Posted by: calloftheandes | January 29, 2010

God Glorified Amid Suffering, Surgeries in Haiti

Sources: HCJB Global, Samaritan’s Purse

Story by Ralph Kurtenbach
Photos by Martin Harrison

For the weary HCJB Global Hands team that returned home to Ecuador this week after quake relief work in Haiti, the hum of turbo jet engines replaced the steady drone of generators.

At the Baptist Haiti Mission (BHM) Hospital in Port-au-Prince, team members had grown accustomed to rationed electricity and shortages of diesel, water and surgical supplies. As well, they’d grown to rely on God during long hours of saving people’s lives by removing crushed and infected limbs.

Ecuadorian surgeon Leonardo Febres with patient.

The team’s return to a world in non-crisis mode followed 10 days of too little sleep, too much pain and too many deaths, tempered with the joy of being the hands of Jesus to many hurting Haitians.

Their two-day return trip carried the team through airports in Port-au-Prince, Turks and Caicos Islands, Fort Lauderdale and Miami before landing in Quito on Tuesday, Jan. 26. HCJB Global family physician Steve Nelson anticipated a culture shock while en route to Fort Lauderdale.

“People will be talking basketball and Super Bowl . . . or is that over already?” Nelson journaled as the team’s transition from ground zero to the outside world awaited them some 12 hours away.

Physicians Mark Nelson, Tom Woods, and Steve Nelson examine an x-ray.

Nelson’s description of both sorrows and joys reached thousands who upheld the team in prayer. His short missive described the emotional ties formed with the hospital’s overworked staff and the patients whose lives the team worked to save. Crossing language barriers, smiles, gestures and a shared faith in Jesus bonded the seven-member emergency medical response team with their Haitian hosts and patients.

“Said goodbye to my patients last night,” Nelson wrote. “Brave little kids with amputations and fractured limbs and pelvises. The most hurting ones squeezed out a smile anyway while those feeling better had a glowing one fixed on their beautiful faces already.” A veritable microcosm of Port-au-Prince’s suffering and death, the BHM Hospital nonetheless has been a beacon of Christian care and the message of the gospel.

For team leader Sheila Leech, a British nurse, the trip began in comfort as the team awaited clearance to fly from Miami to Haiti, on Friday, Jan. 15, three days after the quake struck. Late that night in BHM’s operating room, she cradled a dead baby the team managed to deliver to a mother with eclampsia. “I watched my colleagues continue to battle to save the mother’s life,” she wrote to prayer supporters.

“We had tried hard to save the baby,” Ms. Leech explained. “But at 30 weeks with no special care unit and not even an incubator, we knew it was hopeless. She was to be one of the first patients we could not save.”

Chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association shared the gospel with patients in the wards, and dozens of people prayed to receive Christ as Lord and Savior while the HCJB Global team worked at the hospital in conjunction with Samaritan’s Purse.

But the specter of death was never far off. Asked to photograph a small girl who had died, Nelson later wrote, “The lady who translated for me whispered into my ear, ‘This is the sixth of their nine children who has died from this earthquake. They just want a picture.’” Meanwhile, British water engineer Martin Harrison photographed a mass grave being hurriedly dug on the mission compound.

Before departing Haiti, Harrison’s visit to a church service gave a sample of proof that the Haitian church plans to forge ahead in faith. “I was truly struck by the strength which God has given this congregation to carry on despite loss of family and property,” he wrote.

“One of the pastors had lost four of his children and another his eldest son, yet they stood up to lead the service and to preach the Word of God. The sermon was on the theme of suffering and how we should respond to it, based on passages from the book of Job.”

“Amid all this suffering and loss, about 70 people got a good look at the loving, compelling face and person of Jesus and decided to follow Him,” Nelson added.

“Some of those 70 might get to see Him face to face in heaven soon. We lost two young men this week to pulmonary embolisms after successfully treating their injuries,” Nelson said, acknowledging that others, too, may die. “More will follow, so it’s a joy to add these 70 to the equation regarding why this is so worth it.”

In addition to Ms. Leech, Nelson and Harrison, the team included surgeons Leonardo Febres and Eckehart Wolff, anesthesiologist Paul Barton and family physician Mark Nelson. While Samaritan’s Purse continues to stand in the gap at BHM with physicians and nurses, HCJB Global Hands is making plans to send another team to Haiti in several weeks.

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