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Second Medical Team in Haiti Faces New Challenges

April 9, 2010

Second Medical Team in Haiti Faces New Challenges

April 9, 2010

April 9, 2010

Source: HCJB Global (written by Ralph Kurtenbach)

"I like challenges," commented HCJB Global's Hermann Schirmacher upon embarking on a recent trip to Haiti. Two weeks later his medical team from Ecuador recounted that their time in Port-au-Prince had handed them plenty of challenges.

Their experiences differed significantly from those of an earlier HCJB Global Hands team that helped in the earthquake zone in Haiti's capital. "It was totally different," said Dr. Eckehart Wolff, a surgeon who had returned to Haiti after several weeks. In January he had accompanied other physicians to the Baptist Haiti Mission (BHM) hospital near Port-au-Prince within 72 hours after the earthquake struck on Jan. 12.

After that team's Jan. 24 return to Ecuador, eight weeks had passed. Wolff was pleasantly surprised by how few of the nearly 400 quake victims who had undergone surgeries (conducted by his team and subsequent teams that rotated in) had encountered post-surgery complications-just a dozen or so.

"We had expected many more complications and so we were prepared to operate on those patients," Wolff said. The second team included Drs. Paul Barton, Mark Nelson, Jack Peáa and José Luis Vivanco, and Nurses Pat Dille and Kathy Jo Estes. Both Hermann and Alex evaluated reconstruction projects in and around Port-au-Prince. Five nationalities united as the Hands of Jesus on this trip.

Renewing the bridges of friendship established in January, Barton, Nelson and Wolff were warmly received by staff and patients as were their companions from Ecuador.

Another key moment occurred when the BHM surgical nurse, Madame Cafah, was presented with a fixed-tuned, solar-powered SonSet® radio by Wolff. The radio's frequencies were set to tune in four local Christian stations, including HCJB Global Voice partner Radio Lumière. One-hundred of the radios were left with grateful Haitians.

"Communication was a big issue and we depended heavily on local interpreters like Gerry, Christian and Valencia," Hermann said. "As we could not communicate directly, for us, the radios represented the voice of Jesus while we tried to be His feet and hands."

Meanwhile, Hermann and Alex traveled in and around Port-au-Prince to see potential reconstruction projects and meet with potential partners for further work. Getting anywhere in the area-was challenging, if not harrowing.

"I traveled with two Germans who were used to the Autobahn," chuckled Alex. In Haiti however, their top speed was 45 mph for a short stretch "and that was driving beyond the conditions," he said.

"The steering [of our rented vehicle] was wasted," Alex added. Nevertheless, they traveled to Titayen, where a ministry, Mission of Hope, has a new, growing, tent city and several ministries and to nearby Source Matelas.

Also, south of the capital, they distributed supplies in a poor community beyond Carrefour, Tintin. Alex described Leogane, near the quake's epicenter, as a scene of massive destruction. They also viewed what remained of rural schools and churches, and helped to set up temporary tents so that classes could resume.

Later this month, a third HCJB Global team will travel to the devastated Caribbean nation to assess possibilities for future teams to help with water projects and reconstruction.

Kathy Jo observed that Haitians injured by the quake have three critical needs: shelter from the coming rains, physical therapy and prosthetic limbs. Already, wheelchairs and crutches have been shipped in mass.

The team of medical professionals also toured two tent hospitals, and members were impressed by the international response to the crisis. The world has sent in aid, and many Haitians have responded with a spiritual awakening.

"Everywhere we went we heard reports from the missionaries that people were turning to Christ and away from voodoo," Alex said. They also witnessed the baptisms of 21 new believers at Thomassin, near the BHM hospital, during a Good Friday service. Many of them had committed their lives to Christ after the earthquake.