Posted by: calloftheandes | January 25, 2010

Haiti Quake Victims Find Salvation Amid Suffering

Story by Ralph Kurtenbach
Photos by Martin Harrision

With each faint scent or sound of life beneath the rubble, rescue workers call for total silence, but their hope of hearing a tapped or shouted reply is fading with each day following the Jan. 12 quake that shook the Haitian capital.

Already, noisy earthmovers in northern Port-au-Prince have carved out mass graves on a hillside where the site manager said he had interred thousands of corpses—including many children’s bodies—in a single day.

Amid the stench of death, civil chaos looming, and heart-stopping aftershocks, an HCJB Global Hands medical team from Ecuador continues saving lives even as patients’ limbs are lost to amputation after crushing injuries.

Team leader Sheila Leech and Ecuadorian orthopedic surgeon Leonardo Febres have returned to Ecuador, but their five colleagues who also arrived at the Baptist Haiti Mission (BHM) hospital on Jan. 15 are staying on for a few more days. Working tiring days, they witness terrible tragedy at many turns. Nevertheless, they persist amid suffering and sorrows within this haven of hope—a hospital where patients and their relatives hear the gospel.

Dr. Febres (at right) and assistant at work on Haitian quake victim.

For a week now, the Ecuador team of HCJB Global Hands has assisted at BHM where local chaplains and those from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) circulate among the patients. The chaplains comfort those grieving and share the news that God is love, even in times of trial.

For the Haitians, many whose lives are marked by financial struggle, this love is palpable and within grasp, even if worldly wealth is not. Many embrace the biblical account of a Savior who, by Western standards, was born, lived and died poor. Amid the suffering, the Haitians smile; they sing; they busy themselves with alleviating the pain of others.

Observing the Haitians, physicians, chaplains and support staff blending to form an effective Christian body, water engineer Martin Harrison arrived at two summarizing words: resilience and improvisation.

“Many staff have lost family members and close friends,” he wrote in a quiet moment. “Yet they have not downed tools since the first day, as they seek to help others live. The surgeons, doctors, nurses, water engineers and caretakers each play their own vital part, tirelessly working from dawn until late into the night, improvising with whatever comes to hand as certain medical supplies run low.”

With two operating rooms now treating patients at BHM, surgical plates, pins, casting material and other supplies are all needed, along with blood. German physician Eckehart Wolff donated blood to one patient, Alexis, during a surgery he was performing. It helped her survive . . . but only for a short while longer. To extend scarce supplies, staff members have begun cutting the pins in half.

Reports indicate more than 400 makeshift camps have sprung up near Port-au-Prince with nearly 400,000 people in shelters bed sheets and clothing scraps stretched over tree branches. U.N. assessments claim a significant percentage of this population continues to lack access to clean water.

The city’s airport can now receive nearly 200 flights per day, but the flow of aid flights bottlenecks on the ramps as truck transport of supplies to the city is lacking.

The risk of epidemic runs high with camps overcrowded and unsanitary and shortages in both medical care and clean water. Public health officials are closely monitoring this risk.

While being prepped for surgery at BHM, 14-year-old Marcelus was evangelized by Cesaire Elusmond, a Haitian chaplain, and BGEA’s Jack Dowling. “Then and there,” Harrison recounted, “just minutes before going to surgery under HCJB Global surgeons, he prayed and gave his life to the Lord. As doctors were saving his life, Jesus was changing his heart.”

“We give thanks for the miracles God is working each and every day,” the British engineer added, “not only saving lives, but changing hearts.”

Sources: HCJB Global, Samaritan’s Purse, Associated Press



  1. […] Resigning from the mission in 1997, the Johnsons continued living in Ecuador where they later served with Samaritan’s Purse. Then they worked with that mission in Haiti following that country’s devastating earthquake in early 2010. […]

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