The Straggling Haitian Donkey’s Struggles

Hi All:

Not sure how well this will go, but will try to give you all a brief update on yesterday’s meeting with Dr. Bartlett. As most of you know, I have adopted the Haitian Donkey as my moniker as seeing them struggle along the paths in Haiti under sometimes overwhelming loads on their scrawny legs reminds me that I, too, must at times be led down paths by my Lord that I do not understand, though He does promise to help us as we “take My yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Sometimes, like that donkey, I am somewhat bewildered as to where we are going with our burden and load, as well as the purpose of this journey.

At present, honestly, I believe that in my head, but my heart is struggling a bit. On the 2nd of April, I had my 4th CT scan since surgery, a regularly scheduled 3 month plan. I did it 8 days before my scheduled yearly checkup with Dr. Bartlett, at the University of Pittsburgh, as, after surgery, he said he wanted to see me in a year, but read each of my quarterly CT scans and would call me with his reading and plans. So, we headed down to Pittsburgh on the 9th and saw him early yesterday morning. The reading of the scans have always been negative except for some lymph fluid accumulating in the right groin area, which he felt was just reaction to the extensive surgery he had done to me. In December, I developed a small right inguinal hernia (I had a left one fixed in the 90s), nothing troubling, but maybe indicative of some mild pressure developing in my abdomen, but the CT scan in January was read as negative, so that was reassuring (of course, they are only shadows of the real thing, though helpful, of course). However, my CT scan on the 2nd of April had new, troublesome spots in the left groin area in addition to the old spots in the right side, felt consistent with recurrent cancer, so I was eager to know what Dr. Bartlett would think of this at my scheduled check. He, likewise, is troubled and proposed that we do one of the only 3 options, sit and watch, do more chemo or explore the abdomen again. I had considered the options a bit beforehand, but to suddenly have to make a decision on the spot was another struggle, but both Karen and I opted to be definitive and at least look inside, see what really had come back in 13 months (as the original cancer was listed as quite aggressive on pathology) and then reconsider the options.

Thus, I am scheduled to return to Pittsburgh on the 7th of May to undergo a repeat marathon surgery on the 9th with a lot of questions as to what the future will hold after that exploration. A number of things will have to be decided, possibly changed or rearranged, depending on the outcome of that surgery, but we greatly appreciate your continued prayer for God’s leading, encouragement, peace and strength as we face this somewhat puzzling (to us at least) turn in the path we are traveling on. The thought of being laid wide open again and not having a clue what will be left of me when the team gets done with me again, plus the discomfort of a “belly burn” caused by the 2 hours of cooked chemo in my insides, is a bit daunting. Also, since I don’t tolerate narcotics well, as far as not sleeping with them on board, will have to go carefully in that regard, balancing pain control with my desire to get some sleep (and believing that that is important to the healing process).

I am planning on going to Haiti on the 26th of April, with Jeff Berkompas and his parents, as well as Kevin Harlett, who will repair and maintain a number of projects, as well as overhaul and hopefully get #1 generator up and running, a major struggle we hope to resolve that week. I will head to Pittsburgh the next Wednesday for the bowel prep on Thursday and surgery early Friday morning. I will try to get all my commitments for procedures done in the office, etc, done before that, Lord willing, though some rescheduling will be required. So, appreciate prayer for wisdom in resolving all these plans in a way that is pleasing to our Lord and the people involved. As we stand before the season when we remember His great sacrifice and suffering for our salvation, may we remember again that we are to reckon (He didn’t say it would be easy or natural, just that we have to reckon it) Rom 8:18 that ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Once again, my apologies for tossing out a bunch of somewhat jumbled thoughts quickly, but wanted to let you know what has developed in the last few days and appreciate your faithful prayer for wisdom, strength and direction from the Lord.

 In Him,

Bill, Karen, Rachel, James and Jenn

Myrlande the missionary

Hello friends and family;

These first three months of 2014 have been an amazing time of ministry for us and we would like to thank the many teams and visitors who have worked together with us. There is a young lady named Myrlande who works together with us in every area of ministry and we would like for you to meet her. (if you haven’t already met her).

 

When we moved to Haiti back in 2003, Myrlande was about 20 years old and she quickly became our daughter Christie’s best Haitian friend. Ever since then Myrlande has been a great friend of our family and even before she finished school, she started working together with us in ministry. Myrlande has worked alongside of Deb in the wedding ministry since we began doing weddings. Myrlande is up early preparing the food for the reception and then she quickly changes and is the chief wedding dress fitter and then she helps Deb with the reception.

   

 

Myrlande is the director of the Camp, so each week when we have camp, she helps Deb organize the food and then supervises the kitchen. Myrlande also directs all the services and leads the worship and joins in all the different games and activities.

   

For medical clinics, Myrlande has worked as a pharmacy helper for many years. She gives the patients their medications and explains how many pills to take and how often to take them. Myrlande always deals with the Haitian people in a loving, kind manner. Katie translated at the medical clinics this year. Myrlande is also the leader of the Renault Sunday school program

    We are very thankful to the Lord for sending us such a faithful, talented and yet very humble partner in ministry such as Myrlande. We would appreciate your prayers for Myrlande as she continues to offer her life to the Lord in His service. Myrlande truly is a missionary to the Haitian people.

Thanks, bye for now,

 Rod and Debbie

 

A Disappointed/Sadder Donkey Heads Home Again

Hi All:

This update is a bit late for a variety of reasons. Partially, it is because the head is still not clear about what exactly is, has and should happen on the scene in Haiti. As that is about as inexact as it could be, this is part of the reason I have waited to write what is going on, so as not to state things inappropriately, etc. So, understand that what I am sharing as prayer requests come out of a mind that has not really been able to sort things out properly but definitely need the Lord’s wisdom and direction as to proceeding.

First of all, the Mardi Gras week went by fairly nicely, we only had a few assaults and injuries from the area, thankfully. On the trip back home, we left early to be sure we didn’t arrive at the airport too late with any possible revelers in the streets slowing us down. At about 3 am and again about a half hour later, we ran into two drunken groups that were spilling into the streets and we had to carefully proceed, as we didn’t want to stop and have the vehicle trashed by the out of control crowd, yet we wouldn’t want to hit any either. That was the first disappointment, seeing the depravity of man so evident. The majority of the people have hardly enough to feed themselves, yet having a party that still goes on in the wee hours 4 days after the main event is over with only negative results possible at that time of the day/night and week seems so senseless and sad. But, we were glad to make it back to the airport and on our way.

As I have shared in the past, we have struggled to make some sense out of the financial situation with USAID and the administrator in charge of the funds for both our hospital and Bonne Fin, as things have deteriorated steadily over the last few years. I have tried quite diligently, with the help of my coworkers, to try to bring this to some semblance of order since early December, as the MSH group (the Haitian people hired by USAID to administrate the program in Haiti for them) were passing off the scene and another group, called Pathfinder, possibly would take over, but they would reduce the number of programs by 50% in the attempts to pass the workload and costs to the country, rather than always funding it, at least in principle. I have tried to contact the person (a Haitian pastor) on numerous occasions, we scheduled meetings with the MEBSH authorities (also all pastors) who are in charge of this program, as well as our two hospitals, the schools, the nursing schools (2) and the medical school from which my 5 doctors graduated, but could never come to any understanding of where the funds have gone, to the tune of over $100,000 USD for our hospital program alone, more for the other hospital, if I understood it correctly. On the March trip, we again tried to set up a meeting when this individual would be able to bring facts and checks, bills, etc and try to figure out where the missing funds are. The only time he could make it was 4 pm on Friday, not the greatest for me as we leave at 1 am on Saturday and there are a number of loose ends I would like to wrap up, but this is an important issue, so we of course came. About 33 of our employees are engaged in these preventative health measures and paid by USAID in working with AIDS, TB, vaccination programs, etc. However, he was a no show, so nothing could be sorted out again. I find this very discouraging, as, of all people, our pastors should attempt to be blameless, as exhorted in I Tim 3:2 and in several other places. It seems less and less likely that this will be cleared up, let alone proceed in the future on such shaky ground.

Also, as many of you know, since 2004, I have been training my Haitian doctors to be able to continue the work of CSL, should I no longer be able to continue, and specifically working with especially Drs. Moise and William to teach them surgery in the hopes that they could be accredited in some fashion by the government and continue doing surgeries when I am not there as they are capable. They have done over 4,000 cases thus far, mostly with me, but now with an increasing number of other surgeons, so they have learned other techniques to broaden their armamentarium, as we all did in our surgical residencies. A year ago, Dr. Luke Channer and Beth Newton met with one of the main governmental authorities who is symphathetic to our cause, but she suggested that I set up a surgical residency program as there are only 2 programs in the country, both in Port.  As I could not attend the meeting due to my surgery in Pittsburgh, I didn’t consider this an option, as my long range plans have to be tempered by the prognosis I carry. However, today is the one year anniversary of my 15 hour marathon surgery (not a marathon for me, technically, as I slept through it all, but certainly for the 4 surgeons diligently picking out tumors from my abdomen and doing other questionable deeds to my insides, plus for my faithful family, who have really kept me going in the days immediately afterwards and the year that has followed) and we are prayerfully considering this as the (apparently) only viable alternative. Since this would be a 4 year program and would have to be combined with our sister hospital, Bonne Fin, we are slowly and prayerfully proceeding, asking God for wisdom to not do something unwise or not in His plans for us or the hospital/doctors involved. With the addition of several younger, energetic US surgeons to help me, I am hopeful that the program could begin soon and, in God’s time, be carried out, if He so wills. So, join me in prayer for guidance, remembering that John 15:4 says, “Abide in Me, for without Me, you can do NOTHING.” There is a lot to be sorted out and arranged yet, if this even is to proceed, but we are making careful steps forward.

Another sad item to share is that many of you have heard of my sister Marge and husband Harold, who have also helped a lot with the work in Haiti, as well as coming down with a team yearly to help out with projects there. They were the recipients of the “Montezuma’s Revenge,” struggles in their trip in December, from which all have recovered well. However, he has had increasing amounts of back pain, Xrays that I did in January were not out of the ordinary for our age (he is 6 yrs younger than I), so when the pain did not respond, we did a CT scan of his abdomen while I was in Haiti with my family and the Hordyks. The results have shown advanced cancer of the pancreas with spread to the liver, thus unresectable, at least at this stage. He has had increasing amounts of pain and we have started chemotherapy in hopes of slowing it down, but this has been the most significant of the discouraging notes I have to share with you. As you know, my prognosis was about as dismal a year ago and I praise the Lord that I am doing as well as I am and am praying the same for my brother (in law, also Theresa, my office nurse and a great assistant to the work in Haiti both in the US and there on her trips there, is his sister). Our Lord is able to “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. (So) Unto Him be the glory.” Eph 3:20-1. We know we have a glorious eternity, thanks to our Lord, but also pray that we will be faithful to Him in the days and months He chooses to give us to serve Him on this earth.

In His Humble Service,

Bill and crew

The Skinny Haitian Donkey and Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”)

Hi All:

 We are now fully in the swing of things here, the partygoers, the revellings in things not so good (from my standpoint, at least) and the other negative things that go along with this all. Sunday, there were a bunch of patients coming in before the holiday (I didn’t know that the government shuts down for 3 days to “properly celebrate” the holiday, this means a day or two to prepare, the Tuesday to waste oneself and then Ash Wednesday to recuperate, is  what Dr. Sony informed me while we were operating together today). The patients wanted to get care before all got shut down, as these are government mandated holidays. We had a bunch of patients to see in the emergency room, in the clinic and inpatients. At present, every hospital bed is taken and will try to move some out in the morning to make room for more patients, both surgical and otherwise. Other than that, the hospital is running well, we had 4 hysterectomies and a ruptured appendix and a number of other cases for a total of 13 on Monday, Tuesday was about the same, though the clinic was closed except to emergencies, to allow our employees off that holiday, though we ran the OR like normal, with 5 hysterectomies and a couple hernias and a smattering of smaller cases. Just before noon, the painters came up to me to tell me that they were running low on paint (they really fly with the sprayer, don’t want to slow them down) and could I get some more from the store? Fortunately, the desire to gain money was greater than the desire to party for the storekeeper, who graciously opened up the store and sold me 15 gallons of paint to keep things going.

However, a negative side of the partygoers is that, in addition to the roadblocks to collect money for the village celebrations, some others took things into their own hands and while Dr. William and I (and 4 of his 5 boys) were sitting together in Simon church on Sunday, some thieves broke into his house and helped themselves to the little amount of money he had on hand and other items, including his camera. On questioning, the neighbors said they didn’t hear any barking, so makes one wonder if the thief was known to the dogs? It was a great discouragement to him, plus the feelings we seem to have when someone takes stuff from us without our permission, stealing seems like such an invasion of our personal space and life. He filed a police report, but who knows what will become of it, likely not much. The police are also out celebrating, from the looks of it. The upstairs has some walls on it and beams for the ceiling, but no roof and no bars for the windows, so the thieves had little trouble entering through the partially closed off stairway inside the building. We hope that things can be locked up better in the near future.

We had a meeting in the house I stay in (which doubles as an office to meet in, as well as a number of other functions) but the critter infestation was nasty. It took a bit to figure out why, but Beth found out that the screens on the back porch had been removed for painting and not replaced, so the lights on for the meeting were an open invitation to come and partake of our veins for a meal. I put them in and will try to caulk around them if I can find some. It has been raining a lot at night (and some during the day, slowing down the painters a little bit at times) but I must admit I am oblivious to this all, as putting my head down on the pillow means the lights all go out in the room as well as my brain. Plus, the new roof and insulation seem to really make the rain hardly noticeable. I really appreciate the improvements to our housing situation and am thankful to the team members who did such a great job on the building. Thanks to you all!

Today, Ash Wednesday, things have been a bit slower as it still is a holiday, with only a few injuries from the festivities so far. I do have a number of stomach/abdominal pains, that is to be expected with who knows what went down the hatch in the incapacitated state. I ended up taking a second leg off a 91 yo who had gangrene of his foot, it was a difficult decision for both of us as I was reluctant to further handicap this elderly gentleman in a handicap unfriendly country, but the options were not great. William had debrided his necrotic toe a couple weeks ago, that is not healing and when I cut across his leg, none of the arteries even bled as they were so clogged with cholesterol plaque. Few Haitians make it to 91, he is quite spry and we wanted to give it a try.

The painters have sprayed the roofs and the rest of the edges of the administration building, as well as the two containers and the space between them next to where I sleep, it looks great and should protect the metal for years to come. They plan to do the container and spaces down by the hostel tomorrow and work on some of the worn spots of the hospital, as they seem to have made it a personal job to make things look up to par here and it looks great. I have never worked with a paint sprayer, but it beats the brush method out here in the open spaces. However, the paint that misses the mark or over sprays leave interesting patterns on the painters and the onlookers, who we have warned repeatedly to keep their distance, but curiosity is a bit dangerous to one’s appearance. We don’t want to wreck their clothing, but they insist on getting their faces as close to the topic as possible.  I may need to make another paint run if they keep flying as much as they are, fortunately the store is only a few miles up the road, about a 15 minute trip one way, so not bad.

Once again, thanks for your prayers and support of our service for Him here in warm Haiti,

Bill, John and Mark

Exciting changes at Camp Mahanaim

Hello friends;

These past two weeks have brought about some very exciting changes here at Camp Mahanaim. Last week, all 29 of the 75 foot long trusses were built, using a total of about 10,000 special screws.

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This week the team from Lamar Construction in Grand Rapids Michigan came and built the roof of the gymnasium.

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In spite of mechanical problems with the rented crane, all the trusses were installed in two days. By the end of the 4th day, the 2 layers of decking and 3rd layer of tin were completed.

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The almost completed gymnasium

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We have another children’s camp scheduled for next week, so we are thankful that the gym is able to be used now and we hope to get the windows installed and remaining work completed soon.

We would like to thank each and every person who has prayed and contributed to this gymnasium project. Thanks to everybody who has come and worked on this project. It truly has been a team effort. We especially thank the Lord for His protection and guidance as we have worked on this high gymnasium.

Thanks, bye for now,

Love Rod, Debbie , Tim and Katie