La Gonave – Reflections of a Mission Trip
by Margie Dickey
Our group of eight (Dr. John Earl, Dr. Richard Dickey, Dr. David Duralia, Jane Earl, RN, Jane Duralia, RN, Margie Dickey, Wayne Oram, and Father Tryggvi Arnason) traveled to Anse-a-Galets on the island of La Gonave to establish a mobile medical clinic at St. Esprit in Gros Mangle. We had an exceptional group who saw humor in life under even the most challenging conditions and whose desire it was to humbly serve the Lord.
Never having done this before, we did not know what to expect at Customs with our almost $5K of medications and supplies. We had inventoried all the drugs with name, lot # and expiration date and the Bishop of Haiti provided us a letter stating that these were all donations to the people of Haiti. The new priest on The Mother Mission Church of St. Francis D’Assisi, Pere Vil, met us at the airport and we got through Customs without a hitch… except that two of our checked bags of supplies and medicine were still in Miami. So our plan for sorting and repackaging the medications into bags with label directions on Friday night (to save clinic time) went straight out the window.
Pere Vil remained behind and spent the night on the mainland so that he could claim our late arriving bags. He then traveled by car and boat to deliver our bags late Saturday morning in La Gonave. Following Pere’s delivery, we loaded up the pickup truck with our bags and translators and began the rough two-hour (one way) trip from Anse-a-Galets to Gros Mangle in the church’s newly acquired Toyota Land Cruiser. Although this was the bumpiest ‘road’ trip any of us had ever experienced, we learned that this was a vast improvement over the recently retired truck. We could not fathom how Fr. Tryggvi, with three broken ribs, had survived his May scouting trip to La Gonave on the far worse truck ride!
Nevertheless, we arrived at St. Esprit School in Gros Mangle school at Gros Mangle before noon and immediately began our work. A quick assessment was made of which school rooms would be set up as examining rooms, lab (hemoglobin or blood glucose), and medication dispensary. Soon we were ready to see patients! Joined by a Haitian doctor and nurse and four interpreters, we saw and treated 83 patients before it got dark. We had to ask 10 patients to return on Monday because there was no electricity to work in the dark. We repacked our bags in the glow of flashlights and began a pitch- black evening ride back to Anse-a-Galets.
Saturday night we ate a sumptuous meal prepared by Pere Vil’s wife, Ketia, happily accompanied by some well-deserved wine. Gathering on the roof under a starry night, we shared in an evening prayer Compline service under the stars (one shooting!) and the moon. We gave thanks for the wonders of Haiti, our many blessings, and shared our hopes and love for one another.
The next morning, Sunday, we attended the onsite 7:30 AM church service at St Francis d’Assissi church. We were moved by many things we saw and felt but especially by the many warm greetings and hugs from the parishioners. Following breakfast, all eight of us spent the next three hours repackaging drugs and organizing our inventory- what we had planned to do Friday night. Following lunch we went to the beach. Some of us took a dip in the clear, green water (but rocky bottom) and searched for the best conch shells and coral strewn along the shore. Bedtime was earlier that night to prepare us for an early AM departure for Gros Mangle.
Monday was awesome, as we watched the 7 AM daily opening ceremony of the St. Francis D’Assisi School at the complex in Anse-a-Galets. How beautiful the students looked all dressed in their pressed uniforms, matching socks and hair ribbons (girls). They sang the national anthem accompanied by the 9-man brass band as the Haitian flag was raised, recited a prayer and paraded off to their classrooms.
And once again we were off to the clinic. Bouncing along for nearly two hours, we arrived with our mobile clinic. Now much more organized after our discussions and packaging of the previous day, we set up quickly and were ready to see patients, seeing 129 patients by days end! We saw every patient who wished to be seen. Most of our patients are unable to walk to the free Bill Rice Clinic a great distance away. In addition to the treatment medications, we distributed reading glasses, more than 100 baseball hats, and a toothbrush and toothpaste for each child. Our goal was to give each patient seen a three month supply of antacid pills (Tums), vitamins, and an albendazole pill, to deworm. We were a bit short of Tums and vitamins, however. All remaining drugs were left for the Bill Rice Clinic at the compound in Anse-a-Galet.
Our OTC (over-the-counter) medications were donationed from members of St. Alban’s parish and friends, and the prescription medications were purchased, at near cost, by Dr. Earl with funds raised by a parish-wide Oktoberfest. Each of our group of eight paid for his/her trip expenses.
Tuesday morning, our day of departure, we arose at 5:30 AM to depart for a refreshing ferryboat ride back to the mainland, all on board wearing a life vest. After our 1-2 hour road trip into Port au Prince, we toured the site of the demolished Episcopal and Catholic Cathedrals. We visited the boulevard “Champ de Mars” where we saw the devastated President’s Palace on one side, and the statue of the Negre Marron, (the Black Maroon or the “Unknown Slave”), fully in tact on the other. Negre Marron is a sculpture of a slave with broken chain on his ankle, a machete in his right hand, and his left hand holding a conch shell to his lips. The conch shell was often used as a trumpet to assemble people. An iconic symbol of freedom to the Haitian people, the Negre Marron commemorates the slaves who revolted against France from 1791 to 1804. From “Champ de Mars” we went to Petion-Ville, a suburb located on the hills East of Port-au-Prince to shop at a co-op artist craft shop recommended by Sandy Chai, a physician volunteer who had just arrived and dined with us at our final dinner at the St. Francis compound.
Our ride to the airport was back through Port-au-Prince, through streets of earthquake-damaged walls and buildings, piles of rubble, and interminable lines of stalls selling everything you could imagine, including tires and used appliances. At the airport we had lunch and talked and played as we awaited our 5:10 PM departure for Miami. Our flight departure was delayed until 6:15 PM due to weather. Little did we know that this was the beginning of Hurricane Sandy. We made it home safely but later learned that Haiti had a foot of rain and ten deaths from the hurricane and flooding. We pray for the safety and comfort of our new-found friends and patients in Haiti, hoping to return some day. As we learned, we should say, “We will see.”
When God Speaks – Kathleen LillyI hear your voice in early morning birdsong. I hear your voice when cicadas sing their humming chorus. I hear your voice in the music of a star-filled sky. I hear your voice when lightning splits the sky and thunder rolls. I hear your voice when wind sends leaves swirling and rain pelts my window. I hear your voice when raindrops cling to bare branches like tears caught on eyelashes. I hear your voice when silence is so deep it disquiets my soul. I hear your voice when a near bursting yellow moon casts a silvery path across the ocean. I hear your voice when whitecaps curl and unfurl as they join an endless line of motion reminding me of your endless love.
CELEBRATING ST. ALBAN’S by Jacquie Trotter
Make a Joyful Noise! by Pett Brands
Today was Music Sunday at St. Alban’s. The music during the service that required hours and hours of practice was fabulous, bringing me to tears. However, the joyful noise that was evident before and after the service was as important as the notes and pieces during worship.
I arrived early to practice my part of the service and walked in with the flautist. She and I commented on how special St. Alban’s is and how much she enjoys playing for us. We walked into the sanctuary together and the bell choir was practicing their joyful noise – It was beautiful, having such depth that it brought me to tears. I finished practicing my small joyful noise and walked out toward the Commons Room. As I walked by Tryggvi’s office, the door was shut and he was inside practicing his chants. I then went toward Ferebee Hall and the oboist was “warming up”. So much music and the service had not even begun. My mind then was attuned to all the music, not just what we define as music around me. Christopher and Michael were in the Commons Room, running, chatting and laughing with their moms. As people came in to bring food for the reception, they all stopped to say hello – another joyful noise as a result of the community that God has granted us. I sat on the couch and watched people in the parking lot. The sounds of hugs, kisses and hellos did not reach my ears, but were another example of the joyful noise that was created during this and every gathering at St. Alban’s.
Of course the music of the service was overwhelmingly emotional. One had no choice but to appreciate the spirituality of that hour and fifteen minutes. There was applause (a joyful noise I do not really appreciate in that space), but it was a joyful recognition of accomplishments and service.
The joyful noise did not end. People continued to greet each other, with joyful smiles and words after the service. When I walked into Ferebee Hall for the reception, there was a cacophony of voices, adults and children, happily loving each other. The people were hushed so that the choir and hand-bells could perform their creative, funny but loving, salutes to Becky and Tammy for their twenty years of coordinating, directing and providing many joyful noises for our Parish.
Again, after the performances, the din of the voices rose again, along with the clattering of dishes in the kitchen, gradually softening until the buildings could rest from all the joyful noise that was made this Sunday, June 3, 2012.