The Haitian Donkey Returns to the Good Old USA with thanks

Hi All:
This was a first for me since the earthquake. At that time, as I was in Haiti for an extended time, I began sending out regular updates on the situation there to let people know what we were doing as well as thank and inform the hundreds of people who supported the great needs at that time in our work there at Centre de Sante Lumiere. I have kept up the information pathway, at times more faithfully and succinctly than others, but this time was unable to connect up. There was some intermittent connections through the USAID system, but this donkey is quite deficient in his technological skills and could not even get past inserting the interesting password correctly, despite some other team members trying their best to help him. Also, my travel computer was worked on during my last surgery and recovery and I can use it to word process but still am working on getting it up to speed. So, was unable to communicate much at all.

However, we had an eventful and productive trip for the most part. The group of 14 went down to Haiti via 8 different paths, partially because I was scrambling to get tickets for those who were willing to add on to the team after the hurricane now a month ago. Dan, Duane and Butch cleared lots of trees, both at the camp and at the hospital and the environs starting several days after the disaster, we came a week after their return. Ron and Linnea Shick have been long time friends from their years of work with construction teams in Haiti and came with a team of 11 (he and a team worked with Rod to put the roof on the hospital in 2007 and was pleased that it survived quite well), but for some reason their flight/plane was cancelled on Friday, so there was a huge backlog of people and baggage anxious to get in to Port au Prince. Our whole team made it in on Saturday, the last flight from Ft. Lauderdale on American, but 14 pieces of luggage, some containing vital elements for our work, did not, as the plane had too much weight. Micah, Tom and Jean Eddy went back and got all but one bag the next day, having to wait in Port all day before they were able to retrieve the bags (we didn’t have the last one yet when we left the country, NOT the first time that has happened). As pictures sent by other missionaries, such as the Wrays, Caleb and Olga, etc, have documented, there was widespread destruction and loss of homes, food supplies and lives in the southern section of Haiti as the hurricane center passed about 35 miles west of the hospital. We carried along a lot of our own food supplies and did not suffer for lack of food or water as we have pure water from the hospital deep well plus had limited food supplies we could obtain in the western section of Haiti. We are very thankful for Kathy and Karen heading up the cooking and food preparation department with help from Olga and her crew as well as Tabitha and Anna (who also had other duties).

The hospital was very full for the time we were there, partially because there are so many people with chronic diseases, infected wounds/injuries, etc and medical care, always a problem in Haiti, has been even less available since the hurricane. We did a number of debridements of necrotic and infected wounds, as well as two leg amputations on diabetic patients who have been unable to heal their chronic wounds/sores and have had invasion of the infection up their legs, requiring more drastic measures to save their lives. We did lose a lady with a bowel obstruction likely due to metastatic cancer that Dr. Luke had operated on a while back, we had our usual struggle finding the old chart, but when Luke walked up to see her with me, she remembered him and he could put the medical information into perspective. We stabilized her and were planning on taking her back to the OR to sort things out and hopefully give her a while longer by relieving her obstruction when she suddenly went rapidly downhill and passed away in a few hours. A very sad surprise for us all, as well as a young man in mid teens that was very hard to sort out with our limited diagnostic tools and sometimes even more limited patient cooperation (reasons for the latter not so clear) and we also were stabilizing him with antibiotics and fluids for an early morning exploration of his belly when he passed away that night. I had seen him late the night before and he seemed to be doing better (just going into an abdomen for an “exploration” has more long term medical repercussions in Haiti than it does in the US, due to our limitations in sorting things out, so we were proceeding carefully) so this was an even more painful result for us all. Other than those negative situations, our surgery and medical workload went quite well, for which we thank the Lord. Our chaplains continue their faithful work in reaching out to every patient with gospel tracts, several films that present our need for Jesus Christ as Savior, despite both being well beyond Haitian retirement age, a real encouragement for us all.

The various team members worked on repairs to hospital problems, a constant source of need to keep the hospital functioning, from plumbing difficulties to electrical, as well as going out into the surrounding villages to help clear trees that had fallen and were too large for the machetes to hack their way through, so we used the chain saw to make things more feasible. They also worked on getting houses back into a livable state, again a huge, undertaking that will last well into 2017. With the unrest and dishonest elements in the society taking matters into their own hands to procure supplies destined for more remote areas of the country, the UN was flying helicopters up into the mountains behind the hospital in large nets that dangled below the machines and could drop supplies without interference of the negative elements, plus there likely would not be very negotiable roads to get these lifesaving products to them quickly and safely. The helicopters regularly ferried the supplies out from the coast below us all day long, so we hope some of the needs were met for these already suffering folks. We are thankful that the feared cholera epidemic seems considerably less widespread than first predicted.

Our trips home seemed to have gone well, everyone arrived with their luggage except Karen and I, and the airlines just dropped off our bags a couple hours ago at our home (things are MUCH easier to handle in the US, even glitches) but, overall, I feel that things went as well as they could have under the circumstances and thank the Lord for all that the gang was able to accomplish. A big prayer request is that, next Sunday, the 20th of November, will be another attempt to have hotly contested presidential elections in Haiti, more than a year later than originally scheduled, with at least one party threatening to “burn the city” if his candidate (from one of the major parties) doesn’t get elected. Thus, we hope that things will get resolved, especially as Duane, Ruth, Sam, Dr. Jim Webb and I plan to return the 3rd of December for another round of work.

Thanks for all your prayers and encouragement for us even when we were “silent” in our updates. It is appreciated greatly.

In His Service,

Bill, Karen, Anna, Jo, John, Kathy, Kevin, Kurt, Luke, Micah, Ron, Tabitha, Tom and Travis

One Month Later

Dear family and friends;

Thank you so much for your prayers and emails. We have been lifted up by the encouragement and of family and friends over the past month. We have started clearing out and piling up some of the sand that Hurricane Matthew brought into the camp.

The large relief organization, Samaritan’s purse has asked to use Camp Mahanaim as their base for operations so they have moved in with us. The helicopter lands often on the soccer field.

Trucks and containers full of food and supplies fill the yard.

Thanks to great teams from Michigan and Missouri, the camp is back in pretty good shape and we have also been able to help many Haitians around us. We have done numerous medical clinics in several locations.

Deb and Katie have become great medical translators.

We have also been able to do many distributions including to some remote locations who haven’t had any help since the hurricane.

Thankfully the donkeys carried the supplies.

The devastation up near the tops of the mountains was unbelievable.

This church at Liktor village collapsed just as the village people were going to enter it for shelter. Thankfully nobody had entered yet when it fell.

The people were truly thankful for tarps and food.

Thanks so much for standing with us at this time and for showing your love and care for us and for the Haitian people. We are looking forward to a little rest this coming week, Lord willing.

We sure appreciate your prayers,

bye for now,

Love Rod, Deb and Katie

The Haitian Donkey is back home, briefly


Hi All:
We survived the week of chemotherapy, the usual fever, chills and nausea, didn’t have any retching there at least, and we again decided to hit the road right after the last session, leaving at 3 and getting home a bit after 10 on Friday. I started running out of gas about the time I hit the Michigan line, but managed to keep going until we arrived home, as driving a car goes much faster than stumbling along on the shaky donkey legs. We brought in only the cold boxes and went to bed. I woke up about 1:00 am and had worse fever, chills and diffuse aches and weakness. Ended up sleeping in a chair as easier to get to the bathroom quickly from a semi upright position. This progressed to retching and I was unable to attend the planned suitcase packing Saturday afternoon. Sunday started out slow, unable to walk without holding the walls, but I managed to get more fluids in (TPN and rehydration fluids gives me more than 4 quarts daily already but with fever and chills, the insensible loss goes up considerably). It is now Sunday afternoon and I feel my strength slowly coming back, no appetite, but at least no more retching and the fever and chills are subsiding. I did sleep for hours on end, interspersed with potty breaks each 90 minutes if not more often. Pray that this will go away without complications, especially as I had the sepsis starting Wednesday after the last chemotherapy, which does knock your resistance down and leaves you more vulnerable to infections.

Dan, Duane and Butch (and the rest of the team from Butch’s church, about 20 total, not counting D and D, who were there a week earlier) returned after slaving in Haiti. They got the roads cleared around the camp, worked there for several days, then returned to the hospital and secured it by cutting up the trees that had fallen on the hospital fence, fixed the hospital gate that had been torn off by the winds and then helped clear up trees in the village of Simon (the suburb of Cayes where the hospital is technically located, maybe 3 miles from the center of Cayes) as well as setting up some of our experienced day laborers who work with our work teams each year to put roofs on their own houses first and then starting on those of our employees. They did cover 50 houses with tarps, but that will only last a while with the heat, winds and rains that hammer their little houses.

In that vein, Lord Willing, we will head to Haiti early Saturday morning with our team. Originally Dr. Luke, Karen, our nurse practitioner friend Tabitha, who was with us in Africa for years and went with me to Haiti 8 months ago and wants to go any chance she can get out of work for, Micah Baxter, the maintenance man at PVI washing and myself were going to go, as elections were scheduled in October, but I was worried about Luke going in the midst of the political unrest, so he would have to go the last week of October to avoid them and I was scheduled in early November, thus we decided to go together as my endurance is not yet what I would like it to be. It also would let me try to catch up on administrative duties that I got behind on while undergoing surgery and chemotherapy. With the hurricane, we added 8 more people to the team, 6 to clear more trees and help put on roofs and 2 ladies to help with cooking and other jobs with a larger crew. Dr. Jo Marturano, a psychiatrist friend who normally comes twice yearly for 2 weeks will join us in Lauderdale for the rest of the journey, so it will be a busy week. However, we pray that we can get a lot done for Him and the people of Haiti who have suffered so much over the years.

Please pray that we will have good flights and can connect up in Lauderdale, as we have 6 different flight plans to get there and one bus that leaves Port au Prince, so the last flight needs all 13 of us on board. I also hope that I can briefly meet Dr. William in Port to encourage him and also give him a study manual I purchased for him to help him study and prepare better for the residency demands. Communications have been sketchy but I know it was hard for him to be stuck in Port when the storm was headed straight for his family home and he could not leave to be with them. This is a difficult time for him but I greatly appreciate his dedication to the Lord’s work at CSL and getting the extra training to be able to replace me there. Pray that customs will let us through with our 22 bags of supplies as it appears our sheets all developed legs during the last while, having the fence knocked down needless to say didn’t help. We also are bringing most of our food, as not much is available in the markets where we usually could get much of what we need (though we heard it is getting better, but I have never gone shopping, not on my skill set for Haiti). We also have a bunch of supplies to do our work of relief, including things to help those who were less fortunate before the hurricane already. Pray that we will be safe, effective and God honoring in our efforts to serve Him next week.

As always, we appreciate your prayer, encouragement and support of our ministry there in Haiti (especially the Haiti Relief Fund and the Rice and Goats Fund, as they will be especially needful this year).


In His Service,

Bill, Karen, Anna, Jo, John, Kathy, Kevin, Kurt, Luke, Micah, Ron, Tabitha, Tom and Travis

The Haitian Donkey is back in Pittsburgh, then Haiti

Hi All:

I thought I should send an update to help sort out some of the craziness that has crept into our lives the last few weeks. We underwent the last treatment in Pittsburgh on September 23 through the 30th, it seemed to go better than the previous one and the weekend seemed better, only a bit of vomiting, fever and chills. I was able to work Monday through Wednesday, though I wasn’t as perky as I wanted to be, just figured it was the combination of the chemo and the anemia wearing me down some. However, Wednesday through Sunday I developed increasing amounts of fever, chills, nausea and retching. I tried malaria and antibiotic treatments, and, after 2 days of no progress, ended up in the ER and Blodgett Hospital for 6 days with E. coli sepsis, the source never was found, but, by the grace of God, with a blast of antibiotics, I improved and am feeling my old self again, though a bit more anemic as they took almost a unit of blood out of me with daily blood cultures and other draws.

Thankfully, I was able to work last week, as well as organizing our team who will accompany Dr. Luke, Micah, Tabitha, Karen and I on the 5th of November. We now have a team of 6 builder/construction types as well as several support staff to try to find food and prepare it for our week there. As all the animals and crops have been washed out to sea with the hurricane, we will bring along most of our supplies, including food and tools as well as (hopefully) a number of water filters to pass out, as cholera is a significant threat to the survivors of the flooding. This is requiring considerable planning on the part of Karen and Kathy, trying to feed 14 people with limited supplies for a week. I think we may be eating a bit different than other times, but I am sure it will be good food and when we consider what our Haitian brothers and sisters likely don’t have to eat, we will thank the Lord for whatever we receive from His bountiful hand.

We also are thankful that Kurt Kooinga was able to replace Dave Weener, who was unable to get a week off from his job, to complement out team. Tom Failing and I will try to get the tickets switched in the next couple days. We also are going to try to see if American will allow up two bags each, at least out of Grand Rapids for the 6 of us leaving from there, as we have a bunch of stuff to bring along, doesn’t hurt to ask. Dan, Duane and my brother Butch have been repairing what they can at the hospital and starting to help the employees who have lost their roofs from the hurricane. They and their Haitian crew have been able to repair some, have obtained a bunch of tarps from Samaritan’s Purse to cover others and our team will continue the repair process. Many of the people have so little to start with and this blow only discourages them further. Pray that we will be able to help a number of them with their houses and that Drs. Jo (Psych), Luke and I in surgery as well as Tabitha helping in the OR, will be able to alleviate some of their suffering.

I again apologize for my rambling style, but wanted to get an update out, especially for prayer for God’s wisdom and direction, as well as health and strength for the teams leaving Haiti this week (Butch’s church team and Dan and Duane) as well as those of us heading out soon (Dr. Jon Roberts will have a team to help the Wrays at camp, as well as doing some medical treatments while we are at the hospital).

As always, we appreciate your encouragement of our ministry for Him in Haiti.

Bill, Karen and the Haiti Team


A Request for Help Again

Hi All:
I know that we have sent out a lot of requests for help in the last while, but Dan Boerman called me last night to ask if I would send out another request for some more assistance.  He is at the hospital with Duane, they and their Haitian coworkers have repaired the hospital roof, have been clearing all the fallen trees (normally, looking out the back of the administration building towards the town, there was a line of trees along the border of the hospital property, and, if one was a bit discouraged with all the poverty, disease and devastation in Haiti, one could just sit there for a bit and think more pleasant thoughts) and planning on ways to help all the suffering folks around the hospital. Unfortunately, he says all the trees are down, taking down the hospital fence with them, so security is compromised. I think Dan is heading to the Samaritan’s Purse warehouse today to see what he can beg off them in the way of supplies for the folks of the hospital area. Pray for wisdom for Dan and Duane as they prioritize all that needs to be done for relief of suffering and in a way that brings God glory.

So, his request is that I try to recruit some more help for our November 5 trip to Haiti. It has become our custom that a mechanically trained individual accompany me each trip, ostensibly to repair the hospital physical plant, some of which is 70 years old and a bit decrepit, but also to keep an eye on the feeble medical aspect of the team and help him lift his suitcases (I try to convince them I am just fine, they don’t always agree). However, they would like more help for Micah Baxter in repairs to the hospital and surrounding houses. It seems that all the hospital employees are safe, but almost all have lost their tin roofs and thus have no protection for themselves or their belongings from the rain, sun and robbers. As a result, one of our immediate goals is to try to cover their houses as soon as possible, as we need them work at hospital but they also need to provide safe housing for their families. As someone may have the time and ability to go but not the finances, contributions toward the generalized effort would be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Moise and Dan report that the hospital really survived physically quite well, some wet supplies, but nothing significantly damaged. He said that they are overwhelmed with work as many of the injured have nowhere to go, as the government hospital is deep in mud and the staff have gone to their homes in Port, etc to ride out the storm’s effects. So, we are thankful for God’s protection and provision for our people and are praying for his guidance for all of us as to how to best proceed.

On a personal note,  I am lean, mean and hungry this morning, remaining without the ability to eat (and now also drink) anything, waiting for them to replace a port in my left chest (they pulled the one in my right chest Wednesday evening, waiting 48 hours to put a new one in in case it is the source of my infection, so far, no one knows for sure) for continued IV antibiotics at home as well as TPN. Then I will be released from prison some time this evening and hope to return to work on Monday. Pray for my coworkers here as my sudden, unplanned sick leave has put a strain on their workload and patient care and I have chemotherapy in another week, then back for a week and then off to Haiti, hopefully with some newly recruited help.

Once again, many thanks for your prayer and support of our work for Him in Haiti.

In His Service,

Bill, Karen, Dan and Duane and the rest of the Haiti Team