The Haitian Donkey asks for prayer for wisdom and direction (again)

Hi All:

Jeremiah 13:23 asks, “can the leopard (change) his spots?” Of course, not really. So, the Haitian Donkey is trying to do this. First of all, I will try to send out a succinct prayer and information update. That might be difficult for a slowly plodding donkey to do.  Secondly, the donkey is going to try to change into an experimental lab rat and allow the people running the lab to inject chemicals into him and see what happens, also a bit scary. As many of you know, it is now a bit over 5 years since we discovered my nasty cancer, likely it was there for quite a while beforehand. Before my 3rd marathon surgery, Dr. Bartlett wanted to enter me in an immunotherapy study, where he gathered a bunch of my cancer cells at surgery and then grew them with my white blood cells to make my personalized vaccine, which then was injected into my groin nodes along with other medications to stimulate my immune system. It wasn’t the most fun, though certainly tolerable, procedure and it does seem to have slowed down the relentless growth of my cancer. Thus, almost 2 years afterwards, without further chemotherapy, etc, the cancer is coming back but seemingly slowly.

Dr. Bartlett asked me to see an oncologist locally for further treatment, which I have done, and he and his partner both want to do further immunotherapy treatments. Some of you may have heard of Keytruda or Opdivo, two drugs that are out on the open market, to use for advanced cancers of the lung, melanoma, kidney and bowel cancers (and likely being used for others). The study Dr. Lakhani wants to put me in is one of 4 other similar compounds that are not yet approved, but are in the earliest stages of trials to see IF they can work and how much is the proper dosage and what can be tolerated.  I saw him 9 days ago and he has arranged for me to enter the study on the 12th of March for round #1. They have graciously arranged the sessions around my Haiti and office schedule as much as possible, especially as Dr. Luke Channer is going to cover Haiti for March and that would be the first cycle, when I have to spend a lot of time at the experimental center in Cascade, MI, to be sure all the proper testing is done and that I tolerate the trial. Although there is some apprehension in being an experimental subject, I do share some of Dr. Lakhani’s enthusiasm, in that he is very hopeful that this chemical can build upon the positive effects that the Pittsburgh trial seems to have started.

So, please pray for wisdom for him and Karen and I as we hope to start this in 10 days.  A possible snag is that the donkey has struggled for many months with recurring infections, every time a different bug, mostly hard to find and grow and even more difficult to get to give drug sensitivity information, so treatment has not been as “pure and proper” as one would like. I really feel good as I just finished the last course of antibiotics IV yesterday but my blood counts are not as happy as we would like them to be and it is quite unlikely that the trials will begin if I cannot be clear of any trace of infection, as we are manipulating my immune system. So, am seeing my infectious disease doctor and checking the blood first thing Monday morning again, praying that the results will be positive and we can proceed the next Monday. I was feeling so good, finally, and very optimistic about what would possibly happen, but the blood counts x 2 last week weren’t as positive.

I am firmly convinced that, as Jesus said in Matt 19:26 and other places, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” So, appreciate your prayers that, if it is His will, He will bring it to pass for His glory. I tend to want to make and see it happen, but know that I need to “Be still and know that He is God and will be exalted in the earth” (Ps 46:10). As always, thanks so much for your support and encouragement for our work in Haiti and the Haitian Donkey/Lab Rat’s struggles.

In His Service,

Bill, Karen, Rachel, James and Jenn

Camp Mahanaim Waterslides

We finally completed the rebuilding of the water slides here at Camp Mahanaim and they have already been very well used. If you would like to watch some videos of the water slides in action you can click on this link: Camp Mahanaim Water slides

It is very exciting to see the Haitian kids enjoying the slides so much and one of the favorites is the new tube slide.

On the first Sunday in March, Lord willing, we plan to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Renault Sunday school program.

10 years ago we started out with one small tent and a group of about 50 children. Many of the children that now attend, have come faithfully for ten years.

With the help of visiting teams we have done several weddings these past few weeks. The couples have been especially thankful for the opportunity to get married. I believe it was this couple that had 17 children and had been together for many years.

Katie has done an amazing job of dressing the brides. She has a great ability to pick out just the right dress for each bride. Several of her friends from the Angels volleyball team help in ministry also, which makes it fun for all.

The brides were beautiful.

One of the pastors insisted that Deb and I speak in the church as the couples were being married. I was wearing jean shorts and a white t-shirt, so the pastor loaned me his suit jacket and I hid behind the pulpit so people couldn’t see my jean shorts. Deb looked great as always.

Thanks to the help and partnership of teams, we had a great camp last week with about 150 Haitian young people.

It was a week full of fun activities for us all.

They jam about 75 kids in each bus for the two hour trip to get home.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers! We are thankful that the Woodmizer sawmill has arrived and we look forward to putting it to work.

bye for now,

Love Rod, Deb and Katie

A chilled Haitian donkey straggles around in frigid Michigan

Hi All:

The week wrapped up very nicely with us getting most of the projects done in a reasonable fashion. I remain impressed by how well the team worked together as we were quite a mixture of backgrounds and skills tossed together for a week of work in the warmth. Several souls decided to pull an all nighter on Friday evening, as we left at 1 am anyway, the tireder ones like myself caught a few winks before departure. Usually, it is my job to keep an extra set of eyes on the road while Jean Eddy drives, as there are many vehicles without running or brake lights, some even without headlights and blinkers, that is just a superfluous commodity that is not worth maintaining. Plus, there are animals and people who wander along the sides even in the wee hours, so we keep each other awake and alert and looking for surprises. However, this time, due to the size of our group, we rented a bus. Jean Eddy had left the day before to get Duane and the 5 others who are still there laying tile and other improvement projects, he got stuck in the protests at the halfway point for several hours as the commercial truck tires had been slashed and the road totally blocked. Thus, he wanted to leave early and try to run through the blockades before they were fully awake. He also refused to let us go alone as he is very protective and responsible for all the travelers he guides in and out of Port and to Cayes.

So, as I didn’t have to look for interesting activities on the road, I briefly closed my eyes and woke up 3 hours later in Port au Prince. Needless to say, I didn’t give him the promised $50 US bonus I always offer to give the drivers if they will go more cautiously. So far, no one has taken me up on the extra money. I worry about accidents and also hitting some of the pedestrians, who often don’t show a lot of street smarts and add to the list of trauma victims. We had one 3 years ago, were sure she was probably dead but one cannot stop and help/check out things, as the mobs will lynch you. You go to the next police station and report the situation and let them handle it, similar to what we had to do in Africa. Fortunately, she only had a broken leg, not that that is to be belittled, but safety is not high on the list of priorities for either drivers or pedestrians, it seems. As we were at the airport at 4:15 am, we cajoled him into letting us sit in the comfort of the bus for a bit as he wouldn’t have to go to his loading station til 6 am and that was maybe 20 minutes away. It beat sitting on the dirty cement floors in front of the airport.  As he had the door open for air, the mosquitoes invaded, but they would have troubled us in the open air anyway.

Flights home went well except for delays in Chicago, not sure why, and we got home well after midnight. I got my IV antibiotics in by 3 am and then did the TPN, rather late, but not a lot of choice. I can run the fluids going down to Haiti, as the Grand Rapids TSA folks are friends and, though thorough, they do expedite the process by having 2 people search us and our carryons and send us on our way, thankfully. Not so much on the return trip, so try to drink as much as I can to stay hydrated and make up for it on Sunday if possible and leave myself unhooked for the trip. Pray that Duane and his crew can get the tiling done decently and in order in the time frame allotted them.

I ran the IV antibiotics all the way to and from Haiti and during my time there and for 2 days after the return. I then rechecked the infection count (WBC) and, although better, is still elevated. I have run blood cultures from both my central line and from my arm, they return negative, but I still feel and act like I have an infection and the Haitian donkey drags himself around a bit slower than he would like. Pray that we can resolve this and get me back on the road to recovery. I have been able to work pretty much full time both here and in Haiti, for which I am VERY thankful to our Lord, as I don’t sit still all that well. I had another consultation with my oncologist, he wants to do immunotherapy, but will look into things before committing myself to this, especially as insurance doesn’t cover this and not sure if it will even help? Needless to say, this also needs prayer for wisdom and direction from our Lord.

Once Again, Thanks for your prayers and support for our work for our Lord in Haiti at CSL.

In His Service

Bill, Bob, Brad, Brian, Butch, Craig, Gord, Heather, Ian, Julie, Kathy, Margie, Montana, Sarah, Sawyer, Terri, Theresa

The Haitian Donkey is very Thankful for work done and praising God

Hi All:

The first thing I am very thankful for is that last Sunday, the 28th of January, marked the 5th anniversary of the diagnosis of my nasty cancer, so I am praising the Lord for His grace towards me. Of course, I am thankful for the fact that I can avail myself of the fantastic medical care provided in the USA, especially after treating several patients here since that time, all of which have passed away. But, although I certainly appreciate the great care available to me, I know that the Lord has honored the prayers of so many of you faithful folks who have been supporting us before the throne of grace. The 5 years have been, overall, still very good and productive years and I want to praise the Lord for His mercy for that blessing also. Even now, I have been running a fever for 3 weeks, have had elevated white counts but blood cultures were negative x 2 and then the 3rd was positive but dead organisms (anaerobic, so hard to grow, but it means we are guessing on my antibiotics, which I have been on for almost 2 weeks and still have fevers, a bit discouraging). However, with all my support staff on the team, I have been well cared for and have been able to keep up pretty much with the workload.

I mentioned in the last email that I thought the very optimistic Duane had outdone himself in giving my brother Butch a work list that no one could reasonably do in a couple weeks (and we only had one week). I am very impressed and thankful that the team has matched his enthusiasm and have slaved long hours to achieve plastering, painting and otherwise preparing the lower level of the hospital for the tiling process next week. As I have mentioned before, so many of the group are thrown together without having met each other before being here and, along with 7 of our Haitian brothers, and they work for hours without complaint. That can only be attributed to the handiwork of the Lord in our lives. They are actually looking for new projects for Friday as they figure they will have most things done by then.

Surgery has gone well, though we have had our challenges. We did the cleft lip, it was harder than most as the little 3 month old had some scar tissue in the middle of his lip. I was afraid to remove it, the treatment of choice, as I didn’t have enough skin to close it otherwise. Tomorrow, will take off the band aid dressing and see what we see below. We also did a resection of a 20 year old burn contracture, she developed it at age 4 and it only got tighter as time went on. We resected the scar as best we could (way too long to try a zplasty) and flipped a skin graft over the situation. Will uncover the dressing on Friday and see what we have, but praying it will take. We also have had a 58 yr old man fall out of a tree, break a bunch of ribs and collapse his lungs as well as a bunch blood in the chest cavity. Had another collapsed lung this morning, will do him tomorrow if he is agreeable (I would think so as he is quite short of breath), but all decisions are group decisions. We had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy this morning that the family does not want surgery, just meds, despite the fact she is very pale and struggling. Overall, I am very thankful for all that has been done in both the medical/surgical realm and in the construction. On the flip side, I have had a number of advanced cancer patients in the clinic that I cannot possibly hope to repair, thankfully the chaplains have been working with me to at least pray with them and explain the gospel to them.

I also am very happy as the spiritual interest level of the staff seems to have gone up a quantum leap, something we have been praying for and encouraging for several years now. Am praying that this will continue in the future, as it seems to have affected the working situation with much more graciousness towards the patients on the part of the staff, etc.

So, will get on the bus at 1 am on Saturday and pray we will not run into roadblocks on the way in. Hopefully, at that hour, the rabble rousers will still be asleep in their beds and not cause trouble for us. Duane and the crew will come in Friday night about 10 pm and so will cross paths for a few minutes.

Thank you for your prayers and support of us in our service at Centre de Sante Lumiere.

In His Service,

Bill, Bob, Brad, Brian, Butch, Craig, Gord, Heather, Ian, Julie, Kathy, Margie, Montana, Sarah, Sawyer, Terri, Theresa

The Haitian Donkey and friends / family are enjoying the Haitian welcoming warmth

Hi All:

We are safely settled in to our abodes for the week. We have had to scramble a bit as one of the rooms was too filthy to sleep in, so we had a cozy arrangement until we had a chance to clean up the situation. We found some mattresses and tossed them every which way in the house and crashed Saturday night. We have cleaned up the mess and have settled down. Boss Duane is well known for being ambitious and giving a very optimistic list of projects, but maybe he has exceeded his previous records. I am not sure if they can get it done, but everyone is doing their best and they have 7 Haitian brothers slaving with them. As always, I am impressed with how everyone works together and puts in 150% for the Lord, so I am hoping they can get close to preparing the floor for the next team of putting the tile down. I would ask that you pray that God would protect the crew, both US/Canadian and Haitian, so that no one gets ill or hurt during this week of work for His glory. We have a timeline laid out for us by Boss Duane as he comes in next week to lay down the tile on the floors, walls and ceiling we have prepared/painted for them.

Our trip down here went perfectly, for the most part. Bob Haak was the latest addition to the crew and Delta left me a message that I needed to verify the ticket with the credit card before they would let him board. As he left almost 2 hr before me and we checked things out and found no further evidence that more needed to be done. So, while Karen and I were madly packing the cold items, my TPN, antibiotics and the cold lab supplies at 4 am, we get a call that they need my credit card before they will let Bob on the plane. This is just a “random thing,” allegedly. I think my brothers and sister talked their way into letting him on the plane without the card, thankfully. Then we found out that one of the people we thought was on the later flight was on the first and we could not contact him. After that, things went smoothly until we hit Port au Prince. We had 21 suitcases for the 17 people but could only find 20. Kathy and I went to the counter to report the lost luggage, only to find that the computer said it was in the airport. We nosed around the other mission groups and found that someone had accidentally taken one of ours, so we rejoiced that the Lord allowed us to find it before they left with it.

We hit customs where the “hat was hungry” and I was told I needed to do it secretly again. Then all 3 agents showed up, one at a time, with a hungry hat. A bummer, but we did get out of there with all our luggage intact. The ride to the hospital went well, although there were a lot of anti government protests and we had to snake our way through the side streets to get out of town, a rather time consuming process. We had a large meal of fish and rice with beans awaiting us and we enjoyed that before sleep. Sunday services at the hospital were a lot of fun as Sarah played the keyboard and we ended up singing several English hymns, then doing it in French again and I think all the people appreciated it. It was very special and a great way to start the week.

The work week has started with a bang and it is going well. We did Bob’s hernia first thing, then ran 2 rooms to get done early enough to organize some other projects, clear out the clinic and do the ultrasounds that were waiting to be seen. We then got Bob settled in the office of the house, where he seems to be doing well. We worked with soaked towels and cloths put along the floors to keep the dust from getting into the ORs with some success. So, please continue to pray for good and safe progress towards our goal before Duane arrives to inspect things on Friday night (we leave early Saturday).

Thanks for your encouragement, prayers and support for our work here in Haiti for our Lord.

In His Service,

Bill, Bob, Brad, Brian, Butch, Craig, Gord, Heather, Ian, Julie, Kathy, Margie, Montana, Sarah, Sawyer, Terri and Theresa,