We are so thankful to have faithful partners and so many of you who actually read our updates! (We don't take that for granted; we have full email boxes, too!)
Three nights ago, we had a tragic incident in our quiet town of La Gonave. There was a ruckus between some reportedly drunken young men and police outside of the soccer stadium where we've been having a big high school tournament. Gunshots were fired and two young boys, who were simply hanging out at the community faucets, were hit. A 15-year-old died shortly after arriving at the hospital and the other, 8-years-old, was shot through the head as of yesterday morning and is amazingly still alive and looking around, though not talking or using his arms and legs. We airlifted him to a larger facility on the mainland and we don't know of his current condition. Please pray for this child and the families in our community. Pray that local leaders and churches would act justly and speak peace into the situation so that vigilantism, so common in this country, would not be seen as the only path to justice.
On the hospital front, we are making some headway. Dr. Junior is not back yet, but he is wanting to return and I hope that we can offer him a temporary position starting next month (when the delayed Compassion check-up program starts and takes three of our doctors away for 10 weeks). We actually have commitments from some churches and individuals now to help boost the doctors' salaries. Our goal is to supplement the approximately $1750/mo. total that the hospital pays out to our four doctors with an additional $1000/mo. Donations can be made into the Global Partners Health Network Training of Nationals fund and designated for La Gonave hospital doctors' salary support in the comments box or on your check.
Also, Bob has been communicating with many people in regard to replacing our old, presently defunct (for the past three months) x-ray machine and digital processor. This is a costly venture (probably $30,000-$40,000) but would be a huge step forward for us. If you would like to contribute to this fund (or know others who may desire to do so), donations can be made at the Global Partners Health Network general fund; this time designate the gift to La Gonave X-ray fund. I'm sorry to throw out so many needs at once, but it's just where we're at for now.
On the other hand, good things are happening, too. The hospital has been vital in serving many women in life-threatening obstretric situations in the past months and we have had many patients with severe TB infections that have responded well to treatment. A man whose family has been committed to voodoo practices came down from the mountains with severe swelling and breathing difficulties, unable to be helped by the local voodoo priest. He received successful treatment at the hospital, and when he returned to his village he gave his life to Jesus. Surgical and medical teams have been great, including one group that is starting a new, ongoing hypertension treatment program, in three towns far away from us, that we hope can be a model for other groups coming to the island. And the Haitian Wesleyan Church, the body that oversees the work at the hospital here, is having its national meeting this week with people very hopeful and thankful for dedicated upcoming leadership. Thank you again for being with us in this work. We love hearing from you and being able to pray for you as well, so keep your comments coming!
We praise God for a great surgical week with doctors Chamberlain and Hunter and especially for Dr. Chamberlain’s health (recovering from two surgeries himself)! We also praise God for a hard-working team in the Scott Wright group that is doing amazing renovation at the old hospital with Greg Edmondson--our new full time person coordinating travel for teams and work teams.
Please pray for Dr. Junior who is negotiating with director Daniel, and for director Daniel too. Dr. Junior needs to decide what God is calling him to—whether to stay here or try to make a better living somewhere else. (People do need a living wage for housing, to marry, and start a family, and if you’ve gone to school for all those years & then become a doctor, maybe you should be able to expect to make a decent living?)The Social service year is ending soon too, and that means we may lose two more of our really good doctors unless some money to hire them comes from an unseen source. We are also about to start the season for Compassion physicals and sending out mobile doctors and nurses to do them. All these things are huge for us!
Lately we have been thinking a lot about money and resources. In fact, being in Haiti has made us think more about money and resources than we ever have before. Most often it is because we are thinking about people who need these things and don’t have them or how thankful we are that we do have enough to buy food or clothes or medications or to pay rent or have the choice to fly home periodically.
As we’ve mentioned before, DAILY we are faced with amazing need. Some days it is at the hospital with malnourished adults or children, people with tuberculosis, those who don’t want to come to the clinic or be admitted to the hospital because they “don’t have the means.” Some days it is in the street or with friends who stop us to ask if we could give them a little something to help pay for school supplies or tuition or shoes or give them a little rice and beans and oil to cook for their family. Some days it is someone asking for work or wanting to sell some fruit so that they can buy a school book or showing us some fish or lobster they have caught or bought. Sometimes they want to talk about bigger things like the need for a new roof or cement to patch their house or to build one.
We have experienced life with much generosity, never really being in need, always living in places where work was available. And we consider it a privilege to be a link, to connect people with need and helping projects here with people who want to help and resources that can make a big difference. At any one time there are so many opportunities.
This past month we were thankful to be able to:
• Purchase formula for infants whose mothers have died in childbirth
• Hire local women to cook or sew or shop at the market or men to do yard work so that they can send their kids to school or buy food for their families
• Send moms with sick children to the clinic with notes so that they would be seen without the $4 clinic charge that was keeping them from going
• Send a dad to the emergency room with his child with a fractured leg from a falling cement block. A local leaf doctor could do little for him, but a cast made a huge difference--in comfort and in future mobility.
• Help with the bills of patients at the hospital: a young woman with an unexpected C-section birth, a baby with leg bones infected and fractured who needed to be referred to PAP for surgery, several families who could not afford to buy the medications that were prescribed for them
• Purchase surgical gloves and medications needed for surgery (teams usually bring these and we haven’t had one lately) and other incidental supplies that we feel can make a difference in the functioning of the hospital but are not in the “budget”
• Hire the tailor down the street to make backpacks for 60 children who need them in order to be able to go to school
• Buy plants for the clinic yard and popcorn for the Saturday morning volunteer boys who help plant and weed them
• Hire a painter to keep up with the always present need for painting at the hospital
• Pay for the dressing changes of the 10 year old who was burned by a hot poultice applied by a leaf doctor for treatment of his arm fracture
• Add Haitian art to the clinic area to encourage pride in culture and the work area
• Visit Palma school to see the kids play on the soccer field that the local
men there made by digging out rocks and leveling ground with pics axes and shovels
--THANK YOU !!!!!
Sometimes the financial needs at the hospital seem like a veritable black hole, especially when payroll is late or doctors are not being paid for their on call nights. But we are learning to help when we feel nudged and when we can, and to be thankful. Many situations cause us to struggle with the right response.
For example, the hospital worker who has no home or family and sleeps outside the clinic. Another with a family and a leaky roof that needs replacing. A single mom, with two children and a nephew she cares for, who would like to stop paying rent and build a two room place for herself and her children. A family in which there are 7 children and neither parent has work. The father has artistic talent--should we hire him to do some projects at the clinic and hospital? The clinic roof is in need of replacement. These are the realities of a country with 80% unemployment, and a place where simply giving what people need can produce unhealthy dependence. The story of Peter and John in Acts 3 encourages us to offer love, hope and healing when finances are not something we can give--and may not be the wisest gift.
Thank you for praying with us for wisdom, for priorities that matter to God, for everything to be done in love, and for peace as we do what we are asked to do daily. Thank you for being in this with us!!
Love to you all!
Marcia and Bob
Click here for our “Ways to Give” summary, slightly revised, in case you’re moved to help the work here.
To our very dear partners,
Last week we walked up a nearby hill to the home of Yvanne, one of the cleaning women at the hospital. She is a hard worker, has a very sweet spirit and lives with her 3 daughters and 2 granddaughters. The previous night there had been a storm with heavy rain and strong winds and now her yard was strewn with all the clothes that had become soaked and dirty during the night. She’d been washing all morning. Sitting inside the cramped family bedroom we could see some sky through small holes in the tin roof, but the bigger issue is that the roof sits inside of the walls of the home so that wind and rain too easily find their way in. She doesn’t have the means to get the roof built properly and wondered if we could help.
Yvanne’s situation and many more like hers here on La Gonave continue to challenge our practice of faith as it never has been challenged before: How does following Christ make a difference in us and in how we relate to a very troubled world? When are we showing love, and when are we building dependency? How do we respond to the inequalities all around us? How do we balance our lives so that we give our friends and marriage the attention they need in the midst of constant needs that demand attention? How can we develop deeper relationships with the wonderful Haitian people that God has graciously put into our lives? The challenges can be exhausting, but they are great God tools to form us; maybe we could call them “holiness encounters.”
For many months we have asked you to join us as we have asked for direction from God on what we should be doing after this summer. We had hoped for a very clear answer like we’ve sometimes received when making significant decisions in the past, but we haven’t heard God speak audibly. Instead, we have acutely felt the absence of a call to any other work. There certainly is much work that remains to be done here and, by God’s grace, we seem to be gifted with some of what is needed to pursue the kingdom of God coming here. Our Haitian and North American coworkers encourage us to stay, saying that our presence has brought meaningful, positive things to the hospital and to the mission. And where else could we be given so many “holiness encounters”?
So, we have made the decision to stay, until God calls us somewhere else. It’s been a difficult decision in many ways as there are still many people and opportunities that we miss back in the States. But we are confident that this is the right decision and we look forward to touching base with as many of you as possible more about it in our time in The US this summer as well as in future updates. Once again, we thank all of you SO much for your prayers, encouragement, and support, for sharing in our work and for sharing your lives with us as well. The family of God is a great gift of God!
Hoping to continue to mutually support each other in our journeys,
Bob and Marcia
Photos are of the new pharmacy, the doctors gathered for discussion of end of life issues (L-R, back: Drs. Ferdinand, Bob, Junior, Eli. front: Drs Valerie, Anncie, Badio) Bob with two small patients at the hospital, Wahoo Bay resort and a hike on our time away--and two cuties dressed to the nines for church:-)
Some of you have commented that we have been quiet since we returned to Haiti. I think it is because we have been waiting for things to settle a little and to collect our thoughts about direction before writing. It has been easier to adjust to coming this time, and it has been satisfying to realize the mutual appreciation that has grown in our relationships with the nationals we work with. And, we returned with increased energy and enthusiasm for the work ahead--so encouraged by all our meetings with you while home.
Things are green here! Thank God with us for rain and gardens that are producing. It was too late for the mango trees to produce, and more charcoal was made to make up for the loss of cash crops, but at least the drought has not continued.
We came back just as school was about to begin here. Many people, scrambling to find the money needed for school uniforms, shoes, and tuition, are asking for help. The space between our house and and the hospital is often the spot where we are stopped in conversation about this, and we've tried to be wise about how we help. Thanks to some of you, we have been able to purchase some things that people make and to give a few gifts and loans where we felt it was appropriate. Education of children is so important to parents--our hearts hurt with those who can't provide it. Every day we are more aware of how little opportunity there is for work . Please pray for people who are trying to address the economic needs of Haiti and especially La Gonave; much wisdom and grace is needed to do this more effectively than has been done.
Bob has started with a new schedule at the hospital and clinic, mentoring and teaching, collaborating with the doctors more and doing less simple direct patient care. The relationships with the doctors has been encouraging in that they have seemed to be very open to this. There are still many problems to address in the system, and we pray for God to supply strong Haitian leadership medically and administratively.
This coming week we have meetings with the leader of the Haitian Wesleyan national church (Wednesday night), our whole mission team with several new members (Thursday), and with the Global Partners director of the medical work (the following Tuesday). Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and for us all to listen well. We need direction and willingness to do what it takes to move forward to make the hospital a place that reflects the love of Jesus and a place of continuous learning for the doctors and for nurses too.
Sunday we met as a group for prayer and singing, and someone read the story from Luke 5 of the miraculous catch of fish. We were struck by the fact that we are in the same boat as the disciples (pun intended:-)) We can achieve nothing life-giving here without the presence and work of God. Sometimes it's difficult to keep perspective. Life is complicated, helping is complicated. But, this we know is true, that knowing God and his ways is good and challenging and encouraging and gives hope and purpose. We choose to move forward in faith one step at a time. So thankful to have so many of you doing it with us!
July 8, 2015
Hi everyone, So much has happened in the last couple of weeks, so we'll fill you in and ask for your partnership in prayer again.
During the three days we got away to a small apartment at the Haiti Baptist Mission (Fermathe) in the mountains above Port au Prince, we were able to step back for some new perspective, pray more, talk more, rest and get away from the heat. We had to wear sweatshirts in the morning and use two blankets at night! Since it's been really hot on La Gonave and we (especially Marcia) haven't tolerated the heat so well at times, just that change was a real treat. As we are nearing the end of the first year here it seemed like a good time to evaluate what we have been doing and think ahead to what the next year will look like. So, away from the hospital, Bob was able to make some plans for questions he has for the doctors about how they want to utilize him, and how he will to do more mentoring/precepting and less direct patient care, trying to empower them with more skills that they can use independent of him.
Just before our get-away we visited the Family Practice Medicine residency program in Saint Marc (across the bay from us) and Bob had come away with some ideas which he hopes to implement in inspiring more desire for continuing education and understanding of the need for it. We also invited the residency director visit the hospital here at some point in the near future to share her perspective. She related a story of a doctor now in their program who had finished medical school and started her own clinic. But when she came into contact with the residency program she shut it down, because she realized how little she really knew. Bob and anyone else who has finished medical school and started a residency program can relate to this.
We also had time to discuss working with teams of visitors and what works and doesn't work in giving them a good experience and better understanding of the culture, of work here, and of what place God might have for them in responding. I (Marcia) have realized that I need to make sure I am not trying to keep a short term team pace all the time--exciting and fun, but exhausting:-).
We think we came away with a better understanding of how to pace ourselves for the emotional demands of the work and the heat. Something eye opening for me (Marcia) was how refreshing it was to have a quiet place where we are not hearing people talk constantly or having people outside our windows throughout the day. Our home on the island has become a place where many people get water--especially so now that there had been no rain--and though we are glad to share the hose, it makes for a lot of busyness and less opportunity for peace-filled times. When we arrived back home, we were immediately confronted with the need around us as well as the drought conditions, and since we are realizing our need for times apart, we may need to try to limit the hours for water pick up.
Speaking of rain, it came last night!! Not a lot, but a fair bit and we hope the start of the more typical nightly pattern for this time of year (well, it's about 3 months late and there will probably be a lot of garden loss no matter what happens now).
So thank you again for your partnership and we appreciate your continued prayers: for rain, for our dealing with the heat (Marcia's migraine headaches seem to be tied to the heat to a fair extent), and for continued daily wisdom in working with the doctors and responding to the ever-present needs of the community. As we look to see many of you in August we also are searching for how best to relate to you the joys and struggles and the vision for our work on La Gonave.
Finally, our renters are moving out July 10, so please let us know if you have any leads on people desiring to rent in the Fruitport/Spring Lake area.
See you SOON! (Si Bondye vle--the Lord willing).
Marcia and Bob
Enjoying sparkling cranberry juice at the cottage
Patchwork hillside at Fermathe
Waterfall near Fermathe Dr. Kerling Israel, residency director
Canyon hike at Fermathe
May 31, 2015
Hello all, We returned from a 4 day Wesleyan Haiti Mission retreat Tuesday and thought we would fill you in on the last month, because before we left for retreat we were just too busy--busier than we'd hoped to be.
Bob and Dr. Ferdinand have been the only two doctors doing the patient care at the hospital, clinic and emergency room for the last several weeks because the other four doctors have been out in the villages on the island doing Compassion school children physicals. The good side of this is that the contract to do this benefits the hospital financially and is a very real blessing. But it has also meant that a lot of goals for developing processes for continuing medical education and collaboration have had to be put on hold until the end of May when the physicals should be completed. We're really glad to have the end of this schedule in sight!
At the same time, the month of May has also been the busiest month for Marcia's involvement with both medical and work teams. She toured the village and hospital with them, hiked the countryside, and helped to arrange their activities and visits with other ministries here. Every day has been full, and though it has been good, we admit to becoming weary with the work.
The retreat was refreshment for us and also renewed our ability to see the bigger picture a bit more clearly. Each day began with worshipping together in English--little did we know how much we would miss corporate worship in our own language! We then heard reports from all the people on our team, discussed subjects like self care, communication, dysfunctions of a team and how to avoid them, particular pitfalls of this field, and more. We had time every day after lunch to relax and talk together and enjoy the beauty of the area, participate in a table tennis tournament and even do a little kayaking.
Then Tuesday we jumped back in to working with visitors and the medical work. Bob has also begun teaching Anatomy and Physiology at the nursing school for an hour three times a week. Since he teaches in English and Dr. Eli translates, it gives them opportunity to work together and to know each other better, but Bob wonders about the wisdom of adding the preparation time to his already full schedule:-). Although it's a stretch for him, it certainly is in line with our long-term goals of training up godly health-care workers.
By August 1st we hope to be in West Michigan connecting with a whole lot of you! Yay! Though we don't yet have final travel arrangements, we anticipate a month of time to catch up and hear your stories as well as tell you some we haven't had time to write. Our tentative plans, Lord willing, are to be in the Grand Rapids area the first week of August, Montague the second week and Spring Lake the last two weeks. After that we'll visit some family in Wisconsin and hopefully meet with some more friends/partners over the Labor Day weekend "up north." If you know you will be out of town some of that time and still would like to get together, please let us know. We'd like to arrange as many visits with you as we can ahead of time. For churches that have partnered with us (Covenant Life Church, New Era Christian Reformed Church and Newman Church), please let us know how we can best share with you about the glimpses God has allowed us to see of his work here on La Gonave.
As always, thanks for praying. Prayer is such a mystery to us, and why God chooses to use us in it is a mystery too, but we experience the very real effects of it and feel our need for it deeply! Specifically, please join us in:
•Thanking God for his generosity and faithfulness in caring for us through the people around us--both coworkers in the mission (nationals and expatriate) , teams, and our partners back at home.
•Thank him for the rain that has begun to fall and for the gardens that are the result of hard, determined work here to feed families. Spring is beautiful!
•Thank him for the Compassion contract that is providing some much needed funding for the hospital work and for the fact that payroll was paid this week (that doesn't always happen).
•Praying for us to know how to show compassion in our response to those around us with great need, as those who have been given much.
•Praying for God to provide strong Haitian leadership in the church and in the hospital and wisdom for those helping to develop that leadership.
•Praying that we will faithfully USE the tools he has given us, especially prayer and worship, to be effective as his children here. This week I could go on and on. Please ask if you are wondering about someone I've asked you to pray for in the past. I'm attaching some photos from the retreat and also of "mango season" since we've been back. I'll also post them on Facebook.
Love to you all, Marcia and Bob
Another transportation strike is planned for today, and it sounds like emotions are high--the rumor has it that the gov't is not making good on it's agreement to lower gas prices:-(. Please pray for justice! and peace and safety for Haitians and visitors alike. There will be a lot of demonstrations like this one we passed in the street recently.
Thank you so much for praying!
Feb 2, 2015
So glad you are all there and glad to hear it when you are praying.
Today there is a public transportation strike in Port au Prince. It is a protest about the high gasoline prices (that remain high--nearly $5 per gallon-- even though the price of oil has plummeted). This brings a lot of things to a halt and causes a lot of people to lose income. It can be the cause of injury and riot if those who are striking throw rocks at those who are driving on the streets, and there is the possibility of the conflict escalating.
Bob was supposed to travel to Port today to hold meetings over the next couple of days with directors of several medical schools there along with Diane Foley, a pediatrician form the states who also oversees mission hospitals for Global Partners. Because of the strike and a notice from the American Embassy that Americans should not travel today, he will not be going, and Diane will probably not be flying into Haiti.
This week there are a number of people scheduled to come and work with us and with WISH (West Indies Self Help): a surgical and medical team, a construction team, and several representatives of organizations who were planning to meet at our guesthouse for two days to discuss and coordinate the work that they do on La Gonave.
• That the transportation strike would not be violent and end soon, people will not be hurt and that the good work that is being interrupted will be resumed. Pray too that the government would respond in the best interests of the people.
• That the La Gonave Summit meeting scheduled for Friday and Saturday will go on as scheduled and that there will be a spirit of unity by the work of the Holy Spirit. That coordination and cooperation in the aid to the people of La Gonave would be enhanced through these meetings.
• That Bob and Diane's meetings with the medical school directors could still take place so that plans for future continuing education of doctors here on the island could be furthered.
• For two patients at the hospital--the 2 year old boy with cerebral palsy, abandoned here, who needs a permanent home, and Elizabeth, a beautiful 20 year old, who needs more burn care that we can give her.
Thank you so much for praying for these urgent needs.
We pray here for all the ministries you are doing there as well.
Jan 20, 2015
Moved! Yesterday was a long and challenging day for the staff and administration and they still have many challenges to face, but the patients are moved into the new hospital building at Lopital Wesleyan in Anse a Galet, La Gonave, Haiti. We are thankful and still praying! Thanks for your prayers too!
After what seems like a very short time our departure day is here! We have difficulty describing how loved and cared for and at peace we have felt over the last several weeks as we have met with you and watched God provide. Saying goodbyes has been harder than we thought, and we have treasured that as another indication of the richness of the life we have in Christ. But now, near the end of a lot of little details, we are just so excited to be off.
Our bags are packed, our house is ready for Kyle and Carissa Abel to move in tonight. (If you haven't read their story yet you should check out our blog at marciavermaire.wordpress.com.) And, after a few final errands here and a couple more precious good byes we head to Detroit to have dinner with our son Matt, daughter Hope and Travis. Our plane to Haiti flies out at 6:30 am tomorrow, and if on schedule, and Lord willing, we'll arrive in Port au Prince about 3 pm.
Thanks so much for al your prayers--so many of you have told us you've been praying and that and all the hugs and well wishes have been an incredible encouragement!
As we've told you, we will be praying for all of you too and have made prayer cards for you, so please feel free to send us specifics.
Our specific prayer requests at this time:
• that our hearts will be prepared to love and work well with our team in Haiti. People we will work with most closely at first will be Cory and Kris Thede and their two children, our hosts in the northern part of Haiti for the first month of intense language study, our area director and his wife; Dan and Joy Irvine, area directors for Global Partners; and Dustin and Nancy Stephen and their two young daughters who will be living across the bay from us and receive teams that come through to the island. Prayers for all of them would be appreciated.
• that we would learn language more quickly than our age would allow :-). Pray for our language tutor to have extraordinary patience :-).
• for us to adjust to the heat and be able to be useful to the Thedes in their work as we stay with them for this first month.
Give thanks and praise to God for the way he has provided for us in every detail! I've told some of you that I hadn't sent prayer requests lately because I've felt that God was answering them before we could ask, and it's true!
We leave, valuing all of you and your partnership in the work ahead more than you can know and looking forward to sending another update soon.
Praying for God to bless your work here,