The Haitian Donkey has highs and lows on the bumpy road

Hi All:

We are back at work, the load has been considerable to the point that I have not had a chance to write an update. So, my apologies for being behind on the production of information. We are happy to be busy, but it appears that we have to work on multitasking better as we have all sorts of projects going on simultaneously. We started out with a rather bumpy trip from Grand Rapids to Chicago, causing some delay in our arrival. We went as fast as our little legs could carry us to the Miami bound plane but our baggage couldn’t keep up with us. The next section was bumpy at the start, then settled down pretty well the further south we went. The outbound plane was late coming from Costa Rica and needed servicing, then had some additional maintenance problems and we were over an hour late departing for Haiti.

The good thing about being late was that it did give our luggage a chance to catch up with us. It obviously was the last loaded in Miami as it was the first off the plane in Port au Prince and we skipped out of the airport, almost. Unfortunately, the customs chief overrode the agent’s decision to let us go out and searched 4 of our 6 bags (the other two were out the door before they noticed, these were on the baggage cart). Every piece was removed and inspected, we had nothing that troubled them except some inhalers, which I was able to convince them were for personal use. However, they took the entire large cold pack with laboratory reagents and I was unable to convince them to give it back to me. It essentially means that our lab will not be very functional for months to come as these were the last of the reagents for our machines, which need replacement soon.

Dr. William stopped by to get some supplies as he came home for Sunday only to see his family and us. He was on call on Saturday and Monday, so rode the bus each way so he could sleep en route both ways. He shared that he will not likely get the results of his big exam for a couple weeks, it was hand written by the surgeon examining them and he shared that, sometimes he had no idea of what the question was, let alone knowing how to answer it. He stated that the surgeon’s writing left a bit to be desired.  Dan, of course, could not pass up the opportunity to opine that this was a bit of poetic justice, as Dr. William rivals me in his writing skills. William also shared that the government hospitals still do not have water, so one cannot scrub before surgery nor are the patients beds washed before the new patient takes over, a good way to spread infections which go like wildfire. He shared that the attending doctors, who do NOT really come and teach as they are supposed to, just having the older residents teaching the younger ones, scary, have no motivation to improve the system, as they hope that some of the poor patients will scrape up enough funds to pay for their care, rather than the socialized medicine system the government has installed. When I saw the prices for the private hospitals, it was a major eye opener, as some of the prices are higher than USA surgeon prices. A very discouraging situation.

The trip to the hospital was decent and we were able to settle in, a bit discouraged with the loss of valuable equipment. After surgical clinic, Miss Lisberthe took Dr. Moise and I down to show us her masterpiece, the organization of the OR storage rooms. I was duly impressed, as was Dan later when we had to show him her hard work. There is hope yet for some organizational skills for some Haitians. Definitely a major up bump. She has been most diligent in keeping us going, so far, we are averaging over 10 cases a day and working our staff to the max. There is no empty bed in the hospital at this point and we have tried to squeeze a few patients in nooks and crannies.

Dan, Mark and Andrew are very busy as well, having had a bunch of new projects to try to complete. They are experimenting with making some prefab Windows and doors to help finish the employee’s houses that we are trying to get habitable. We originally had only planned to do repairs on the walls (some at interesting angles) and replacing the roofs, but due to the incredible inflation especially in our area due to the hurricane and loss of crops and livestock, we revised our plans and are putting doors and windows in so they can safely get back in their homes. However, there again is a line of hopefuls who bring us requests to help build small houses for their families, often the whole family lives in a few hundred square foot house. It is hard to know how the Lord would have us show Christ’s love to the host of destitute folks around us here.

We did stop at the mango stand about an hour out of Port au Prince and I have risked pushing the limits of my fruit ingestion. I have done well, but Mark lost a day of vomiting and diarrhea, he did recover quite well with the IVs we inserted into him to help him keep hydrated. Andrew struggled some today, has not let it slow him down much. We all have made “absolutely must be done” lists as well as “hopeful” lists to get done in the few hours that remain. We are thankful for all that we have been able to do and the measure of health we all have been able to enjoy. The speed bumps have been significant, but, by God’s grace, He has helped us go over them with minimal disruption of our lives and work schedules. Additionally, the new administrative situation seems to have radically improved the morale of our workers as well as our spiritual outreach.  That is a huge encouragement and answer to many prayers.

Thanks again for all your prayers and support,

Andrew, Bill, Dan and Mark

Katie to the rescue

Dear family and friends;

Summer camps have begun here at Camp Mahanaim and the visiting teams have done a great job of helping out, including bringing amazing crafts for the campers to do. We were surprised three weeks ago when our dear friend and long time co-worker Myrlande resigned. She left some big holes to fill, including the leading of the Renault Sunday school program and we are so thankful that Katie has stepped up and helped out.

Katie helping lead the Renault Sunday school

Katie translating at camp

Katie helping lead singing at camp

Katie helping kids do crafts at camp

Katie also leads the “Angels” volleyball team as the setter and last month, our Angels beat the Haiti national Under 20 volleyball team, and several of our girls are very young like Katie (14 years old).

Deb has also done great, and is giving jobs to our “Angels” volleyball girls more and more, not only as workers but as camp counselors too.

Deb has many visitors who love and depend on her every week

Please pray for us as we seek the Lord’s will for the Renault Sunday school which continues to grow.

Also, we would appreciate your prayers as we are working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to take the Angels volleyball team to the Dominican Republic for games and ministry in early July.

Thanks, bye for now,

Love Rod, Deb and Katie

Quick update of Requests

Hi all:
This is just a quick request for prayer. Dan Boerman, Mark and Andrew Snyder will be coming with me this Saturday for our usual week of service and I will try to keep things updated. However, as you all know Dr. William is studying surgery in the Haitian medical system to hopefully be approved by the Haitian government to do surgery and replace me (and Luke, Jose, Jim, Fred and others who have helped fill in) on a 24/7 basis in another 3 years, Lord willing.

With lots of roadblocks, he has been progressing. His prayer request is that tomorrow, the 12th of June, he will take a huge test on the first 24 chapters of Schwarts, Textbook of Surgery. The test, as expected, will be in French, though the book is in English, so a struggle to understand and respond, as the Haitian system is not like ours, you verbally repeat what you have been taught verbatim, a bit tougher with the language switch. So, we would appreciate your prayers for God’s wisdom, strength and encouragement tomorrow and us 4 as we leave on Saturday.

In His Service,

Bill, Dan, Mark and Andrew for Dr. WIlliam and CSL Haiti

A Blessed, dry Haitian Donkey trots home again

Hi All:
We are not doing so well with updates this time. I wrote most of another one, but somehow it is lost in the cloud or something like that and I am too technologically challenged to retrieve it. So, with Karen having a delay in getting the first one out, we have only great apologies to offer and I will try to rewrite this one and send it out myself (as Karen is visiting our daughter in Arkansas, where there is lots of rain also, though Rachel says the severe flooding is a bit north of them, in southern Missouri, etc, so I am left to my own devices, plus having to care for the cats!!!). Also, it appears that the cloud also has eaten up some of the contacts, so please let us know if you have friends that were getting the updates but are no longer getting them (at least someone give us the email and will try to correct it).

After the rocky start, most of the rest of the week went quite well. As mentioned, I followed a bit closely on the heels of my friend, Dr. Luke Channer, so the surgical load was a bit lighter, as expected. I could not go later as next weekend, I have my nephew marrying a nurse friend who has made a couple trips to Haiti and whose family has been very supportive of our work there, ie a great encouragement. So, missing that is not an option, although Karen had to miss the bridal shower last weekend to get my TPN pump to Indiana on time after our shaky takeoff. Jan Gutwein was gracious enough to carry it out on Monday, though he arrived after midnight also as the roads were still not in great shape and forward progress slow at best. I ran the fluids faster to get all the calories in I was supposed to for the week, though had done quite well orally also (just absorption is quite limited due to the short piping system that remains).

With the somewhat lighter surgical schedule, as planned, we have spent a fair amount of time in the administrative realm, setting up guidelines for the future of the hospital. We are trying to encourage a more friendly working atmosphere among all the staff as well as towards the patients. A lot of this is trying to change the way the authority structure at the hospital is functioning. As I John 2:7 reminds us, many times we forget the old principles God would have us live by, and He repeats them for our shortcoming’s sake. Thus the new interim administrator (Welser), Dan Boerman, Dr. Moise and I feel we made progress in this difficult area, dealing with considerably different cultural expectations than we feel, at times, are reasonable and consistent with Biblical ones. Continue to pray for much needed divine wisdom in this area.

We dug around in the storage spaces to find some supplies. As we did this with some generalized mumbling on our part, Miss (Nurse) Lisberthe, my head OR nurse, promised me she will organize them so well that I won’t believe it when Dan and I return next month. She is one of the the hardest working ladies around there, has a heart of gold, but her organizational skills are interesting, to say the least. I am sure Rod Wray, Duane VerKaik and Luke Channer’s mom, as well as others including myself, would agree that they are amazed and somewhat dismayed at how quickly their attempts to organize things in Haiti, and specifically in the OR, tend to run to disorder. Each of them has built nice cabinets, drawers, etc, or organized and labelled the products, only to rapidly find things racing towards disarray. I am still learning to pick my battles, not sure I always pick the right ones, but hoping that I am making the right cultural adjustments.

The last few months have had rather torrential rains and there have been pretty large puddles of water everywhere. This has caused a healthy growth of mosquitoes, who have taken occupation of the hospital compound. The bathroom in the OR area is tiny but had at least 300 mosquitos lying everywhere after we bombed it as it was uninhabitable and I try to prepare places before I need to use the facilities in a hurry. Dan figured that the shower drain had no trap in it (built before I arrived in 2004 and definitely would be a sore sight to any builder’s eyes, even I smile as I see the angles formed by the tile layer while spending the required down time there) and we put a plug in it and drastically reduced the exit of more critters. The new friend God arranged to join us, from Lowell, MI, Evert Bek, got his feet wet (literally also) quickly and put his talents to work helping Dan get the AC in the laboratory fixed, he diagnosed the OR AC’s problem and got a $14 part shipped from his contacts in Michigan on Agape air on Thursday and had it running before we left on Friday. We thank the Lord that it was this Thursday it flew, as it only flies every other week, delivering mail and supplies as possible, as well as parts to repair the new generator that has been struggling from the start, so we greatly appreciated his addition to the team.

One afternoon, Dan, Dr. Moise and I went to view the houses that have been repaired as well as the remaining ones, to plan what needs to be done while we are gone by the Haitian construction crew on them as well as the chaplain’s house. I am always humbled to realize how little they have to make do with compared to what God has blessed me with, starting with a non leaky roof over my head, walls that won’t fall down if I lean on them too hard, clean water in abundance, and the list goes on. The old song, “Count your many blessings, see what God has done” is another needful reminder that we often need attitude adjustments from His perspective.

I just found out today that Dr. Bartlett has read my CT scan, I called his office early this week to be sure the US mail system delivered it (it took 3 tries in the fall of 2015, so there is a history to rival the speed of the Pony Express) and he is pleased with my progress. I feel well and am blessed, as another acquaintance with this nasty cancer just passed away before we left for Haiti and it reminds us to “Redeem the time,” as Eph 5:16 encourages us to consider, and spend it wisely with the skills He has given us to use. Also Psalm 90:12 reminds us that God teaches us to number/count our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Among my daily blessings to thank the Lord for is you all, who support the work at CSL in Haiti and me personally with prayer and so many other encouragements and for that I/we are eternally grateful.

In His Service, with thanksgiving,

Bill, Dan, Evert, Kelly and Paul

The Haitian Donkey enjoys a warm and wet return



Hi All:

One would have thought that it was a first time trip for Dan Boerman and myself as we left Grand Rapids. We arrived at the airport at 4:45 or so for the 6:51 flight with our baggage. I took the two passports and checked myself in with my two bags of medical supplies. The agent then asked me for Dan’s passport and I told him it was there on the counter. He smiled and said it was a lady on the passport. Dan lives about 45 minutes north of the airport and it was about 90 minutes before departure. He and Kim took off and their son met them halfway and we thanked God that that would work out. As they left with their baggage (in case they didn’t make it back) we noted that Dan had loaded a carry on at the last moment with lots of heavy plumbing parts that were needed, so we had an extra carry on, as I always need to use my trip mate’s carry on to fit all my TPN in, as it has to remain cold. I won’t ask how quickly we traveled, but he made it back in good time.

While he was gone, I tried to send the carry on as an extra piece, paying the extra charge, as my two bags were gone and I couldn’t easily put it in his suitcases (plus he had them with him). Apparently, there is a new rule that you cannot purchase a 3rd bag at any cost. Fortunately, the Grifhorsts who were going with us and were already at the gate had only two carry-ons for three people and we escaped that scrape. When we took off, I prepared to switch from my TPN to the regular fluids but started thinking that, as we checked our TPN carryons, I hadn’t noted the spare pump and charger. On arrival in Charlotte, I confirmed with Karen that the pump was plugged into the charger at home! She and our transportation specialist daughter in law, Jenn, spent the next hours trying to find some way to get these to Haiti in the next couple days as FedEx, etc, for all practical purposes, doesn’t exist in Haiti. (Nor does the mail system- a Women’s Missionary Group from the Kalamazoo, MI area wrote me several years ago and mailed it to the hospital; it took 18 months to get here and I am sure they didn’t believe my response as I never heard back from her and presumed I was stretching the truth). Karen also emailed people in Haiti and called Olga, our friend who runs the center for women, and Olga and her husband Caleb sent an emergency email to everyone they could think of. Karen was about to leave for American Airlines with a tiny package to send for a not tiny price when she got a phone call from Val Gutwein, saying that her husband, Jan, was leaving at 4 a.m. on Monday for Haiti. So Karen and Kathy Sytsma, our friend who is always seemingly game to help out, took off with the parts to Indiana and I am praying they will catch up with me tonight and I can return to my normal schedule of IV food and fluids. Last I heard, Kim had to undergo some “retail therapy” at the stores to restore her emotional status. I think we both taxed our wives’ levels of patience and frustration without intending to. We are both blessed with special friends as spouses and we thank God daily for them.

The flights in were good and we arrived in Port at Prince pretty much on time at 5:40 pm. We had heard that there has been considerable flooding in Haiti, especially in Cayes. Travel to the hospital was challenging as the roads were flooded and one has no idea where the huge potholes and speed bumps are under the mud and water.  Forward progress thus was quite slow, plus we had rather vigorous winds that soaked Dan and Dudu in the back of the truck as well as much of the luggage, despite tarps wrapped around them and the baggage. We arrived after midnight and slept like logs.  Evert is a talented HVAC and other skills man who was “recruited”  by the Lord during our last trip to Haiti as he sat next to me on the way down to Haiti and sat next to Tom Failing on the way back; Tom had a totally different itinerary from me! During our time there last time, Evert was up north with a water purification project but was interested in helping us with our broken down OR air conditioning and the equipment for that arrived in a container while we were in Haiti. The Lord engineered that one perfectly and Evert seems to fit in well. He is my age and came from the Netherlands at 25, so we talked about our love for Indonesian food among many other topics as we slogged home in the pelting rain at a snail’s pace.

Today was Labor Day for a good segment of the world, which I had forgotten, thus we ran the clinic and hospital, as well as the OR, on a skeleton crew. We only did 8 surgeries as Dr. Moise and I took off from the OR for several hours to work the clinic and help them see the number of patients who took advantage of the holiday to get checked out. Tomorrow, we should be back to full staff again. Evert and Dan have been working on one of the generators (we carried 2 alternators in our suitcases for the brand new generator that had a defective one), repairing the leak in the water line to the hostels and the dental clinic, trying to fix some more roof leakage, though how much is due to the high winds and deluges of water remains to be seen. They are also going to work on a couple other houses of employees that need some more adjusting, so, as usual, they will not be sitting around looking for work.

Beth Newton is packing up some of her stuff and will return with us, plus we will carry a couple suitcases of stuff home for her, as well as some for Olga’s Women’s Ministry. Jo Marturano, the psychiatrist who comes for a couple of weeks twice yearly, will fly in as we leave on Saturday, as we try to economize on trips to and from Port and we are trying to set up some supplies for her work. Dan and I hope to work on some administrative issues to help set that on proper footing with the changes that have taken place. Please pray for wisdom for all of us, that we may make decisions that are just and God honoring for the work and testimony we want to maintain for Him here in Haiti.

In His Service,

Bill, Dan, Evert, Kelly and Paul