A Request

Dear family and friends;

We really appreciated Dan and Christie coming  to Haiti this Christmas again and we had a great time together. We were able to do several Christmas distributions again  this year to Haitians who live in very poor conditions.

Thanks to some gifts of children’s clothes, we were also able to do a Christmas give away at the Renault Sunday school program.

After a year of working with us here in Haiti, our son Tim has decided to move back to British Columbia to work and continue his education. We will miss him. He left on December 26th.

On Dec 27th our first team of the season arrived and together we hosted a special camp for youth, which went very well.

Last week we headed out to the Island of Isle a Vache with our second team. They did  a great job of helping many couples get married. This week we have a medical team here, who are ministering to Haitians in a community at the base of the mountains.

Our request is to ask you to please continue to pray for us. We often share with you about the exciting and positive things that are happening in our lives and here at Camp Mahanaim, but as we reflect on the year 2014,  we admit that there have been many extreme and demanding challenges that we have faced. One of our volleyball girls being beaten by a local young man using a large rock. An older neighbor man who has been a leader in the church for years, molested a 4 year old little girl right outside our gate and nobody in the community would call the police for fear of his relatives. One of our dearest, long term co workers was beaten by her jealous boyfriend and we gave her
sanctuary in our yard, and in turn had to face the wrath of this evil young man.
These are just a few examples of the many difficult situations that we have encountered this past year. In every case we have helped the victims and spoken out and taken action against the wrong, including calling the police to come and arrest the child molester. This has made us unpopular with some who live in our village as they would prefer that the deeds of darkness remain hidden.

A few days after Christmas we visited the slums of Cayes where Daphnie lives. She is a young girl who has come to our Renault Sunday school for many years. We don’t know exactly how old she is, but she is definitely less than 15 and this Christmas she had a baby boy.

In these and many other situations, we don’t know how to respond or what to do, but as you continue to pray and we continue to trust the Lord, we pray that He will give us the grace and strength and wisdom to do the right thing.

Thanks ,

bye for now ,

Love Rod, Debbie and Katie

The Freezing Haitian Donkey Longs To Leave The Cold 2015 Behind

Hi All:

Since it has been almost a month since I last updated you all, as I try to go early in December, to allow the patients operated on to head home for the holidays, as well as allowing for a lower inpatient census and thus less work for the staff who have to work to keep the doors open, and we usually end up going with the work team for the last 2 weeks of January, so there is a bit of a gap in updates. However, the biggest praise item is the overwhelming response to the “rice and goats fund,” has been a great encouragement to all of us, especially as this helps lessen the financial difficulties of the employees more than I had hoped. So again a huge thank you to you all who have given so generously to make this happen!

For what it is worth, a few kind souls expressed concern that they didn’t want to think that the little goat they had purchased would become a tasty treat for the holiday meal, and we tried to channel those gifts to the rice bag part of the fund that we provided for the employees. However, Dr. William says most poor people cannot afford to eat the goat, as it is too much money to be eaten and they need to keep the animal for bigger, unplanned expenses (such as a hospital procedure/surgery, paying for school costs, etc, the animal would be raised and kept for emergency costs not able to be planned for, so NOT eaten). Also, since few people can afford a refrigerator, they couldn’t keep the meat for a while and so it must be consumed in a few days, not what they financially can afford. So, rest assured that at least many of the goats will live to see another day. A bright and cheery thought for those gentle people who want to give a gift that keeps on living.

As mentioned, we are gearing up for a departure from the beastly cold arctic blast that we have been privileged to enjoy these last few days. Duane and Ruth VerKaik and Ido Kerpel will leave this weekend and get things set up for the team to come in a week from today. Ido and I have been friends for years, as we worked together in Haiti when we first came there. Ido and his wife, Henrietta, were working at Double Harvest when we first went to Haiti in 2000 and they are special friends. Ido speaks the 4 languages that I stumble through better than I, as he came from the Netherlands many years ago and thus masters Dutch, English, French and Creole to an extent that I can only hope to communicate in well enough to be understood. He also is an electrician and, having spent years in Haiti before moving to Alberta, Canada, is interested in the possibility of renewable energy sources, specifically solar energy possibilities. So, we are thankful to add his talents to our crew. Dan and the rest of the team (12 plus himself) will follow next Friday, the 16th and my brother Butch and I will come the next day, as I will stay longer than normal and need to work the Friday before I leave, especially since the blizzard has messed up plans for this Friday, the 9th. The ever ambitious team of Dan and Duane have outlined 38 projects that they would like completed during the time there, so no one will be allowed to relax too long to soak up the sunshine.

On a personal note, I have done my 3 month surveillance CT scan on the 17th of December, right after returning from the last trip and have sent it to Dr. Bartlett, my surgeon in Pittsburgh, but so far, have not heard anything as to what he thinks may need to be done with possible shadows on the scan. Other than that, I feel great and very thankful that the Lord has seen fit to see me through another year. So, after the week of surgery, I plan to drive the about 250 miles from the southwest corner of Haiti to the northeastern aspect, hopefully we can do it in 12 hours (yes, 20 mph on Haitian roads is a decent average at least for my driving, as I don’t want to take my life in my hands and jeopardize the vehicle and all involved) and meet with the people who run the surgical residency program at Cap Haitian, where Dr. Mario Forrestal graduated from the OB Gyn residency and works at our sister hospital, Bonne Fin. He has been gracious enough to volunteer to accompany Dr. William and I up there and introduce us to the proper authorities, as Haiti is always about needing appropriate connections to encourage completion of proposed projects. Pray that we will have a safe trip up and back and that we can make good progress on what the Lord would have us embark on to enable at least some of our doctors to obtain surgical certification, so they can do surgeries without the presence of myself or another of our American surgical volunteers.

Speaking about health issues, we would continue to covet your prayers for Harold and Marge (Ten Haaf) Punter, for wisdom and God’s enablement as they seek to find ways to treat his cancer. He has had 2 different rounds with some slowing down of the cancer, but as we all know, this disease is very difficult to treat and they went to the second opinion visit in Detroit and it was not as encouraging as we all had hoped. We have always been good friends, but our shared battles with cancer have drawn us closer and we try to do what we can to help the other and I have appreciated their strengthening me in my struggle and want to return the favor, of course. They have made many trips with me to Haiti to help in the work there and that has been appreciated also. We know the Lord makes no mistakes, but we both are way too human at times in our emotions and thought processes and need prayer for His direction and enablement.

On a lighter ending note, as you know, the Electronic Medical Record has been touted as the cure all for the ills of our medical system, including promising to reduce possible errors blamed on our less than perfect writing skills. The many computerized systems out there are quite complex, especially for those of us handicapped by not being computer geeks in even the remotest sense of the term. So, we get frustrated and discouraged with it all (love working in Haiti, where notes can be quite brief and one can focus on patient care for a much greater percentage of the time), but sometimes there are glitches in the system that can make us smile. I had a good discussion with a pulmonary doctor about a patient’s difficulties and a few days later received his voice activated dictation and, in reading it, was a bit puzzled at the fact that he stated that “he had spoken with Dr. 10/2 about the situation.” So, after reflection on the turn of events, it appears that he has given the Haitian Donkey a new moniker.

In His Service,

Bill and the team of 18

The Thankful Haitian Donkey enjoys a cool December

Hi All:

First of all, my apologies to all of you for the delayed communication from Haiti. John Vrooman, Beth Newton and several other people have been diligently trying to fix the system out here, but so far nothing seems to have worked. We are not sure what brought this all on. There are always more questions than answers out here in Haiti, but one likely culprit is that the USAID folks sent out a team to fix the $30,000 battery backup system they installed several years ago at the hospital. This system was to be sure their IT system could gather and send back data concerning the work done at our hospital for their outreaches, including various public health tasks. However, they now sent out a team of 8 Americans and 2 Haitians to bring the system up to date again and insure it will function for the next while. One task they stated at the beginning was that they were going to move the batteries out of the storage building we have on the 3rd story of the hospital above our lab, which is on top of our physical therapy. I had placed it there at their insistence several years ago, when we built the storage room. We had had a fairly nonprofitable discussion with them several years before that when their bank of batteries was in the waiting room for the clinic, right where all the little children could touch them with their inquisitive minds and fingers, get battery acid on their hands and clothes, etc, not what Dan, Duane and I thought was the wisest situation. But they were upset at our wishes to move it to a more safe location, a small, well ventilated space we proposed directly above on the roof, which was totally unacceptable to them at that time.

So, when USAID put the new system in, now about 2 1/2 years ago, we asked them where they wanted it and, on their instructions, put it in a secure location (as thievery admittedly is a real, continual concern in Haiti) in the storage room we built on the roof of the lab. So, Duane and I were surprised to find this team of 8 out on Monday to, among other things, move the system outside the storage room, up on the roof. I told them this seemed rather foolish, my friend Duane was a bit less wishy washy and told them that was downright foolish, which thoroughly dissuaded them from the project. They then proceeded to start the rest of their proposed 3 day project for 8 people, some of whom (especially one of the Haitians) specialized in supervision, as I never saw him lift a hand, pick up a tool or do anything ever, although I wasn’t exactly paying much attention to them except just checking on them from time to time. They were quite ill equipped for their job, having to borrow tools, screws, other equipment from Duane on a regular basis and, when we left early Saturday morning, they were hoping to get things done sometime next week? Needless to say, we both were impressed by our tax dollars hard at work, being used so profitably and efficiently. I don’t know what they would have been able to accomplish without all the tools and help Duane extended to them from time to time. (I think he, alone, could likely have done it all in a day, and he doesn’t pretend to be an electrician).  Incidentally, when we left, neither the internet, the phone system or any other IT system, including theirs, was up and working yet.
As I mentioned last time, we had a more mature group of workers on our team this time. For once, Duane and I were the young punks instead of the senior representatives.  One indication of this was the breakfast conversations at 6:40 am, things discussed were our rusty/golden years and the accompanying aches and pains. A comment I overheard one morning was quite telling. “How did you sleep?”  “Not so well, but that’s not so important at our age, what is important is that we wake up!”  Despite the creaks and crackles of bones and joints, they got a lot of work done, thanks, of course, to their Egyptian taskmaster using his Biblical mandate to keep his Israelite workers’ noses close to the grindstones. They got the revised and relocated footings done for the moving of the merchants’ stands across the road, away from the hospital gate and hopefully more “out of our hair,” and we will finish the job in January with the larger team coming then for the annual 2 week work project. Incidentally, we are still praying for a willing and able plumber to take the last spot on the team, reserved especially for them, as there is a lot of plumbing to be done and none of the rest of us have much talent in that domain. Duane, Sam and their Haitian coworkers got the top poured for the second huge hole we call the holding tank for our hospital septic system, which is now working and hooked into our drain field.
Although I have often shared the frustrations associated with the vast number of speed bumps scattered on the already pothole-filled Haitian roads, (one of the reasons that we are always thrilled when we can average 30 mph on our runs to and from the airport), I am now the instigator of them installing 3 speed bumps in front of the hospital. Several years ago, Rod Wray poured about 100 feet or so of cement onto the road that passes in front of the hospital, to reduce the tons of dust raised by the vehicles going by. This was something greatly needed, as while the first story has no windows on that side, it does have air blocks to let the heat out, which lets in the dust at the same time. Not sure which is less desirable for my patients, especially those with open wounds. This has greatly reduce the dust situation, but now the vehicles accelerate tremendously on this short strip of smooth sailing, despite the 60 degree curve it contains and, with us moving the merchants to the other side of the street to get them further away, this will increase the risk of bodily injury to those milling around the area, as personal safety seems a lower priority than it should be out here in Haiti. That project should soon be close to completion.

Duane also got the hospital washing machines up and running again, worked on the generator, which is a constant source of concern and, thanks to the other team members helping him, a lot of the shipped supplies went into their proper places for use or installation when the team arrives next month. On the trip home, Duane did express to me his amazement at the thought processes involved in a government-run power plant operating less than one mile from our hospital, but not considering it a high priority to give us more than a few hours of electricity per day (mostly during the night), when we are a charitable organization, non profit, helping thousands of their own people yearly with affordable medical care,as opposed to the socialized medicine system they have which will not give you care or even a bed to lie in until you purchase all the supplies needed, at inflated charges from their pharmacies. The actual bed is free, not much else is.

I am thankful that the feared employee meeting to discuss the “State of the Hospital” went much better than I had dreamed possible in my nightmares beforehand. The employees greatly appreciated the generosity of all of you who have contributed to the “Rice and Goat Fund.” There was a late Friday afternoon emergency surgery to remove dead tissue from an elderly lady’s buttocks. I didn’t ever understand how this started, though I am suspicious that she may have had some medicine injected with non-sterile technique somewhere, due to the location, etc.
We then managed to wrap up our efforts and had a very smooth trip back home with two of the lab machines that need repair and a variety of other supplies that need attention. This included Duane’s hammer drill that he let the Haitians use between these last two trips to dig the 16 feet down through bedrock for the septic tank hole. He couldn’t see having them pound all those feet down with their pickaxes – there IS a soft side to him, well hidden under the gruff exterior of my special friend. Not sure if it is worth trying to repair now, most equipment they use gets wiped out in the process. Finally we were delighted to rejoin our families just in time to start the 12 days of/before Christmas.

Thankfully, In His Service,

Bill, Duane, Sam, Gail and Ken for the rest of the Haiti Team

The Haitian Donkey and His Friends in December

Hi All:

We have had a very good, though at times confusing, start to the week. Duane has made numerous attempts to get the water pump going despite some enlightening experiences with the short that appears to be in the system. He finally found the offensive wire and got that fixed, now is working on the washing machines this evening, hopefully can get that sorted out also. During the evening, he and I sorted out a bunch of the material that came in the container, though still have some items we are looking for, such as light bulbs, a fairly vital element to running the hospital. He also has had to revise his plans for progress as some snags have come up, such as starting the footings to move the merchants across the road, since they obstruct the entrance to the hospital.  After he and Sam and a crew of Haitians had the footings dug and the cement poured, we ended up having to move them back to allow for interesting traffic patterns.

Gail has been trying to sort out the supplies that came into some semblance of order in the storage container here, a fairly intimidating task. Sam, as noted above, has been trying to work with a crew of Haitians on getting the footings dug and the cement put into the new spots to hold up the poles to support the roof that will be placed when the team comes in January. The spot is on a significant slope and requires a fair amount of adjustment to make the building a reality. Ken has been the chief cook and bottle washer and has tried to put wheelchairs and other equipment into some semblance of order.

Surgery has started off quite well, with 11 cases on Monday, running late into the night, but we got 4 hysterectomies done and another 3 today. Our last one was a 35 yr old lady that had a hematocrit of 18 (normal is more like 35 to 45 here) and was bleeding quite heavily.  We were stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place as getting blood is not easy under normal circumstances, but at present with the chikungunya fears going around, it is even more difficult to obtain any. In the past, I gave blood regularly, those days are gone, so we had no easy solution. We did the case very carefully, clamping and tying anything that even hinted of oozing the thin, watery blood she had to offer, and thankfully, it went well. Moise and I sweated through the case, we saved it for the end of the day, hoping that someone could find a unit of blood somewhere. I also found a 3 month old with hugely swollen knee that was not hot or painful, hard to get a good history in the best of situations, mom didn’t know anything except that “he was normal a week ago,” so took him to the OR and explored the knee, as further diagnostic options here are limited. He had almost a cup of pus in the tiny knee, so left drains and hope we can salvage that.  Had a child who fell into the cooking fire and has 30% second degree burns come in in the wee hours, the misery seems to abound. We also have a rash of cholera cases again, not sure why they are spiking in our region, but all the Doctors Without Borders temporary clinics to handle the influx are gone so we try our best to handle them ourselves. I am trying to ride out a lady trying to deliver her first baby, everyone thinks I should do a C section, but hate to do that to a young lady out here where repeat C sections are a hazard and most families want a host of children, so do my best to deliver vaginally. Most ObGyns out here will cut on almost anyone, especially if you have some money they can relieve you of.

The more I dig into Haitian finances, the more puzzled and discouraged I get, it seems. I again have started the undesirable task of getting something together in that department to present to the employees but there are more questions than answers. I spent some time on the phone with Rick Aberle, the administrator at Bonne Fin, and we both understand that fuzzy math applies here as well as in some of our schools. Bonne Fin will be reducing their over staffing situation next month, a really difficult thing to do in Haiti, and that will make our meeting more difficult, as there is little news that doesn’t spread like wildfire here, without the help of our media to fan the flame.

Most of you know my brother in law, Harold and his battle with pancreatic cancer. We have always gotten along well, especially as they have participated in the Haiti work for years, and now share the same battle with different but both nasty cancers so we support each other a lot. He has struggled with the chemotherapy and just had his last CT scan with somewhat less than encouraging results. I/we would greatly appreciate your prayers for his situation and wisdom for all involved re the further direction of treatments, etc.

So, will send this on with my December thanks for all you all do and mean to us.

In His Service,

Bill, Duane, Sam, Gail and Ken (and all the CSL Staff)

The Haitian Donkey’s Thanksgiving

Hi All:

I know it is already 10 days past Thanksgiving, but the Haitian Donkey plods a lot slower than his more quick footed counterparts.  Also, as I left Haiti only 2 weeks ago, things have been a bit hectic trying to get things done in the US before my return, both in taking care of my patients and getting things ready to take back, etc and enjoying the Thanksgiving special events. So, am just going to give you all a belated thanksgiving update.

First of all, I am thankful that, by the grace of God, I am healthy and able to do almost anything I feel that I should do on either side of the pond. I wake up each morning thankful that I am alive and that I have the strength to do what God has for me to do each day.  Although work isn’t perfect, I am very thankful that I have a job that I can enjoy, helping people as much as possible with their health. For the most part, it seems that it is a mutually beneficial arrangement, again, something to be thankful for. The vast majority of patients choose to work with us and that is a joy also, not to be forced to put up with each other, surely a detriment to proper patient care. My coworkers all are great to work with, a real blessing, and I have a host of extra mothers to replace my own, who passed away now over 30 years ago of colon cancer. They keep my nose to the grindstone, so that I can’t slack off much on work production and even less on food consumption and I appreciate them all more than they probably realize. So, I am very thankful for a good job (especially one that isn’t outside in the nasty cold and snow), good health being restored and great coworkers.

Coming to Haiti also makes me greatly appreciate the fact that my parents immigrated to the USA and I could grow up in a country where the opportunities for work and advancement were afforded me, as well as the fact that we have such food in abundance.  Thanksgiving Day was special, given my somewhat more tenuous health situation, the family get togethers are even more special and treasured each time now, and I was able to load my plate in the usual fashion and ingest it over the next 5 hours, no time for the previous year’s seconds, etc, though took the pumpkin pie my mother in law made home to savor later. Lots of tasty treats that just have to be consumed much more slowly due to the reengineered GI system, but that only spaces out the flavor for a longer period of time. It is very special that our country’s forefathers were willing to set this special time aside to thank our God for His great blessings of abundance, especially in His provision for our daily bread (and pies, stuffing and salads i.e. just so much extra).

At this time of year, I am especially thankful for the many of you who have contributed to the work here, some all throughout the year and then especially at this season, as I have tried to give something extra to our workers at the Christmas season. Many special people have given regularly to help us be able to provide a goat, greatly appreciated, and now there has been a tremendous response to the request for extra “rice and goat” funds. Thanks to your generosity, we will be able to give a large bag of rice to all our employees and a little goat to those who earn less than $100 USD per month. We were also able to take the employees and their families to Rod and Debbie Wray’s camp Saturday and let them celebrate and enjoy the various activities there. They went out there early in the morning and spent time on the water slides, in the ocean, doing a bunch of games they enjoy together as coworkers and their families. As the financial situation in Haiti grows more grim, I hope that these bonding experiences will keep us continuing to serve our Savior together despite the difficulties. Rod and Debbie and their staff also provided a plentiful and tasty lunch, which I was able to enjoy as I arrived about 3:30 in the afternoon on my way in from Port au Prince. I watched some of their games, including the apple on a string that you have to eat without using your hands. A very slim guardian managed to stretch his mouth out widely enough to catch the whole apple in it and thus could chomp it down with ease way ahead of the rest. Impressive.

I am also thankful for Dan, Duane, Jeff, Micah, Theresa, Ruth, Kim and the great number of unnamed men and women who make up the “Haiti Team,” so many of whom give generously of their time and resources to help keep the hospital going, both in fixing the ever breaking pipes, equipment and wiring, as well as in gathering and getting supplies out here. It is humbling and exciting to be a small part of God’s great plan to spread His compassion, love and gospel here in Haiti. By the grace of God, we were able to get our 8 suitcases to and through Port without much difficulty, American Airlines even allowing us the extra baggage without charge. This was previously the normal policy for missions groups, but things are not as clear since the merger with US Airways and we cannot be sure at this point that this will always happen. We arrived in Miami on time and the shuttle to the hotel arrived just as we left the airport, so we were able to get a good  night’s sleep before our 4:30 wake up to leave for Port. I can’t speak for the others, but Gail and I zonked off within minutes of hitting our beds, he didn’t accuse me of snoring but did say I was out like a light immediately. It is nice to start the week off with a good rest instead of a bit short in that department.

The five of us had a good drive from the airport. There was a fair amount of traffic again and a visible presence of the UN and other law enforcement personnel as many trucks were on the road trying to profit from Saturday having less rioting, such a counterproductive activity in a country already riddled with difficulty. There are many new holes in the already bad roads where they have burned tires in protest, trying to cripple the commercial efforts of what little business progress we have here. Duane has managed to get water going again to the places that need it, an extra thank you to him, and I was able to continue on to Rod and Debbie’s camp to spend  some time with the employees. I rode back with them in the brightly decorated bus we had hired for the occasion, thankful that that ride was only 15 miles with 17 1/2 speed bumps as we were packed in there (no rules as to numbers of passengers allowed) and my knees were at least 3 inches longer than the space behind the seat in front of me. Glad Duane didn’t come with, he has another 2 inches in that department.

So, as we start another week of service here in Haiti, I wanted to let you all know how much we thank the Lord for your laboring with us in doing God’s work here for His glory. Thank you so very much.

In His Service,

Bill, Duane, Sam, Gail and Ken