed on these roads). The road construction is a very good sign, it means that there might be an improvement in infrastructure coming to the heavily populated and developed areas of Haiti.

That's not where we were headed though. We were on our way to the previously unreached section of the Southwestern mountains called Boudon. What the area lacked in infrastructure, it made up in beauty. Beautiful scenery, beautiful weather and beautiful personalities.

We saw 80 patients today, with many of the same complaints and lots of hypertension, even with one particularly sweet 19 year old mother. Darla, an NP with several years of experience in remote medicine from the North Pole to Eastern Europe and the 10-40 window, had a small dilemma at one point involving this 19 y/o mom and whether to give her captopril or HCTZ or both for her hypertension, which was extreme for her age.

Due to tridiculously high sodium intake of the rural Haitians, hypertension is an epidemic affecting nearly everyone, it seems. I dropped a message on Twitter and Facebook hoping for a quick answer as to the efficacy and possible adverse reactions of Captopril. I got a lot of responses (Thanks for those of you who cared so much that you took the time to ask people and do the research on that! I love you guys). The most surprising was an anonymous email from a physician from the American Academy of Paediatric Physicians who sent me a link to cited research findings (after the fact, but no less helpful). Captopril has not only been shown to not be harmful to breast fed babies, but intact showed that we probably UNDER-dosed the mom while trying to error on the side of caution. If we see her tomorrow we might remedy that.

If you are interested, I would be happy to send you the research on it.

So Darla and I discussed it for a minute and decided that we were primarily concerned with long term renal function and that captopril would fit the be in our risk v. benefit analysis. Luckily. As it turns out we were correct, if not overly cautious.

That little village with no road, no electricity, no plumbing, running water, sewage or any other modern convenience was filled with the 150 most wonderful people I've ever met. They were primarily agragarian growing onions and cabbage on the steep mountain sides over-looking the cloudy bay of Haiti and Port-au-Prince.

The homes were little more than corrugated metal nailed to shaved tree trunks embedded in the ground. On the roofs, like a patch work quilt, clothes were laid out to dry and doors remained opened, if there was a door at all, while chickens roamed freely. Giant pigs basked in the equatorial sun and mother cats nursed their kittens in the middle of busy walkways, entirely un-intimidated by all the people walking around them.

I took pictures of everyone, because everyone wanted to know what they looked like on a digital camera. The video camera was a big hit too, if not too overwhelming for some of the other older folks who knew no more of technology that the single battery operated transistor radio situated like a shrine next to a woman who appeared to be the gentle and revered matriarch of the village.
They were so blissfully impoverished. They seemed to really want for nothing, except for the two things we came to offer them. Medicine and the good news about what Christ did for us on the cross.

Not long after we arrived, we were sort of ambushed by a loud, carismatic and sweaty group of a couple men with anachronistic bullhorns and a single file line of women in all white chanting and singing at the top of their lungs. They marched all over the tiny village stopping each time they saw a "blanc" person congregating with a Haitian and would scream/sing something in Creole as if we were 100 yards away. After they finished they'd shout "Hallelujah" about 4 or 5 times then break up and shake our hands the return to formation and go accost someone else.

We were stopped dead in our tracks as Benjamin and I were sitting with this very old woman who didn't know what year she was born, trying to discern her medical history. When conversation became impossible, I pulled out my video camera and recorded the spectacle laughing at the silliness of it all. To be honest. I just thought that they were voodoo practitioners but Rob Baker told me that they were Catholics (probably Catholic mystics, a common combination of Catholicism and voodoo) that had come from another village and that they were probably visiting because they had heard that we were here. I'm not sure what their intention was but throughout the day, we saw at least 3 other similar groups traverse the switch backs of the mountains coming toward us (probably from other remote villages in the area), but we had no more visits.

A Haitian Baptist Pastor came to hang out with us while we moved the patients through the clinic and seeing their medical needs, grinning from ear to ear. Recently this village and a few surrounding villages have been getting visits from the native Haitian Pastors who walk for miles up the steep muddy mountain sides with nothing but a Bible to tell them about Jesus. Today 11 people chose to follow Christ and several more showed an intense interest in hearing the gospel. What a moving experience to see so many break from the years of tradition of voodoo-catholicism and seek a relationship with Christ!

The clinic day ended unlike any other. With the expert talents of Chelsea, a young full-time missionary new to BHM, a rousing game of Canar, Canar, Swa (Duck, duck, goose) was intiated and played for the very first time by some 20+ kids followed by sing-a-longs, Simon Says (which is really hard to play if you don't speak the language) and some soccer.

One of the most impressive things I saw was kids playing soccer in a dirt field with golf ball chunks of rock through BAREFOOT! Haitian kids are way tough!

The drive down through the mud and rock was a blast until about 15 minutes from Fermathe when we hit pavement again and, again, sucked exhaust fumes from a large taptap (taxi/bus/pick-up truck).

All was well after we got back and hung out with Patty Baker, Rob's wife, who walked around the campus with us for a bit and informed us of much of the history of this marvellous mission.

Our night ended like any other with dinner, fellowship and prayer and... Of course, counting pills and preparing the formulary for another day in the field.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dust and Smoke

The smell of smoke envelops me while I lay in bed tapping this out on my Blackberry. I don't get it either, I took a shower, changes my clothes and everything. Maybe its just stuck in my nostrils like all that dust from the "road". Maybe its my backpack or my hat next to the bed.

The smoke is from the process of making charcoal that the locals sell in the markets. Some of them make their entire living by burning wood to charcoal the carrying it miles on their heads up and down these crappy mountain roads.

My patients routinely complain of headaches, back aches, stomach aches (mostly worm infestations and Giardia) and hypertension. Draw your own conclusions of the living conditions of Haitians... and we've been working in some of the most developed parts of southern "Ouest" Haiti.

These locals cook over these little charcoal fires. Choking the smoke in their cramped poorly ventilated one bed room homes. My eyes stung the entire time I was in the little cement church. There were no fans and ventilation was screen-less and glass-less windows, the same windows through which the smoke from the charcoal fires was entering the building. My nose is rejecting the smoke by creating a thick crust around my nostrils that feels like a stalactite hanging precariously from those hairs that I now grasp the purpose of.

And the dust. Dust is everywhere. Its part of life in Haiti. The road are dust, our ATVs kick up dust. The wind blows dust. Guys sits on giant piles of rocks on the side of the road with hammers breaking big rocks into smaller rocks and those smaller rocks into pebbles, and those pebbles into dust.

It cakes onto your hair giving it a texture similar to that of a horse. The dust is so incredibly intertwined into the lives of Haitians that I had two patients todays tell me that they were eating is because they were anemic.

I asked them why they didn't just eat some lettuce or cabbage (which is literally in every single family garden and market stand) and they just looked at me incredulously as if to say "hey idiot, don't you think that, if I could afford it, I'd rather eat a green salad than a friggin dirt biscuit!" That wasn't supposed to be funny.

Crap it all makes my head hurt. I hate thinking about this stuff. It pisses me off to such an extent that I almost want the trip to just end. Almost. We smile and laugh and joke around a lot. It helps. Even our translators have to decompress from this stuff. They laugh so easily!

One woman today hadn't eaten in over a week and neither had anyone in her family of 5. That was her medical complaint: "My stomach hurts because I have no food." Yes, we did what we could, but we don't have the ability to provide any long term solutions. In case you're wondering what that feels like, its like getting kicked in the stomach.

On a more positive note, one 15 year-old kid came in right at the end of the day, we were wrapping up and he approached Darla and her translator Hubron. Darla asked what he needed to see the Dr. for, he told her that he just came over because he needed someone to tell him about Jesus. He wanted salvation. That's it. That's what we all want for him. That is what this is all about. He prayed with Hubron and came into an unbreakable relationship
with Christ right there.

I could fill you in on all the other details of my day, but nothing could compare to this great victory of God.
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Monday, November 28, 2011


(Note: All of the entries made this week are from my Blackberry mobile phone. Please excuse typoes, mis-spellings and inarticulate recollections and descriptions. I am writing this like I journal, just thoughts and short bursts of memory regurgitated without serious contemplation or consideration for syntax and form.)

After snagging some of the world's most delicious grape fruits ever with a net I made from a broom, a hanger, a pillow case and some duct tape.

Darla, the NP from New Brunswick was very grateful for the fresh fruit for breakfast and the vitamin C gave my immune system some confidence to address the health crises of rural Haiti.

We were a little late getting off the mission campus and on the road in our two Honda ATV's. With a driver, front seat passenger and three holding on in the bed of the ATV (pictures of the ATV's, nicknamed Big Red 1 and Big Red 2, can be found on my facebook page in the album titled "Haiti Medical Mission 2010).

We squeezed the equipment, meds, medical missionaries and translators in as tightly as we could pack them. I really missed this part of the trip, yes, the driving, because even when you're on the road in Haiti, you're still off road.

Dr. Sorg wanted his ATV in front because its equipped with a horn which aids in navigating the blind corners on the narrow cliff lined roads. Two little beeps let's anyone on the other side know that you are about to collide with them. This has proved valuable as we encounter a near miss every 2 or 3 minutes on the roads. I know that that sounds bad, but we're rarely travelling more than 15 to 20 mph by my estimation, although, they don't have speedometers so I don't really know.

By the time we reached the church in Callebasse, all of our faces were thoroughly, caked in dust and we smelled like exhaust fumes. Abby road in the back with my pal and translator Fedner along with Benjamin, a translator I'd never met before (none of which stopped smiling at any point over the course of the day). Tee, my plucky retired nurse friend from Maryland, sat up in the passenger seat with me.

Dr. Sorg was driving the lead Big Red for a bit until he realised he had left his driver's license at the mission and had Johnny drive the remainder of the trip. Johnny drives just as slow as Dr. Sorg, as Tee pointed out to me while we grudgingly ate their dust on our way up the mountain.

This was a clinic I've worked at before in an old church. It was already full of people when we arrived. The translators adeptly sent the would-be patients outside so the we could set up. The church's pastor, a gracious and kind faced Haitian man, laid down the law at one point (I don't really know what he told them) and we had silence and order after a tense 15 minutes of chaos.

With all the experience on the team (including many of our veteran translators) the mobile clinic and pharmacy were assembled in a matter of about 5 minutes and we immediately set to work with Abby taking vitals, me assessing and gathering histories and Dr. Sorg and Darla (my new favourite NP) wrote up scrips. The whole thing was so fluid and well-executed with us in these roles that we had seen 100 patients before 2 pm.

The patients were mostly church goers from the local Baptist church, with more paediatric patients than I have seen in one of these clinics. For the first time we are starting to see patients with chronic health complaints that can be traced back to the earthquake last year. Some of the kids has some nasty infections and cellulitis and predictable intestinal-worm type complaints.

Johnny and I met one young lady who was not a Christian and very receptive to the Gospel which we (I say we, but mean Johnny) shared with her. Please pray for Mme. Noel.

There were 2 others that did not claim to be Christians, one was not receptive and the other seemed mildly interested. Tomorrow, now that word is out beyond the local church congregation, is expected to be much busier with more non-churchgoers than Christians.

After wrapping up, and the hot/humid/dusty/smelly drive back to the mission, we re-stocked our medication supplies, debriefed, discussed diagnoses and trends we were seeing then went down to the medical supply store room to check on the progress of our once oppressively over-stuffed, garbage-ridden donation room. It didn't even look like the same place we worked those long evenings re-organizing a year ago when we should have been sleeping. Kudos to the teams that attacked and conquered that storeroom since!

The night was finished off with some laughs and story telling with the full-time BHM staff, an excellent dinner (as usual) and a short group Bible devotion and prayer. Abby Darla and I sat down after dinner and did some record keeping and diagnosis tracking then watched part of a movie (Amazing Grace) on Dr. Sorg's lap top.

I really wasn't in the mood to tap out this long blog because every cell in my body is telling me to sleep, but, I know from experience, if I don't write it out, I'll forget it.

And I would be remiss if I didn't tale the opportunity to thank my dear wife, Elizabeth, for making it possible for her husband to fly way over to Haiti to help some sick people neither of us know. You're the best babe! I love you!
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Sunday, November 27, 2011


I've been seeing a lot of familiar faces, smelling familiar smells, hearing familiar sounds, feeling familiar feelings. Its been an nostalgic circus for me today. Its hard to believe that I was here only a year ago.

I was awakened by all sorts of animal sounds this morning. First it was pig, then a rooster, then a cow, then more rooster, then a goat (lots of goat noise, I think it was being tortured by the rooster), more rooster, some kind of really obnoxious tropical bird, and (you guessed it) more rooster.

I felt remarkably refreshed when I woke up and made some instant coffee and studied my Bible in the cool tropical morning mist for about an hour. By 7:30 I was ready to really get the day started. After having breakfast with Dr. Sorg, the next person I ran into was Johnny, a Haitian national, translator from our last trip, and a spiritual dynamo. We smiled and shook hands and it was clear simultaneously to both of us that the hand shake wasn't enough and had a good (very manly) hug with 3 hard slaps on the back and everything.

The church service started at probably somewhere around sunrise, but I joined our Haitian hosts in the chapel for some amazing chorals and "chants" lead by none-other than another one of our translators and friend, Fedner. Seeing that guy felt really good. We spent a lot of time together when I was here a year ago and hardly a week has gone by when I didn't think of something funny that guy said (often unintentionally) and his admirable sense of humour and candid honesty.

The service was loud and long. No church in my town would have more than just the half dozen most devout attendees if the service ran that long in Modesto. It was glorious though and I'll post some videos of the singing as soon as I return home.

The sermon was on 1 Cor 5:19-23 and was in Creole. Between Dr. Sorg, Darla and myself, we were able to collectively piece together the sermon message afterwards and chuckled at our inadequacies for a bit.

I tried to sing along with the Hymns (also in Creole) but got lost easily while reading them from my little program (which now has the blood of two or more dead mosquitos on it).

After a lunch of left over casserole, Tee took Abby and Darla for a tour of the mission hospital and came back for me shortly after. We hiked around the campus and explored some of it with Dr. Sorg who has obviously paid attention on his previous tours of the mission.

Afterwards we hiked down the ravine, took the wrong trail and ended up taking a longer but much more treacherous route through the jungle to a village previously un encountered by any of us. We stopped just short of the first home and took some photos then, realising that we were out longer than the amount of time allotted to us by our busy schedule, had to turn around as access to our destination seemed to either be over grown by the jungle or we just chose the wrong trail.

Getting back was even more of an adventure because, being the one who lead on the way down, I should have lead the way back, but I was so enthralled by the wildlife that I got distracted and let us get on the wrong trail again. Eventually I had our intrepid team sit in one place while I scrambled up the terraces long reclaimed by the jungle to get our bearings.

I couldn't believe my eyes but we had managed to find our way back to an area right below our dorms (down a series of 6 foot tall terraces). Not too bad for not being able to see more than 20 feet in any direction, right?

Sweaty, covered in seeds, dirt, leaves and bug bites, the ladies went for a shower and we started what will be our nightly ritual of sitting around a tiny table counting out Rx medications and discussions on medical and cultural issues we are likely to encounter in the field tomorrow morning.

I lost track of how many Rx's the 5 of us prepared, but I'm sure its more than we need for our 100+ patients we'll be seeing tomorrow.

We took a short break for a Bible study taught by Pastor Rob Baker who runs the mission with all of the other Baptist Haiti Mission (BHM) full-time missionaries. We went over Luke 15 and talked a lot about the lost and the found and the key to salvation and why "the heavens rejoice" when a lost un-saved person is "born-again," the joys of the prodigal returning home and the dreadfulness of the self-righteous.

Afterwards, we returned to our dorm and continued in our assembling of tomorrow's formulary, discussed each members' duties and responsibilities tomorrow and more tropical medicine orientation.

I said a couple of days ago that I no longer wanted but instead needed to go to Haiti. I know this was true because I feel like I've received the prescription I've needed for the last few months. If only the people I'm about to go help could know how much they help me. I really love this place, but I especially love Whose service I am in.

I want to leave you with a hymn we sang at Bible study this evening (along with about a half dozen Christmas Carols):

At Calvary
1. Years I spent in vanity and pride,Caring not my Lord was crucified,Knowing not it was for me He die dOn Calvary. ◦

Refrain:Mercy there was great, and grace was free;Pardon there was multiplied to me;There my burdened soul found liberty At Calvary.

2. By God's Word at last my sin I learned;Then I trembled at the law I'd spurned,Till my guilty soul imploring turned To Calvary.

3. Now I've giv'n to Jesus everything,Now I gladly own Him as my King,Now my raptured soul can only sing Of Calvary!

4. Oh, the love that drew salvation's plan!Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span At Caaaal-vaaaaryyyy!

Pastor Stuart, at my church, loves this hymns and I could hear him voice singing the "AT CAAAAALVAAAARYYYYY" part at the top of hos lungs. The whole time.
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day One of Trip Two

I'm writing this from my Blackberry, as I will all of the posts from here in Haiti.

The day was long and actually started sometime yesterday at home as I packed up the rest of my things (and mostly donated things). I checked an additional bag and found out that my flight from LAX to MIA had been rescheduled, instead of leaving LAX around 7 pm, we'd now be leaving at midnight. Our flight, that meant wouldn't be arriving in Port-au-Prince until around noon today.

That complicated things for everyone but Abby and me. Poor Darla, a nurse practitioner from New Brunswick, expected to find Abby and me waiting for her in the baggage claim. We were supposed to be there an hour before her, but instead we ended up arriving an hour after her. Darla still managed to find the driver and waited for us after contacting the mission and expertly navigated the chaotic and intimidating airport international arrival gate.

I met a Haitian born New Yorker on my flight from MIA to PAP who was travelling with his wife to visit his family. He asked me why I was going to Haiti, I told him, then, as if screening those who were about to serve his country, he asked "you have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?"

I told him I did, we acknowledged our brotherhood and just chatted like we'd grown up in the same neighborhood for the rest of the flight.

The airport was chaotic as usual. Tee, Abby and I couldn't find our luggage for the longest time. As I was shouting to tell Abby over the cavenous cement block terminal echoing with the voices of hundreds of fellow passengers also baffled by the disappearance of their luggage, I heard some yell, "are you Zach?" I spun around and didnkt see anyone at first but definitely didn't recognize the voice.

Then suddenly in front of me was the visibly relieved NP, Darla. I introduced the three of us to her and went on the hunt for our bags. We finally found them and fought through the crowd of much too assertive "helpers" who thought the deserved 20 dollar tips for trying to rip my bags from my hands repeatedly as I walked a half mile to the awaiting SUV.

Abby held her own, although visibly intimidated by the experience. I did my best to laugh about it as they harrassed us all the way to the truck and rolled my eyes at the "helpers". They were, in fact, just trying to help, kind of...

The long drive (less then 30 miles that takes about 2 hours) to Fermathe revealed some progress in clean-up of the rubble from the earthquake but not as much construction as I hoped.

We stopped to get some cereal on the way to the mission at a Grocery store, then our driver, Wilson, stopped to give some bread to a woman walking down the road with about 20 kids in tow. Maybe a teacher?

Arriving at the BHM, Dr. Sorg was somewhat suprised to see me and Abby. Our introductions were short and we went straight to work sorting and classing meds taking only a short break to walk around the mission and have some Tuna caserole provided by one of the full-time missionaries here.

We talked about our plans for the week and Abby set out to completely re-organize and re-label the formulary (we were all pretty impressed) as the rest of us counted out children's vitamins.

We're all pretty much exhausted and excited to start the day tomorrow with more work on the pharmacy, a chapel service and a Bible study with the full-time staff here.

At this point, I'm just beat and I don't have the strength or energy to nail out the week's worth of encounters we had in the last 9 hours. Its tough to have to pick and choose which experiences to write about because, I know that the one's that I don't will fade from memory. Its like when you meet someone while waiting in line for a booth at a restaraunt or are seated next to someone at a wedding reception and you hit it off. You think, "man, we could really be friends with this couple!" Then their name gets called for their booth or they have to leave early to pick kids up from the sitters and you never see them again. Yeah, these memories are like that. Ah well, se la vie.

Well, its pouring down rain outside and I need a shower, BAD! More updates tomorrow, so check back.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Unreached, Unengaged and Opportunities Abound

This is an urgent fill job listing from the IMB website:
Medical CoordinatorThe Medical Coordinator  is responsible for assisting IMB personnel  with a wide variety of their medical needs. The primary duties  are (but not limited to): answering medical related questions of field personnel, knowing the capabilities of medical facilities within their area of coverage, arranging for medical related travel for field personnel, approving for field personnel to return to their field of service once they are cleared medically, interfacing with the medical department at the Board,  and keeping field personnel informed of medical issues that pertain to their area of service.    Education and experience such as RN, PA, or related fields and good administrative skills are required.

The Muslim Rajput people group of Nepal.
 I was doing a little research on some of the countries with the highest number of unreached and unengaged people groups. When most people think unreached people groups, they envision a Papua New Guinea  scenario with vast, dense jungles, indigenous people groups who've never seen a Westerner or heard any language but their own. The truth is, that place has been saturated and is almost completely reached and has already been completely engaged.

Woman from the Hindu Koiri people group  in Nepal
The world missions focus is being sharpened to many nations in Asia like Nepal, India and Thailand. This morning I was looking into Nepal. I have always loved this country, ever since reading John Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" and watching the IMAX documentary "Everest". This Country is home to the 8 tallest peaks in the world! The country itself is beautiful with some of the world's most hostile terrain, a very remote and isolating geographic distribution of people groups, and unseen and unknown valleys, canyons and mountains that likely have yet to be conquered by outsiders.

Nepal, which seems to be primarily Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist has the largest percentage of unreachd and unengaged people groups that I have been able to find (check out The Joshua Project to see if you can find a nation with more).

Man from the Buddhist Jirel people group in Nepal.
Due to there geography, Nepal has managed to remained isolated from the rest of the World. A cultural anthropologist might find this nation to be a treasury filled with untapped data and information, but human life doesn't amount to just statistics and research potential. There is a need there to bring them the gospel. A whole bunch of people need to suit up and set sail (not literally, the countries kinda landlocked) for this nation intent on sharing God's love for all people. It wont be easy and it will come with some risk, okay, maybe a lot of risk. But they need to at least hear the gospel message and someone needs to be willing to bring it. Is it you? Why not?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Follow-up: Sleep Out 4 Haiti

I am happy to say that we have reached half our goal and are on track to be entirely funded for the November Medical Mission to Haiti, with your help of course.

Let's first talk about our meteoric success! We spent three days and two nights camped out in the heart of Modesto, CA at Orangeburg Ave. Church. While it was was difficult to find other who would brave the elements with us out doors, we had several visitors and support.

The first day was hot, 100 degrees actually. At night, the humidity level swelled to 88% (that is unusually high for central California) and the temperature hung in at 84 degrees all night. This made for a long night of sleeping, but before any of us could go to bed, we made a camp fire, enjoyed some s'mores and a camp fire sing along type setting (as much as is possible with our eclectic array young-adults and youth). We got to meet some of the local night crawlers, a few drunks who were somewhat belligerent with the ladies and a homeless couple looking for some money (we all wished they would have stayed longer than a few moments). We had no money on us... no really... but we had a lot of snacks and junk food that had been donated and tried to pawn that off to every wanderer-by we could.

From Left to Right: Roni, Matt, Me (in the ballcap), and Abbi
It rained a little the first night, but that was no comparison to what day 2 had in store for us. Our camp was ravaged by seemingly unnatural winds with gusts up to 25 mph and sustained breeze at about 12-15 mph. Sure, we have weather like this all the time during the Winter and Spring, but never in September. The "tent city"" and boxes were destroyed. The dwellings, though, weren't our primary concern. Our 4 foot by 8 foot Styrofoam signs were the biggest problem.

Right next to a main artery from East to West Modesto, our signs became sails threatening to fly out into the 5 lane avenue and give someone some very targeted advertisement, that they surely wouldn't be able to ignore. We attempted several ways to secure these signs and ended up just relying on my sons to hold cardboard signs and run up and down the sidewalk yelling "Donate to Haiti!"

Don't laugh, it worked. Donations started raining in. Not big donations, but the cars apparently found our humble abode to be a bit more approachable with the little kids at the helm. Even before that though, a woman, not known to any of us, dropped by with drinks and snacks for the the team hanging out with the tents.

We had hoped for more visibility and had called several news and radio stations as well as the Modesto Bee. In all we contacted Air1 (who said they needed more notice), KOVR 13 News, Good Morning Sacramento, KCRA 3 News, and our Local News 10. No one came out, which was both surprising and disheartening. The lessons we learned from this and the edification we derived from this experience was more than made up for it. Among our youth and college young adults (many of whom I've taught in the college and youth Bible studies) one thing was understood: living in tent cities, even just for a couple of days, is NOT like camping out in the forest. There's a lot more noise and much less sense of security, which we surmise would be even more so in the historically violent and unstable urban environment in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

All said and done, we have several people to thank for an unprecedented amount of moral and material support from our community and church. In total, that wee we raised $1327.53.

Our Corporate Sponsors:

Gary's Rent A Car, Inc.

Our friends who provided much needed and generous material and morale support:

Andrew and Vivian Birch
David and Debra Cline
Lois Fruendorfer
Mark and Debbie Greenlee
Judd and Nancy Hubbard
Dr. Peter and Kathleen Lai
Armando and Nora Magana
Richard and Leisa Proctor
Tegan Wells
and the anonymous givers and those of you who've pledged to donate... 
We love you guys too!

Our Friends who hung out with us:

Matt Bitz
Mary Blaine (Gigi!)
Karen Farrell
Johnny Farrell
Kaila Farrell
Tyler Gallasso
Liam Greenlee
Mark Greenlee
Owen Greenlee
Matt Magana
Drew Mathews
Roni Mathews
Alexandra Parker
Riannon Parker
Sierra Parker
Tina New Parker
Gabe Proctor
Leisa Proctor
Richard Proctor
Mary Willingham
and last but not least...
 that crazy drunk guy who confused us all with his random rants about how to run a waffle house

Most of all, Abigail, the rest of the crew, and I thank and praise the almighty God who is steadfast and faithful through all things and cares more deeply for the people of Haiti than any one of us could ever fathom...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sleep Out 4 Haiti Results

I'll be sharing more about the sleep out later, right now, though, I just want everyone to know that with the guidance and hard work of Roni Matthews and Abigail Proctor, along with God's awesome provision, we raised $927.53 through this single fundraising event and still have a month to go. We are about 1/3 of the way to our goal and it appears to be within reach. Thank you to all of our donors. I'll be updating everyone with a pictorial account of the weekend, as soon as I have a free hour or two to do it.

Thanks again my friends!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Tent City of Our Own

Haitians live in a tent city near the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (UN Photo/Marco Dormino)

This Friday, September 23rd, there is going to be a new style fundraiser right here in Modesto, CA. At about 5 o'clock in the evening, a temporary tent city will be erected on the grounds of Orangeburg Ave. Baptist Church at 313 E. Orangburg Ave., Modesto, CA 95350.

This event is to kick off the fund raising drive for the Medical Relief trip to Haiti this Novemeber. Our primary goal is to bring the plight of rural Haiti into focus and raise awareness of the ongoing struggles of almost all Haitians. We are hoping to have a number of people visit us and will be spending two nights out in the parking lot of the church as a show of solidarity and respect for the earthquake victims, impoverished and homeless populations of the island nation.

My biggest fear is that this could trivialize the reality of the dangerous, disease ridden conditions of the less affluent and unsupported tent cities in greater Port-au-Prince. Their daily struggle is one beyond our imagination and the perilous environment just can't be duplicated here in central California.This is instead intended to be a fun way to raise awareness and improve the visibility of the our upcoming trip.

(Read the Facebook event announcement and RSVP)

Please come out and join anytime between 5 pm on 9/23 to 1 pm on 9/25! We'd love to have you there with us. If you would like to donate, we will be accepting donations at the event, by mail and online. The donate link in the upper right hand corner goes directly to my paypal account. You can also mail your a donated check or money order to:

Orangeburg Ave Baptist Church
313 E. Orangeburg Ave.
Modesto, CA 953550
attn: "Haiti Mission Fund"
(and write "Haiti Mission Fund" on the memo line of the check as well)

If you'd rather, you may also donate specific items listed in the wish list just below the donate button in the upper right hand corner.

I'll update the blog as time grows nearer to the fundraiser. Thanks for your interest.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Quick Note From The Baptist Haiti Mission

This is a blog post from the Baptist Haiti Mission Field Journal mentioning the last November/December's medical relief trip.
A few weeks ago we were blessed to have a medical team from ABWE (Association of Baptist for World Evangelism) partnering with us.  The team was under the leadership of Dr. Jack Sorg and they held medical clinics in three communities in the mountains above the mission campus.These clinics were set up in BHM affiliated schools or churches and about 80 people were served each day.  People who came were not only treated and provided with medication, but they were given knowledge about hygiene and their sickness and most importantly the gospel was shared with everyone who came to these clinics.  Through out the week over 10 people were saved.  Dr. Jack shared, “We are very thankful and pleased that we are able to partner with BHM in Haiti. They want to expand their medical mission, and our goal is to help them with that.”We praise God for the work that He did in the hearts of the people who came through these clinics and we also praise God for the partnership that BHM has with ABWE.
Next week, we will be having another medical team coming to work along side our medical staff at the hospital.  Pray that God will use them in mighty ways and they serve the people of Haiti.
Continue to pray for those suffering from cholera and for those treating them.  We are praising God that there has been very few people needing hospitalization for cholera in the past few days. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Haiti's Affliction: The Sight-Experience Disconnect

When I was a teenager, I recall a street preacher from inner-city LA telling me, "unless you are willing to hug someone who looks like they haven't showered for a month, and smells like garbage, don't bother doing homeless ministry." His words cut deep and his point; it was unmistakable. Unless we ourselves are willing to embrace suffering, we have no business trying to alleviate it.

 When I talk to student about it whether in youth group, college Bible studies or just my own kids during our night time devotions, I get this sense that seeing and understanding the suffering of others are two different yet inseparable parts of appreciating what it means to suffer. So before I over use the word in this blog entry, allow me to access on online thesaurus to come up with some synonyms: afflicted, ache, agonize, ail, convulsed, handicapped, impaired, wounded, deteriorate, droop, endure, experience, feel wretched, grieve, hurt, languish, pain, sicken, and writhe.

There are probably many more, but this is a good start. The point here isn't to use an elementary composition tool, but to show that suffering can refer to all sorts of afflictions from a handicap, to pain (emotional or physical), to illness, or being at a disadvantage. So many of us endure so much but those of us who don't, well we spend a good deal of our lives in a bubble avoiding suffering, until, finally, it finds us.

A recent Reject Apathy article cites the experiences of a professional photographer and filmmaker drawn to Haiti following the 2010 January earthquake that devastated the sprawling urban city of Port-Au-Prince, killed upwards of 300,000 people and continues to claim the lives of countless others through the cholera epidemic, malnutrition and the resulting infra-structure collapse. While great strides are being made toward rebuilding this country and reports on the news seem hopeful, there is still an enormous disconnect between what we see and what is really the state of affairs in the nation. Rural Haiti is largely forgotten by the media and their own government. Cité Soleil, a major city, is still in dire straights and the largest slum in the Western Hemisphere. Access to medicine, safe shelter, education and clean drinking water still remain the most dire concerns in the nation of almost 8 million people.

Just yesterday, there was an blog article published about crime rates going down in the city of Stockton. A little background on that city: Stockton has cut its police force dramatically. The town is probably one of the hardest hit in the nation by the recession. Forbes repeatedly marks the city as the worst  or most miserable places in the country to live. The city has the 10th highest crime rate in the country.

I work on an ambulance there. I see what has happened since cops have been sacked. The homicide rate may not be quite as high in July as it was in June, but we should bear in mind that there are a lot of factors at work in preventing trauma patients from dying. The problem is that when news writers see a decline in crime rates for 1 month, they conclude that perhaps this isn't as big a problem as we once thought. So the public says, "Great! One less thing to worry about. Instead of getting more cops again, let's focus on the warped ceiling tiles at city hall." Although, this is admittedly a straw man, I'm using this hyperbole to make a point.

The problem is that seeing suffering becomes a novelty. Unless we are actually invested in it and digging deep to be involved in the solution, usually leading to some serious personal sacrifice, effectually, all we are is a wealthy tourist giving a little something akin to paying $5 to feed a giraffe at game park. It just isn't enough. We have to be willing to actually embrace that suffering, willing to endure some of it ourselves and lighten the load for others. I believe, that, like the filmmaker in the article, once we are in it, once we start to experience it ourselves, we fight two conflicting desires, to run away and to stay right where we are in the middle of it.

My advice is to take a chance. Suffer a little bit. Give until it hurts. Work until your back aches and trust God to teach you how to be effectual and make a difference.

I invite all readers to comment or ask questions. I am open to all sorts of inquiries, whether on issues of faith or social justice, I would love to discuss these things with anyone. Thank you for reading my blog.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Haiti Mission 2011

Dear friends and family,

Kids in rural high mountain village carry loads
to market several miles away every the morning.
On November 25th, Abigail Proctor and I will making her first and my second trip to Haiti to volunteer with a International Healthcare Ministries (IHM) medical relief team, seeing to the physical and spiritual needs of the largely forgotten rural peoples in the mountainous regions of Eastern Haiti. I had a special opportunity last November to serve our Haitian neighbors and left, not with the feeling of accomplishment I'd expected, but with an indelible desire to do more. Life is not easy in rural Haiti. The desperation and poverty is difficult to fully comprehend for people like you and me. 

 Many rural Haitians lack even the most basic amenities like running water and sewage. Children and women may have to walk miles over steep, unpaved terrain, carrying buckets of tepid water just to cook or wash themselves. Since the 2010 earthquake, infrastructure connecting the remote outlying areas to the urban centers has been largely cut off. Roads for transporting goods are dodgy at best and many have been slowly (or dramatically in some cases) washed away due to the erosion endemic to the Eastern mountains. At our clinics, hundreds of men, women and children would line up for the rare opportunity to see a doctor and have their medical and nutritional needs met. We'd drive in off-road vehicles, sometimes for hours, up heavily pock-marked roads, and perilously steep grades. A large line would invariably be awaiting our arrival and we would set up shop in a mission school, church, or a deserted government building.

Dr. Sorg and our team of translators navigate the steep cliff-
lined rural "roads" of rural Haiti.
We saw a measurable impact on the communities. We saw frighteningly severe cases of anemia in women and children, babies with intestinal worm infestations, and men with very serious infections from untreated injuries. All who came benefited in a tangible way from our interactions as we provided medical care with absolutely no strings attached. Our primary objective, outlined by International Healthcare Ministries, “will be to share the love of Jesus Christ by providing primary healthcare for those in need. [Because] Caring for peoples' physical needs will often open the door to address their spiritual needs as well.”

Men, women and children, most of whom have traveled
for miles on foot, wait to be seen by our medical team.
This is your opportunity to partner with IHM and me, to help rebuild and strengthen this disease-oppressed, and poverty-stricken nation of 7.9 million people. I urge you to take this opportunity to make your resources really count toward something that God will surely bless and multiply (John 6:9-14). The donations will cover the cost of lodging, local transportation, medical supplies and other materials needed during the course of the mission. It looked for a while as if the trip maybe cancelled due to problems with accommodations due to the frequent storms and other set-backs in the country. That didn't change my deadline for these funds though, so please act quickly so that the medicines can be purchased as soon as possible. My deadline is September 30th. Yeah... not much time, but I know we can still do this.

There are several ways to donate: You can donate directly by clicking the "donate" button on the upper right side of my mission blog. You can also donate through the Orangeburg Avenue Baptist Church at 313 E. Orangeburg Ave, Modesto, CA 95350 specifying that this is for “Haiti Mission – Zach Greenlee” in the memo line. If you'd like to donate in any other way, please write me at or call me anytime: (209) 918-4044.  Thank you to those of you who gave so generously last year and also thank you for your continued prayers.


Zach Greenlee

I post a lot about the Haiti mission in this blog, here are some posts I recommend if you'd like to learn more:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Stand Back and Look: A personal inventory.

Something that we probably don't do enough of is take inventory of our life experiences and stand back for a moment. Stand back, look at those experiences, and consider the question, "What is this all coming to? Where are these experiences taking me?" I'm in one of the scariest pursuits of my life. I just applied to Stanford's Physician Assistant program. If I get in, it is going to be a very tough couple of years where my family and I will have to make some huge sacrifices. On the other hand, if I don't get in, I'm not sure how I'll take it. This has been something I've been working very very hard for. I've been working toward this goal for a very long time, and not succeeding will inevitably lead to some serious self-evaluation. Even sharing this with you is difficult because this could give you a front row seat to me falling flat on my face. However, I feel indebted to my friends and family to share this experience because you are the ones who have made it possible to get this far. The following is my Statement of Purpose letter written to my PA school admissions staff.

This letter took weeks of work and a lifetime of experiences to write.

I first read the 20th century medical missionary, Dr. David Livingstone's appeal that “sympathy is no substitute for action,” when I was just a teenager. Even when I was young, these words were profound for me. Through years of heart-wrenching lessons from the urban emergency systems, travel to developing countries, and interpersonal relationships with the homeless, those same words seeded an unshakable sense that the life of every individual is of incalculable value and deserves to be invested in. Part of the answer to our national and global “need epidemic” is in building stronger, healthier communities, and that all begins with access to medicine. I am ready and motivated to help confront this epidemic, starting in my own community, California's impoverished Central Valley.

I lacked a meaningful understanding of the necessity of strong community until the Summer of 1996. I was 16 years old the first time I spent a few weeks working with runaway and homeless youth at an urban rescue mission with the organization Center for Student Missions (CSM) in inner city Los Angeles. Preparing dinners for terminal AIDS patients, sitting in dining halls listening to stories of abuse, drug addiction and sexual exploitation of kids my own age – at times uncomfortably squirming in my seat – I developed a sense of urgency that has never left me. After graduating high school, I traveled to Honduras to aid an embedded humanitarian missionary organization and witnessed first hand how unrelenting poverty affects a community. Awed by the level of despair in Honduras, and attracted to the prospect of positively impacting lives through service, I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard a year later. Whether delivering medical care to a boat loaded with interdicted migrants, treating a sick person at a homeless shelter, serving breakfast to Modesto's homeless on Sunday mornings, or traveling thousands of miles to volunteer at a remote clinic in Haiti, my desire to transition into the role of a clinician has only grown stronger. Haiti opened my eyes to a whole new level of desperation while treating the neglected peoples of the rural high mountain villages in make-shift clinics. Hundreds of men, women and children would stand in line all day to be seen by our only doctor. At one point, Dr. Jack Sorg, detained at a missionary hospital hours away from our rural clinic, entrusted me with the weighty responsibility of conducting the examinations and treatment decisions in his absence, an experience that affirmed and emboldened my pursuit of the role of Physician Assistant.

These experiences also taught me to never underestimate the value of gaining insight through overcoming obstacles. For example, after completing my active duty commitment to the Coast Guard, I moved back to the Central Valley with my wife and brand new son in tow. Job prospects were few. Employers were reluctant to hire a reservist due to the risk that I could still be activated in time of war or natural disaster. I could find nothing more than minimum wage jobs before eventually landing a position as an ED technician at a small community hospital making less than ten dollars per hour. On this meager wage, I scraped together my few resources and set out to earn a paramedic license at a school two hours from my home. I spent hour upon hour away from my family traveling, doggedly working to keep my small family fed and housed, and studying in all-night diners and cafes. We had no health insurance, one broken down pick-up we couldn't afford to fix, and an old, high-mileage Chevy Cavalier, yet we still succeeded in moving toward our final goal. We learned the hard way how to budget and make ends meet while pursuing a better life and a meaningful career.

The plights of those who find themselves on the fringes of society or in the vacuous abyss of the financially insecure working class resonate deeply within us because we have lived through these experiences ourselves. Building community through service and even sacrifice must be a priority of primary care providers. Particularly in impoverished areas such as the Central Valley, affordable (and even free) healthcare is not just possible, I now understand, it is essential in strengthening a community. This is the realization of a journey begun when I was just 16 years old. Through this amalgam of life experiences and hard work, I stand well prepared for this important next step in helping to serve my community.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mission to Haiti 2011 Quickly Approacheth

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti from my plane.
Unbelievably, it has been almost a year since I embarked on my first journey to Haiti. I had no idea what to expect. I hadn't met anyone on the medical team yet. I had never been on Haitian soil before. I was frightened, excited, and determined to just tough it out, no matter what the trip turned into.

I kept a journal of the trip, as I always do, and jotted down some of my feelings as I first arrived at the International Terminal in Port-Au-Prince. Once of my favorite stories of the entire trip happened just as we landed.

The money that gets donated goes to a fund that is used to buy medicines directly. These medicines become my own legal property, which is important for customs reasons (although, I do not really understand the intricacies of these laws and rules). We were instructed to pack them in a way that they didn't appear to be merchandise because we would be taxed on them if the authorities thought that we were selling them.

I remember thinking, "How can I take 300 oral re-hydration salt packets in my luggage, along side gigantic unopened bottles of Amoxicillin, several boxes of brand new reading glasses, and an assortment of prescription bottles filled with enough blood pressure medication to kill a herd of wild horses and make it look like its my own personal stash?"

I had nothing to worry about, for sure, because they really were gifts for the patients we saw in the rural clinics we were to visit in the coming week, but proving this to customs official whom spoke no English would be another story altogether. God certainly had a hand in getting this medicine to these people that he loved.

When getting on the plane in the international terminal, I ran into no one checking in that spoke English. Intimidated? A little, but really, in my line of work, I'm used to not being able to speak to the people around me and use charades and rudimentary hand gestures to convey important questions and directions.

Once on the plane, it was a expectantly light load of people flying from mainland USA to PAP considering the recent disaster and outbreak of Cholera. Heck, only an idiot would fly to Haiti unless they had a REALLY good reason. Because it was a light load of passengers, the stewardesses made the strangest request of the passengers.

This friendly Creole-accented voice and gleaming white smile took me completely off-guard, "Sir, would you mind moving to the back of the plane? The pilot will not take off until you move to the back of them plane."

I'm going to be honest, my mind immediately went to Rosa Parks' bus incident. I know, that stupid, right? They weren't discriminating against me. My ancestors weren't subjugated to tyrannical slavery and denied basic human rights for generations. But I could not figure out what was going on, but I didn't ask and just got up from my seat and moved to the back of the plane.*

As I walked back toward the rear of the fuselage a young woman caught my eye as she looked up from her lap top. "Hey there!" she said without a hint of Creole-accent.

"You're American?" I asked her.

"Yeah, sit here, I'll help you feel out your customs forms."

That was all the introduction I needed. I buckled up next to my new friend who turned out to be a Haitian born political analyst and third party observer for the upcoming presidential election. She knew everything about Haiti. In fact, she was actually an expert on Haitian foreign affairs and politics. I got a 90 minute lesson on Haitian history (not just the Wikipedia version I had read in the hotel the night before) and two note book pages full of notes on safe places and where to find help in case of an emergency, including her personal mobile phone number and the phone number to her hotel where she was staying with the international press corps.
The medicine and medical supplies I carried in my luggage.

The last bit of advice she gave me was to stay with her once we got through immigration because the Customs agents in the international terminal had been increasingly difficult to deal with and were recently caught "skimming" valuable material that could be sold on the virulent black market. Some of the most valuable, in light of the cholera epidemic, are antibiotics... GULP.

I did my best to stick with her through immigration, but she got through the line much faster than I did because of her dual citizenship. I didn't have any trouble in immigration, there were just some minor communication problems that slowed things down, significantly.

Then we were allowed to identify and grab our on luggage from a pile of bags thrown haphazardly on the airport black top. We then formed 2 single file lines as we came up to customs.

I had seen my friend waiting for me with her one carry-on bag but she was rushed by airport security to get through customs and not allowed to wait for me. I saw every other person on the planes baggage get sorted through with great caution and diligence. Most of the passengers had no actual baggage, only garbage bags that they had thrown their clothes and other travel articles in. I watched the customs agents rip them open, comb through the content and toss the belongings off the table with an attitude that said, "Come on! Someone's gotta have something more interesting in their bags."

They checked every single bag, without exception ahead of me. I was carrying a very heavy sea bag loaded with medicines, a large suitcase with medical supplies and equipment and a back pack with my personal effects. My heart started beating wildly as I approached the Customs agent who never even made eye contact with me and just waved me through the line. Wait. Read this next line carefully. This customs agent was looking for the exact kind of stuff I was carrying, he checked every bag before me and after me, but waved me through.

It took me a second to realize what was going on. I even asked him, "aren't you going to check them?" He didn't understand me, and just as well, it was probably a stupid question.

I ran into the nice young lady who had tried to help me before we were separated while she was waiting for her escort. I told her what happened, her jaw dropped. She was speechless, literally speechless. We didn't get to talk any more, but she had known that I was there as a medical missionary and probably has a better understanding of what happened there, or of how unusual this was. But there was no doubting it, God wanted this medicine in the country.

*Note: I came to find out that the reason the pilot wanted me, and a few others to move toward the back of the plane was to even out the load for take-off and landing. I'd never heard of this before, but it was a small plane, and kind of makes sense

If you would like to donate to the upcoming Haiti Mission, you can either donate to Orangeburg Ave Baptist Church in Zach Greenlee's name or use the Donate button in the upper right corner of this blog. Thank you, and please remember this mission and the people of Haiti in your prayers.

Thank You.

Children in Quicroix, Haiti, December 2010.
You made a difference in the lives of complete strangers today through your donation. Thank you.

That's what giving's all about.

Zach Greenlee 

Mission to Haiti 2011

On November 25th, I will making my second trip to Haiti as a medical missionary and working on a medical relief team servicing the population of greater Port Au Prince as well as the other outlying rural areas. This special effort will be an integral part of Association of Baptists for World Evangelism's (ABWE) vision of evangelism that leads to church planting and church planting movements. As ABWE puts it, “A primary objective of this trip will be to share the love of Jesus Christ by providing primary healthcare for those in need. Caring for peoples' physical needs will often open the door to address their spiritual needs as well.”
Haiti recently received a lot of attention due to the 7.9 earthquake that struck just 10 miles outside of the densely populated city and capital of Haiti, Port Au Prince (population of 2 million). While over 40,000 bodies have been officially counted and buried in mass graves, the government estimates that the death toll may be as high as 270,000. That is 74 times the number that died in the WTC attacks just ten years ago.
As far as the conditions for the missionary staff, the team guide book states, “ABWE medical teams will be based at Baptist Haiti Mission (BHM). Transportation may be by truck or SUV to mobile medical clinics at urban or rural locations to be specified by BHM. The roads are extremely rough, so a one-hour ride may be required each direction. Participants will receive a prepared breakfast, take a sack lunch,and have a prepared dinner each night back at the base.” In other words, this is not a vacation.

Life expectancy in Haiti is 53 for males and 56 for females. Infant mortality is 76 of every 1,000 live births. 10% of all the children born are not expected to live to their 5th birthday. Approx-imately half of the population have no access to potable water and 65% live below the poverty level – and these statistics are from before the earthquake. The BHM is a well-established organization and has been in Haiti for years and has made great strides in getting the gospel out to the people of Haiti, however, less than 20% claim to be protestants. Most of the country profess to be Catholic, some combination of Catholicism and Voodoo or some other native folk religion.

As you may have surmised, Haiti, the mission staff and our team really need your prayers.
You may have heard others soliciting on my behalf for donations for this mission, and I urge you to take this opportunity to make your money really count toward something that God will surely bless and multiply (John 6:9-14). According to ABWE, the project fees and donations will cover the cost of lodging, local transportation, medical supplies and other materials needed during the course of the mission.
All donations can be made directly to the church, remember to specify that the donation is for “Zach Greenlee - The Haiti Mission”. 
In case you'd like to familiarize yourself with the BHM, ABWE, and the International Healthcare Ministries (IHM), the following are their respective websites:

Most importantly, please remember the mission staff, the medical relief team and especially the people of Haiti in your prayers, and recruit your friends and family to do the same. Thank you.


Zach Greenlee