Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Storm Over Haiti

By Charlotte Schmitt, a nurse who served as a medical volunteer in Haiti

I knew bad weather was approaching Haiti before I left for my trip with Samaritan’s Purse. I considered packing games like UNO cards, or bringing some knitting to help distract myself during the anticipated lulls. But I ended up taking donated medicine instead.

I knew that the end of August is the peak of hurricane season. I’m a Floridian after all. I didn’t choose August; it chose me. In fact, I requested to serve during several other months, but Samaritan’s Purse made my travel week selection. I even had a chance to trade with another medical volunteer, Debi. But that didn’t work out.

“God has you going for a reason,” she said in a Facebook message.

Diane, another friend, prayed with me before I left.

“I really think you are going to need to be flexible,” she said. Her comment got my attention, and I thought about it more than once in Haiti.

I ended up calling my trip “Lucky 13.” I know Christians are usually appalled at the term lucky, but in the end I found I was greatly blessed by my 13th journey to Haiti.

The most adventurous moment was when Tropical Storm Isaac hit and we could not go to the clinic in Cite Soleil. We missed one and half days of volunteer work because of it. There was no Internet connection for four days, and we couldn’t go to the kitchen, bathroom, or shower because the wind was blowing at 60-plus mph outside.

We couldn’t stay in our military tent, because it hadn’t been staked down with concrete. So during the storm, I was in a quad with a tin roof over my head. My evening involved staring at the ceiling and listening to the wind blow outside.

I was borrowing the room of a Haitian pastor. Not only was the room nice, but it had a hardbound book on the nightstand. It was Billy Graham’s new book, “Nearing Home”. I read almost the entire thing that night. I was thankful to have Billy Graham’s words and thoughts for company.

Some small tree limbs were blown down that night, but there was no other damage to the camp. It remained windy, but we were finally given permission to move back into the military tents.

I took virtually no pictures while I was on the trip, even though I had a camera. I needed little reminder of the horrific tent conditions that over 400,000 Haitians are still living in.

Trips to two orphanages provoked mixed feelings of both tremendous sadness at the poor living conditions and joy that the children had such pleasant caregivers.

My actual volunteer work allowed me to be a nurse and a pharmacist. I became interested in how pharmaceuticals are brought to developing nations after my first trip to Haiti. I gained a lot of experience after independently taking in two teams to do medical clinics in the mountains. We had to take our own formulary, and I had to create it. So, I was absolutely fascinated with working in the pharmacy at the Cite Soleil clinic, and I was completely content counting pills and helping the patients with their medicines.

One of my favorite experiences was sharing morning devotionals with the Haitian medical staff and also attending a Wednesday evening Bible study for workers at our base.

Aside from all of those life-changing adventures, I ate a lot of rice and beans. I learned to write and speak Creole a little better. I made some Haitian friends on both plane trips. I saw a beautiful sunrise going to Miami and the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen coming home.

I would like to go back to Haiti for trip 14, but I don’t have a clue how it will happen. I’ve said that before, so I know God has a nice little plan in mind.