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.