Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mobile Clinic Day #2

The next day I was asked to go on another mobile clinic. I was happy to oblige, and eager to get out into the city again.

Before we left, we were desperately praying for more time to see patients and a larger space. Everything really is such an ordeal there. Driving to where you need to go sometimes proves impossible due to the traffic. The waiting around...waiting to get guards, waiting for team leaders to figure out where they are going and what they are doing. Nothing is really efficient, as we Americans would like it to be.

So, we drove through town to the police station so that we could pick up our policeman for our journey. This process took about two hours, most of which involved us waiting around in the VERY hot sun (hence the lovely tan I came back with). But once we finally got everyone on the same page, we were off.

We drove for about 40 minutes to our destination, a moderate sized tent city that seemed to be in a middle class neighborhood. We were warmly welcomed as we arrived and a few people led us to a large church. As I walked in, I felt giddy. God grants even the smallest need, and this was our answer for a larger space. The place was huge! The two story building had suffered some damage to the balcony area, but it was still standing and for the most part in really good shape.

Not only that, but there were pews where everyone could wait while they were waiting to be seen! No waiting in the hot sun! And I was so thankful because many times people are already dehydrated and without water so waiting around sweating in the hot sun does not improve the situation. Also, the inside of the church was surprisingly cool compared to the outside. It was such a place of peace, just like God gave us a utopia. As we began to set up, Bonnie informed me that I would be our prayer support for the day, which of course I was thrilled about.

As the entire room became quiet, I began to pray as one of the police officers interpreted for me. For me, it was such a sweet experience. As I prayed, Bonnie placed her hand on the small of my back and when I had finished she said, "I knew I picked the right person for the job. My little preacher." God did alot of things for me personally on this trip, but one was to confirm gifts that He has placed in me over and over again. I cannot explain to you what a blessing this was for me. Something happens to us when we are operating in our giftings. I have greater faith, I believe God for greater things and often times the idea of doubt doesn't even cross my mind, and when it does it seems easy to crush. Confidence overwhelms me. The power of Christ falls on me because it is He that is doing this through me. I'm almost a different person, only I'm me. :)

Although not many people came and directly asked me for prayer, I just began to pray over the space, over the pastor and caretakers, the families coming for medical care, the community and of course the many, many children that kept running up to me and sitting in my lap without prompting. It was quite humorous. At one point, another team member Matt had given the kids his camera to snap pictures with. The kids snapped a picture of me making a thumbs up sign. No sooner had I gotten out my camera, and the girls wanted a picture of themselves. As I put my camera up to my eye, I see all of them standing there with their thumbs up. It was so precious.

I have other stories about mobile clinic day #2, but I will have to continue them next time...

A Chalky Baptismal

The next day after the mobile clinic, I volunteered to stay at the post op clinic again. My days were growing fewer, and I longed to spend some quality time with the families I had formed relationships with. It was a very mellow day, I spent most of my time playing with the kids.

It's really charming how they never get tired of playing with the same toys. Every day..."machines", barbies, coloring books, board games, and my favorite...balloons (in Creole, "la blad"). Every day that I came in, little Joseph would reach for my hand and start saying, "Stephanie, la blad. Stephanie, la blad." Over and over again.

Also, thanks to Greg and Patricia, I now effectively know how to manage a three-year-old tantrum. Which is a good thing, because one of the kids threw a hissy fit when I told him that we were out of balloons. But at the end of our bargaining match, he was just as content with a "machine."

Most of our days were very hot, especially in direct sunlight. But thankfully we had some shaded area. On this particular day, I wanted to inspire the children's creativity and get their minds working. Actually, one of my main goals while I was there was to get everyone's minds working and into some kind of routine, since everything they know had been crushed. So, the director of the orphanage spent some time encouraging the moms and dads to bathe their children, change them and all take turns washing the sheets on the beds (we didn't have any extras). It was quite difficult to get people motivated and take responsibility but in the end we had at least made some progress. We were really trying to foster a sense of community among the families that would be staying here for quite some time.

One of our team leaders had found some sidewalk chalk in the donations. I was thinking to myself, "What child doesn't like sidewalk chalk?" I became sad as I thought about the fact that most of the kids wouldn't be able to chalk because they couldn't get out of their beds. Oh well, we'll just have fun with the kids that can.

Then came the challenge. The only place I could get approval to sidewalk chalk was in the blazing sun on the side of the guest house. None of the kids wanted to chalk because it was too hot. As I scrambled to think of other ideas (I was really desperate to make this happen), I noticed an outside baptismal with four walls. I ran in and asked for permission to chalk the baptismal. The first step was that I had to teach the kids what sidewalk chalk was and how to use it. I handed to them and immediately got blank stares. Silly me.

As I started passing out the chalk, all of the kids started to screech with excitement and then it occurred to me that we now had a standing 4 sided structure to chalk on! This meant that we could pull all of the cots over to the wall and each child (even the bedridden ones) could sidewalk chalk! I laughed to myself, again...thinking that in the first place I had the perfect plan figured out. wasn't so perfect. And nothing went how I planned. :) Isn't God so good? He made a way for all of His children to enjoy the creativity placed in them by their Father. As we pulled each cot over to the wall, I witnessed some of the most joyful expressions I have ever seen. The kids were so excited!

The kids all had a great time, and then afterwards we all sat around the baptismal and talked. One of the dad's is a police officer and spoke English quite well. He began to ask me about how long I had known Jesus. I was able to share a little bit of my testimony as well as talk about Jesus and who He is. Now I don't know if anyone else could speak English, but this whole scenario drew quite a crowd and they all listened intently so they must have been hearing something. :)

At the end of the day, i walked over to my tent completely satisfied, and I realized why it is so easy for me to relate these people. They enjoy just being. They don't need to do anything. No one has to say the right thing, or be a certain way. They just simply love and enjoy one another for who they are. They laugh, and they sit in silence, and all is well.

Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures of the chalky baptismal. I was too busy just enjoying the day with my friends.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mobile Clinic Day #1

So, after all of that waiting around in the heat, we were finally on our way. Our destination was fairly close and we drove only about 15-20 minutes. We couldn't travel very far, since we were on a limited time schedule to get the police officers back to the base. We drove into a very secluded tent city, and as we drove in the people began to crowd the trucks. They knew of course, by our scrubs that we were medical professionals.

As we arrived, the local people were very quick, gracious and willing to help us set up. They cleared a small 5'X5' sheet tent for us to make our clinic home. That tiny space contained 4 chairs where patients sat while they were assessed, three nurses, a pharmacy and two pharmacists (aka nurses who know about medications). :)

We were so tight in the space, and all of the locals so packed in tight that I wasn't able to get any pictures. I tried not to take any close up pictures in the communities because I didn't want people to feel like we might be exploiting them. So if I couldn't stand quite a distance away and zoom for the pic, I tried to keep my camera in the bag. I also didn't want to cause chaos.

Because of our short time this day, we only saw about 50 patients in our 1 1/2 hours. But it was worth every single person who was helped during that time. Several men I encountered had outbreaks of herpes and were in quite alot of pain, only our medication supply was limited and we did not have any valtrex. So, I did my best to education them on lifestyle choices and prayed for them and sent them on their way. I saw several sick little babies who had a fever, and then the common aches and pains that come with being dehydrated and hungry. It was evident in my assessments that many ailments were also caused by anxiety and grief, and my heart felt sad that I couldn't bring more healing and comfort to those places.

Although these days were fruitful and just as much authored by God as all the others, it definitely involved less personal ministry on my part. But I trust that God used every smile, touch and word of grace to minister in realms that I cannot see.

I think most people on the team felt at least a little disappointed that we did not see more patients. But it was a sweet reminder from the Lord that His work is not about numbers, nor is it about what we do as His people. It is about what He is doing, for His glory.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Visit to the Police Station

Saturday I was invited to go out on one of the mobile clinics are team was hosting. Mobile clinics are where we get to take limited healthcare to all of the people who are living in tent cities in Port au Prince. In extreme cases, we found those who were in critical condition and transported them to the hospital. I wasn't sure if this was something I really wanted to do, but by this time I was ready to get outside the four wall of the orphanage and see the city. Also, God had already showed me that He was going to work the way He wanted to so I went out.

We drove through the traffic packed little streets of PAP down to the police station. Aside from this being the first time I had really gotten out to see the city, the smell as we neared the police station grew more and more putrid. The number of Haitians living in sheet tents on the sidewalks without any sign of designated sanitation was overwhelming. The police station is located in the heart of the city, directly across from the palace. We were required to stop here first to pick up Haitian police officers that would travel with us and ensure our safety in case any chaos broke out.

Although the police station had been badly effected by the earthquake, it was still being used as a major headquarters. Not only were the policemen still being housed there, but the major clinic in town was set up on the lower floor, as well as a mini operating room where wound debriding and minor surgeries took place. All of the doctors and nurses that were serving there slept in tents on the roof. It was quite a sight. Within 10 feet of where I was standing, I could hear about 10 different languages being spoken. Literally, people from all over the world were pitching in to serve the Haitian people. This brought me so much hope, and I closed my eyes as I received a small picture of what Heaven will be like one day. Then the realization hit me that heaven is still so abstract and I really can't imagine what it will be like, but I do know that all nations will be represented.

As I mentioned earlier, any expectation of efficiency or speed had to flee. It was clear we were going to be waiting around at the police station for a while as the people in charge tried to figure out which police officers could go out with us. And did I mention it was extremely hot? I hiked up to the roof of the police station, from which you could see most of downtown. The devastation was kind of overwhelming, and I tried to take it all in, trying to sense what God wanted to do and what He wanted to show me in all of this. Surely, it would be difficult to be a blessing (and I felt compelled to be a blessing) if I found myself in a hopeless, desperate state. And God was faithful.

As I looked over the ruins of the city, I did not feel devastated or hopeless but God began to speak to me the love that He had for His people, and the plans that He had to rebuild and restore His people. And I began to experience the power that God pours out on His people. The power and authority that He gives His children to go confidently into battle, claiming His promises and sovereignty over this nation.

After a long while of standing in the hot sun, we were assigned two police officers to go with us on our mobile clinic. It was 10:00 am. We had until 12:00 pm to return the policemen to headquarters because today was their payday. I found out that even on some pay days, they were not always promised to receive their check but they still had to show up in person if they stood a chance of getting paid in order to take care of their families. That gave us about an hour and a half to put on clinic. Whew!

P.S. The brown tents you see in the picture were sent by the Sudanese, and the inside of the tents were covered with the most beautiful green and red patterned material you have ever seen! And because they are familiar with heat and elevated temperatures, the tents were very protective in nature and provided a little respite from the elements!

2 Corinthians 9:8
God is able to make all GRACE abound to you, so that in all THINGS at all TIMES, having all that you NEED, you will abound in every good work.

Haiti Day #3

It is very unlike me to not find out someone's name whom I have encouraged, and yet this is what happened on day #3 in Haiti. I am extremely relational and normally something like this drives me crazy. But God brought me a special opportunity on this day. If I haven't already mentioned this, I have a huge heart for families and children, but especially moms and children. It is what drew me to labor and delivery and it is the reason I am now and OB/GYN nurse.

So on this particular day, God gave me a special opportunity. The first day that I was at the clinic God gave me a vision to see all the kids outside enjoying fresh air and sun and playing, even if they couldn't get out of their bed. So we transferred all of the kiddos to little cots that we had available and took them outside as well as provided them with coloring books, barbies, my little ponies, toy cars and games to stimulate their minds to healing, dreaming and creativity.

On this day, I was walking around watching all of the kids play and occasionally stopping to play with them. As I walked past this mother holding her baby, she stopped me to ask me about an infection that he had. It became apparent very quickly that she was concerned about a raw area that the baby had developed on his genital area. God told me that this mother was very worried that she had either done something to affect this or that she had neglected him in some way. So I asked her if this was true, and she admitted tearfully that it was. She began weeping and weeping. I assured her over and over that she was a good mom (and she was a very good mom, very attentive to her baby). That he was a baby and that sometimes they develop infections. We had medicine that we would give her to treat him and he would be better in no time.

I then began to tell her that God was watching over her baby, we talked through Psalm 139 together. I asked her if she believed what the Bible said was true and she answered yes. She was still weeping. I assured her that her baby having an infection was not God's punishment to her. We then read through the story of the bleeding woman and discussed how it reflects God's nearness to us, His care for His children and His power that He pours out on us.

Through some discussion, she began to describe in detail to me a dream that she had about a year ago where a man in white appeared to her. He told her in the dream that she was chosen to go and be a witness for Him. She was a regular church attender and so had heard about Jesus frequently. The misunderstanding that many Haitians hold is that God is real, but very abstract and very far away, that He cannot really be known.

So, asked her what she thought the dream meant, She thinks it was God. What do you think God was trying to tell you? That she should come to Him. Had she ever thought about the fact that God wants to have a relationship with her? Yes. Had she thought about that in a fond way, did it appeal to her to have a relationship with God? Yes. Had she ever told God that is something that she wanted? No. Would she like to tell God that now? Yes. So, I asked her to pray from her heart. She told me that she didn't know how to pray. She was still weeping. The only answer I could give at that point was to tell her that all you had to say in prayer to God was what you were feeling. That sometimes, in my greatest times of sorrow, the only thing I could do was tell God all that was in my heart and hurting, and that I trusted that God not only could hear me, but that He saw me (just like Hannah's story in 1 Samuel) and that He had a plan to fulfill His promises. And so, she began to pray. Unfortunately, I got so busy I didn't have time to ask my translator what she was praying. But I trusted that if it was the Holy Spirit that moved her, He would lead her to pray.

The best part about this story is that I had really done nothing at all. In fact, the only thing I really got to do was be a part of what God had already started in her. I was so blessed to have gotten such a big picture of God, and to simply be asked to come alongside of God in what He was already working out in her.

Psalm 138:8
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your love endures forever. He will not abandon the works of His hands.

Haiti Day #2

Meet Wuzlyn. She is one of the mom's I had a chance to interact with on a daily basis at the clinic. She is the mother to Joseph (i.e. "Machine me, Stephanie. Machine me!"). She is a dear soul. I sat down with her one afternoon and began to talk to her about Jesus. Let me make it very clear that I do not usually just approach people and start talking to them about Jesus (although I do like to talk about Him alot)! I usually try to find out what the person is experiencing, what their hurts are and see if God leads me from there.

But Wuzlyn is different. I felt the Lord just asking me to go and start talking to her about Him. So, I did. She expressed to me that she had heard about Jesus many time, and even sometimes went to church. She has never had a relationship with Jesus. It became evident very quickly that her primary problem with following God is that she did not want to be a hypocrite, which she repeated many times over. I encouraged her that her attitude was a very noble quality in a woman, because God does not want hypocrites to be His followers. In fact, He is very serious about finding people who genuinely want to love Him and follow His leading.

I shared my brief 10 minute story of the gospel from creation to resurrection (which took about 30 minutes via translating with Reggie). We then took a deep rundown on what the Bible says about hypocrites, and sin. It is by grace that we have been saved, through faith-and this not from ourselves, but it is the gift of God-not by works, that no once can boast. That as fallen men and women, sin is inevitable and is a part of our earthly flesh, but that God desires true repentance. As we practice this, we are not hypocrites but indeed are the children of God being made more and more into the image of Christ.

It was quite clear that she was enjoying our conversation, she was indeed listening intently to the words that that God speaks through HIs word. She would often smile or laugh during parts of the story. My heart fluttered as God began showing me that He was really after this woman's heart.

After about two hours, Wuzlyn proclaimed to me, "Ok, thank you for sharing this with me. I will think about it for two weeks and let you know my decision." I laughed, as I thought to myself, "She doesn't have two weeks if she intends to let me know her decision, she only has about 7 days!" However, I assured her that the outcome of her decision or my knowing about it was not important. It was the Lord who was speaking to her and she needed to wrestle through that with Him. We laughed together as I gently told her, "Wuzlyn, I think God sent me here to tell you that He is waiting for you. My coming here was just so you could know who He was a little more clearly."

Every day that I came into the clinic after that she would smile and then give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Her face lit up every time I came in the door. On the last day, she walked me out of the clinic, inquiring if I would be returning to Haiti. With joy in my heart but sadness over leaving yet another people which I had learned to dearly love, I told her that I was not sure if I would ever be returning to Haiti, or if I did if I would ever see her again. But I assured her that I was only a small speck in her life of what God wanted to do with her. That just like I said the first day we met, "God sent me here to tell you that He is waiting for you with open arms." She is the kind of woman God is looking for to bring Haiti to the place of reconciliation and restoration that God has planned.

I smiled as I walked away, knowing in my heart that God has such greater plans to fulfill in my life than even I have dreamed, and it has something to do with the nations on the earth. So even though I was sad to be leaving, the hope of God's plan for me could not be dampened. And I prayed that Wuzlyn would dream about how God wanted to work in her life, too.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

God Has a Sense of Humor

I felt it important to share with you some of the lessons that God shared with me on this trip. One is something I've already mentioned, dropping my own expectations. In fact, let me give you a brief rundown of the conversation that Patricia and I had right before I left:

Patricia: "Do you think you will be working with kids while you are there?"

Me: "Oh no, I don't know anything about assessing kids, I've never worked with kids in nursing. I hope I'll be doing something OB/GYN related like delivering babies but I realize that I might be asked to do anything."

Patricia: "Do you feel like you have already created any expectations for the trip?"

Me: "I'm not sure, I've tried not to."

Patricia: (Gently). "Just remember to be open to what God wants to do through you and where He wants to use you."

Me: "Ok, thanks."

This conversation is one reason why it was so funny that first day when I was assigned to work at the pedi clinic. But God knew that even if my hands were not skilled in nursing with kids, that my heart was right on target. And the things I didn't know about pediatrics and orthopedics, I figured out real quickly. :)

Snap back to several months ago when I was given and offer to pray about coming to work for a ministry in Haiti. I answered that I was not at a point to make that move right now, but that I would commit to praying about it and also finding out a little about the country of Haiti, since I didn't know very much. After a few turn of events that I will not mention here, I ended up standing in my room screaming at God that if He wanted me to go to Haiti, then He better find a different way to tell me. I remember being so frustrated with God and telling Him that He needed to be really clear.

Now, snap forward to be standing in the middle of the pedi clinic, smiling to myself that God has such a sense of humor. That He makes beauty from ashes and mourning into dancing. Our God is the ultimate redeemer. And I once again thought to myself, God is breaking all the rules and pulling out all the stops. So far, He has destroyed every one of my expectations (I didn't even think I had) for this trip, and I love it! How often do we ruin things God wants to put together by lofting up our own expectations (which we sometimes don't even realize) above God's? Relationships, family, work situations, friendships. Oh, Lord help us to break free!