The first two parts can be found here and here.
After I made up my mind to go into missions, in spite of the perceived difficulties (raising funds for example, along with leaving my friends and family behind) it actually turned out to be easier than I thought it would be in some ways, but much, much harder in others. Fundraising turned out not to be a major issue. Putting all my stuff into storage was pretty easy. I had a trailer full of volkswagen parts that my friend Joel inherited, but my other posessions didn’t amount to very much.
I started out going to a mission called YWAM (Youth With A Mission) in Jamaica to complete their Discipleship Training School. I was supposed to fly out in the middle of September, 2001, and my plane ended up being delayed almost a week. I lived out of a suitcase, slept on my friend’s couch and watched the news until a plane was finally available. Jamaica is a wonderful country, and I was in a particularly nice part of Jamaica. I loved my time there, for the most part. I often wish I was still living there, but it was not to be. Jamaica is just too nice. Not only do all the children eat every day (malnutrition is almost non-existant) but it’s predominantly a Christian country. There’s figuritively a church on every corner. During my time there, I concluded that Jamaica should be sending missionaries to the U.S.A., not the other way around.
Jamaica is such a religious country that they even invented their own religion, rastafarianism. About 5 to 10 percent of Jamaicans are rastifarian. That’s only around 125,000 – 250,000 people, which means that the other 900,000+ adherents live abroad. I find that whole religion fascinating and ridiculous. I learned not to get into theological discussions with Rastas – you can waste an entire day that way.
Anyway, I quickly concluded that Jamaica didn’t really need me, but I learned a lot while I was there. I had the chance to visit Cuba during this time too, which was enlightening on a totally different level. Maybe that will warrant a posting of it’s own some day.
I wanted to go to Haiti. My logic was that in a place that has great need, it is possible to do a great deal of good. That’s turned out to be true – working with Clean Water for Haiti I’ve helped to save countless lives and we’ve improved the lives of literally thousands of people. I wouldn’t have been able to have such an impact in Jamaica or Cuba.
After completing Discipleship Training School in Jamaica, I went on staff with YWAM Haiti. I really didn’t like it for a number of reasons I don’t need to go into, but the best thing that came out of it is that I met the founders of Clean Water for Haiti, Tal and Adele Woolsey. My skills were underutilized at YWAM, so I offered to build a new mold for them to use for building the Biosand filters. Shortly after completing it I came down with the first of many bouts of malaria. I learned Creole during my time there, even though I was sick almost half the time. Eventually, I left YWAM and Tal invited me to come work with Clean Water for Haiti.
Tal and I at CWH back in the day on our way to church
I finally arrived here to stay in January 2003. I had quickly developed a love and respect for Tal and Adele when I first got to know them in Saint Marc. In particular, it’s hard to forget Tal once you’ve met him – his long goatee and shiny bald head make it hard, but mostly it’s his charismatic personality. I looked forward to working with the two of them. The story of how they came to be working in Haiti is amazing, and more amazing still is how much they were able to achieve with very limited resources.
Unfortunately, this is Haiti, and things seldom work out according to plan. One week after I arrived here, I was awakened violently at 4am by shotgun blasts right outside my room. Shortly after, Tal called me outside to help, and there was a man on the ground bleeding from a gaping hole in his neck. We lifted him into the back of the truck and quickly brought him to the local health clinic, where a woman gave him an IV and an enormous bandage for his neck that quickly soaked through. We were told to take him to the Saint Marc Hospital. It was only as we were leaving the first hospital that I realized the man was Tony, the first filter technician Tal and Adele had trained and tal’s right-hand man in many ways.
We headed off to Saint Marc, about a 25 minute drive away. I sat in the back of the truck with Tonie and held him up along with his IV bag while he bled on me. His larynx was damaged so he couldn’t speak very well but he asked me to take care of his family if he died. About 10 minutes from the hospital, we met a hearse going the other direction with Tony’s wife in it, headed out to Pierre Payen to pick up Tony’s body. The guy’s who were with Tony when the shooting occurred, instead of helping, got back in their truck and told Tony’s wife to get a hearse and go pick up his body. She yelled at Tony very much when she saw him, but my creole wasn’t good enough by that point to understand very much of what was said.
Up until we arrived at the Saint Marc hospital, we were scared that Tony would bleed to death. After we arrived, we remained scared but as time went on we became more and more frustrated. I guess in my mind I pictured something like the show “E.R.” where bullet wound victims are rushed around on pallets and doctors are quickly yelling out orders to nurses and requesting help from the other doctors. What we actually found was, well, next to nothing. It took 15 minutes to track down a doctor. The doctor changed his blood soaked bandage, took a look and said he had to go to the General Hospital. We asked for an ambulance to get him there. 10 minutes later, a driver showed up and slowly started getting ready, getting dressed, opening doors, warming up the vehicle, etcetera. 20 minutes after that, the ambulance finally started the 2 hour trip to Port au Prince.
Going to the General Hospital was a really bad idea.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the General Hospital isn’t where you take people you care about if you have any choice in the matter. The hospital had virtually no supplies, but that wasn’t the biggest concern because most supplies could be bought in the various small pharmacies in the hospital district. Of greater concern, the hospital had no running water, no functional operating room, no electricity, and most baffling – no doctors. We stopped by the mission on our way to the General Hospital and took a few minutes to shower off the blood and get ready for a long day in the capital. We had no idea what we were doing, and wasted many hours being told to go here and there by various hospital staff who all acted like Tony was already a corpse. Eventually, after nearly a full day, we got someone to admit that at the General Hospital he would die and he needed to go to Canape Vert. In the meantime, the poor old woman lying on the bed next to Tony’s died, without a single person there for her and without a doctor or nurse even looking at her all day long.
Once arriving at Canape Vert, they operated almost immediately and saved Tony’s life. Canape Vert is the hospital the wealthy in Haiti use. Everyone gets a private room and a private nurse, even food.
I’m amazed Tony lived through the ordeal. I even heard that a pellet had grazed his jugular. He was very, very fortunate. There is obviously a lot more to the shooting ordeal, but I’m going to leave it there for now.
The experience was easily the hardest of my life. It was terrible and frightening and frustrating and you can probably imagine some of the thoughts going through my head. If anything, it was harder for Tal and Adele because they were in charge. Understandably, Adele decided to leave Haiti shortly after and get her life back. Pierre Payen had a killer(s) on the loose, and while she had signed up to be a missionary, she hadn’t signed up for her friends to get shot in her yard. Not long after, Tal asked me if I would take over the mission as director so he could go back to Canada to be with Adele.
For years before, I had been praying to God to show me His purpose for my life. I was frustrated and sometimes felt like I was floating from place to place. Here I was, potentially faced with God’s purpose for my life, and I felt certain it was right. Our ordeal was terrible, and it wasn’t the only one Tal and Adele and the mission had faced, not by any means. However, I felt that if God could get me through the shooting, he could get me through anything. Tal worked together with me for the next year or so before leaving me on my own.
Thank you for reading my story. I found it kind of hard to write, so for the next while I’m going to take on less ambitious subjects. It would help me if you would give me questions in the comments section about anything in particular you want to know about me, Haiti, Clean Water, or whtever.