Dear Friends

Dear Friends,

This past trip to Les Cayes, Haiti was amazing and we want to share a few of the highlights with you!

One year ago we made the trip to Les Cayes to lay out the groundwork for the chapel to be built on the site at the hospital. After much work and many generous donations, the chapel is complete, and we had the privilege of attending worship services and watch the building come alive for the glory of God!

On September 14, 2014 a man showed up at the hospital with a blackened and rotting foot, which could not be saved. His leg was amputated. This man was invited to the chapel to hear a message given by Dr. William. After hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, he responded by repenting of his sin and he became a new creation in Christ – his life changed. We had the blessing to watch this change. We found a pair of crutches for him, so he could return home and share his new-found faith. To our knowledge this is the first of what we pray are many salvation stories in this chapel.

On September 28, after bringing along several patients with wheelchairs, crutches and family members, we prepared to have a worship service in the chapel. This service made all the effort, sweat and maybe tears worth the sacrifice of being a part of the construction of this wonderful building! One lady, who had to be lifted out of her bed and into a wheelchair, was frustrated. Duane could not understand what she wanted until her bony old hand stretched out reaching for the most tattered, worn Bible we have seen in a long time. What a memory for this carpenter! We were humbled and felt privileged to be a small part of this project.

We do have a need for the chapel yet. If anyone has a good used keyboard, the chapel is desperately in need of one. The keyboard that is being used right now is small/child-sized. Or we will take donations toward the purchase of one. If you can help with the keyboard, please give us a call at 616-299-3454. Please let us know by the end of next week, as a container is being loaded and then shipped on October 29.

That same afternoon we welcomed Dr. Bill, Mike, Josh, Bill, Sue and Jenny to the hospital. This team was excited not only to work, but to share Christ by handing out tracts and talking to the Haitians through a translator. One young man, whose name is Joseph, accepted Christ on Friday of that week during the morning chapel time. Josh Langdon personally befriended and prayed for him throughout the week.

Thank you for your support of the people of Haiti! The Lord bless you, as you also continue for Him!

Duane and Ruth

Isaiah 44: 6 – “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.”

A Cool Michigan Reception

Hi All:

We had a pretty uneventful trip back home after a great, eventful week in Haiti. We got up at 1:30 and left a bit after 2 am, despite Dr. William thinking we could go at 3 as our plane left at 10:21 for Miami and it would usually take 4 hours at that time of the day, as there are few crazy drivers/people other than ourselves, so he figured a 7 or so arrival would be decent. However, I am notoriously a slow driver in somewhat less than perfect conditions, and potholes, uneven pavement and a large number of vehicles without tail lights, a significant number without headlights travelling in the dark adds to the challenges of navigating a vehicle in Haiti with innumerable obstacles to safety. Using signals is purely an optional suggestion, assuming, of course that they even exist or work. Add to that the couple hundred speed bumps (the raised bumps added to slow down the crazy drivers) and the tens of “dos d’ane”s that are strategically placed to wipe out unsuspecting vehicles with a dip in the road placed to further inhibit speed, one has no need of speed traps for myself. These dips, called after my relative, the Haitian Donkey’s back, the dip that the poor creatures have due to the chronically large burdens they carry, are often at an angle to the road direction, so one wheel drops and, while it is coming out of the planned dip, the other front wheel drops and one can really lose control of whatever already careens down the road at an angle due to being piled high with goods (and a person or so braving the trees while riding way on top). We saw a bus that lost control and ran off the road last week, killing all 45 people inside as well as the people in the house it blew through, a grisly sight.

Duane, who would leave at midnight if he could further avoid the traffic on the road, and I decided 2 am would be less likely to cause us ulcers in fearing a late arrival at the airport, and we were thankful we did. Even at that time of the morning, there were an unusually large number of private vehicles, plus quite a few fuel tankers and other heavy trucks out, presumably as they had been blocked by the riots/demonstrations all week and wanted to take advantage of getting somewhere before others had similar ideas and would try to stop them. Even the market in Port au Prince was already quite active, including the wheelbarrows hauling 3 or 4 skinned pigs to the sales, where they would be chopped with a machete into however many grams of meat you would desire, including the bone chips produced during the cutting process in the price, of course. So, we were very happy to arrive at the airport at 6:45 am and just check in almost the first in line. We had 4 suitcases of materials for the women’s center, as this Haitian Donkey doubles as a hauler of the embroidered materials and other handiwork back to the States for churches to spread out for donations back to keep the center financially solvent. Duane had put the power washer part in his carry on and was rejected by security, but otherwise we had a great trip back home, even switching out the part in Miami and putting it in one of our suitcases (which had already been checked when he was sent back from the Haitian version of TSA, so he checked his carry on to Miami and we corrected things after immigration in Miami, as Duane and Ruth stayed in Florida a few days to visit grandchildren). As our flights went through Philadelphia, we avoided the still troublesome Chicago area in our travels and were thankful to the Lord that He had caused me to use a new flight course (not an option in the past with American, but it is a hub for US Airways). The old route was too short a layover for a group to risk in Miami, so I opted to choose getting home at midnight instead of the alternatives. Everyone but myself welcomed the air conditioned American Airlines lounge temperatures on our arrival in Port, most everyone joined my opinion when we received a cool welcome at 45 degrees in Grand Rapids.

Our Friday was busy but profitable. I ended up doing a complication from our sister hospital, a patient I had seen and treated a couple years ago, then had further surgery there a couple weeks ago and now decided to visit me again to correct the abdominal hematoma from the latest surgery. I drained the large blood collection, washed it out and left most of the wound wide open and pray that she will do well postop. The young man with the possible poison that Mike and I admitted on Thursday with presumed renal shutdown (a favorite method of getting the voodoo doctor to put a curse on those who oppose your life choices in Haiti), seemed very much alive when we last checked him Friday evening and we pray this will continue. We shared tracts with him to read as he recovers, or even to consider if he doesn’t, as eternity seemed (and still is) a very near and distinct possibility for him, as dialysis is not an option. He was weak and troubled but definitely alert and communicative, so hoping that our desperate treatment will have long lasting results.

My attempts to make a site visit to Cap Haitian to look at residency options available there, both for ourselves or possibly having one of our doctors go up there for a 4 year training stint, has run into a dead end street for the time being, as Dr. Mario Florestal, the OB Gyn physician who graduated from our medical school and managed to get a residency slot there a bit over 4 years ago and now works for our sister hospital, Bonne Fin, works 3 weeks straight and then has the 4th week off starting in November, but I am reluctant to spend either Thanksgiving or Christmas away from home as my own future is not all that definitive and would like to maximize family times when possible.  So, hoping to go in January, 2015 while our team is working on roofs, remodeling termite eaten cupboards and shelves, putting up the toilets behind the clinic on that new septic system and a host of other projects that seem to sprout up and demand attention. The power washer broke down while Duane had the guys blasting the layers of grease, dirt and other questionable items deposited on the areas around where the merchants cook and peddle their wares in front of the hospital gate. We plan to move them across the road to see if we can keep things cleaner around the hospital itself, then use this site to let our patient’s families cook for themselves and the patient, as well as doing their own laundry there and sleeping in the hostels, instead of all over the hospital floor, making movement and patient care a risky business, especially by the dim lights when we only use a few batteries to light the wards.

We spent a fair amount of time as the leadership of the hospital, trying to figure out how to reduce costs with the government mandated minimum wage increases, especially with our increased number of diabetic patients who come with nonhealing leg ulcers/gangrene and we end up trying to keep debriding the wounds for months before getting to the almost inevitable amputation under life conditions in Haiti, thus causing a bill that, even by our charitable institution’s lower rates than most anywhere else, is too much for the already impoverished individual to settle. Almost all other Haitian hospitals just refuse to care for the patient, so we end up with considerably more than our share of these indigents. I never mind caring for them, but it is a struggle to try to keep the hospital solvent and also sustainable in the future while showing Christlike compassion to these seriously ill individuals with such chronic, incurable conditions. Pray that we will have His guidance, attitudes and wisdom in doing His Work His Way at Centre de Sante Lumiere.

In His Service,

Bill x 2, Sue, Jen, Duane, Ruth, Mike, Joshua (and we sent Dr. Mary Preston home to Virginia on her own today, haven’t heard if she made it yet)

Internet Finally Works

Hi All:

We know a number of you were praying for our flexible travel plans, thanks to the person sabotaging the radar system in Chicago, so wanted to contact you, but the lightning sabotaged the internet in Haiti for the last week, so the phones and internet were all down. I called Karen on my Haitian phone after our arrival but that did not work at all and the message that I was alive and back at work was hardly intelligible. So, we just got things up and running here today.

I normally have a few hectic days to end my week before I leave for Haiti, as I need to get all my Sunset patients taken care of, plus regular clinic work and that makes for a lot of charting to do in the evenings. When told by many individuals that I might have to change the plans for our team of 6, a call to American Airlines just ended up with a message that all agents were terribly busy and to call back later, no surprise. So, just kept on doing charts until they called me to inform me of the cancellation via a message, no live person, of course, at 10 pm on Friday. Since departure was scheduled for early afternoon routing through Chicago, trying to find alternative routes became a priority and I spent the next 3 hours negotiating flights via American agents booking on US Air, which company is in the process of merging with American Airlines, but the merger has more holes in it than glue at this stage. Essentially, they could promise me nothing other than that  we would get charged for both bags that we had been promised free by American We always get one free for whoever is on my ticket up to 6 people and they usually give a second bag free for missions trips, which Tom Failing’s nephew had arranged for us beforehand. Plus, they stated that we would still have to collect our bags at 10 pm in Miami, haul them somewhere and recheck them the next day, and pay for the second bag, in the wee hours of the morning, a real hassle with the plane full of Haitians who sort of abide by their own set of rules. Since anything on the west side of the state runs through Chicago, that was not an option, so we were thankful that Dan Boerman graciously volunteered to take the baggage and half the team to Detroit and Karen and Marsha Langdon, Mike’s wife, took the rest of us, a real blessing. We arrived early at Metro and the Lord answered our fervent prayers by giving us an agent named Charlie O who was very kind and checked the  bags all the way to Port au Prince (a savings of $240 for the group, but just as important, giving us at least another hour of sleep, as we could get up at 4:30 am to make the flight instead of 3:30). He also only charged us for the second bag when I explained the situation, a second blessing.

US Airways planes seemed much older than those of American, but the flights went great and smooth, we caught some sleep. Since I had already had a 4 hour night of sleep on Friday, at least getting another 4 1/2 on Saturday made things more tolerable.  We met Dr. Mary Preston in the Port au Prince airport, as she flew from Ft. Lauderdale on an earlier flight, and all our luggage made it, a bit beaten up but intact. Hers didn’t, but we decided not to wait til the afternoon Lauderdale flight arrived as surgery clinic awaited me after the almost 5 hour road trip, we hate to make the patients wait too much longer. Again, by the grace of God and through your prayers, customs was a breeze and we made it to the truck by 10 am and had a decent trip to the hospital.  Clinic was busy, the normal patients except I had a first experience. As you know, cellphones are often attached to one’s hip in the States, there are more of those here than one would expect with the poverty and they also seem  irresistible. I was doing a pelvic exam on a lady that I would operate on later this week when her phone rang on the table a bit from the exam table and she jumped up and ran to answer it while I tried to retrieve my hand as quickly as possible. The Haitian nurse and doctor in the room with me were just as surprised (and amused). She told the party that the doctor was examining her and she would call back, hopped up on the table and waited for me to finish the exam, like it was “all in a day’s work”.

As this is the year for elections again, there have been a lot of riots in the major towns/villages along the route we have to take, as disgruntled people with much time on their hands than maybe they should is a recipe for trouble. We were thankful that they usually riot on the weekdays, thinking to have a greater impact on the commercial situation and thus disrupt those who might be able to do something about the injustices they perceive to need rectifying. However, we had to send Brenel, our maintenance individual to Port with the proper papers to get Dr. Mary’s suitcase on Monday and he ran into all sorts of trouble on the way back with it, getting here at 10:45 pm from a 5 am start on the express bus line, as the riots tend to disrupt anything of that nature. The government, likely using earthquake funds to supply their need for more cash, handed down an edict to raise the minimum wage, something that will cost us at least another $1000 per month, plus stimulating additional griping by those who get a higher wage now but will feel that the government raised the other employees wages, why can’t the Christian employer do something nice too. Just another reminder of governmental decisions often resulting in less than the most desirable long range results.

Duane and crew did a wonderful job of fixing the septic system to the point that it is usable. It still needs the rest of the second tank dug through the trash that has accumulated around the hospital over the years of use. Littering is not considered a bad thing. While we are driving to the hospital, plastic pop bottles, Styrofoam food containers, wrappers, etc, are tossed from the pickup/truck taxis flying along in front of us and bounce off our vehicle. People just walk and let similar items fall on the floor as they stroll along, including in the hospital, although Dr. William’s idea of placing a number of trash cans (many donated by Bob’s Disposal in Cutlerville) has helped in the hospital compound. Now I want to work on the area around the walls if possible. No one ever accused me of not having foolish dreams of progress, I suppose I wouldn’t be here otherwise? Anyway, the septic leak is corrected and the second hole and corresponding drain field is in progress. Plus, Dan Boerman (on the phone), Duane, Daniel Zales (a German missionary here teaching mechanics in the workshop), along with (in decreasing value as we go along) Dr. Moise and myself, were able to get the sterilizer and boiler going again as it wouldn’t work on Monday and we had done 5 hysterectomies plus a few smaller cases using most of our sterile supplies, and were dead in the water. Plus, Cayes General has been sending their material to us to sterilize as their machine doesn’t work, so there was a ton of stuff to prepare.  Dan Boerman did a great job of directing us to diagnose and repair each step in an organized fashion and then Dr. Moise and I babysat the machine til 10 pm, when the cycle was done and we could safely sleep knowing that we could do the 7 hysterectomies scheduled for Tuesday with proper equipment.  We had just settled down in bed when an ambulance came up to the gate, siren howling. Cayes General had sent a driver to get their equipment, despite the fact that we had called them and told them it would not be cool enough to open the door safely until much too late at night (and I didn’t mention that neither Dr. William, who was on call, or I wanted to sort out the material after midnight). They protested that they had several cases they still wanted to do that evening?, but we told them that we couldn’t control the breakdown either and they finally went home, only to return at daylight the next morning.

To end on a very positive note, Dr. William has been burdened about all the patients in the hospital who cannot go to church on Sunday and with my encouragement, started a morning service for patients and families right after my August departure. This week, Duane and Ruth, plus Beth and Mondesir, attended and there was a lot of enthusiasm at the service in our new chapel (thanks for all who helped make that great addition possible). Patients were wheeled in on wheelchairs, etc and much positive was generated in the way of people making spiritual decisions as a result. We praise the Lord for this very encouraging development and pray that it will continue and reach many more patients and families.
With thanksgiving for you all, and to Him Who makes life possible,

Bill, Duane, Ruth, Mike, Josh, Bill and Sue, Jenn and Mary

Together again

Hello friends;
It has been an exciting, eventful summer for us. Our first ever grand daughter Ellyanna was born to our daughter Carly and her husband Eylar. Deb and Katie went to British Columbia for the big event while Tim and I stayed in Haiti and held down the fort.

Many thanks to those who have sent us jars of peanut butter. We now have a “sports night” every weekend for the young people from our local village and we serve them peanut butter on fresh bread. It was great during the summer as all the local young people were in the gym playing sports rather than going to the beach parties.

Together with visiting teams we were able to do three large (25 couple) weddings this summer.

Usually the team is awake at 5:00 am the day of the wedding, preparing the sandwiches for the reception. We then drive out to the village where the wedding will be held (this can take 30 minutes to 4 hours) and immediately we set up and start getting the brides
and grooms dressed. We take wedding pictures and then send the couples into the church for the ceremony. Then after the ceremony is the reception and then the drive back to the camp. While some team members unload the vehicles, others begin immediately to print out the pictures and make up the wedding albums.. Sometimes this can take until midnight or later and then first thing the next morning we head back to the village to deliver the albums in exchange for the borrowed wedding clothes. Here is a picture of the wedding albums together with a gift of a health kit for the new couples.

We are also very thankful for those who continue to send children’s clothes. It is a joy to be able to give them to the needy around us.

About a month ago after the Renault Sunday school, some friends carried in a man named Julio. Julio unwrapped his leg and showed us his problem. Tim braved the incredibly sickening smell and got within 20 feet to take a look and take a photo. It had started as a small infection on his baby toe, and he had never gone to the hospital. His foot was dead and was literally rotting at the end of his leg. Thanks to the generous partnership of friends, we have a fund available to send people to the hospital, so we quickly sent Julio.

Just this past week we received this email from fellow missionary Beth Newton who works at the hospital..

Hi Rod,

Just wanted to share the joy of God’s work.
Sunday morning the gentleman who had the bad gangrene which necessitated an
amputation attended the Sunday morning service at the clinic chapel. The man, Julio, responded to the invitation at the conclusion of the message and wanted to repent and put his faith in Jesus. He and his wife say they will live in Cayes now. He will go with a letter to present him to a local pastor. He seems healthy and thankful now.

It was God’s hand of mercy at work.
Thanks for bringing him to us.


Thanks for your continued support and prayers and partnership.
bye for now, Love Rod, Debbie, Tim and Katie

If you would like to watch a video of our girl’s volleyball team, here is the link;

Haitian Donkey Happenings

Hi All:
This should be a brief update on a couple issues of praise and prayer.  First of all, I don’t have Dr. Bartlett’s reading on my first postoperative CT scan yet  (I am supposed to have one each 3 months for a year or so, so this is # 1) but the reading thus far is negative for any residual disease.  Admittedly, it took a year for some to show up last year, though we did have chemotherapy for the 7 months after surgery, but this is still a cause for thankfulness and praise to God for his help this far.  Dr. Bartlett, being the surgeon who did/supervised the work, would be the most critical examiner of the CT scan, and so await his opinion, but thankful for the good report thus far.  By the grace of God, I have pretty much regained the majority of the weight that I should gain, I may put on a few more pounds just for good measure, as an insurance policy, should I need/be able to tolerate a third marathon procedure, but will basically stabilize my weight and keep my strength up.

The prayer items include prayer for my brother in law, Harold Punter, who is still undergoing rather difficult chemotherapy and struggling to keep up some strength and ability to work, at least to a limited degree, and keep his life going. We have always been close in so many ways, sharing our cancer trials has brought us even closer, but it is difficult to watch my brother in law and friend struggle with what the Lord has allowed in his life.  My sister Margie and Harold have been an encouragement to me to keep my head up and going in our battles against our cancers and appreciate your prayers for them also.

The other major item of prayer is for our struggles to figure out a reasonable solution to our leaking septic system at the hospital.  For some reason, whether the shakes caused by the quakes, the buildup of pressure from the solids in the huge tank (knowing what interesting items have been flushed down the toilets in the hospital, including mango pits and other things even the most durable of systems are not made to take), we have developed a leak in the system.  Poor Duane Ver Kaik is commissioned with the nonenviable task of trying to make this work.  One of my concerns is that, IF we even can get a “honey wagon” truck or two to help empty it, we figure it will be at least 10 loads and, with all the fears of diseases, where will it be dumped.  Those who have had the privilege of going to Haiti know that convenience often rules over logic and trash is deposited all over the scenes, on the road, all over the hospital terrain, etc.  So, we need some wisdom as to where to dispose of this so that those who already fear Ebola coming from Africa, have survived the rigors of cholera allegedly due to the UN not properly disposing of their waste products, etc, will not suspect that anyone becoming ill in the area where this waste is deposited caught it from the “fertilizer” we contributed to the land.  I have made inquiries into the procedure that will be followed, but changing time established routines may not be so easy.

The Lord willing, Duane will start this procedure in 2 weeks, so that by the time I arrive with the other 5 team members and we crank up the hospital to a much fuller occupancy (and thus increased water and waste usage), as well as the laundry running full tilt with the soiled laundry/OR drapes, etc, the system will not be in the down and out mode but in the up and running one.  Thanks for your prayers for wisdom and strength for all the various aspects of this smelly affair.

In His Service,

Bill for the Haiti Team