Our leader, Becky, made sure we were all appropriately attired and then we set off for the church. She neglected to mention that it was at the top of one of the highest hills in that part of Port au-Prince. And that we’d have to navigate tent cities and rough roads to get there in one piece. But we did make it.
The church is actually a large concrete slab with an enormous tent on top of it. The original structure collapsed during the earthquake in 2010 and they’re working on building a new edifice that’s more sturdy. Haiti learned a lot about how not to build during that earthquake – the lesson cost 300,000 people. Pretty steep price.
It’s often said that great churches have a great sound system. This one did – and the musicians and preachers to make it worth the effort. This was an evangelical service, just like the one I attend in the United States in many ways. People dancing, moving about with the Spirit and dropping to their knees to Praise God. I didn’t understand a lot of the words; my French and Creole aren’t strong enough to make that claim. I did, however, get the idea – God is great. And on a humid morning that was just starting to warm up we got our day started with our Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ.
The walk back to the mission house was a lot easier. Especially knowing that a giant breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, French toast, fruit and lots of coffee was waiting at the end of the descent from the hill top.
But it was the visit to the children’s hospital with the nuns of Mother Theresa that left the morning’s biggest impression. There won’t be any pictures of the event, it wasn’t a publicity gig. We went to change babies, hold babies, play with children, feed children, and be the Hands and Feet of Christ.
I’ve changed a few diapers in my time – being the oldest of four kids you learn early to help out. But it is very different when the children you’re caring for have suffered from starvation. The mortality rate for Haitian children is off the charts. Malnutrition is epic. And because these smallest of the small were recovering from a near death level of hunger they were on a special diet of eggs, proteins, and a lot of carbs. This leads to a diaper load that could be mistaken for chemical weapons in Syria. Seriously, I was looking for a mask after that first one.
And then there was another. I dodged the bullet when the third child pointed out to me had a dry well. Thank you!
Haitian children’s hospitals are not quite like the one in your city. It’s more like a hospital for infants circa 1900 in the United States. The Sisters love the children and take excellent care of them, but they are overwhelmed with the demand. The room where I spent my morning had two or three dozen cribs, end to end in rows. I worked the longest with crib 15. No names, no date of birth, just a crib number. You had to remember where you picked up your charge and make sure they got back in the right place.
These kids had a shot at living. Most of the malnourished die when they hit this point. And that’s a lot of children in Haiti. One of our team members took a lot of grief over the feeding part of the morning because the child was so weak that it kept tipping over while my friend tried to feed a simple breakfast. We joked that a new organization was born that day: “Feed My Sleeping Children.” It would be a lot funnier if it wasn’t because the child didn’t have the energy and muscle strength to sit upright while eating.
I hadn’t thought very hard about that morning since getting back from Haiti. But I’m going to spend some time praying about those children, those nuns, and that hospital before I go to bed today. I hope you’ll take a minute and join me.
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