When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it. -Galatians 6:10a (NCV)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sick woman, the UN and Voodoo

I am learning how Voodoo practice in so embedded into the culture of Haiti. It is actually so embedded into the culture that sometimes I don’t see it in plain sight. This is an account that happened about 3 weeks ago and really opened my eyes to the degree of Voodoo.

There is a UN OPS house on the street I live on here in Jacmel. I met some of the workers there and one of them is an American named Aaron and we exchanged phone numbers and said if there was ever anything either of us needed that we would try to help each other out. (On a side note, Aaron is happily married in the states with a daughter so NO-we do not like each other in that way. Just thought I would clarify). When we exchanged numbers I thought for sure I would be the first one calling needing something from them. But as it turns out they called me on a Thursday night and Aaron was talking really fast saying that his housekeeper was really sick and he was worried she was going to die. I said I would be right over. I grabbed my bag of medical supplies I keep ready to head out with and went down the street. The girl was about 19 yrs old and laying on a bed, sweating like crazy. She was clutching her stomach and a bucket of vomit was sitting beside the bed. I started talking with her and briefly examined her. Her pulse was 172 (which is very high for an adult) and her breathing was shallow and fast. She was having to stop in the middle of sentences to take a breath when responding to me. She told me she started getting sick a couple days before and it just got worse and worse. Aaron told me he took her to the UN clinic that morning and they gave her some pills and oral rehydration packets. She was sipping on the oral rehydration packets that were dissolved in water, but vomiting it right back up. I asked to see the pills they had given her. There were about 7 different medications , and none were labeled with the name of the medication. They only had the instruction of how many times a day to take them. She couldn’t remember any of the medication names either. I was afraid to give her any medication b/c I didn’t know what she had already taken. The room was about a million degrees so I went outside to think for a minute. This girl really looked bad. She desperately needed an IV and some rehydration through the IV. As I was standing outside thinking some other guys who worked for the UN told me she had an abortion here in Haiti about a week ago. After hearing this I was VERY concerned. I went back in and talked with her privately about it and she got very upset with me and refused ever being pregnant or having an abortion. I told her I wasn’t there to talk about the abortion but I needed to know the truth to help her. She still adamantly denied it. I suspected that it was true by the way she was reacting. The UN said they had an air conditioned room they could let her lay down in. Her younger sister came to stay with her and I told her to keep sipping the Oral Rehydration fluid and try to get some rest and I would check on her later. I prayed with her and told her if she wasn’t better later she needed to go to the hospital that night.
I came back about 2 hours later and the Haitian staff at the UN house said another sister came and got her to take her to get some “traditional medical attention”. I don’t know how b/c she couldn’t even walk into the air conditioned room b/c she was so weak. I was really concerned about her so I called Aaron and he said in a joking tone that they had taken her to get an excorcism. Then it clicked in my head what “traditional medical attention” meant. They were taking her to a voodoo priest. Then I really started praying for her. But didn’t see her for several days after that.

Aaron called me that next week (I forget the exact day) and asked if I could come by and see her again. I was an hour away working at clinic in Peredo but remembering how sick she had been before I asked him if she could wait or if I needed to come right now. He said it could wait –he said she wasn’t sick but had some bad burns. I assumed it was from cleaning or cooking at the house. I loaded up on dressing supplies before I left the clinic that afternoon, unprepared for what I would see.

I got to the house that evening and was amazed how much better she looked. She was laying down on the couch but well hydrated and had a spark back to her eyes. I chatted with her and she told me her sister took her to a Voodoo priest and he healed her. That after he “burned the pain” out of her stomach she was fine. She said she got up and started eating and didn’t throw up again and the pain was gone almost immediately. I asked about the burns. She lifted up her shirt and revealed deep, yet clean, burns to her abdomen. I couldn’t imagine the pain that would have caused! They were just starting to scab over at the outer edges. They covered an area of about 10x6 inches across her abdomen and were deep. I started thinking of how they held her down to do that to her. She wasn’t upset about it at all but instead thankful that the pain and sickness were gone. She felt so good afterwards she even stopped taking the “mystery mediation” the UN clinic had given her.

I sat on the edge of the couch with her and explained how Voodoo is not something to play around with. We had a conversation how there is a price to pay for everything you receive in life. How the devil and evil spirits don’t do things for free. But we also talked about God and because he sent His son Jesus-who was perfect-to die for the world, the price has already been paid for her. I asked if we could pray together again and I asked God for forgiveness and she questioned me after that. She believes the Voodoo practice cured her. It was not a big deal to her to go see a Voodoo priest so we talked more about God’s love and forgiveness. I can attest to the fact that she was VERY ill and had a very quick recovery. In the US she would have been admitted into the hospital, no questions asked. I am learning more about the beliefs of Haitian culture and trying to understand the people’s reasoning in the choices in religion in their lives. Sometimes it is so much a part of the culture-it is hard for them to recognize the spiritual battles going on right in front of their own eyes.

The bible says in Ephesians 6:10-13,
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his great power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can fight against the devil's evil tricks. Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world's darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world. That is why you need to put on God's full armor. Then on the day of evil you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

June Update letter

Partners in Haiti,

I have been back almost a month and getting adjusted. I do apologize for the lack of communication but I do not have internet access at my house. I have to drive into town to a hotel and use the internet and hope the internet is working when I get there. Several times I have arrived at the hotel to find it not working and have to return home and try another time.

We are in the middle of have a week of mobile clinic in Peredo with a team of 30 Americans. God blessed us with 4 nurses on this team and we are working with 2 Haitian doctors. We are seeing around 220 patients a day and giving them all the medicines they need out of our pharmacy. We had a mobile clinic with another short term team at the beginning of the month and saw an estimate of 900 patients in a week. This team will surpass even that number! Please pray for this team’s safe return home on Saturday and thank God that they worked so well together to make a successful week in the clinic.

I am launching a new program in the village of Peredo starting next week. It has long been my prayer that I could speak Creole well enough to teach others about nutrition, medical care and child care. I am finally there! This week I have been talking with mothers in the clinic who bring in newborns to 3 month olds who are not at the weight they should be. I am taking down their basic information and then will visit each of the homes next week. Five babies will be chosen to start the program and I will closely monitor their weights while having a class for their mothers weekly and train them in good nutrition, child hygiene care and help them to be a support person to each other. Please pray for wisdom in choosing the babies that will need and benefit from the program the most and for the cooperation of their mothers. There are so many Pediatric studies which show the importance and benefits of good nutrition during the 1st three years of life. This will also be a ministry tool to show how Christians care about the community also. These families will be encouraged to come to our church services and be encouraged by the Haitian Christians already worshipping there.

There is a great need I am asking for help with. I do not have internet service at the mission house. To start the satellite internet service in the area of Haiti I live in is $2100 US. It comes with all the equipment and installation. Then the monthly service fee is $80 a month. I am not asking for the internet for entertainment but to keep my line of communication open with you all and to be able to better communicate with the stateside of the mission There are also nutritional programs set up in other places in Haiti and Africa like the one I am starting in Peredo. Their information can be found on the internet and there are sites that allow missionaries and humanitarian organizations to compare data and help each other who are in similar situations. Would you or your church consider helping me start the internet here in the mission house in Jacmel? If so please send your support the same and earmark it for Ginny Andrews-internet. Or you can always go to www.haitianchristian.org to donate and in the comment box please type-Ginny Andrews-internet.

I am working with an intern from Lincoln Christian University for the next month in Haiti. She will be staying at the guest house with me and we will work together and with teams when they come in. She’s been here about 5 days and a little homesick so please pray for her strength and that we will follow God’s direction for us for her stay in Haiti.

Please feel free to email me with any questions. Stories and pictures can be found at www.ginnyinhaiti.blogspot.com. Please be patient as this is not updated frequently b/c I do not have regular internet connection.
HOT, HOT, HOT! Did I mention it’s hot? So thankful for the batteries that Haitian Christian Outreach bought for the mission house b/c when the electricity goes off around 2 in the morning and the fans quit, it is miserable to try to lay in bed the rest of the night. But the batteries provide power through the day for the refrigerator and fans and make the heat tolerable.

But no matter how hot it is, Haitian life still goes on. Women still sit in the market selling their good all day in the sweltering sun, kids still have to walk to and from school and to carry water and the men…well…I’m not sure what they do! Just kidding! I mostly work with the women and children so those are the areas I know most about.

I am excited about starting the infant program in Peredo but as I am starting it I am realizing how much work it is! (see blog letter to supports for more information) I am looking for babies now to be in the program and of course every mother is begging me to let her child in. If they are in good health and weight already I tell them they do not need the program-the things they are doing to care for them at home is working and they are doing a great job at being a mother. Instead of taking this as the compliment it is, the moms begin to deny that their children are eating well and come up with all kinds of reasons why their baby should be chosen. The good news is that mothers in this area are excited about the program. Please pray that I use my education and find resources of other programs like this to make this a successful program in the Southern part of Haiti. A successful program like this will greatly benefit this area. I am starting with a very small group to micromanage it and hopefully learn how to do it on a bigger scale.