Medical Mission and More in Haiti
By Lyndsay Byler
Administrative Assistant for Local and Global Missions
Hershey Free Church
“It’s going to be an adventure!” Danielle reminded Fran and me. After several coffee spills and plane drama, the team peered out the oval window to see a beautiful, mountainous island growing nearer. On October 22, a Medical Global Ministry Team including Fran Tryon, Danielle Shellenberger and I arrived in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, where we met our fourth team member, Laurene Experience. Laurene is originally from Haiti and now lives in New Jersey with her family.
With Laurene’s guidance and translation assistance, we found our driver and traveled to Gressier, a commune outside of Port-Au-Prince. A full house at ReachGlobal’s “Haitian Queen” house awaited, with teams from Minneapolis and Louisiana, missionaries from Brazil, two crisis response members, and a Belgian woman from the Midwest among other ReachGlobal staff members and missionaries who were also primed to serve in Haiti. Clearly, God brought together church family from all over the globe – with different heritages, from different generations, and backgrounds, including differing skill-sets and a wide range of job-related knowledge and skills. On Friday and Saturday, God wove together and equipped this team for the work He prepared.
“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23
For two days, we conducted medical check-ups for children involved in Global Fingerprints as well as some children from an orphanage. Global Fingerprints is ReachGlobal’s child-sponsorship program. Hershey Free families sponsor over 90 Global Fingerprints children. In Haiti, most children in orphanages are not true orphans. Consequently, Global Fingerprints personnel seek out families that may be considering placing their child in an orphanage due to difficult monetary and living circumstances. When such a family is invited into Global Fingerprints, the child is sponsored so that he or she can continue living with their family because, naturally and sustainably, these children are better off living and growing with their own family, and families are an important cornerstone in the community; the local church works closely with these families in Global Fingerprints. Every month, the children are visited by a Haitian church worker.
Nearly 200 of these children had their body mass index (BMI) recorded, their vision checked, and went through a routine physical check-up by a doctor. Every child was given a pill for de-worming. Children enrolled in Global Fingerprints were generally found to be gaining weight in a place where lower BMIs are the norm. Perhaps more importantly, relationships and connections were made and grown. Names and stories were exchanged and our Savior’s name and his love was lifted high and infused all of the planning, work, children’s play-time and many conversations. “What a great ministry to be a part of,” Danielle observed.
The Haitian church is using the program as a spring-board to introduce Christ to their community, and Haitian people want to plant the program at other churches as a way to spread the gospel. We are part of this long-term process. Pray for more workers in this field. Global Fingerprints is a ministy in which short-term teams can help, while a large part of the program in Haiti is actually overseen by Haitians and outreach is facilitated by Haitians.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16
We worshipped with our Haitian brothers and sisters on a rejuvenating Sunday. Monday was another medical work day. Down the street and around the corner from the Haitian Queen, a clinic called “Haiti Health Ministry” has been building relationships with the community and has been a positive source of healthcare. A team from Texas arrived at the clinic for a health fair and the teams at the Haitian Queen joined with them, illustrating another way that God brought together his church to do his work. The combination of teams went smoothly and, in fact, seemed exactly right to complete the tasks that day.
As a non-medical person, I helped with registration, measuring, weighing, recording BMIs and handing out water. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus speaks about giving in general, and how giving water to others is as giving it to him. The opportunity to do so is humbling and is representative of the reality that God has invited us all to take part in his ongoing work. Translators helped the health fair workers describe proper hand washing, hydration and other health lessons before parents and their children met with the doctor and nurses.
In all, 172 children between the ages of 3 to 11 were seen on Monday. According to the doctor, nearly every child that day was unhealthy and had a valid medical concern. Every child received pills for de-worming. These pills provide protection for six months and the clinic plans to host this health fair every six months. We have evidence that the program is improving the health and body weight of the children.
“…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:2-4
As the Hershey Haiti Global Ministry Team reflected upon the week, Fran noted that, “the staff [in Haiti] is amazing and they gave up a lot” with the knowledge that they have gained so much more. If anything, it is the team’s hope that the fulltime missionaries were encouraged and given some respite.
Danielle is incredibly touched by the actions of the church Source of Grace situated in Port-au-Prince. Source of Grace is a transformational community that is outward looking. The average Haitian lives on less than $30 a month. Yet, people in the church gave up their Global Fingerprints financial support and the pastor gave up his salary for a month so that they could give monetary support to the Global Fingerprints program in Liberia – where, due to the Ebola outbreak, families have had trouble gaining access to food. This support from Haiti will provide meals for brothers and sisters in Liberia. On Saturday, a thank-you poster from Liberia was shared with the families in Global Fingerprints. We are all called to be a part of the Great Commission, and Source of Grace stepped up to the occasion.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23
In retrospect, particular themes characterized the week. One theme is that of unity among the Bride of Christ. Another is the working of the Spirit in whatever circumstance and towards whatever was needed. Certainly, a giving and serving heart stands out. In many ways, the end of the trip is a beginning and these themes are continuous. New relationships and connections have been made and the redemptive work that grew in each person and each country represented is ongoing. Though the Hershey team didn’t know what daily schedule or specific work to expect, God guided them every step of the way. Those steps continue at home, where God is calling His Church to participate in the good works he has planned at home and abroad.
*ReachGlobal is the missions arm of Evangelical Free Church of America