The Bewildered Haitian Donkey and His Friends?

Hi All:

I thought I would send you an update as to what is happening in the life of the Stumbling Haitian Donkey and his Friends. The question mark is because some of his friends might be listed in the “fair weather” category or maybe even less than that. So, I would like to share a number of surprises that the Lord seems to have put into my path recently that appear, at least on the surface, to have turned progress towards our goals into  Haitian sized potholes on the road of life. Since the Haitian Donkey is NOT a mountain goat, he does not like the rapid descents from the heights of flying in the clouds to the valleys of slogging through the Slough of Despond or whatever John Bunyan called the speed bumps on the road in Pilgrim’s Progress. I have to keep in front of me, as we are encouraged in Heb 12:1-2 exhorts us, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.  Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross (certainly much more difficult than anything we are asked to go through, but our Example, surely).” So, pray with us that we will do His will in all that follows. It is not a coincidence that one of the last sermons I heard before going to Haiti was from Acts 14, where Paul was stoned and left for dead, but in v 20, he didn’t feel that “God is calling me back home to minister there,” but went back into the city. So, we need God’s divine wisdom to direct us in how to best proceed for His glory and our good as a ministry for Him in Haiti.

The major change in my work environment in the US has been that, on my return from Haiti, I fell on all 4 feet into the new electronic medical records installation in our office, the government mandated system that is supposed to make things easier for us all. So far, I think all of us have put in tons of extra hours plus considerable sweat and frustration with not a lot to show for it. I have typed my own records for 12 years now, so that part is not so bad, it is just finding the answer they want, rather that what makes sense to the rest of us, that is so frustrating. So, some of my nurses have told me that the Haitian Donkey cannot be other animals at the same time as I mutter about “trying to teach this old dog new tricks,” the fact that I am only “a bear of small brain,” and cannot learn this, and at times, I have what I call “Epic (the name of the system forced upon us) nightmares” and flop like a beached whale in the bed, much to Karen’s sleep disruption. Additionally, my partners have added the famous “dragon speak” to help them with their limited typing skills and they always mutter about the dragon slipping away in the middle of the work they are doing and trying to catch him and bring him back to the job at hand. So, we struggle with adapting to the changes to be implemented in our practice of medicine.

From a personal medical standpoint, I am doing quite well, other than occasional reminders that my surgical colleagues have left their trademark in my abdomen in the way of some adhesions that seem to cause some temporary, partial intestinal obstruction each few weeks of late. Since severe abdominal cramps, nausea and it’s friend, vomiting or retching isn’t the way the Haitian Donkey likes to spend his days and nights, Karen has reduced my diet to blenderized or otherwise finely processed food. The texture at times reminds me of baby food, but it goes down and doesn’t get stuck, so that is a blessing. Will get my next CT scan on the 12th of August, after I return from the next Haiti trip, and praying that the cancer will not have progressed much, so that we can delay the even less fun chemotherapy for a while longer.

But the biggest reason for this update midstride is that many of you have been praying diligently for the progress we seem to have made in the first 6 months of this year in possibly getting Drs. William and Adulte into a surgical training program in Cap Haitian, to make them legal surgeons and thus able to do surgery in my absence, for the long term function of the Centre de Sante Lumiere for years to come, should the Lord so will. We were thrilled that Hopital Justinien, the government run hospital in the north of Haiti, seemed very eager to work with us in a collaborative effort to improve conditions at both centers. I fear I am the eternal optimist, Karen at times has to bring me back to reality, but it seemed that they were sure this would work out. I sent Drs. William and Adulte up there last week, bringing some supplies to help them out  along with a letter from myself, asking for their help in properly enrolling them into the residency program according to Haitian rules. When Dr. Derevois, the director of government programs in Haiti, a Christian doctor favorably inclined to our needs, had originally suggested that I set up our own residency program in surgery at CSL, she had honestly told me when I asked if I could pick my own trainees, as US programs do and obviously taking my own mostly trained people first, she clearly told me that that was not possible, rather that the government makes all the decisions. So, I was surprised that Cap Haitian said they could arrange for our two doctors to go there next year, but we all know that proper incentives make things work in Haiti, so we just thanked the Lord that our men could get the proper completion of their training.

Dr. William was told last week that Cap Haitian no longer is allowed to pick their trainees either, so we are applying to the government for the possibility of our men going there anyway. Since I have traditionally not made much progress working through the proper channels, I am a bit skeptical of the outcomes, but spent much of last night, after receiving the news from a very discouraged Dr. William, praying for wisdom and direction for our next steps. I, now with Karen’s help, am writing formal letters to the proper authorities again and need wisdom and aid in that regard. I am the typical American, try to say what you have to say without a lot of flowery language, but that does not fly in Haiti. The French way of writing letters reminds me of Acts 24:2, where the orator Tertullus, speaking on behalf of the Jews against Paul, spreads a lot of flowery language around in addressing the Romans, who the Jews disliked quite strongly, and it makes me chuckle to think that I have to use similar terms to write my letters, with Karen’s help, of course, as my French synchronization of genders in nouns and adjectives leaves the Bewildered Haitian Donkey unable to sort out the proper path to take.

Of necessity, this is a rapid production of a request for prayer and divine guidance as we plod down this new, dusty path in Haiti that leads only God knows where.

In His Service,


Bill and Friends


Hello family and friends;

It has been a very exciting day for us as the director of immigration for Cayes came out to the camp this afternoon and personally delivered the remaining passports for our girl’s volleyball team. Thank you so much for your prayers as this is a miraculous event. Four days ago, on Wednesday, it seemed hopeless as I looked at the long line of people outside the immigration office, however, Deb  called and encouraged me to hang in there. Shortly after her call, around 11:00 am, I was able to speak with the director and all of a sudden he got on board and it seemed that he was determined to make it happen. He even sent his personal secretary into Port au Prince to ensure that the 6 remaining passports were printed and then brought back to Cayes.

We need to travel this coming Saturday, June 13th, in order to make it in time for the AAU national volleyball tournament in Orlando, and we still don’t have visas for the girls to enter the U.S. Please continue to pray with us, that somebody at the U.S. embassy will expedite the process for us and allow the team to make this trip. We believe that this could be a huge encouragement for the people of Haiti (especially the girls of Haiti), if our team of “Angels” can play well and represent Haiti in the tournament. 

This week, we had the joy of hosting another pastor and some of his congregation along with several new converts to be baptized here at Camp Mahanaim. The Laquille river was a beautiful spot for these folks to be baptized.

Deb organizes the local kids and works with them to pick up garbage off the beach in front of the camp.

Katie uses the electric side by side to take the garbage bags to the incinerator

We are happy to have the new 21 foot step ladder here, so that we can change light bulbs in the gymnasium. The ladder is really handy for many different jobs around the camp.

Thanks again for your prayers and support. We will keep you updated as we petition the American embassy this week to see if they will give travel visas for our team.

Thanks, bye for now,

Love Rod, Debbie and Katie

We Have Greetings In German Down, Maybe A Little More

Hi All:

I suppose life in general, and certainly our week stints in Haiti, seem to fly by so rapidly that one wonders what happened. Our week has been good, it hardly seems that tomorrow I will give my usual Friday devotions, then we have a 10 am meeting with MEBSH regarding them assigning us a new chaplain (a real item of prayer, as it is a great need in our opinion, not sure others see things in quite the same light), we will slice through our surgeries, including 3 possible amputations, and wrap things up for the week.  Then we head home, the whole group of us, Tom, Nick, Beth Newton, Joyce Thrones and myself, to whatever awaits us there. For me, I will have to be the old dog learning new tricks as our office went to the infamous electronic medical record 2 days ago and I will be stepping into the fray of things on Monday morning, I suppose. Life here is so much simpler in the medical realm, a short note about what surgery we did and whether it went
well, what we found and on you go. However, progress dictates we use computers that dazzle and leave me wild eyed and confused.

From a personal perspective, I am glad that I feel great and can do most everything the Lord gives me to do each day, except needing to be a bit selective in what and how much I eat at a time. With all the questions about the progress of the cancer on the CT scan, we had a flurry of ideas from Dr. Bartlett’s physician’s assistant, including chemotherapy restart and possible vaccination in combination with that once we obtained more tissue, not an option at present. Then, suddenly, quiet and not sure what that all means, but, considering that chemotherapy isn’t a whole bunch of fun, will not push the issue at present. So, we will wait until I return from my next trip to Haiti and repeat the scan and then reconsider the options, depending on the progress (in this case, negative, ie enlargement of the tumors) we see on the comparisons of the 3 month testing. In the meantime, I hope to get a chance to go with Karen, James and Jenn to the Netherlands to
see my mom’s sister, as she now is the only remaining relative on my mother’s side. Her brother, my uncle Hans, died now a bit over 3 weeks ago, the 4th of our close relatives to pass away in a month, starting with my brother in law, Harold, then my dad’s two sisters, one after another about a week apart and a week after Harold, then uncle Hans and now, yesterday, another uncle on my dad’s side. It surely reminds us all of the brevity of life and the importance of making each day count for the Lord and for His glory.

Tom and Nick just returned from 2 days of working themselves to the bone at Rod and Debbie Wray’s camp, installing a bunch of plumbing in the apartments they are building there for longer term short termers to stay and work at the camp. They looked tuckered out when they came back tonight and haven’t seen much of them since. They unpacked the crates of medical equipment packed and shipped from Grand Rapids the first two days of the week and hung the new OR lights in the 3rd OR room, a place where we will do little stuff, like the closed reduction of a fractured and dislocated ankle we did this evening, so that we don’t dirty up the big OR’s but can find a place to safely give the patient anesthesia and then reduce the fracture without having scores of interested onlookers, as privacy is a rare commodity here. Will see what each one of us can get done tomorrow to wrap up the many loose ends we always have the last day. We should have at least a dozen more surgeries, which will get us into the 50’s for the week. As mentioned, Olga II (Olga I is here all the time and runs the Women’s Center, Olga III came and is a teacher helping out at the center) has worked out well, she is quite humble despite being a surgeon and has decent English, though we have had to explain some of our accidental figures of speech or whatever you call the phrases we all use that make no sense when explained to newly learning English speakers. Plus, we have an entire lingo of Franglais expressions all our own that we have developed over the last 12 years together, such things as “faire the flapping,” when you develop the bladder flap, “off in Africa” when one is under the effects of Ketamine and not quite in control of his senses, sort of what the nurse anesthetist says when she thinks the patient is able to undergo the incision without feeling pain, and a number of others that she has bravely waded through. She has taught
Dr. William, who really has a gift for languages, a number of German phrases that I had pushed back in my remote memory as I struggled to master French before we left for Africa, so it has been fun to revive ancient history.

As mentioned, the surgeries have gone well, including a number of procedures I could do on some of the missionaries, so it has been a well rounded week. We are trying to sort out replacements for Drs. William and Adulte, a rather staggering order, especially for the former, as he does so many different tasks so well here that replacement will be difficult.  He is trying to get his house literally in order to be able to leave in, hopefully, October, for the surgical residency program in Cap Haitian. With all the unrest on the political scene with the upcoming elections, we hope that they will be able to do this in some semblance of correct time. Today, Beth went to get some official papers ready for her trip to the US with us on Saturday and found out that it was yet another government holiday, a surprise to even her after 26 plus years in Haiti, it was “God’s Birthday?” She said that she overheard someone muttering, likely in frustration at this new, revolting development, whether God would enjoy blowing out candles for this special event. Wow! In anticipation of the two valuable doctors leaving us for 3-4 years, we are working on giving a possible replacement a crash course of on the job training with Drs. William and Moise in the 4 months before they depart to make the shock a bit more tolerable.

So, will send this to Karen to send on to you (cooperation in the communications realm is sadly lacking always, just a few notches worse this week) and hope to see many of you in the next few weeks. Thanks so much for praying for our service here for Him at Centre de Sante Lumiere, Cayes. It it greatly appreciated, needed and felt by us all.

In His Service,

Bill, Tom and Nick

The Haitian Donkey Tries to Learn Some German

Hi All:

Tom and Nick Failing and myself have settled into the routine in Haiti
again. We had a nice trip down, our connection was very tight, 50 minutes
only, in Chicago, but it appears that the number of flights offered by
American Airlines under the new administration from US Airways are quite
limited, at least those that go to Port au Prince and don’t include an
overnight layover on both the outgoing and inbound flights. So, had to
take what was available (so far, looks even less desirable for my next
trip, the end of July) and we figured we could run if needed. As the
weather was rather nasty with rain and clouds, the trip was very bumpy and
we saw nothing out the windows til we were almost on the ground and 20
minutes late. We got our carryons plane side and really hiked to the next
plane, headed for Miami, and arrived when it was mostly loaded, not a lot
of time to spare. It was only about 1/4 full, but that wouldn’t mean they
would hold it up for a  few stragglers, especially a scrawny Haitian
donkey and his plumbing friends.

We connected with the German surgeon and two other German friends of Olga
Lapp, who runs the women’s center, helping widows and other disadvantaged
ladies make ends meet with teaching them sewing skills, embroidery, etc
and then shipping them back in our suitcases to distribute in the US to
help fund the ministry. The surgeon, named Olga Koop, speaks quite decent
English, certainly better than a Haitian donkey speaks German, but her two
teacher friends that came along to work at the women’s center speak even
less English than I speak German. All three (one of the two teachers is
ALSO named Olga) come from Kazbekestan but are of German descent and have
moved back to Germany and we met in Miami and all rode in the truck to the
hospital. I did take 2 years of German in college, but that was a long
time ago, I fear, and, with the exception of Baalam’s speaking donkey, we
don’t have the greatest trans species communication skills. At least it
was not  hard to remember first names, as 3 of the 4 had the same name.
Customs gave us some grief, but we were able to slide less offensive
suitcases to them for their perusal and satisfy them that we were not
bringing in contraband materials. This is always a struggle and we
appreciate all who pray that God would help us get the pain meds we have
donated from patients so that we can give our big surgeries something more
than an Ibuprofen to help with the pain.

Olga Koop is an abdominal surgeon, so has had no experience in the number
of gynecological procedures we do, nor the urology we exposed her to on
her first day here, but she has fit in nicely and seems to adjust well to
our ever changing surgical landscape. This has allowed me some time to
slide out of the OR and do a fairly busy surgical clinic today, including
some trauma to the bones, one lady in particular having had an altercation
with her neighbor up in the mountains and she was on the receiving end of
a healthy beating with a big stick that did the number on her ankle, which
is already swollen to twice normal size and is draining pus at 6 days post
injury. She hobbled out from the mountains between the hospital and
Jeremie and the fractured ankle is considerably worse for the wear. A 7
yr old boy also was attacked by a fellow student at school today and has a
both bone forearm fracture that he presented with only a few hours after
the incident.

We are extremely thankful that, thanks to the efforts of other important
members of the Haiti team, we were able to bring back both ultrasound
machines and both are working well and getting considerable use already.
This not only helps me with diagnosis of the complex medical situations
that often show up to be sorted out, but also helps many of the patients
who come scared that each lump they feel in their bellies is a terrible
cancer. Of course, unfortunately, more than I would like to see are, but
a lot can be assured that, to the best of our diagnostic skills, the scary
lump is not, but that we will remove it if it still troubles them.

Tom and Nick have found several new projects to add to their list already
and we have a busy day scheduled for them tomorrow. The water system
seems to require pretty much monthly attention and I greatly appreciate
all the help my colleagues give us in that regard. Jeff had everything up
and running when he left with me last time but it only took 2 days for a
pump to malfunction and require limping along until we returned. I don’t
know if that is resolved yet, but keeping an inventory of replacement parts
is a huge job for the team to keep in order. We obtained a couple new
tires from the dealership in Port au Prince for the Kia, as tires don’t
last long here and we hoped they might have better quality tires. After
maybe 300 miles, the entire wall blew out, we are assuming it likely took
years to sell and in the Haitian heat, was well worn out before it ever
was placed on the truck. Everything seems to struggle to remain functional
in this country, from the political scene to transportation, both public
and private, and certainly the health of the populace. We stood for the
better part of an hour as the police searched vehicles on our way out,
rather frustrating when all you can see is standing traffic for miles
ahead (well maybe with the nature of the roads, you only can see 1/2 mile
or so, as bends, trees, etc make vision less than wonderful. Dr. William
hypothesized that the government is trying to raise funds for the
elections scheduled for later this year? They also are building a huge
overpass in Port au Prince over top of the slums to connect a couple of
well traveled roads? I just think of how much food and other basic
supplies that could contribute to the hordes of hungry Haitians who go to
bed with growling stomachs night after night?

Will send out this update and let you know we are doing well and thankful
to the Lord for His protection and enablement for our service for Him thus
far this week.

In His Service,

Bill, Tom and Nick

God’s work among the children of Torbeck

Dear praying friends,

Today is the final day of Bible club  for this school year in Torbeck. Great joy and excitement!

God has sent many blessings, and I thank you for being part of God’s work with us as you have prayed with us.

Twenty of the 150 children have excelled in a contest, reciting Bible verses, attending club and doing homework papers, and are offered a week (actually 5 days) of summer camp organized by Child Evangelizm of south Haiti. Children ages 10-14 will attend July 22-26  and teens, ages 15-19, will attend August 5-9.

God sent us 19 helpers this year from among the adults and youth of the Torbeck church!  Below you can see them meeting for training with Vionel, our friend and CEF worker.


Pray with us for the children of Torbeck who have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Many come from homes where family members don’t share their faith.


With joy and thankfulness,


Ps. If you’d like to sponsor a child for camp, let me know. It would be a good help.

Pps: Lord willing I will be departing Haiti June 6  for a time of medical check-ups, visits, and reporting. Hope to see many of  you.