When I moved to Haiti in July of 2016 I had no real plan, no idea what I would actually be doing. I did however feel very strongly that this is where I was supposed to be and where I wanted to be. My first trip was in July of 2010 and since then Haiti had never been far from my thoughts.
The only thing I did know was that I, along with some other volunteers, would be living in community with two members of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary. Shortly after my arrival I was asked to take over as interim director for a large program for women and girls here in Gros Morne. This program meets a critical need in the area; educating and developing young women to be leaders as well as providing literacy and vocational training for women who never before had the opportunity to go to school. Although I said I had no idea what I would be doing I surely didn’t think it would be a 9-5, full-time position which included 10 Haitian staff members none of whom spoke English! So, I thought, perhaps this is God’s plan for now.
I struggled more days than I’d like to admit; with the language barrier, the cultural differences and with being a boss after 25 years as a self employed business owner. For 25 years I reported to no one, did as I wanted and had no one reporting to me. Running my own business was so easy and this was so hard. People came late to work. They didn’t come if it was raining or if it looked as if it might rain. They often preferred to sit together and chat than to do their work. They could understand my kreyòl for the most part but I couldn’t always understand some of them. It was so hard that many days I closed the door to my office and cried in frustration. I didn’t feel equipped for this job. At all. Was this what God called me to Haiti to do?
Month after month as we searched fruitlessly for a permanent director I began to wonder if this could be God’s plan for longer than short term. I try to be obedient but found myself fighting this idea. Surely God wanted me to be happy, to be joyful in my work. And I was not feeling either of those. Surely there was someone much more capable than I to run this important and worthwhile organization. I spent much time in prayer pondering His will, wondering how or when it would be revealed. Honestly, I was almost at the point of submission. In May, after nine months as director, I thought to myself if this next candidate doesn’t come through then I must seriously consider that God wants me to stay. Aha, perhaps that is all He was waiting for! That candidate was the one and is now the capable and competent Director of Mercy Beyond Borders.
Humility. Patience. Trust. These are my constant struggles. Well, I was humbled often enough. I was challenged to be patient perhaps more than ever before. And I certainly got to the point of trusting enough to say, okay Lord, if this is truly what you want of me.
The reward has been great. I am now doing something I love, where I am making a difference in the lives of a few people and am able to use my gifts. I have begun to help people navigate the medical care system here.
The medical care system in Haiti is so different from that in the US. It is almost as if each hospital has a specialty and if you go to the wrong hospital you will be redirected. Although that doesn’t seem too complicated, when a family scrimps and saves to take a loved one to the hospital and is told they need to go elsewhere the process of scrimping and saving begins all over again. Several weeks or months can go by before they have the money needed to go back down to Port-au-Prince. Months where their loved one continues to get worse, where sometimes too much time has gone by and there is nothing that can be done medically to save them.
My first two patients were in situations such as that. Rejeanne and Marie Carmel. Two beautiful women with breast cancer too advanced for medical intervention. I have written about each of them before, shared their stories and shared my grief after their untimely deaths.
I know there will be more deaths as I journey down this path but I also know there is something very special about walking those last days, weeks or months with someone. I consider caring for someone who is dying a blessing. I am honored to share the Word of God with them, to hear them praise the Lord for His goodness and to help their family members cope with their loss.
And then there are the success stories. Like meeting a woman with a larger than golf ball sized growth in her mouth which was removed the following week and was found to not be cancerous. Or being the conduit to find funding for successful surgery for a three year old’s club foot. Or finding a clinic for physical therapy for a one year old born with microcephaly after his 22 year old mom contracted Zika while pregnant. Or admitting a baby born with a cleft lip and palate into a free malnutrition clinic so that he can gain enough weight to have free surgery to repair those defects. Those are just a few of my current patients.
I am happy and I am finding joy in my daily work. I think this is why He called me to Haiti. We have all been blessed with different gifts and talents. And it is when they are put to use in His way, in His time that we find contentment.