Through It All
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Pastor Bill's Perspective
Bill Smith, executive director of Bless Back Worldwide, shares a little about his time this week in Haiti:
As I bounced around on the hot, crowded bus, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed at the growing devastation, the further south and west we traveled. Hurricane Matthew had wreaked havoc on this part of western Haiti. Hour after hour of our relief team's trip revealed downed power lines, loss of trees and crops, totally destroyed homes and businesses - and the realization that many had lost everything.
Our hurricane relief team from Bless Back Worldwide in the USA partnered with our Haitian brothers and sisters from Mission of Hope International. It was such a privilege to serve together as a team - not as Americans or Haitians, but the body of Christ doing God's work! Your donations have been absolutely critical to the relief team efforts. To have medical doctors and providers able to go into this difficult environment to treat patients and dispense medicines is such a blessing to those devastated communities.
The medical relief team set up a temporary clinic in Port Salut, a very hard hit area after the storm. They saw over 200 patients per day who were dealing with major injuries, wounds, illnesses, and other physical needs. Donation dollars directly provided the medicines, wound care kits, and medical supplies to meet these physical needs. We also had a construction team that built a new house for a family whose home was completely destroyed by downed trees during the storm. The new home was not just a temporary tarp structure, but rather a permanent, stick-built home with plywood, tin roof, doors, and painted. What a joy to pray with this family and present the keys to their new home! Our team got to experience the great joy of providing hope in the midst of a storm.
The scripture says in Psalm 57:1-4 that "...in You, my soul takes refuge...till the storms of destruction pass by...God will send out His steadfast love and His faithfulness." While our team was able to help meet physical needs - medical care, housing, food and clothing - our prayer is that the people of Haiti will know that steadfast love of the Lord and His faithfulness. Even though a storm may ravage our lives for a time, He cares about our response and reaction to the storms. We may have to rebuild, recover, and renew physically, but He always is building in us a deeper trust for Him.
Thank you for partnering with us through your gifts that are making a significant impact in Haiti.
The First Month of Recovery
Friday marked one month since Hurricane Matthew swept through Haiti, wreaking havoc like a tornado over the entire Western side of Haiti. Once we witnessed the enormity of the damage, we just couldn't look away. Yes, there have been definite needs right here in Grand-Goave, but the difference in intensity is unfathomable.
So many friends, old and new, have contacted us, asking how to pray, how to help, where to send funds. Thank you so much for all of this! We would be powerless to help without your eager and liberal support. In addition to the truck load of food, water, and supplies donated last week from a local church, we have distributed over 5 tons of rice, 423 pounds of pasta, 360 packages of lentil/rice casserole, 7500 pints of individually packaged drinking water, 884 bars of soap, 3670 articles of clothing, and close to 300 pairs of shoe/sandals/sneakers. We've also provided medical care for upwards of 1,400 people.
Recently I read a travel warning from the US Embassy, cautioning folks traveling into the southern parts of Haiti to be aware of situations, like roadblocks and "Distribution points have also been the scenes of mob actions that have overwhelmed available security." I thank God that we were able to deliver aid with respect on both sides of the equation. Lex has spoken often of how well our teams have been received in Port Salut, Roche-a-Bateau, Port-a-Piment. This morning at church he spoke of one family that we built a house for. They and their neighbors all run out to the road with big smiles, waving their hands and bouncing when they see us coming. They are truly grateful for what the Lord has done for them. And we are grateful that HE chose to use us to utilize you to bring His provision to them.
You may have heard of ships being turned away by unruly crowds and riots. This is just heartbreaking to me. I was following some conversations between aid workers concerning the difficulties of distributing aid in the south. They were indicating that it was almost hopeless, that even the Haitians don't know how to control the mobs and get the goods to the people that need them.
This upset me enough that I actually reached out to another missionary all the way at the tip of the southern peninsula and told her, "Yes, it CAN be done!" We were able to distribute over 500 metric TONS of food after the earthquake without any incidents. The key is in the point person. You HAVE to join forces with a locally recognized and respected authority figure. Sometimes it's a pastor, a school director, or a business owner. It's rarely a government official.
When people in dire need watch as truck after truck after truck drive by them and no one ever stops to help them - well, what would any of us do? If MY children were naked, cold, sick, and hungry, I'm pretty certain I would not be playing nice. Every community has someone that is respected and considered a "fair" person. THESE are the people to seek out and distribute food and goods through.
Unfortunately, oftentimes government officials have a reputation for taking the motherload, dividing it among their friends, and storing the rest to be sold. So, when the military brings a shipload of food and they are required to have a government official sign for it, the people freak out. They know people are trying to help them, but they believe the food will go to a warehouse and they will not have access to any of it.
According to a report from the United Nations and UNICEF...
- "...nearly 600,000 children being stalked by disease, hunger and malnutrition and in need of assistance."
- "at least 1,000 suspected cholera cases among children in the past month."
- "Over 800,000 people in need of immediate food assistance and more than 112,000 children at risk of acute malnutrition."
- "An estimated 50,000 children have been left homeless and are staying in temporary shelters."
- "More than 700 schools have been affected and about 86 schools have been used as temporary shelters, causing school disruption for at least 150,000 children."
Our Amazing Missionaries
I can't even begin to tell you what a blessing our full time missionaries have to been to Lex and I. Of course many others would say the same, but I can only speak for ourselves. Angie oversees the medical ministry and Alicia oversees and teaches at the MOHI Educational Cooperative. They both work really hard at their respective responsibilities, but they never stop there. They are quick to lend a hand when there's a team in and both are nonstop with the hurricane relief efforts. AND they are both lots of fun to hang out with!
Leah Fuller, who formerly ran the medical ministry at MOHI, was back for a visit this week. Of course she worked great with the Bless Back Worldwide Medical Team and she helped so many people over the week. But she was also a great addition to our missionary team. Between her, Angie, and Alicia going to Port Salut, Lex always had one of them to look to for extra support. And Leah knows that Lex doesn't look out for his own welfare very well, so she always had a package of crackers in her pocket that she'd pull out for him whenever he was in the area.
Thank you to Csaba, Leah's new husband, for sharing her with us this week!!!! And thank you to our missionary friends, the Sutton family, for joining us on Thursday. Here's the youngest Sutton, Lily, "working" in the clinic with her mom and Leah.
Flooding in Cap Haitian
Our missionary friends in Cap Haitian share: "Heavy rain began at 6PM yesterday and continued until this morning; the torrential downpour, measured at 10.5", cut the road to Cormier in four places bringing giant boulders down the mountain. The ravine turned to a mighty river that rose 40 feet into our lower yard; all roads in Cap and surrounding villages are flooded and filled with mudslides; reports of electrocution from downed power lines and entire families swept away are coming in. We pray for those who have lost everything and families that perished and we bow low before the Creator of the storms who holds our lives in His hands." The brown under the river, in the picture below, is actually muddy water flowing into the room.
There were some friendly little guys on the work site...
This little one was sliced by a piece of metal roofing. A neighbor knew we were working in the area and ran him over.
This is Lex in action!
We had lots of goods and food to distribute and our team loved being the ones passing on the blessings!
Outside waiting area to get into the clinic...
Triage makes things move so much more quickly.
Our providers were able to see about 200 people per day.
The pharmacy is both a dispensary and a classroom.
Cleanup precedes construction and takes just as long when there's this big of a mess!
Construction is hard work, but can be loads of fun, too. Thank you to the All Saints Episcopal Church in Belmont, MA for providing the funds to build this house.
Everyone loves babies!
Most school books were lost in flood waters.
A dining room exposed by Matthew.
Here is a video of some of the activities and people we've been with over this past month...
Thank you for your prayers and financial support!