The thoughts of a woman trying to live simply yet abundantly, contentedly yet expectantly, wisely yet adventurously... all for His glory.

7.14.2013

I want you to stop loving on people.

Yep. I said it.

I think Christians need to stop using the phrase "love on."

I totally understand that many Christians think "loving on" people is a good thing, especially on missions trips... for example "we're just so excited to be able to go and love on orphans in Africa." I get that and I respect the heart behind it.

It's just that somehow we've decided that it sounds much more spiritual to "love on people" than to simply "love people." 

My problem is this: "loving on" someone is doing something to them rather than with them and that sounds more like a project than a relationship. 

If you tell me that you are going to walk on me, sit on me, or cry on me-- well, you can imagine that I might not feel those are very nice things. I might also wonder why you seem to have rather a lot of choice in what happens to me while I have very little say in the matter.

However, if you tell me that you would like to walk with me, sit with me, or cry with me, I would emphatically say yes please! Please walk with me through this mess called life. Sit with me as I wrestle with questions. Cry with me when I grieve.

Out of many names for God my personal favorite is Immanuel or God with us. Jesus took human form and walked with us, went fishing with us, and came over for dinner and a glass of wine. God chose to enter into relationship with us rather than imposing His will on us. Being made in His image we too are called to enter into relationship with and love each other. 

You may think it's just a phrase and it's no big deal, and you may be right. I imagine that you're the kind of person who wants to love people well and not turn them into projects. But at least in the context of missions or service projects I think we ought to be very careful what we do to people and focus more on how to love people in a way that promotes their dignity and worth as image-bearing children of God. And if nothing else, let's use language that makes sense to those who don't speak Christianese. 

With love and in love,
Lindsay

Children I met in Danja, Niger


1.22.2013

sunrise, sunset (daily routines in Haiti)

I don't know that there's ever a really typical day in Cite Soleil clinic, but there is a daily routine. Since we couldn't go to clinic today due to some safety issues I have more free time than usual to do a little blogging and catching up with some emails. At the moment I'm listening to the crickets and geckos from the little front porch in front of Jill's room. I can smell smoke from the burn pile out back. I can't see too many stars tonight due to cloud cover but I can still see the moon in amazing detail behind the clouds. It's waxing just over half-full, and I wonder when was the last time I noticed the phases of the moon? I miss so many things when I'm not in Haiti (or Africa), and being able to see the moon and stars is certainly one of them.

Back to clinic routines.

Normally we leave for clinic at 0645, so I'm up before sunrise to make sure I can pull myself together and grab some breakfast. Today I had a few minutes to watch a glowing, muddled pink-orange sunrise over the hills behind the compound. After breakfast we ("we" being the other volunteers, several Haitian health educators, myself, and Jill, the clinic coordinator/ dear friend) pile into a van and begin the 30-minute drive to Cite Soleil slum. The first 15 minutes or so go smoothly as the road was repaved last year before the President visited this area. After 15 minutes things start to get a little rougher with potholes and increasing foot traffic-- kids on their way to school, men hauling construction materials in wheeled carts, women selling merchandise along the road, and various goats, pigs, and chickens. During the whole ride we are of course driving on whichever side of the road is the smoothest and passing all slower vehicles no matter how fast the oncoming traffic. With about 10 minutes' drive remaining we pull over to wait for our motorcycle escort-- one in front, one in back. These men help ensure that we're safe after we enter the Cite Soleil slum until we drive onto the clinic compound.

Me with some of our amazing clinic security team; the motorcycle escort men are in the yellow vests.

When we arrive at the clinic we unload the water jugs and any supplies we've brought, then head in to meet the rest of the staff for morning devotions. Currently the clinic employs about three doctors, three nurses, two pharmacist technicians, four triage staff, and several others to help run the clinic. Devotions involve singing several songs, either in French, Creole, or English. Afterwards one of the staff leads the devotional which is always graciously translated into English for the benefit of us volunteers. We pray to close then begin our various tasks for the day.

Since I'm a nurse practitioner this time around I've been both seeing patients and also working with David, one of the health educators. He teaches the patients about lifestyle and diet changes for diabetes and hypertension so we're working that content together. David also helps translate for me when I see patients.

David (in yellow) and I working together to teach a gentleman about his medications.

I'm seeing about 15-20 patients a day, mostly adults with diabetes and hypertension. I've also seen some STDs, asthma, various skin rashes aka "I-have-no-idea-what-that-is," and even a possible tuberculosis patient. Maybe you didn't know this, but chronic and lifestyle diseases (like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity) are starting to outpace infectious disease in many developing countries as the biggest health issues. And of course, the effects are always disastrous-- if someone survives a stroke or a heart attack in Haiti, how will they earn money to support themselves and their family? Who will take care of them? So although it's not as exotic as dengue fever or malaria, I'm happy to treat the chronic diseases-- you never know if you might help someone avoid being disabled.

For lunch I usually do what the clinic staff does and order either rice & beans or rice with another kind of sauce. Either way it's always delicious, but I make sure to save some as there are several local kids who come by the clinic for help with homework and to eat a bit of lunch.

Me with one of the kids who comes by the clinic after school.

We wrap up seeing patients at about 1530 (3:30 PM)  and drive back to the SP compound. We finish early at the clinic since several of the staff commute for hours and it's safer to do so during daylight.

In the evenings we ("we" being the volunteers) have been helping Jill with any miscellaneous projects she had saved up for our arrival. We also chat with the Haitian SP base staff who work in various departments such as logistics, the kitchen, or the WASH team (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene team, aka well-drilling and community education). It's amazing to hear stories from many staff who are taking care of children orphaned in the 2010 earthquake-- some take care of as many as 19 children and work multiple jobs to do so. It's humbling, really. What do I know of sacrifice or loving others? Volunteering a few weeks of my time is vastly different from raising orphaned children as my own.

Every evening the stars and the geckos come out while the night security guards begin their rounds of the compound perimeter. We all wind down for the evening by talking with family back home, reading, or simply getting to bed early so we can get up for the next sunrise.

The beautiful sunrises and sunsets in Haiti are due in large part to the ever-present smoke from burning trash, industrial factories, and vehicle exhaust. I'm reminded again that so much of life contains both beauty and brokenness in the same breath, and it seems especially that way here in Haiti. But God is here and is at work in ways I can't even begin to imagine. And at this moment that knowledge is enough for me.

1.18.2013

oh by the way...


...I'm in Haiti for two weeks! I graduated in December, took (and passed!) my boards on January 12th, and flew to Haiti the 14th for two weeks with Samaritan's Purse.

Right now the internet is really spotty so my updates will be infrequent. This one in particular is not my usual coherent narrative but rather a list of random observations from the last few days.

  • We drive past the mass graves of the victims of the 2010 earthquake as we travel to the clinic each day. The ground is scorched due to a recent fire. I don’t know what to think exactly, but it’s sobering each time. 
  • I can still do a navy shower; this is a handy trick to know.
  • Yesterday a large Vodou parade went by the clinic. People were carrying a tree in the front and singing. Many of our patients left to go watch (or join?) so we wrapped up an hour early. Brings back memories of Benin which is the birthplace of vodun, aka voodoo. Vodun came to the Caribbean on slave ships filled with West African slaves, the ripple effects of which are still felt to this day.
  • My ankles are super swollen for an unknown reason. Possibly an interaction with my antimalarial medication-- will have to look into this more. Not uncomfortable other than to look at! 
  • Mangoes out of season are still amazing. 
  • What is it about looking at the stars that makes me feel closer to God?
  • One of the clinic staff told me today that they found a baby in a pile of trash. The child has been raised as one of their children & is now three years old. This staff member works two full-time jobs to help support the family, sleeping only about three to four hours per night I would guess. This is love in action-- a reminder that love is not just an emotion but a choice. 

The fabulously talented Cite Soleil Clinic staff, plus me.
  • Many other staff members also care for children that are not their own, some even setting up home orphanages to care for children left alone after the earthquake. I’m talking about 10+ kids. Also love in action. 
  • I learned yesterday that many people don’t take their medicine (ie for blood pressure) they don’t have something to eat at the same time. I had to ask how common it was for people to not have anything to eat. I don’t know the numbers, but it’s common to only have one meal a day... or nothing at all. My usual recommendation to “not take medications on an empty stomach” now has a new connotation.
  • Finally, what is the right response to and for Haiti? I don’t know; it’s beyond me. All I know is that I am content to be here at this moment. 

5.24.2012

to Haiti with love

I'm still processing the two weeks I spent in Haiti with Samaritan's Purse. Like all of creation Haiti contains both beauty and brokenness. At first glance you notice green rolling mountains and tropical blue water. Look again and you notice the mountains are crumbling due to severe erosion. Dotted in the midst of the hills and valleys are tarp-over-sticks "houses," many covered with bright blue Samaritan's Purse tarp. Brown streams empty the waste of city inhabitants directly into the ocean and you realize this is no pristine tropical paradise after all.

Yet the beauty is overwhelming, even in the midst of the remaining rubble and the barbed wire and broken glass.

The sunrise over the hills at the SP compound each morning never failed to make me catch my breath. I cherished the moments spent holding hands, singing, and praying with the clinic staff each morning before beginning our day's work. The sandwiches made with hot-pepper infused Haitian peanut butter for lunch warmed both my mouth and my spirit. Mangos are simply divine, they really are. The evening breeze coming in from the ocean seemed to gently blow peace into my heart. And I fell really and truly in love with 68 adorable children at an orphanage outside Leogane.

In a million ways I was reminded that God is a God of healing, rebuilding, and restoration. He came to bring wholeness to a broken world. He promises to make all things new and all things right.

I spent my time in Haiti working in the Cite Soleil clinic, holding orphans, dispensing medications in the pharmacy, losing Scrabble games, discussing issues of faith and social justice with new friends, and laying in a hammock listening to the waves and watching the stars come out. But most of all I spent my time in Haiti being reminded that God is enough.

Sunset from Jax Beach, Haiti


5.13.2012

welcome to Ayiti!

I arrived in Haiti (Ayiti in Creole) last Tuesday along with Sandy,the other volunteer nurse here at the moment. She's lovely and energetic and reminds me of a very grandmotherly Beth Moore.

Each weekday morning we get up around 5:30 as the sun is just coming up over the mountains. We leave for the clinic by 6:45. Along the way we stop to pick up some of the clinic staff including several doctors and some of the pharmacy personnel. We also pick up our motorcycle escort just before we head into Cite Soleil which one of the largest, poorest, and therefore most dangerous slums in the Northern Hemisphere.

Driving towards Cite Soleil.

The clinic has been operating since the earthquake in 2010, offering primary care for adults and children and some women's health services. SP employs two pediatricians, one OB/GYN, and one adult doctor that I know of for the clinic. Usually 2-3 different doctors work there depending on the day of the week, seeing anywhere from 150-200 patients a day. The patients line up in the courtyard, and Jasmine (the clinic coordinator) and Leo go through the line to try to sort out the sickest patients and the children to see the doctor. Leo fills out a health paper for each patient if they didn't bring their paper from a previous visit, and they are then admitted to the triage area.
Sandy and I work in the triage area alongside three Haitian translators named Eddy, Eddy, and Luko. This is where we ask each patient why they have come to the clinic and check their vital signs. The translators know what they're doing, but Sandy and I are here to help them think critically and help teach them so that they can in turn teach the patients. I love that aspect of this clinic; there's lots of time and opportunity to teach. There's even a health educator who talks to the patients waiting to be seen in triage, telling them about handwashing, diarrhea, and worms, among other things. In the triage area we often teach about foods to avoid if you have hypertension or acid reflux, how to keep a wound clean, etc. I am in the process of teaching Eddy how to calculate paracetamol (acetaminophen) doses for kids with fevers; the dose is based off their weight. It's a little complicated until you've done it a few times, but he's picking it up really quickly. I want to teach the other translators on Monday. I guess until now they've been going back to ask one of the doctors or Haitian nurses for the dose!

After the patient goes through triage they wait to see the doctor who writes prescriptions which are then filled at the SP pharmacy. It's a really organized process! Some patients also end up going to the treatment room which is run by Toussaint, a sweet Haitian nurse. In the treatment room they do breathing treatments, IV fluids, some dressings, and Toussaint is also training several Haitian nursing students.

We finish in triage about 2:30, which gives the doctors and pharmacy enough time to wrap everything up by 3:30 or 4:00. We finish early because some of the Haitian staff have 2-3 hour commutes, and they need to get out of Cite Soleil before it gets dark. By the time Sandy and I get back to the SP base it's usually around 4:30, and we have the rest of the evening free to read, nap, check email, and chat.

I really love seeing the work that's happening at the Cite Soleil clinic. I've had patients come through with health papers from 2010, meaning that they have been receiving some health care for the last two years! That's really exciting, especially considering that in West Africa I always felt that once the ship sailed away the people had no health care. Although there are hospitals in West Africa, most people cannot afford the price. So I really love that the SP clinic has been taking care of the people living in the Cite Soleil slum for years now.

During my evenings I've been reading a great book called "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...And Yourself" by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. I was really struck by one idea which I will quote for you:

"We are not bringing Christ to poor communities. He has been active in these communities since the creation of the world, sustaining them 'by his powerful word' (Heb. 1:3). Hence, a significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a long time!"

Oh this is so true. I am not bringing Jesus to the poor people of Cite Soleil. He is already here and has been working in a million ways both seen and unseen. During his time on earth Jesus loved children, tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, and the least of these... at Cite Soleil we try to follow His example.

I can picture Jesus here, walking the dirt streets of Cite Soleil. I feel His pleasure each time I walk through the clinic doors to start a new day. I feel His presence when the clinic staff gathers to sing and pray before we start seeing patients. We pray for the clinic, Cite Soleil, the Haitian government, and the people of Haiti. We pray that God would bring not only physical healing, but that He would change people's hearts. And I feel His peace gently, quietly, patiently at work here in Haiti... and also in my heart.