Howdy (Sorry, my Aggie comes out every now and then), and happy Singles Awareness Day!
First off, apologies for not writing for almost a week. We had a medical team on the Live Beyond base and internet bandwidth was kind of sketchy from time to time. Plus, it already seems as though the days are running together. I don't want to completely recap everything that has happened since my last post; that would not be possible, but I'd like to share some things that have stood out to me.
I must say, whenever I was planning my first trip to the Philippines with Bro. Danny Weddle, some of the women in our congregation at Sturgis made me terrified of these "things" called scabies. As we sat at an incredible, country cooked buffet in Jackson, TN, with fried chicken stimulating my scent glands and sweet tea (which I have not had since Dec. 31, 2012) stimulating my taste buds, I was enlightened about these tiny little bugs that crawl under your skin. Now these bugs.. "they itch.. they itch realllll bad," but the itching is not from the bugs themselves, but from their feces in your skin. Anyhow, traumatized, I decided I would do whatever possible to avoid getting scabies.
Traveling to the Philippines three times, I was doing pretty good about avoiding these disgusting mites, that is until I came to Haiti. Up until coming to Live Beyond, I had never been a part of a medical mission per se, other than bringing supplies to Tacloban City after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Therefore, I had not really experienced, or been able to notice/diagnose things like scabies. All that changed on Tuesday.
As we embarked with our caravan of medical personnel up the looong and dusty road up the mountains near Thomazeau with the windows down, because the AC was not doing its job, the dust was in our eyes, our lungs, everywhere. The children smiled and waved at us as we passed them; some chased the trucks with laughter. Each smile a child sends my way causes me to feel like a listener to Peter on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2; it's a prick to the heart. *Pontification:* It amazes me each and every time I see a child, with little hope for a future, get so excited to see a blanc person or to simply get to greet and wave at someone new. Then, I see the animals, worked ragged and looking awful, the men often resting from the sun or laboring in the fields. I then remember, with the constant breeze filled with smoke or dust, the innocence of a child. It's then I know why I do what I do.. I have put away childish things, became a man (I Cor. 13:11), and decided to make a difference so others can have the opportunity to BE a child!
*Pontification Cont'd:* When these children are smiling and waiving it is because they want to find that childhood. These barefoot youth are walking miles per day gathering water and taking animals to get drinks, just so their family can survive. If they are fortunate enough to be able to afford the "free" education, they go to school 5 hours/day, rotating work (i.e. primary kids work in the AM and go to school in the PM; vice versa with secondary). For others, it is work all day long. There isn't a childhood for these innocent toilers of the land. I believe they deserve the right and OPPORTUNITY to be children! *Pontification Ended*
Nonetheless, we arrive at the school in the mountains to treat the students. The school consists of a halfway run-down concrete building (shamefully about the size of my apartment) with a small dirt area in the center and open classrooms on either side. Paige and I decided we would try to get involved, so we wander around until we find a room that is not for doctors only. We sit down, taking instructions from Laurie Vanderpool, Dr. V's wife, on what to look for and what to apply for different things on children. We were treating children who said they were itching; this meant either scabies, ringworms, or maybe just an itch.
For the next couple, few, I honestly don't know how many, hours we treated children. We washed their dry, infected scalps with green anti-fungal shampoo, cleaned their infected areas, and applied permethrin, anti-itch, or whatever was needed. My avoidance of scabies was no longer existent. As I pondered the life of a child and the difference we could make, I said "forget you" to scabies and took the risk in order to make a child know that someone cared about them.
Sometimes a child would come in and there may be nothing wrong with them except they're itching. So we would give them some itch cream and send them on their way. Other cases, children would have scabies sores from their feet up their thighs. I'd look into their helpless eyes, feeling helpless myself. I wanted so much to cure them of their mite infestation, but I could only attempt to treat it and hope for the best. For the first half of the onslaught of children coming in like cattle running for the feed bunk, I had no way to know how to ask the kids where they were itching. A lot of times the confrontation resulted in an awkward exchange of basic greetings, smiles, and me pointing until I guessed right (sometimes they nodded a yes everywhere because they too were confused). Later, I learned "kote," or "where." It is amazing how one word can make all the difference. Previously, I mentioned non-verbal communication, but this proves how important individual words can be in communication; in helping someone, either spiritually or physically. One word, or the way we use it, can determine whether we find something like a scabies rash/scab area, or whether someone chooses to accept or reject the Gospel. Let's choose our communication wisely.
Through the whole clinic I saw so many heartbreaking things. I saw a small boy with a massive 3rd degree burn, scabies that resulted in bloody scabs that forced tears through sorrowful eyes, or gashes from parental beatings. I used what few Creole words I could to communicate, and I joked with the kids making many of them smile and "enjoy" their time with someone who cares about them. For those who had nothing left in them to muster a smile, I sat in starstruck shame and helplessness, knowing I could not imagine this child's (or the child next to him/her's) story. Needless to say, my fear of scabies (except when I itch in paranoia at night) was overcome through a conscious effort to move more toward "none of self and all of Thee." I can say this: "I stand forever changed by scabies."
We had a medical team come in on the 7th and stay through today (14th). I met a lot of great individuals with great hearts for helping people. I remember something a professor of mine, Dr. Piña, discussed with me; listen. Don't get me wrong, if you know me, you know I love to tell stories of "adventures," but I sat back and listened to each person; why they were in Haiti, what their motivation was, etc. Sometimes it was expected, other times not so much, but it was great to hear the stories of those who were being a part of helping the Haitian people. We are many sparks of the same fire.
One of the best experiences, that I plan to continuously enjoy while I am here, was visiting the orphanage in Thomazeau. I can't tell you much because of the law and their safety, but I was extremely blessed by one young boy who reached out to me (thought it was supposed to be the other way around). I plan to visit there as much as possible when I'm not working.
On a side note, during the tenure of the medical team's visit I was also able to receive acupuncture therapy from Daniel, an acupuncturist in Austin. Hopefully in a few days my sinus and allergies will be better. I won't go into detail, but it was awesome!
Another day, I found a boy on the mountain who spoke just a little English. Our conversation resulted in a long, sweaty, dusty walk from the school, before turning around. As we spoke in broken English I asked him about his family, his food, agriculture, and anything that came up. Strangely enough this boy decided that I was beautiful and that he loved me. Assuming it was a cross cultural mistranslation, I didn't let it phase me.. then or the next two or three times. Nonetheless, he was a nice boy.
A quick agricultural summary: We have planted coconuts at Live Beyond, we (mainly Paige) are working on Avocado propagation, Moringa propagation, and several other things. We are also looking at some educational and experimental options.
At current, I am sitting in the guest house at Christianville, the campus of FISH Ministries in Gressier (a few hours from Thomazeau). We will be here this weekend observing their agricultural production facilities and agricultural and extension education programs. I look forward to the long weekend ahead of us, and seeing what God reveals via agriculture to reach souls for His Kingdom.
"Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!"
God bless you!
PS: Sorry for not having pictures.. I'll try to have some in the next post.