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Monday, September 27, 2004

Against All Odds And In The Face Of Overwhelming Advsersity - September 27

I want to do everything I can to encourage more people at Good Shepherd to join us in these annual trips to Haiti, and to other mission fields. However, I do not want any to join one of these trips with a misunderstanding of the hazards one might face.

Haiti is a dangerous part of the world. Currently, the State Department is advising Americans to avoid travel to Haiti. From time to time the Presbyterian Church recommends churches cancel mission trips, which happened to one of our scheduled Haiti missions not long ago.

But the whole world is dangerous, and one needs to be careful wherever we travel. And in some places, the level of awareness and caution has to be elevated.

Haiti is such a place. I believe we are safe, but there is an elevated awareness of the possibility of danger.

Two of us are still in Port au Prince, while the rest of the team went back to Leogane. I mentioned this earlier, but I didn't say why. One of our team members was very sick. Just the usual traveler's bug, and he's fine now. Well, maybe not fine -- but definitely better.

He needed some medicine, however, and I'm nearly out of my own prescription medicine. You don't need a doctor's prescription here in Haiti. The staff at the Hotel Montana arranged for a driver to take us to a pharmacy and to a grocery store.

It is my impression that the grocery store we went to was one of the finest in Haiti. It is more like a large convenience store one would find in the States. The meat department shelves were bare. But there were lots of breads, fruits, and packaged items. We bought several packaged items, imported from Mexico or America.

Coming out of the grocery store we were stopped by a police officer -- the first police officer I had seen in this nation. There are only 2,500 of them in this nation of 8 million. Most are supposed to be corrupt.

As we were leaving, he stopped us by tapping my chest with his shot gun.

"You like my gun," he asked.

My partner and I stopped but said nothing.

"How long have you been in this country?"

"How long are you staying here?"

"What are you doing here?"

"Where are you staying?"

"You have money?"

To that, I answered with a vague, "We had enough to buy some groceries."

There were several other questions -- questions about why we were there, who was with us, and what we thought of the Haitian political situation -- a topic I claimed to be ignorant about.

I found this very uncomfortable, until the policeman noticed my shirt, which had the Presbyterian cross and the words, "Presbyterian Church, USA."

He tapped the church's insignia on my chest with his shot gun and asked, "You are Presbyterian?"


"Presbyterians helped my son last year. He was sick."

I normally would have loved to have asked for more details, but I remained silent.

"You may go," he finally said -- which is what I was waiting to hear!

From there we went to the pharmacy -- a building with bars on the windows and doors. The entire shop was a very small room. The shelves had some products, but not many. Most of the drugs were kept behind the counter, just as in America. But as I said earlier, one doesn't need a prescription. No insurance coverage either.

We bought what we needed and returned to the hotel.

There is growing tension in the hotel. I have noticed people arguing with one another about the flood area. Relief workers are not getting help to Gonaives where it is needed. When they are able to reach the people, the crowds riot, fighting over the food and water. Distribution has been haulted until the UN peacekeeping forces or others can restore some sort of order.

However, I do not feel we are unsafe. One has to be careful and cautious here, as Haiti does have its dangers. However, as long as we continue to be watchful and careful, we should be as safe here as we would be in any foreign nation. The Hotel Montana has a great staff, and they have been helpful. I am also in contact with the American Embassy and they know who we are and where we are. They have provided us with some advice to avoid any possible dangers.

Still, with the work in Leogane finished, I think we will be glad to be getting home!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friend Asif Z (we are both in Canada) got me into Haiti missions (mostly free medical treatments and church building) and I've really found a heart for the people of Haiti. I can definately understand where you are coming from. Keep up th good work! God bless.

5:56 PM  

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