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Love at First Sight

“Odilon, a tall, quiet 15 -year-old boy with a penchant for Jordan sandals, hobbled into our lives on a Tuesday morning at the Poverty Resolutions medical clinic. Odilon was ushered towards my “station” and as he sat across from me, Bobby, one of our translators for the day and a Poverty Resolutions staff member, told me that Odilon had “stepped on a piece of glass” 8 days ago and needed his foot checked. Odilon’s foot was wrapped loosely in gauze, and as I proceeded to unwrap the gauze, the odor of an infection permeated the room and I realized that this was likely some piece of glass. Instead of unwrapping the dressing, we took a “field trip” to the grassy area outside of the clinic and set Odilon in a plastic chair. From there, “Operation Odilon” began, and we undressed his foot to find a gaping wound that ran from the ball of his foot to the beginning of his heel (which we later found to measure approximately 3/4 of an index finger in depth). A large blood clot had formed in a protective fashion within and around the wound, and to explore it in depth to “fish out” remaining glass would have increased Odilon’s risk of infection. The wound required debriding (removal of unhealthy tissue) and immediate antibiotics stronger than those available in the medical clinic. We proceeded to flush the wound with water, attempting to clean the area and remove any remaining glass or outside contaminants from the periphery and superficial aspects of the wounds. Odilon was started on oral antibiotics available in clinic and his wound was cleanly redressed. Thus began our daily visits with Odilon, and the highlight of my days at Poverty Resolutions.

Megan, the resident social worker, myself, and one of the Poverty Resolutions staff members who translated would see Odilon each morning (and often afternoon) to clean the wound and redress it, ensuring that Odilon was taking his antibiotics and pain medication. Due to a Haitian holiday, we waited two days prior to taking Odilon to the local hospital, run by American physician Mark Brown. The experience was a bit more amazing for me than for Odilon! Megan, Betty, Odilon and myself left for the hospital where Odilon had his wound surgically debrided. We were allowed into the sterile OR and Megan held Odilon’s hand while his foot was poked and prodded for 45 minutes. The physician pulled out glass and pieces of grass from the wound during the debridement. Unlike standard protocol in the US, the Haitian physician decided to suture his wound versus “packing the wound”. With packing, the dressing is inserted into the wound and removed daily, but with Odilon’s lifestyle (walking to school and through his neighborhood daily, lack of knowledge about the imperative need to keep the wound clean, his love of soccer!, et cetera), the decision to suture it was one that I believe worked out for the best. After a Sprite for Odilon, we loaded back into the van and made our way home. Odilon continued with antibiotics which the nurse at Poverty Resolutions expertly delivered and Megan went above and beyond to visit Odilon at his home during the weekend to change his dressing and ensure that the wound was clean and that he was healing.

Prior to leaving Haiti, I continued to see Odilon daily to change his dressing, talk with him, and communicate with him about his foot. If he had waited a few more days, or not come into the clinic for treatment, Odilon could have easily lost his foot through gangrene or a massive infection. It truly did “take a village” as everyone from visitors (like myself), to Megan, to Poverty Resolutions staff, to the resident nurse, to the individuals and physicians at the local hospital, worked to ensure that Odilon was receiving the best treatment possible. On our last day at the site, I was introduced to Odilon’s mother and his little brother, Edwin.

Odilon’s mother was so expressive of her gratitude and thanks, repeating that “God sent us down to Haiti” at this time and for this purpose to aid Odilon. She was aware that the hospital bill was hundreds of dollars and that Poverty Resolutions had paid this fee. She expressed how grateful her family was as they would “never be able to afford a hospital visit for Odilon”. This interaction, the “human-ness” of it, touched me in a way I will not soon forget.

I have seen more of Odilon’s foot over the past two months than I care to admit! It continues to heal and Megan and Betty have taken Odilon back to the local hospital for checkups since his initial visit. Megan has graciously “kept me in the loop” by texting pictures and using Facebook Messenger to send me pictures of Odilon and even a video. The people I met in Haiti and through Poverty Resolutions had such an impact on me and had such an impact on Odilon. Without this community, his outcome would not have been one to celebrate but due to everyone’s continued care, he is back on the soccer field (right where a 15-year-old should be). Whether it was love at first sight for Odilon (I doubt it), it was for me, and I knew that I would be honored to “sponsor” such a kind soul who touched my life. I look forward to visiting again in 2018 and seeing Odilon! Until then, thank God for Meghan, her pictures and her videos!”

-Jill Vanak, recent trip participant

Rough Edges

As I sat by the stunningly clear water of the Caribbean Sea on the shores of Haiti, I was captivated by the motion of the tide as it poured over the rocks lulling me into its rhythmic song, back and forth, back and forth. I contemplated the continuous movements and its effect on the rocks who had no choice but to fall into step with the regular ebb and flow. Suddenly, I was struck by the roundness of the pebbles and the unmistakable fact that the rough pounding of the ocean’s waves was the cause for their smooth texture. I thought, that’s what Haiti will be for me – a kind of barrage designed to even out my rough edges.

Sitting in a Haitian night church service after almost 12 hours of traveling brings emotions close to the surface. It was easy to be overwhelmed by the many voices praising God in their native tongue of Creole, loudly and for many hours. Regardless of what country I find myself in, I am invariably moved by the fact that Christians the world over worship the same one true, living, God. The next day, after a morning spent learning more about the organization of Poverty Resolutions, my heart readily praised God for providing such a great organization to minister to the people of Arcahaie, Haiti. After visiting the home of the child I sponsor and getting to see how the community lives on a daily basis, I was ready for a mental break, which came in the form of organizing a Poverty Resolutions storage unit.

As the sun seemed to press closer and closer to our little dot on the map, so did the children of the village for the exciting time of the Child Development Program. Pictures of all 60 impoverished, but joyful children were taken in hopes that more people would be stirred to act as child sponsors (visit povres.org for more information). Games were played, crafts were made, and children desperate for love and attention were gladly doted upon by our group. That afternoon, over 40 moms poured through the gates for a time of encouragement and discipleship at their Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group.

Finally, the barrage was coming and there was no way around it. A visit to an orphanage in a nearby town the next day quickly added to the increasingly grim perspective I was gaining on the plight of this nation. Here, unable to care for their children themselves, parents purposely send their kids, lured in by the promise of two meals a day and regular school attendance. On the way to Port-au-Prince we stopped by a mass grave, known as the Valley of Death, site of the dumping ground for over 200,000 people who died in the 2010 earthquake that shook the nation. Next, a trip to a children’s hospital in Port-au-Prince broke my emotional fortitude completely as I gazed into the eyes of numerous unbelievably malnourished, infirm Haitian babies. Run by the Catholic Church, the children’s hospital is in desperate need of people to love on those little ones who are just struggling to survive. Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.

My perspective is forever changed. God used the harsh reality of the waves of Haiti’s poverty to hone off my rough edges and make me just a little bit smoother for His Kingdom and His glory.  Not only was I enlightened to the needs of a desperate country,  but I was given the opportunity to temporarily love on the “least of these”. I couldn’t be more grateful.

-Jessica Kirkner

Hurricane Matthew Update #2

img_0740In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, many have been reaching out to us and asking how they can help. After taking a week to assess the situation on the ground, we wanted to write to our supporters.

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew is vast. In countless cases, homes were badly damaged or completely destroyed. Much of the livestock owned by Haitian farmers was simply carried away by the wind and floods, as were any crops they had labored to produce. In many places, the drinking water is contaminated, increasing the risk of the spread of cholera. Bridges and roads were washed away and southern Haiti’s access to food has become extremely limited.

While we are heartbroken over the decimation of Haiti, Poverty Resolutions is not a relief organization. We specialize in community engagement, child development, providing skill training, discipleship, and community engagement. However, we care deeply about the struggles the Haitians are now facing and desire to use the relationships we have built throughout Haiti to effectively provide post-hurricane support.

We believe in working with the local community and in partnering with Haitian-run organizations to impact communities directly. To that end, we have decided to partner with several local organizations to be most effective. We are still looking into several ways to help, but we are moving forward with a few partners and wanted to begin our fundraising efforts.

We have decided to partner with a missionary who works under the umbrella of MEBSH (The Evangelical Baptist Mission of South Haiti), a consortium of 400+ churches that are mostly located in the devastated region. We know and trust the MEBSH team, and are confident they will best be able to assess the current needs and make wise decisions regarding distribution of relief funds.

We are also connected to missionaries who are active in Plaisance. They are high up in the mountains and have experienced tremendous damage to homes and other buildings, as well as significant loss of crops and other food sources. These folks run an orphanage and a medical clinic, and one of their primary concerns is the lack of available food.

Will you consider joining us as we seek to provide relief to the tens of thousands of Haitians affected by Hurricane Matthew? The funds we receive towards relief efforts will be used to support these urgent needs. If you’d like to contribute, please visit https://purecharity.com/hurricane-matthew.

Thank you, in advance, for your generosity. Thank you, as well, for your continued prayers for the people and nation of Haiti. As we move forward in support of these partners, all of our own projects and programs in Arcahaie continue as well. Please continue to keep Haiti, our staff, and the work there in your thoughts and prayers.

With care,

The Poverty Resolutions Team

Hurricane Matthew Update

Many of you have expressed concern for Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Thank you for your interest in, and thoughts and prayers for, the well-being of those we serve. We want to send out an update, as well as ask for continued prayers, as many in Haiti are suffering greatly from the hurricane’s effects.

We want to praise God for sparing our area, Arcahaie, just north of Port-au-Prince; it was not hit as hard as many other areas. There were no deaths or serious injuries in our community. However, we are deeply concerned for the people whom Hurricane Matthew hit most directly. Please see the maps below.

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The BBC is reporting that 30,000 homes in Sud (South) Province were destroyed and that death tolls are already above 400. More than 80% of the buildings in Jeremie, a southern coastal town, have been destroyed. Perhaps one of the greatest problems is that two bridges are out, making many of the hardest hit areas unreachable. 

Haiti : carte d'impact de l'ouragan Matthew sur le sud ouest du pays // impact map of the hurricane Matthew on soutwestern Haiti

As an organization, we are considering how we can most effectively help. We have sent a driver and our pickup truck to Port-Au-Prince to help transfer supplies to the region. At this time, we do not want to send teams and cause an undue burden on a system that cannot even feed those who have survived. Specifically, we are thinking about sending a team of medical personnel (from Haiti internally) and helping with food supplies for those who lost their crops and homes during the storm. Andrew will be leaving for Haiti on Tuesday to assess the situation more closely.

We have good relationships with several missionary families in Haiti, and we are investigating the possibility of funneling any relief funds we receive for this effort directly through them, since they already know the people and their needs in their immediate communities. When more information becomes available, we will send out another update.

Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti.

 

What Is Poverty?

Following is a post from PovRes supporter and 2015 medical team volunteer Tyler Wiggs:

By most people’s definition, poverty is having a lack of money and material possessions. We see this poverty all around us, from commercials involving starving children in Africa to homeless veterans pleading for change on street corners. It was this poverty that led many to Haiti following a devastating earthquake in 2010. More than one out of every two Haitians live on one dollar each day.

It should come as no surprise that Andrew and Matt Jones felt called to Haiti in light of the widespread poverty the country experiences. Since their initial trip, God has utilized them in some extraordinary ways. Most importantly, He has formed relationships between Matt, Andrew, and the rest of the Poverty Resolutions staff and countless Haitians. Rather than coming into the country from a place of material privilege, Poverty Resolutions has truly come alongside the native population, to walk with them and to assist them in making a difference in their own lives. Not only has this approach allowed Poverty Resolutions and short-term mission teams to appreciate the radiant beauty of the country and the people, but it has also permitted us to recognize our own poverty.

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While many of us who participate in a short-term missions team are not materially poor by global standards, we are all broken in our own ways. For some of us, our poverty comes in the form of doubting ourselves and our abilities. For others, poverty means a lack of education or skills. All of us are trapped in a cycle of poverty in some form or another, whether it is material, spiritual, emotional, psychological, social, or otherwise.

As a result of my experience in Haiti, my eyes were opened to see the relational poverty in my own life. The first indication of this poverty was the uneasy feeling I felt while waiting to load up the vans at 3 am Friday morning. Despite the fact that my wife and I have been regularly attending E-Free for nearly a year, I realized there is a significant number of people I do not know and few people I can say I know beyond a simple hello. While I was relieved to discover that most of the medical team felt similarly as they did not know members of the youth group, I was equally surprised. In hindsight, I suppose I should not have been, given the individualistic culture in which we find ourselves.

IMG_0568Our culture stands in stark contrast with the Haitians. In the U.S., we are separated by our cars, our homes, our jobs, and our individual responsibilities. The Haitians, on the other hand, are much more reliant on one another. They are frequently outside, interacting with their neighbors. They work hand-in-hand. They worship together in passionate church services. They buy and sell from one another in the marketplace. In many cases, they have a shared experience.

For one week, we were able to partake in this type of social lifestyle. With the exception of our individual quiet time, we were constantly around each other, and because of this, we got to know our neighbors and bond with them. We were able to relate to one another as we experienced some of the same things together. We began to see another way to live.

My hope and prayer is for us to be able to continue to build upon what we started in Haiti. To help keep me focused and to grow in these areas, I have established three important goals.

First, I want to respond to God’s call to support Poverty Resolutions in their mission. God has entrusted my wife and I with financial resources, which He expects us to share with those who have not received the same resources. Likewise, He has entrusted the materially poor with different abundances – whether love, industriousness, community, or other blessings – in hopes they will share with us. The Haitians have already shared a great deal with me, and I know a continued relationship with Poverty Resolutions translates into a mutual relationship rather than simply a charitable one.

Second, my experience with the youth group this week has reawakened a passion to serve with the youth. Being able to observe the youth’s perseverance and willingness to love others was truly an inspiration. I want to be able to help serve alongside and develop deeper relationships with the youth as they discover God’s calling in their lives. They are sure to do magnificent things!

FinallIMG_0625y, I want to learn and invest time into better understanding the numerous causes of material poverty and how I might be able to assist in poverty alleviation. God has blessed each of us with our own unique resources, talents, knowledge, and insights. I hope to be able to harness those gifts and answer the call to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. As Andy Stanley said, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” Together, we can make a difference!

Although our small medical team was able to serve well over 500 patients in a week, the true transformative power of the experience will occur in the weeks and months ahead. We took the first step. We built foundations for future relationships. Now, it is time for us to continue on the journey God has in store for each of us.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:9-10

Tyler Wiggs is a husband, father and part of the mission team at E-Free Church of Bloomington Normal (IL). A former police officer, Tyler manages Habitat for Humanity’s Bloomington ReStore.