Haiti Medical Mission Trip to Anse du Clerc Region – Sept. 20-27, 2016
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Our journey to serve the people of Haiti by conducting medical/evangelism clinics in the region of Anse du Clerc, Haiti, began back in March of this year (2016). Martha McMinn and I had been talking about a medical missions trip for some time, but the reality of the trip was finally coming together. We were praying for God to put together a team to serve. I had just moved to The Church At Pike Road, a new church plant that was seeking to send its first group on an international mission trip. As we prayed, Haiti continued to be on our hearts as it has been for several years with previous mission trips to that country. Through much prayer, Ty Carmichael, Brandon and Katey Owens, from The Church At Pike Road, Margaret Selle, Martha’s sister from North Carolina, Martha, and myself (Eric Searcy) would make up the team. For Ty, Brandon, and Katey this would be their first mission trip to Haiti.
The anticipation of what God was going to do was rooted in daily prayer going back to when God put the team together. As we read in Romans 12:12, being faithful to pray about all things surrounding the medical/evangelism mission trip was born out of a desperation to see God work – in the lives of the people of Haiti, but also in our own hearts. Praying often each day for each team member to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” (Romans 12:1) was a constant prayer. The region of Anse du Clerc offers its challenges from sleeping in tents behind Pastor Francky’s church, the normal heat and humidity of Haiti which seems to somehow always be greater than the heat and humidity of central Alabama even in the hottest part of our summer, to the fairly strenuous hikes to reach some of the more isolated churches. The assurance of Romans 12:1 is that we would be “living” sacrifices became a reality to us, because I think we may have all wondered if it was not going to be a bit much to handle! Praying daily for the people of Haiti, as stated, was also a focus of our prayers for many months. We prayed for Haitians to be able to come to the medical clinics to receive a medical exam, we prayed that the inventory of medical supplies would be sufficient for the needs of the people and that the medicines would get through customs to be used at the clinics, we prayed for God to use the medicines to heal, we prayed for Martha and the Haitian nurses who would do the medical exams to be able to clearly discern the needs of the Haitians who would come to the clinics (this included much prayer for our interpreters who would be vital to communication), we prayed for the flow of the medical clinics so that that as many Haitians as possible could be examined and treated, and we prayed for God to save many people who recognized their need for true spiritual healing in Jesus Christ alone. Being “joyful in hope,” God answered our prayers!
We arrived in Port au Prince on Tuesday, September 20, and would spend the afternoon and evening at a hotel before flying out by small plane to Jeremie on the west end of the island. The time together in Port au Prince was much anticipated. It was the first time we were all together as a team, as Margaret lived in North Carolina was not able to meet with us until we flew out of Birmingham. We always desire and pray for unity amongst believers in Christ and we ask often for the Lord to unite the members of mission teams. Jesus was clear in John 17:20-21 when He said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The world sees the unity between believers and God (Jesus), and the unity between believers based on their unity with God, as the attractant to the gospel. God unified the team in those first hours in Port au Prince as we read and shared the Word of God and prayed for the will and work of God to be done. The closeness among the team developed quickly and that was the work of God. We sensed that God had truly placed us all right there together, on mission with Christ as He would lead us, and that our confidence for the journey ahead would not be in anything we could do, but in Christ alone (See John 15:5).
We flew to Jeremie by small plane on Wednesday, September 21. After about a 50-minute ride in vehicles, we arrived at Pastor Francky’s church, and our home for the remainder of our stay in the Anse du Clerc region. Pastor Francky’s assistant had already set up the tents and cots, so we began the task of settling in before supper. I am always amazed at the heat inside a tent in Haiti. Last year, at the same location, one of our team members measured the inside temperature of one of the tents and found the temperature to be a toasty 130 degrees, Fahrenheit! Needless to say we don’t spend much time in the tents while the sun is shining. We made sure all of our medicines and supplies for the next day were prepared (an answer to prayer was that everything went through customs with no problems and everyone had all their own personal items too!) and then we journeyed to Pastor Francky’s house across the road for supper. Pastor Francky’s wife, Evony, is a wonderful Christian lady and she is a delightful hostess and excellent cook. We would eat all our breakfast meals and suppers at Pastor Francky’s and Evony’s. That evening at supper, as at most times when we gathered to eat, we shared from the Word of God what God had been speaking to us. As another answer to our prayers, Scripture after Scripture would flow from one team member or another as God spoke through everyone to give us His Words to live by on this mission trip. We each enjoyed our personal quiet times every day, but it was when we gathered around the table, and we shared what we saw God doing, and how what He did matched perfectly with the Words He was leading us to read, that His Words came alive for us. We even shared how the community of this mission team was quickly seeming to mirror the early community of believers in Acts 2:44-47. Our focus was upon God and the other people who were on mission with you. And have you read the end of verse 47: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Would people really be saved by God? We waited upon the Lord to find out.
On Thursday, September 22, we walked down the hill (steep mountain to one like me who is older!) to Anse du Clerc and began the setup for the first medical clinic inside a Haitian clinic that was made available for us. I should note it was very meager compared to an American medical clinic, but we were thankful to the Lord for providing such a place. Pastor Francky and men from his church would register the patients and fill out cards with vital information for follow-up. Brandon and Katey would weigh everyone and be responsible for administering the worming medication. Pastor Aberyn, who spoke English and would help with translations, would assist them. Martha (she would have a Haitian interpreter) and three Haitian nurses would make all the medical examinations. Margaret would work in the pharmacy alongside a Haitian pharmacist and her interpreter’s name was John. Ty and I would set up a station for praying for everyone who came through the medical clinic and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ when we identified someone as an unbeliever. Our interpreter was named LeLe and he truly had a heart for sharing Christ, so we were very comfortable from the beginning.
The clinic proceeded along wonderfully. There were many types of sicknesses but these are some that seemed to occur often: heart pain or chest pain, stomach acid problems, many body pains in the head, neck, muscles, arms, back, knees, and legs (life for nearly all Haitians involves physical labor from a very young age), infections like the flu, asthma, goiters, headaches, stomach aches, ring worm, scabies, urinary infections, and infections in open wounds. These were fairly common at all the clinics, but became more severe in the more isolated regions we would travel to. God provided medicines for everyone and you sensed the Haitian people were thankful to be able to attend a medical clinic. Their openness to prayer was readily seen. Groups would assemble – 4 to 5 or sometimes one-on-one and sometimes a few more – for prayer and we tried to pray specifically for each request in the Name of Jesus. That often led us to tell them we had come because Jesus had sent us and would they like for us to tell why we believed in Jesus. This led right to sharing the gospel of Jesus and what He alone had done to save us. At the end of day, 150 Haitians had received a medical exam and the medicines to help them with their sickness, and one person had come to Christ! Remember Acts 2:47 about God “adding to their number daily those who were being saved.” It was happening to the glory of God!
On Friday, September 23, we returned to the clinic in Anse du Clerc for a second day. We started around 8am, which was earlier than the previous day because there was not as much organization to do to get things started. The flow was again very smooth. To God’s glory, everyone was working hard, doing their best to make sure as many as possible could be treated medically and prayed for. About 11:45 things changed suddenly. A pregnant woman had come into the clinic and she was going to have a baby – soon! The Haitian nurses sprang into action quickly. The room where Brandon and Katey labored was the “labor and delivery room.” We had eaten lunch in there the day before and even commented about what it would be like to have a baby born while we were there. Needless to say, Brandon and Katey abandoned their room, but the clinic continued. Martha just turned to everyone and said, “Ya’ll pray!” It was loud as the woman screamed in pain, and there was much loud banging against the walls. But pray we all did. Then, in a matter of 15 minutes, we heard a baby’s first cry! Oh the joy of new life coming to the earth! We were all so thankful, praising the Lord for this new baby and the mother who was safe! And very shortly, the newborn was brought out into the clinic where the clinic was still ongoing! We simply stood in awe of what God had just done in the middle of a medical clinic in Anse du Clerc! (Note: The mother and baby would leave the clinic about 2 hours after her delivery. It was a baby boy.)
That afternoon, Ty took the lead with praying for the patients and Katey joined him. Brandon and I continued with the weighing and the administration of the worming medicine. At around 3pm there had been around 150 people who had come through the clinic. But there were more waiting outside. It had been a long, hot and humid day and everyone was feeling the strain of the day. What do we do? We consulted our Haitian leaders and decided to continue the clinic. Do you remember Romans 12:1 when Paul wrote about offering our bodies as living sacrifices and that this was our true and proper worship? This was all I could think about. The mission team, along with our Haitian team members, was going to sacrifice themselves just to see more people in the clinic and to be able to pray for them and share Jesus with them. And guess what God did? It is so much like our God who entrusts us with serving others for Him. Brandon and I had finished weighing and giving out the worm medicine and I am standing listening and watching Ty and Katey pray for the people who have attended the clinic. I hear the words, “This man would like to pray to receive Christ.” I then watched as Ty prayed with the man as he was “born again” (remember we had already witnessed a natural birth earlier!) into the Kingdom of God! Oh, praise God! Because your servants were willing to labor even longer than expected, You God have shown us your goodness, mercy, grace, and love, and saved a soul before our very eyes! Thank you God! Acts 2:47 was still happening as God kept adding to those who are being saved!
On Saturday, September 24, we would travel to Donglise for the medical/evangelism clinics. This is where pastor Fayette leads his congregation and he, along with other Haitian men would help with the registration. Donglise is about a 45-minute vehicle ride from Pastor Francky’s church (our base camp) followed by almost a one-hour walk to the church. You wade across a stream 3-4 times depending on the route you take, and right before you get to the church, you climb up a steep hill. It was good to return to Donglise, having visited there last summer. This setting would be a challenge for the team because we did not have the various rooms of the clinic in Anse du Clerc to use for the nurses and other stations. Now, we would have to organize again the flow of the clinic in an open-air church setting atop a beautiful hill in Haiti. The Lord was faithful, as He always is, and the clinic began to move along at a steady pace. Martha and the Haitian nurses were truly gifted by the Lord to be able to see and identify so many illnesses. Martha felt the health of those in the Donglise area was not as good as those in Anse du Clerc. The same sicknesses were more intensified. Margaret continued to serve in the pharmacy and truly had a handle on getting medicines bagged accurately and quickly. God was using her as He had gifted her. Brandon and Katey continued to weigh and administer the worming medications. Brandon and Katey were so vital as they were on the frontline for everyone who came through the clinics. Ty and I continued to pray for each patient and their needs and to share Christ as much as possible. Brandon would come later to the evangelism station and be part of the prayers for these who face many difficulties on a daily basis. Katey too, upon completing her work at her station, would come and pray for the Haitian people, especially the young girls and women. The unity of the body was at work and at the end of the day, 10 more people had accepted Jesus as their Savior and another 150 had been treated in the clinic! Again, Acts 2:47 was happening as unworthy servants of the Most High God simply wanted more of God than anything else. As we journeyed home along the trail, making our way back to base camp after dark, we were thankful to God for what only He could do.
On Sunday, September 25, we worshipped with the church at Pastor Francky’s. It is always a beautiful sight to see and to hear, as our brothers and sisters in Christ, praise God in the Haitian language. One of the men saved in the Anse du Clerc clinic was called forward by Pastor Francky to testify before the whole church that Jesus had saved him. He did so, boldly, because Jesus was now His God. He was not ashamed of the gospel (See Romans 1:16). The music was such a delight as the youth sang praises and a group of Haitian Scouts (like our Boy Scouts) sang praises to God. I was asked by Pastor Francky to be prepared to preach during the worship service. It is very humbling to be able to share form God’s Word before our Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ. I have much respect for the way they endure so many hardships and continually serve Christ with a giving away of all they are. In preparation for the sermon, I listened carefully to Pastor Francky as he would share about the spiritually aspects of those in his church. I was led to share from Philippians 3:16 and how all our lives as followers of Jesus should be living up to what Christ has done to save us. God calls for us to live changed lives in Christ Jesus. It is the life of Christ being lived out in us so that we exhibit the holiness of the One who is Holy because we are called to be holy (See 1 Peter 1:13-16). I shared from Ephesians 4:20-32 where Paul gives instructions on how Christians are to live, and I was reminded that those instructions are for my own life. My prayer is that the church is continually strengthened as true believers are willing to allow Christ complete control over everything we say and do, and that the gospel is on display in our lives every day so that many more will turn to Jesus to save them. After our time of worship, we spent time Sunday afternoon sharing about what God had done the past few days, and then we spent time sorting through all the medicines in preparation for our final clinic on Monday. We were able to rest some and reflect personally about what God had been doing in our personal lives during this journey on mission in Haiti.
On Monday, September 26, we traveled by boat to the western tip of Haiti to the small village of LaSeringue. The boat trip takes about 50 minutes. LaSeringue is a very poor area according to Pastor Francky. We traveled there last year and it is still a very difficult place. There is no safe fresh water for drinking in LaSeringue so people to do get sick and die from contaminated water. The church in LaSeringue is fairly new and Pastor Guy is their shepherd. The clinic would once again be in the church and many were waiting when we arrived. The starting time for the clinic was later because of the boat trip so there was some concern about whether we would be able to see everyone before we had to leave in time to travel back to Anse du Clerc before dark. We prayed over the people who had gathered, and the last clinic of the mission trip had begun. As anticipated, Martha felt the conditions and sicknesses of the people where intensified in LaSeringue. They were largely the same as in the other locations, but they were more severe. Martha and the nurses worked diligently to see patients as quickly as possible. Margaret was constantly filling prescriptions in the pharmacy. Brandon and Ty were the frontline workers for weights and giving the worm medication. Katey, LeLe, and myself began to pray for the medical needs of the patients and to seek opportunities to share Jesus. The clinic was moving quickly and no one even considered letting up. Before we knew it, it was way after our normal time to break for a quick snack for lunch, so we just continued to serve. Pastor Francky had told us the clinic must end by 3 o’clock in order for us to make the boat trip back to Anse du Clerc before dark with some time built in for the unexpected. Shortly after 2 o’clock every patient had been seen and we were packed up waiting on a thunderstorm to pass over. Again, almost 150 had been seen in the clinic and four more Haitians had given their lives to Jesus! It was amazing what God had done! We would make our way back to Anse du Clerc in a boat like the fishermen of the Bible who had just seen a miraculous catch of fish – yes Jesus, you have called us be fishers of men and God you have done just that to your glory!
Our time in Haiti was drawing to a close again. We all close our eyes and see the faces, we hear the sounds, we smell the fires burning, and we know that God is at work in that beautiful country. Today is Tuesday, October 4. A hurricane by the name of Matthew has hit the nation of Haiti and this time the storm struck directly Jeremie, the region of Anse du Clerc, and places like LaSeringue and Donglise. Our hearts are heavy today as we wait to here every little piece of news about what has happened where we were a week ago today. We have prayed constantly for days for God to be merciful and lesson the storm’s damage (“be patient in affliction” – Romans 12:12). We are praying for lives to be spared from the effects of the hurricane. But this we are certain of. God is in Haiti and He is at work! We saw what only God could do as more came through the clinics than we could ever imagine. There are sixteen new believers in Haiti that God saved! They do not have to fear a hurricane or anything else in this life on earth. Their home is now in heaven with the Creator of heaven and earth, the One true God, the God who has control over the storms in this life. They, like all believers, can find peace and comfort in the storm because the very Presence of God is with them. So, though the hour we live in may seem uncertain for many of our brothers and sisters in Haiti, there is certainty in our hearts because we know that our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is alive and because He lives, we too, shall live!