“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his deed.” Proverbs 19:17
Our small Charis relief team just arrived back from Haiti following a week of visiting our communities, assessing the needs, and initiating the process of physical and material restoration that is vital to sustaining the hope and livelihoods of the people following the powerful category 4 hurricane that hit the South of Haiti in October. This hurricane unleashed 140 mph winds and dropped 40 inches of rain on South Haiti. The small, underdeveloped, poverty-laden Southern peninsula of Haiti was no match for a hurricane of this magnitude. Death, homelessness, disease, and suffering are the assured results when nature’s power meets man’s infirmity. The desperation of the situation demanded our response which had to be bilateral to be effective.
Our going and your supporting were of equal importance to assure both the ability and efficacy, respectively, to actuate a Christ-like response to this tragic situation. I am proud to say that you, our Charis family, responded beautifully as funding was provided to adequately meet the initial needs of this progressive effort to provide for the necessities of our many Haitian brothers and sisters who currently can’t provide for themselves. Providing for the poor following disasters such as this places all of us within the pages of Scripture as the Church body who had assisted those of the Church body who were in need. This is Christianity in practice and it is my prayer that through this newsletter you all will experience the joy that can only be experienced through the habitual practice of unconditional love evidenced within the unconditional and sacrificial giving of our time, resources and finances to mirror the same love that Christ had for us!
Be The hands and feet of christ
As we sat and watched hurricane Matthew indiscriminately pour down destruction across South Haiti, Joy and I knew that God wanted us to go and glorify His name through being Christ’s hands and feet in the midst of this tragedy. Hope is such a fragile thing in Haiti as the people are very aware of their socially inferior position in the world. Hope is almost non-existent amongst non-believing vodouists in Haiti, but even in the case of believers, there is hope in heaven but temporally, when disasters like this strike, their hope in God to provide for them is manifested when we show up as an answer to their unceasing prayers. Personally, I can imagine few things more honoring than realizing that much of your work, performed in obedience to the Holy Spirit, is initiated, supplied, and sustained by God’s willing desire to answer the prayers of His poor and suffering children through sending us!
“The poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” Psalm 34:6-7
Of course, any work done in obedience to God is going to come with a level of demonic opposition. God’s glory, reflected through our obedient work, and demonic opposition exist in a direct relationship—as one increases so does the other. The greater that God’s glory is displayed, the greater the demonic opposition will be, and this relief effort was no exception to this rule. Shortly after making the decision to go to Haiti on a relief trip my body began to forsake me. This began one afternoon when I went outside to play basketball with my two sons. I took one shot and my shoulders felt like I had worked them out for an hour—I had no strength. Finding this to be very aberrant I went in and rested, but over the course of a few days things just got worse. I became weaker and weaker to the point that I had to remain in bed. If I attempted to get up and walk around my heart rate would increase from 80 beats per minute, when I was lying down, to over 200 beats per minute when I stood up which caused extreme anxiety and fear. Knowing something was very wrong I asked Joy to bring me to the emergency room—this was the evening of October 30th and we were scheduled to leave for Haiti on November 8th.
To The emergency room
In the emergency room they drew blood and found that my hemoglobin was 6 grams/deciliter, which meant that I had lost over half of my blood volume (my normal hemoglobin is around 15). I was immediately admitted to the hospital and over the course of the next 36 hours I received 6 units (bags) of blood via intravenous infusion. Each unit of blood should raise hemoglobin by 1 gram/deciliter, so 6 units should have increased my hemoglobin to around 12, but even after 6 units my hemoglobin barely budged to 7. This prompted the doctors to scope me and they found an ulcer that was oozing blood in the first part of my small intestine. They cauterized and stopped the bleeding and decided to keep me in the hospital for 2 more days to see if my blood levels would increase. The levels didn’t increase and I remained at 7. The doctors ordered a bag of iron to be administered IV to support my blood cells. The iron infusion severely damaged the interior of my vein and my entire arm swelled and became extremely painful and unmovable. I had had enough, and after discussing things with the doctors, who really didn’t know what was going on, they agreed to discharge me to go and see my primary doctor who has known me for years. I was discharged on Thursday, November 3rd, with no real answers. I called my doctor who was shocked to hear all of this, but he was in Germany for a conference and wasn’t going to be able to see me until November 8th, the day that we were scheduled to leave for Haiti. The team that we had put together consisted of 7 people, and so I thought that it would be best to sit this trip out to allow my body to heal, but of course things wouldn’t be that easy.
One of the members of the team who had an extensive knowledge of agriculture, home repair work and carpentry called and told us that he was going to have to cancel going on this trip. He works as a firefighter and EMT, and he had been served a subpoena to appear at a murder trial as he had been the paramedic on site of what ended up being a homicide case. Despite this, I still felt that Joy would be well taken care of as 3 men and 1 woman were still attending the trip, so I called and changed my ticket to an open ticket to return to Haiti in January. The day before the trip, November 7th, we received a call from two of the men who had committed to going on the trip to Haiti with us and, secondary to unforeseen circumstances, they too had to withdraw from the trip. This left only Joy, Dr. Kim, and Nate going to Haiti, and I wasn’t comfortable with this. In times of disaster, the desperation and panic can create a very dangerous environment, and the CIA a few days earlier had send out a strong warning for no Americans to go to Haiti because of the violence and desperation. Considering all of this, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to go despite the fact that I still only had half of my blood volume. This was a classic case of the spirt being willing, but the flesh being weak, and I knew that if I was to go I was going to need to be Divinely bestowed with supernatural strength, as my physical body was incapable of taking this trip. So, despite many of my closest advisers and friends warning me and advising me not to go, we called the airline and had my ticket changed back.
These situations demand discernment and wisdom as Christianity seems to continually force us to spurn what appears to be sensible, in worldly considerations, and turn toward God with faith to keep us and sustain us through the seemingly most ridiculous and counterintuitive decisions that we could possibly make. The key is being in tune with God’s will and having a discerning mind that hears and understands the will of the Holy Spirit. Many times in Scripture we see Paul unable to travel to visit his churches due to Satan preventing him. Conversely, we see the prophets of the Lord warning Paul and pleading with him not to go to Jerusalem because pain, persecution, suffering, and imprisonment awaited him. Paul did not let this deter him though as he discerned God’s will telling him to go despite the suffering—so he went against the will of the prophets and his friends.
This isn’t the first time this kind of situation has presented itself to me. As a Christian I cannot fall into a default state of mind that says if I’m sick, I must care for myself and not go—even if it is in the name of Christ. With that said, sickness and aberrant events may be God’s way of telling me not to go and that my decision was my own and not His. However, there are other times that I believe it is a test—a test to see if I will inquire of God even if there appears to be instinctual, intuitive, common sense answer. God will not be confined to human reason, and to the degree that we understand that is to the degree that we will please God and advance within our personal sanctification. Never allow yourself to miss out on God’s blessings for others and yourself because you turned to the world for the ‘sensible’ answer rather than God who never cedes to man’s wisdom!
Gardens, boats, sickness, and food
So, on the morning of November 8th Joy, Dr. Kim, Nate Lusk, and myself all flew to Haiti to embark upon a week of pouring our lives out for the Haitians who were suffering in many ways secondary to the hurricane. When we arrived in the South we immediately got to work surveying the damage and the effects that the storm had had in the lives of our communities and friends. The four areas of relief that we were determined to focus on, based on hours of discussions with our community leaders prior to coming to Haiti, were: gardens, boats, sickness, and food. Many gardens had been uprooted and destroyed by both the heavy winds and flooding. Since many of our Haitian friends earn a meager living solely through the food produced in their gardens we knew that this would be a crucial issue to attend to. We have several communities that are coastal and thus their main source of income is fish. The powerful winds and violent water caused many of our fishermen’s boats to incur heavy damage. We therefore planned to assess the situation in terms of which boats were repairable and which weren’t. We wanted to provide material needed to repair the boats and work with those who lost their boats completely.
In terms of sickness, the biggest concern was cholera. The water was contaminated due to the animal corpses and feces in the water. We purposed to meet with our communities and provide them with both the education and medications needed to effectively combat this disease. Lastly, we knew that food would be the primary issue and greatest need due to both main sources of food being lost (gardens and fishing). With these goals in mind, we went to bed that first evening ready to go the next day. I felt very weak, but I knew that our Haitian brothers and sisters needed help and I was prepared to give my body over to God and allow my spirit to fuel my week.
Help for Farmers
Rather than recount our steps day by day, I will summarize all that was accomplished in each of the above four areas for you for time’s sake. In terms of farmers and destroyed/flooded farms, we knew the major needs were fertilizer, seeds, and manual labor to clean the gardens and prepare them for planting. Our approach to this issue was to ask the farmers themselves to not only clean their own gardens, but to help other farmers within their community clean their gardens also. This way multiple farmers would be working on each garden and the cleaning would be more efficient and faster and unity within the farming community would be established. They also had to agree to do this for free.
In return, Charis agreed to buy fertilizer and seeds to prepare and nourish the soil in an effort to optimize planting and crop growth. This effort was mainly focused on Peredo as this village is almost 100% sustained by farming. Peredo is also notorious in South Haiti for its prevelance of vodou. So we went to Peredo, and Andrelli had prepared the way for us as he, immediately after the hurricane, had surveyed land and visited all of the farmers to see who was in most need of help. So Andrelli had a list of 50 farmers who desperately needed help. We went and purchased bags of fertilizer and pick axes to help with the soil preparation. Seeds had been previously purchased in the States and brought with us to Haiti for focused distribution. The farmers all showed up at the scheduled time, and after a short explanation of what we were doing and giving all the glory to God, we distributed everything.
Surprisingly the distribution went very smoothly as there were no fights, no disrespect, and everyone was very thankful. Four years ago, this would not have been the case as fights would have surely broken out. I strongly believe that this is the work of the Holy Spirit as God is a God of peace and not disorder, “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” (1 Corinthians 14:33). What blessed us was the fact that there were many vodou priests present who work as farmers on the side. Not all of them were believers, but they got to witness the love, hands, and feet of Christ and I do believe that this made a great impression on them! After the 50 farmers on the list were served, we had fertilizer and seed left over. We continued to distribute what we had to farmers who hadn’t been put on the list but were nonetheless present, and after it was all said and done, God had provided for almost 90 farmers!! This is truly something to celebrate!
Meeting the medical needs
Health education, medications and supplies were provided to 9 of our communities. Through texting and the use of a communication app called ‘WhatsApp’, Joy had arranged all the leaders of our 9 communities to travel to our church in Marigot for a meeting concerning the impending health crisis that had a high probability of hitting some, or all, of our communities. We also invited our 3 nurses that we are supporting through nursing school (Juliette, Michu, and Richarma) and one other nurse who has completed nursing school but can’t find a job (Dol Mirtha). We performed a quasi-health seminar focusing on the issue of cholera, which is the greatest health care threat to our villages. The teaching involved an explanation of what cholera is, cholera prevention, acute cholera treatment, and chronic cholera treatment.
Cholera is a diarrheal disease that can cause massive amounts of fluid loss over the course of just a few hours resulting in rapid death, especially in the very young and elderly. Prevention was focused on instructing everyone not to drink water from rivers or public, unfiltered sources, and the distribution of water purification tablets and iodine drops, both of which can be added to virtually any source of water to purify it to levels acceptable for human consumption. Then disease treatment was discussed, which involves oral hydration and salt tablets acutely, IV hydration in the early to moderate stages, and continued IV hydration with the addition of doxycycline for more severe cases.
All of that was easy to explain, except for placing and maintaining an IV line in a vein of the patient. Our nurse, who had already completed nursing school, proved to be very competent in the placing of an IV line, and I am sure that Nate Lusk, our brave volunteer who offered up a vein in his forearm for demonstration purposes, was appreciative of her skill too as she entered his vein easily on the first try and then demonstrated how to hook up the tubing and begin a life-saving infusion of saline. Charis purchased liters of IV fluid, hundreds of doxycycline pills, needles, IV tubing, salt tablets, and water purification tablets to distribute to all the leaders of our communities. Each leader also received the phone numbers of all 4 of our nurses as they were instructed to call one of them if a cholera breakout was suspected within their community. Each nurse excitedly agreed to help in this effort and to be ‘on call’ to respond if their presence was needed within one of the communities. So, the day went well, and the leaders and people were empowered with knowledge about this disease that so many Haitians fear.
Going into this trip we knew that the fishermen and their damaged boats would be the most challenging aspect of this relief effort secondary to the great price fluctuation that exists based on the different sizes of the boats, the extent of damage, and difficulty in finding all of the required materials needed to adequately repair the boats in country. Our fears were confirmed as this was the most difficult aspect of the trip. Once again, Andrelli had assessed the situation prior to our arrival, and he had personally spoken to each fisherman and observed the damage to their boats. A list was made and presented to us when we arrived. A meeting was scheduled at the church and we spoke to the group of fishermen whose livelihood had been torn from them by the wrath of the hurricane. We told them that we planned to purchase the materials needed to repair their boats and get them back out onto the water, but based on the extent of damage, some boats would take longer to repair then others. They understood this and were thankful for the hope that now existed.
We then personally went out to the port and inspected all of the damage incurred by the various boats. As expected, there were some very big boats and some very small ones. There were some with minimal amounts of damage and others with extensive damage to the point that one of the boats had been minimized to individual boards that had leaning up against a tree. Due to the great variation in need, and the fact that complete repair verses partial repair would incite jealousy, we decided to buy every fisherman the exact same amount and type of material to repair their boats, and if there was additional, continued need beyond this, which there surely would be, we told them that we would continue to provide needed repair material until their boats were eventually repaired. This continual, progressive support would be based on the honest and proper use of the material that was given to them. If they sold it or appeared apathetic in their repair efforts, then they would be removed from the program.
They were all agreeable to this and told us that three things were required for the proper repair of all their boats: wood, nails, and resin (to provide a waterproof seal.). Nails are cheap in Haiti, but unfortunately both wood and resin are costly. Additionally, resin isn’t produced in Haiti, and the only place that it can be purchased is in the Dominican Republic. So, after a team discussion, we decided to buy every fisherman a bundle of one dozen large planks of wood (each plank was probably around 12 to 15 feet in length) and one large 100-count box of boat nails. We bought so much wood that it took two pickup trucks filled to capacity to transport the wood to the port. The resin would be purchased later as there was no way to get it from the Dominican to Haiti during the duration of our trip. So, we continue to actively work with the locals to purchase the resin and get it transported to those fishermen who are in need of it.
Fisherman bible study
All of this work is being done through Andrelli—our ‘go to’ guy who I can fully trust to get the work done while we are in the States! Upon delivery of the wood and nails, the fishermen were overjoyed and thankful, which greatly blessed our hearts. Fishermen are a rough group of men. They spend all day every day out in the salty sea. They go out great distances to catch the best fish, but all the while they are exposed to the constant mist of salt water, the unrelenting, scorching sun, and the physical labor of rowing, and pulling in large fish that are much stronger than they are. Secondary to this physically taxing and time demanding lifestyle, nearly all of the fishermen have never stepped a foot into a church and have not heard the gospel. Therefore, one of the things that the Holy Spirit placed on our hearts is to begin a ‘fishermen Bible study’ that will meet once a week on the port where the putrid stench of fish, the weighing of fish, selling of fish, and the casting and mending of nets are ongoing, daily occurrences. Whenever I am there, I just imagine Peter, Andrew, John and James as they were fishing, mending and casting nets, when Jesus approached them and said, “Follow Me." Please pray for this group of men to not only receive all that they need to get their boats back onto the water, but more importantly to also hear and receive the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ in January when we initiate this ‘seaside’ evangelistic effort!
Countless pounds of food
Lastly, we bought and distributed what seemed to be countless pounds of food, mainly rice and beans. Every community, without exception, was experiencing a food crisis. Remember that we arrived a month after the hurricane struck, and this was purposeful. In the acute stages of any natural disaster, two things keep me from showing up immediately. First, every humanitarian and NGO in the world descends upon the respective country. This is good and bad. It is good based on the obvious fact that people are receiving food and medicine. It’s bad because many times these organizations don’t know the culture and communities in a way that will optimize relief and get it into the hands of those who truly need it as there is massive manipulation on the local level when organizations come through to help temporarily. Also, these efforts are mainly stationed in urban areas which, to be honest, have access to stores, vendors, markets, materials, and clean water. The greatest need, without a doubt, is in the rural mountainous areas where most of the relief organizations will never travel because of the great difficulty traveling to these areas.
Distribution must be in a way that truly helps and just doesn’t put random aid into the hands of those men and women in the community who won’t create a sustained relief effort where the entire community is cared for and remembered. Also, things like cholera and starvation will not physically manifest themselves for a few weeks, making the acute post-disaster period a non-optimal time to truly assess who possesses the greatest need. For these reasons, we decided to wait for a month before coming. This way, most of the humanitarian organizations would be gone, and thus they wouldn’t be in our way. Also, we would be able to see who is truly suffering, and better ascertain which communities possess the greatest need based on an assessment of the physical states of the people and villages. Thus, it was easy to see who needed food, and since most of our work is performed in rural, mountainous areas, the need had not only manifested physically, but also was rampant and wide spread.
Nearly every day we would travel to a city in which food was available and sold in bulk and we would buy the store out of rice and beans. Then we would return to our rooms and as a team open the bulk sacks and divide the rice and beans into large zip lock freezer bags for distribution to individuals. We chose to distribute to individuals, as opposed to community leaders, because man is flawed and fallen, and having faith in every leader to distribute the food evenly and fairly, rather than taking a disproportionate amount for himself, his family and friends could not be assured against. Despite distribution to individuals being more laborious, we all thought that this would be the best and fairest way to insure that everyone received food relief equally. This was a great success, as the people were overjoyed to receive food. This effort is far from over though, as even with restoration of gardens and repair of boats being actively pursued, the reality is that gardens won’t produce food for several months, and the fishermen won’t be back out on the water for several weeks, so the need for food continues and your financial help with this would be greatly appreciated and welcomed!
In response to christ in us
That was our week in brief summation, and if you have any further questions feel free to email Joy or email myself (Malcolm). We, as a team, want to sincerely thank all of you who stepped up to the plate when it mattered most and provided finances to support the overwhelming relief that was required to sustain our Haitian brothers and sisters who unfortunately exist as the poorest people in the Western hemisphere. This effort could have not been undertaken without you, so thank you!! The Haitians, whose voice I humbly represent, also thank you, as this last week they were the fortunate recipients of both your generosity and more importantly Christ’s love expressed through your willingness to give.
To close I just wanted you all to realize something. This isn’t just a humanitarian effort fueled by our guilt and empathy that will surface within the heart of any decent person when human disaster occurs. Efforts such as these are owned by the world and aren’t done with the right heart. Remember, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that this type of giving will not produce any favor with God, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” Christians perform this work in response to Christ in us. In other words, if we truly no longer live, and Christ lives in us (reference to Galatians 2:20), then Christ uses our bodies, minds and hearts to perform the work that He desires to complete on this earth and this leads us to a very humbling fact.
In times of disaster, our Haitians brothers and sisters in the Lord cry out to God in prayer (we teach and support prayer strongly within the ministry). God hears them and He answers, but how does He answer? He answers through mobilizing us—His sons and daughters who He has richly blessed with material affluence. Upon hearing the prayers of the less fortunate who live in desperate need, God places it in the hearts and minds of His sons and daughters in America (and other places) to act on His behalf. Do you realize what this means? We, through going, sending and supporting are serving as the living answer to the Haitian’s prayers! This is truly being God’s hands and feet and I can think of nothing more honorable and desirable in the world then to be both commissioned and empowered by God to serve as the answer to prayer.
Realize the power of the work that we are doing here, and don’t just act in the time of crisis, but act continually, give sacrificially, and do it all with joy. Then we will receive treasure in heaven beyond what we can even comprehend. We love you all, we are honored to work with you in this ministry, and we thank you for listening to God as you just didn’t desire to help, but you took that step beyond desire and you acted. Have a blessed November and December, and we look forward to continuing this work in Haiti as we go and you all send—what an honor it is to be God’s soldiers in this ongoing war against Satan! God bless you all.
Your Brother in Christ,