"So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." Galatians 6:10
[Beloved, the following is an article I wrote during my recent mission trip to Haiti. I pray that it will give you some insight into what still goes on there and that it will move you to pray for those still in harms way as well as those who leave the comforts of home to minister to them.]
Brought along primarily as a photographer to document the International American Medical Mission’s mission to Haiti, I also happen to be the minister of the O’Fallon church of Christ. It was this capacity that sparked the most meaningful moment I experienced while in this destitute country.
There was a young lady that grabbed my attention as I made my photographic rounds. She caught my eye because she couldn’t have been more than a few days old. As I moved in to capture her receiving care in one of the tents in which patients were being seen, Dr. Charles Woodridge pointedly asked, “Are you going to take a picture of a baby we haven’t even helped yet?” “Yes,” I replied. “That is what I’m here for. My job is to capture the process of us providing help.” With a look of grave concern overtaking his eyes, he said in a quiet but direct manner, “What you need to be doing is praying.” I put down the camera, gathered everyone who was close and sought the face of God on behalf of the infant whose name turned out to be Rosemita.
It turns out that Rosemita had been born just 20 hours before that moment. She was born to two parents in their home. Her mother had received neither pre nor post natal care and Dr. Woodridge was the first physician the newborn had ever seen. We further learned from interpreters who volunteered to work with the mission that she was born after just 7 months of gestation. And now Rosemita was in trouble. She would not take the breast and had therefore not eaten since she was born. Further, the temperature was somewhere in the mid-90s that day and the baby was showing signs of heat exhaustion. Other challenges included a heart rate of 200 and a glucose level in the 30s.
In later conversations, I learned that Dr. Woodridge is a very happy go lucky guy who is constantly laughing, joking and trying to bring smiles to the lives of others. But I also learned that when he is serious about something, he is dead serious and he is serious about children. In fact, he refuses to see adults on the mission unless it is an emergency. There were other physicians and caregivers along for that. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he had seen a lot of death and was not in any way interested in adding to the number he had seen by way of this precious little lady. He said, “Every time I see one of these little ones die, it takes a chunk out of me and when that chunk is gone, it’s gone.” So we prayed with everything we had.
After the amen, Dr. Woodridge started directing traffic around the baby even while he held her in his hands (she was not yet big enough to be held in arms). He called for Leonardo Gilbert, Founding Director of IAMM, to do whatever it took to get an ambulance, a car or even a donkey to get the little one to the hospital because there was a very real possibility that she could die. Bro. Gilbert, also minister of the Sheldon Heights Church of Christ in Chicago, IL, immediately moved into action, pulling together local administrators and interpreters to make things happen.
Meanwhile, the doctor called for a glucose drip, formula or anything that could be safely given to the baby to feed her. Of course no such luxuries are available in Source-Metalas, Haiti. It is an area so poor that it is not a matter of not having hot and cold running water, but that the water has to be retrieved by the bucket from a questionable source half a mile away over rocky and desert like terrain. Two young ladies could be seen making this journey over and over again throughout the day to fill tanks inside the orphanage that hosted us. It is estimated that a full bucket, which they balanced perfectly on their heads, weighed 35-40 lbs.
Very quickly, members of the pharmacy team provided a syringe and some clean water in which sugar had been dissolved. Within 5 minutes of our fervent prayer, Rosemita received her first meal of about 10 CCs of sugar water at the hand of Dr. Woodridge. The baby’s suckle reflex kicked in and she was finally eating.
This is just one of the many stories that happened on day one of the five day mission. IAMM has been coming to Haiti every year since the earthquake, some six years now. The mission provides similar services in Jamaica. Each time, we work in concert with local churches of Christ and base ourselves in orphanages where the need is often most acute. From this base, local communities are served, often reaching into the hundreds per day. A team of volunteer doctors, nurses, ministers, pharmacists, administrators and coordinators leave the comforts of home at their own expense to “go unto all nations” and do the work of the Lord.
We do not know the end of the story for Rosemita. Our best hope and prayers are that she will grow into a wonderfully healthy young lady who lives a long and prosperous life. However, in a country as challenged as Haiti is, one never knows. The truth is, we rarely know how things turn out with the people that are served. But we do know that we have done what God has called, equipped and gifted us to do and that is to serve. And at the moment of service, the people’s gratitude, that of our brothers and sisters in Christ, is overflowing. They wear their Sunday best to see the doctors and offer the best they have: their thanks.
By the end of the day as we began to lose light and therefore shut down operations, an ambulance finally arrived. It was through a phalanx of handclaps and cheers that the parents of Rosemita climbed into the ambulance, a family who left with more hope than that with which they arrived. Bro. Gilbert, as he always does, came through once again, making sure that the process works, that the resources are utilized to their fullest extent and that everyone is placed where they can do the most good.
As for Dr. Woodridge, he was not at the ambulance with everyone else. He was still in his tent taking care of one last little one as the light dipped below the mountains to the west.
More information can be found about IAMM at www.iammonline.net. To support IAMM, contact Ardana McFerren at 773.609.IAMM or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.