Mission Statement

Chicago Metro Presbytery exists to extend the gospel and to oversee the work of the ministry of the PCA throughout the Chicago Metropolitan area to the glory of God.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Haiti Update 11/12/16

The week of medical ministry in Haiti by our team of 13 has been an immensely productive one - in five long days they saw over 1000 patients. Some lives were clearly saved by their timely work, and many were made immeasurably better by the medical care they received, and by the emotional and spiritual care as well. The team has done a hard job in challenging circumstances amazingly well.

But now any remaining meds are sorted for a final time and stored safely to be left in the pharmacy in Cambry for use by the local ESMI doc or our next team. The duffels are ready to come home, mostly empty this time instead of stuffed. And the team is ready to come home, too, pretty much exhausted but knowing their work made a big difference this week.

The day ended with the team being sung to by approximately 40 kids, some who were brought from Dariverger by one of the pastors just to say thank you. They brought gatorade to make it a real party, and the time singing with the kids was a great way to finish their week among them. It was great to enjoy a little bit of down time with together!

Some good news - little Fechina was able to get a tetanus shot today. One of the pastors was tasked with going out on a recon mission to find some of that vaccine, which was then stored "MacGyver-like" in a makeshift cooler (an insulated water bottle with a broken up ice pack to keep it cold) until it could be given to her. She was also given a series of 7 antibiotic injections today (no IV, because the drug they wanted was only available in an injectable) and they re-opened her wound to drain it again, as well.  She was doing so much better by the end of the evening they let her go home with her family. The ESMI doc will use meds left behind to follow up with her. The treatment today not only saved her hand, but very likely her life. How awesome is that?

It was also a "what are the chances?" kind of day today. Yesterday, the team noticed (for the first time ever, after multiple trips) that there are deaf people living on the grounds of the Cambry Orphanage. It's a small live-in school and one of the translators explained that nobody talks to them or even notices them anymore. Well, one of the docs happens to know sign language so she invited them over for medical care. Great, all good, nothing too unusual there. But today one of those same people was in a bad car accident and - because his friends knew the docs were there - brought him right to them for care. He was unconscious and had several his teeth knocked out, and some broken bones. If the doc hadn't reached out to them yesterday, that never would have happened. On top of that, our team had probably the one person in Haiti who had the skills and the tools to GLUE his teeth back in. What are the chances? The other docs didn't even know that was possible. It was one of several "coincidences" that happened this week that left the team with the clear message that God was going before them. How wonderful is that?

The team was also able to show generosity by meeting physical needs requiring financial assistance. Several donors had sent money along with the team members, and with money the team members themselves donated, they were able to meet about $3000 worth of various needs. They leave with a list of needs, too, mostly for medical procedures beyond what a team like ours is capable of (like hernia operations and CT scans) for which donors will be sought. Haitian healthcare - if available at all - is "pay as you go" up to and including bringing your own bandages for after your surgery. Most Haitians don't have the means.

Tomorrow they pull out of the guest house in a coach bus at 5:00 EST for the long ride back to Port au Prince. Their plane leaves at 2:30.

Please pray for:

  • Fechina and all the others who are physically fragile but on the mend. Praise God for her apparent swift turn around from a very dangerous situation. Please also pray for the two children with chronic malnutrition from the Cavallion orphanage, and for the accident victim.
  • The rebuilding of Cavaillon and the other orphanages, churches, schools in the ESMI system that are damaged or destroyed. Ask that God provide the means to restore, rebuild, and even make long term improvements in the living situations of the children. Pray also for the desperate situation in Savanne, where the poorest of the poor are trying to survive this latest catastrophe to come to Haiti.
  • The health and safety in travel for the team tomorrow. Ask God to give them each a smooth "re-entry" into life here after a sometimes surreal and non-stop, intense week in a third world country. Most of them will jump right back into a work environment Monday morning. Pray for God to graciously meet them in any discomfort they have.
  • Pray for ESMI staff and local pastors who remain behind and live with the stresses of this ongoing situation every day. Pray for strength, grace, and patience as they deal with massive need.

The team is very grateful for your prayer support this week. They will have much else to tell you in person when you see them!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Haiti Update 11/11 with picture

Good morning, everyone. Somehow, the team has gotten a picture out via text - the first the week. See the the attachment.

The picture is of the girl I told you about below with the burned hand which became a very serious infection. Her name is Fechina, and the team was delighted to see she seems to be doing better this morning! They are going to keep her on an I-V of antibiotics all day and evaluate whether they should re-open the wound later today. They will also keep her at the guest house overnight until the team has to leave to keep a close eye on her. 

Please pray for her today. Thank you!

Haiti Update 11/11 (#1)

The team didn't go far today, but they sure found plenty to do! They walked down the hill to the Cambry orphanage, which has had a whole lot of extra kids since the hurricane. That location was the biggest and deemed sturdiest, housing upwards of 500 kids for several weeks until some could be safely returned to Dariverger and Big House. The goal is to get Cavaillon in livable shape as soon as possible to get the number of kids in Cambry back to normal.

Today the team saw all of the kids normally living at Cavaillon plus numerous community folks from Cambry. Again, the community folks were primarily suffering from untended wounds or injuries leading to infections stemming from the hurricane, plus the more typical things that present themselves when medical care is in scarce supply.

The Cavaillon kids were in generally good shape, which was encouraging. However, a few of the children the onsite medical people and housemoms have been watching due to chronic malnutrition are still not thriving. Extra funds were given to those managing their care for protein supplements to see if they can get them to a healthier place.

More troubling was the condition of a community child, a 7 year old girl who was burned in a cooking fire at home. That injury escalated to a horrible infection on her hand, which is spreading. The team thought a tetanus shot was her best chance to avoid amputation, but they were concerned that it had perhaps even become life threatening. They did what the could for her today.

There was also a child brought to them today from Dariverger (where they were yesterday) with a serious wound that needed to be cleansed and stitched up. They'll check on him tomorrow.

In all three of these cases, it was clear that they were truly making a difference and giving these children the best chance of returning to health, but heartbreaking nevertheless.

After 5 long days of ministry, the team has seen at least 750 people. The physical, mental and emotional toll has left them fairly exhausted and starting to feel it. Tomorrow, to close out their week of ministry, they'll go back to Cambry to see the remaining children and probably more community people.

Please pray:

  • For the children seen today, especially the little girl with the serious infection after being burned. The team is very concerned for her.
  • For the team. Pray that their rest would be restorative, and that God would bring them peace and resiliency as they finish their service tomorrow. Pray also for their health; as they get tired and running on empty, cold or flu-like symptoms become more likely.
  • Even now, pray for the team's day of travel on Sunday. They will be leaving very early Sunday morning for a return trip to Port au Prince by coach bus, and then from Port au Prince to Miami. From there, back home. It will easily be an 18 hour day.
  • Pray that God will use the seeds of word, deed, and mercy planted this week will bring fruit for the gospel as ESMI pastors continue on in the daily ministry to the people of Cayes, Cambry, Dariverger, and Cavaillon.

Thank you for praying. The team is so very appreciative of your partnership with them. 

Haiti Update 11/10

The team got a chance to experience the "back roads" of Haiti today by going to nearby villages of Dariverger and Big House. Only about 20 minutes from the guest house, but not really on the way to anywhere else, the roads are always rustic to the point of not being what we would call roads - apparently even more so after the hurricane damage. They got to see what that part of Haiti looks like now without even the beginning of clean up attempts, and it was striking to see large sections of what had been lush and green just gone and flattened. They had a bird's eye view of it all from the back of the pick up trucks they use for transportation from place to place. Bumpy, but no obstructions!

This is one hard working and well ordered team - four doc stations with intake, triage, pharmacy and a procedures area all feeding into and out of them. They estimate they saw at least 125 people today from the two villages, perhaps as many as 150. Various needs were met today but the striking thing was severe infections. One woman had a terribly infected stab wound she'd received in a fight for food in the hurricane aftermath when things were so desperate. Another child had an infection of some kind, and the team is sure that both would have died if left untreated for much longer. It is a good reminder and encouragement that while every need can't be met by any one team, the needs they met today saved lives, and that is something to rejoice in. Again, rampant scabies were in evidence, which is partly due to the remote location and also because so many people have nowhere else to sleep but on the ground.

The team is benefiting from the assistance of a group of Haitian men who work with ESMI as translators. Each with their own story of loss that reflects the harsh reality of life in Haiti, they use their English fluency to earn money to support themselves and their families. One is a young man with aspirations to study in America, Louinel; another a man who has lost everything - including his family and his livelihood a few times over - in cholera epidemics in the past, other health crises, and the recent hurricane. His name is Antoine. There is also a nurse on the team this time who was born in Port au Prince and is fluent in Creole. Another blessing.

The team is proving to be made of tough stuff! The heat is oppressive and the working situations crazy, but there are no complaints. Just the opposite. Everyone is pulling together to do amazing work. They are getting tired, as you would expect, but are looking to finish well in the next couple of days as they work at the orphanage down the hill from the guest house. They'll see LOTS of children and as many community folks as possible.

Please pray:
  • For continued health and good rest for the team, and for electricity and adequate water for showers.
  • For the team's stamina to see them through two more very full days of ministry.
  • For the hardworking people of ESMI, who have been going full bore for the last 5 weeks since the hurricane. All have got to be exhausted, and yet rebuilding efforts and maintaining food supplies for the orphans drives them. Louis and Dony St Germain remain in the middle of the efforts, Louis in Cayes and Dony in Jeremie, which was probably the area hardest hit by the hurricane.
  • For interpreters Louinel and Antoine, and so many others like them, who are beginning again from practically nothing. Ask that God give them encouragement and provide a way for them to meet their family's needs.
  • For the desperate all over Haiti. Ask that God give hope instead of people lashing out in violence and frustration in their need.
  • And lastly but most significantly, that the healing love of Jesus would enter the hearts of those who don't know Him in this sick and wounded country.
Thank you for praying!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Our hardworking team might have set a new record today for patient care. They estimate they saw 275 people. It's only an estimate because they ran out of the cards they use to track patients when they hit 260. They worked straight through from 9:00 to 6:00. They will sleep well tonight!

There were some who needed follow up care from injuries sustained in the hurricane, but fortunately people were in pretty good shape with just the typical concerns our teams have become used to seeing - infections, wound care, scabies, high blood pressure, and general illnesses. No cholera was seen today, either. Reports of it breaking out seem to be localized elsewhere in Haiti.

An unexpected opportunity came their way today in that they were asked to see the older (teenage) students at the school in Bon Berger, approximately 80-100 of them. It was clear that many were suffering from STD's, so the family practice doctors took them aside in small groups before they were done with them to educate them on sexual health.

The sound of chainsaws once again formed the background to their work. The church had planted a lovely and stately arbor of trees leading to the church, which had grown significantly over the years to form a lovely long arch - but they are all gone now. Sadly, they've been cut into wood that will now provide firewood for people. Nothing goes to waste in Haiti.

Louis St. Germain took the team leader into Savanne for a car tour. The situation there is so desperate that it was deemed unwise to take the whole team for the tour. In fact, no one left the car, which also had three guards in it. ESMI has sent food and supplies into Savanne, but they are quickly used up and desperation abounds. The church which ESMI started and is thriving has no usable building any longer. It's pretty much gutted. One good piece of news is that Jude, a friend from our team's first visit to Savanne four years ago, is alive and well. He is a fisherman, and his boat took a wild ride in the hurricane. He had lashed it to something he'd hoped would be secure, but the hurricane's water surge was strong enough to pick up the boat, untether it, and deposit it two miles inland. He found it by wading through chest deep water after the storm and pulled it back through the flooded streets of Savanne to tether it once again at the shore. Fortunately it was not destroyed, but new nets are needed for him to fish with it again.

Tomorrow the team will go to two locations nearby - Dariverger and Big House, both of which house orphans. Before being re-homed there, they were all at Cambry for safe shelter during the hurricane. A few weeks ago a malaria outbreak occurred there, so the team will be doing re-checks and general well being checks on those kids, as well as seeing community folks as possible. Between the two locations, there are approximately 100 kids, with apparently 350 still living at Cambry. The team will see the children at Cambry Friday and Saturday, which includes the kids who were in Cavaillon.

The team is doing very well. The restoration of water at the guest house has greatly increased their comfort - a shower at the end of a long hot sticky day in Haiti is delightful to them. Their only frustration is that cell signals are very spotty and there is no internet available, so communicating with family has been practically impossible. But families, please know they are ok! Those same communication issues are keeping all the great pictures our team is taking stuck on their phones in Haiti. Hopefully we'll see some yet before the week is through.

Please pray:

  • For the long term and short term provision of the means for people in Cambry, Cayes, and Savanne to re-build a life for themselves out of practically nothing. There are little or no social service resources in Haiti, and very little means to support yourself. In Savanne, the unemployment rate is astronomical. People live at a point of daily desperation, and Haiti seems always on the edge of collapse into a huge humanitarian crisis. The magnitude of needs is overwhelming.
  • For the teenagers the team met with today. Pray that they would develop a right view of their worth and their bodies so that mutual respect and physical health would flourish.
  • For the team to maintain their health. They are all doing well, even with the long days and growing heat and humidity over the past few days. At this point in the week, it is natural to begin to feel the strain and grow weary. Pray that God would give them strength and stamina and hopefulness in the face of dire circumstances and unrelenting needs.
  • For electricity to remain available, as cool sleeping space is key to good rest for those not used to the heat of Haiti.
  • For continued opportunities to share the good news of Jesus and his salvation to hurting and lost people, even as the medical team brings health and healing to their bodies in His name.
Thanks for praying!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Haiti Update 11/8

The team spent the day at Cavaillon. The orphans are not living there, but the villagers needed care and were grateful for the team - so grateful they sent them home with 8 coconuts picked right off the trees there, which is a true sign of Haitian appreciation. The team was cracking them open and sampling the milk for dessert before bed tonight.

Some amazing stories emerged from the people of Cavaillon regarding the hurricane and its aftermath of torrential rains, which hit a few days afterwards:
  • A 76 year old woman told the doc who saw her (and anyone else who would listen - she seemed to need to talk about her experience) that the hurricane came through and the waters rose so fast she was literally swept away in the torrent, then down to the river. She kept telling herself to keep her head up, and sure enough, someone plucked her from the raging water and brought her to safety. Upon returning to her home, the bad rains came back through a few days later and the poor woman was swept away again - same river, same bobbing, holding her head up, same last minute rescue. She has been saying "why me?" since then, especially in light of the fact that she was friends with all of the others who lost their lives those days.
  • Pastor Samuel stayed at Cavaillon even after the children were evacuated because his wife is an invalid and can't travel. They thought they'd ride it out in the school, but as the waters rose, he moved (with her on his back) to the more sturdily built water building where he propped her up on the highest surface, the water serving platform, but again the water rose to about 4 feet high in that little house and they thought they'd die there. Just then, the huge gate buckled and crashed and allowed the water levels to sink enough for them to get out and make their way to the church (again, him carrying her on his back) to the altar area, the highest part, where they stacked benches as high as they could against the rising water and waited then for the waters to slowly recede over the course of 8 hours. They are both okay.
  • A mother brought her 10 year old son to see the docs because "he's had a runny nose since the hurricane". When asked more, it turns out that the boy was swept from her arms in the flooding waters and recovered some distance down river by strangers. Someone recognized him and returned him to her. The team was amazed at her stoicism in relating this story, but it's likely that she and the elderly lady as well are still truly in shock over the experience.
  • A man came to have previously cared for broken bones looked at. Swept away in the flood waters, he was bounced around in the river until his leg, wrist, ribs, and fingers were broken. Somehow he managed to pull himself to the side of the river only to have a tree fall on him. He made it home to find it gone, and his livelihood with it. He literally had nothing left. With all he'd been through, he was understandably downcast and depressed. But the team was able to give him enough funding to buy food, and find a room to stay in until he could begin to rebuild his life after his body heals.
The team saw 150 patients today. Lots of scabies because people are sleeping outside unprotected, and the typical concerns they are used to seeing like wounds, infections, and high blood pressure. No cholera as yet in Cavaillon! 

Another activity that went on today was debris clearing. One of the team members brought a chain saw (apparently you can check a chain saw in a box to fly with you on American Airlines. Who knew?) and it was put to good use today with a few others already on site cutting downed trees, which are now stacked and ready to be used for cooking fires. It was awesome to see the progress, but a hard day's work.

Tomorrow the team will set up at Bon Berger in Cayes. They would like to go to Savanne, but they've been told there's no structure standing for them to use as a clinic. They are hoping that even though its a few miles distance, some from Savanne will find them at Bon Berger for care. 

Thursday they will go to two places, Dariverger and Big House. Orphans have been moved out of Cambry to return to both of those places, and a check-in would be good for them after a malaria outbreak at Cambry a few weeks ago. 

Friday and Saturday will be spent at Cambry, where they'll see the Cavaillon kids. With the departure of the kids to Dariverger and Big House, there are probably only 240 living there now instead of almost 500.

The water is flowing again at the guest house, and showers were MUCH appreciated by the team after 48 hours going without. Electricity is also on, so they will hopefully have a  restful night in the cool air before starting another very busy day tomorrow.

Please pray:
  • For continued health of the team; restful sleep each night is a key part of that. All are doing very well.
  • For safety in travel and in serving the residents of Cayes tomorrow.
  • For things like water, electricity and cell signals to work. No pictures again today; for some reason texts are not getting out.
  • For God to bless rebuilding efforts in Cavaillon so the children can move back to safe and useful structures soon
  • For the traumatized survivors of the hurricane as they try to rebuild their lives
  • For opportunities for the team to share their faith in Jesus as well as their medical abilities.

Thank you for your prayer support. The team is grateful. 

Haiti Update 11/7

Thank you so much for your prayers related to the team's day of travel. God provided safe and not overlong trips via air to Port au Prince, and then via bus to the guest house at Cambry.  They even made a short stop at Cavaillon to survey the damage done by the hurricane and subsequent flooding.

But first, the travel. The early morning shuttle to the airport got them there in good order. All the bags arrived in Port au Prince, and although thoroughly searched, nothing was confiscated or required an additional payment to be passed through. That means all those precious medicines will go to help the sick and injured in the Cambry region. We are grateful for God's intervention and direction in that.

Although there was some delay in being met by the coach bus, once on their way they made good progress - not much longer than usual, about 5 or 6 hours. Some roads were washed out, but they were able to make their way going slowly through the stream of water remaining or via alternate routes. As it turns out, they took a route through an area that unbeknownst to them had been the scene of violent interactions as they were passing through - but they missed it. Again, we are grateful that God provided safety.

Before going to Cambry, they took a detour to visit Cavaillon, the orphanage that is supported by individuals in Chicago Metro Presbytery and others from elsewhere who are partnering with them. Prepared to see the worst, they were encouraged to see some positive signs:

  • The water purification system installed in February is working, and the main "water engineer" is living on site to keep it going
  • The cafeteria and dining hall, although still under construction, withstood the torrent well, and it's clear that progress had been made since the team was there in July. There is still great hopes that it will be done and ready for use in time for the February team's trip back there.
But the damage was profound in other ways:
  • The security wall has collapsed, due to a combination of wind, trees falling on it, and deep water rushing past it and eroding the foundations. It will have to be rebuilt.
  • The massive gate that stands at the entrance, probably 25 x 15 feet in size, was twisted beyond recognition even though made of heavy metal. It is a reminder of the force of the winds and the water in the hurricane. It was sobering to learn that eight villagers died very close to the orphanage. Fortunately, the orphans had been moved before the storm, and remain safe.
  • The dormitories were flooded and are full of debris, dried mud, and now mold and mildew. Although nothing is left of the beds or the bedding, they are trying to save some school books by drying them in the sun.
  • The church's roof was completely lifted off and settled back down off kilter by several inches. It's not possible to salvage the roof as it's completely unsafe now, although the church walls seem to be okay.
The clean up effort continues, and will not be done soon. For now, the children remain at Cambry.

The team spent their initial hours tonight at the guest house eating a light dinner and unpacking the massive amount of medicines they carried. They will be sorted and categorized for use at up to three or four different locations this week, including going back to Cavaillon tomorrow, where the people living in the village will benefit from the docs' attention. The next day, Wednesday, is slated to be in Cayes at Bon Berger (Good Shepherd) Church, and then Thursday and perhaps Friday seeing the children living down the hill from the guest house at Cambry - perhaps 500 children including the Cavaillon kids.

The guest house has electricity to some degree, provided by a generator that runs on gasoline. It typically runs a few hours in the evening to cool things off and provide light while the team regroups and prepares for bed. One unexpected wrinkle is that water is not flowing at the guest house - for showers and toilets (drinking water is bottled and readily available to the team). As they moved in, local people were working on rectifying that problem.

Please pray:

  • For significant rest tonight. The team was up at 3:00 am to catch the flight out of Miami and the day of travel was stressful and long.
  • For repair to the plumbing at the guest house. No one expected everything to work right during this visit, but this would be a great thing to have during the week.
  • For enough electricity so that they can get to sleep in comfort. It's not the height of the hot season, but it's still 85 degrees and sticky... and to charge phones so that they can communicate with family at home, although cell signals seem to be less reliable than before the hurricane and there is no wifi available.
  • For God to be at work in their ministry tomorrow. The people certainly need medical care badly, but they need to hear the gospel message as well. Ask that God give them ears to hear so that their hearts are ministered to as well as their bodies.
Unfortunately no pictures tonight due to difficulties in text and email transmissions. We'll hope for some before the week is over.  Thank you for praying! The team is relying on it!