Monday, August 29, 2011


Saturday, August 27

I look up at the cloudless sky as the warm Caribbean sun steadily climbs higher. The soft breeze and gentle call of the birds give no indication of what today will bring.

It’s 9:00 a.m. and I’m readying the 206, HH FLY, for a charter flight to Pignon. Feeling my cell phone vibrate at my side, I reach down to check the caller ID and notice it’s Lefils, our airstrip agent in LaGonave.

After the customary ‘Bonjou. Koman ou ye?’ Lefils tells me about a serious motorcycle accident that just happened. “Is it possible for you to do a medivac flight and transport two patients to the hospital in Port au Prince?” He asks, switching over to English.

Since my Pignon passengers are already waiting, I tell him that I’ll head over as soon as I’ve dropped them off. "Great! We’ll be waiting for you.” He says, before hanging up.

Since the 206 only has room for one stretcher, I slide it in the side of the plane and then load the passengers and cargo for Pignon. After a 25 minute flight, I land on the grassy Pignon strip and unload the passengers and cargo.
Now off to Lagonave.

The uneventful thirty minute flight from Pignon to Lagonave gives no hint of the danger I’ll soon be in. Even the sometimes stormy Caribbean ocean, parallel to the sandy La Gonave runway, is idyllic and peaceful today.

Down on the ground, the peaceful scene changes to something more chaotic as a massive crowd waits to watch the medical evacuation. Once the airplane engine is turned off, a pickup truck slowly advances closer. Hopping out of the airplane I quickly spot the two seriously injured, unconscious patients in the back. With the help of several bystanders we load the first patient onto the spine board and carefully place him in the aircraft. Since we have only one spine board I secure the second patient using two cargo straps and three seat belts. His head is swollen and there is a deep gash in his left temple.

Once both patients are secure, a third, smaller, middle aged man asks if he can travel with me to accompany the patients. I direct him to the co-pilot seat and then proceed to help him with his seat belt.

With both patients unconscious in the rear of the aircraft I now focus my attention completely on takeoff and flight.

Not even five minutes later disaster strikes. The second patient wakes up and thrashes around in the rear of the aircraft. Within minutes he has managed to undo the cargo straps and seat belts that were keeping him safe.

“Talk to him,” I instruct the man beside me in Creole and he tries his best to calm the patient. Disoriented and confused due to his head injury the patient begins to scream and yell and then frantically tries to open the cargo door at the back of the airplane. Looking back I watch in horror as he manages to unlock the door and cracks it open.

“PA FE SA!” I yell, and momentarily stunned he stops. Thankfully the outside wind force is strong enough to push the door back closed, but it remains unlocked.

“You need to get in the back and restrain the passenger,” I tell the man beside me, and he nervously fumbles with his seat belt.

Checking my instruments and making sure I’m on course I miss the enraged expression of the patient in the back. Suddenly a seat belt is wrapped around my neck from behind and twisted viciously. I let out a yell and then instinctively twist and punch. Feeling the seat belt loosen around my throat, I turn to see the man gingerly cupping his jaw.

“Get in the back now,” I tell the frightened man beside me. “Sit on him if you have too, but you need to restrain him before he gets worse and causes our airplane to crash!”

The fear of crashing is enough to propel the timid man into action and I watch as he climbs between the seats. Although much smaller than the patient, his fear of death empowers him to wrestle down the man.

Praying for calm, I remain focused on flying, checking back occasionally on the two men behind me, two men engaged in a life and death struggle.

Spotting the Port au Prince runway in front of me, I breathe a sigh of relief and thanks. Whispering a prayer of thanks to God, I focus on executing a safe landing.

Back at the MAF hanger, the Red Cross is waiting with their ambulance and quickly sedate the man.

Looking up at the azure heavens I marvel at how peaceful they still appear. Feeling a welcoming breeze brush my face I’m reminded that, regardless of the circumstances I may find myself in, my Father in Heaven is everywhere present.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Village Visit (part II) by Esther Krul

It’s nine o’clock Saturday morning and Will and Jayden have just arrived at Pastor Caleb’s house in Pignon. After a quick breakfast, Will, Jayden, a friend named Joe, and I are off to the market.

The bumpy roads quickly remind me that ‘this is Haiti’. After a ten minute drive we’re at the market and ready to buy the food for the food distribution this afternoon. Stepping out of the vehicle, the sound of a thousand peoples’ voices mingling with the sticky air overwhelms me.

Horses, donkeys, ducks, and chickens are all over the place and we need to watch where we step. Pushing through the masses of people I see vendors everywhere selling fruits, vegetables, rice, pastas and many other types of food; some which I don’t recognize.

It doesn’t take long before the crowd around us thickens as ‘blan’ in the market isn’t an everyday occurrence. Other then the curious stares, people are friendly and we smile back at them. Since the bulk of our money is for purchasing rice and beans we decide to do that first.

Joe, who is Haitian, can get a better price if he’s not seen with us, so Will counts out the correct amount of money and we separate from him. Ten minutes later, Joe returns with a huge sack of rice, and later another huge sack of beans. We load it into the vehicle, lock it and then go on the lookout for bouillon cubes (a popular Haitian seasoning), garlic cloves, juice powder packages, and treats for the children.

Rather than buying from the bigger vendors, Will decides to help some of the smaller ones and goes around making purchases all over the place. Speaking Creole, she jokes and laughs with the sellers before purchasing anything since relationships are very important in the bargaining process.

As we go from vendor to vendor we pass the meat department and I cringe. Dead animal parts lie on tables covered with flies.

Boiling pots of animal intestines fill the air with their unsavory scent.

By one table, chickens run around franticly trying to escape their death sentence. Cute little gloats bleat in horror at the thought of their imminent demise. Right then and there I decide to look no further.

Squelching my queasiness, we continue purchasing everything we need. Some vendors, not realizing how well Will can understand and speak Creole, try to overcharge us, but she quickly wins them over with her easy smile and kind words.

An hour later, with a very complaining Jayden in tow, who by now is hot, irritable, thirsty, and tired of people touching his skin and staring, we make our way back to the vehicle. Driving back to Pastor Caleb’s house I wipe the sweat from my face. That was quite the experience!

Back at the house, Will and I quickly get to work dividing the rice and beans into separate bags and adding the garlic and bullion.

When we are finished we sit back and take a rest.

“What a morning!” We say to each other.

At 1:00 p.m. Jason flies in and after a delicious lunch of rice and beans and fresh mango we load all the food into the vehicle and head to the camp for the distribution.

As we drive up to ‘Can De Le Gras,’ where Jason, Will and Jayden lived for three months for language and cultural study, we hear children signing.

I smile; it feels good to be here in Pignon, and it feels good be able to help the people here. I hop out of the car and the coolness of the air feels refreshing. I peer up into the sky and see threatening dark clouds surrounding the village. Just then the first rain drops begin to fall. We quickly unload the food, coloring books, and crayons and run under the gazebo for shelter from the falling rain.

Under the gazebo are two large tables. Sitting around the tables on chairs are about 50 children, half boys and half girls. Under the direction of John, a Haitian friend of Will and Jason’s, each child sits quietly waiting for the distribution to begin.

Before we start, they sing a few more Haitian hymns for us and it’s really special to listen too. Then one by one, in exemplary fashion they come up to collect their coloring book, crayons and crackers. “Merci” they thank me politely and after finding out how to say ‘you’re welcome’ I respond with a cheerful “Pa dekwa”.

As I hand out the items I study the children. Even with their clean faces and cute hairdos, I can see their poverty in their threadbare clothes and tattered shoes. Even the little hair bows can’t hide the orange tinge of malnutrition in some of the girls’ hair.

When we’ve finished handing out the coloring books, crayons and crackers we hand out bags of food to each child.

One child impulsively hugs me as I give her the food and my heart breaks. To be so thankful just to be able to take home food for her family; we really don’t have any idea what that is like. Blinking back tears I continue handing out the food. What a privilege it is to be able to help these children and their families in this way.

Village Visit (part I)

Saturday, August 21, 5:40 a.m., Port au Prince

“Mom?” Already awake I watch as the bedroom door is hesitantly pushed open and a small figure appears. Even in the gray dawn I can see him, clutching spotty dog in one hand and his blanket in the other.

I close my eyes as he tiptoes quietly to my side of the bed.

“Is it time to wake up Mom?” He whispers in my ear.

I open my eyes and look up into big blue eyes, inquisitively peering down at me. Yawning and stretching I smile up at his sweet face.

“I think it’s a little early, but we’re going to the village today so it doesn’t hurt to get a head start.” I whisper back.

“Okay Mom.”

Easing out of bed I quickly change into the clothes I laid out the night before and then get my toiletries ready. Slipping them in the previously packed backpack I make my way to Jayden’s room to help him get changed. His Thomas backpack is already packed too.

Once he is dressed we both head to the kitchen. Mixing up pancake batter I quickly ready three plates for breakfast. The aroma of fresh pancakes is enough to draw Jason out of bed and minutes later we sit down to enjoy them.

At 6:30 on the dot we pick up our backpacks and head down the stairs to the truck.

Early morning sun filters through the towering trees that surround our home as turtle doves coo in the branches. Away from the busy streets our home is a haven of peace and quiet. Driving towards the main road the peace and quiet is quickly replaced by honking horns and shouting vendors. We make a quick stop to pick up Matt and then we’re on Delmas.

Even this early, the main road is a beehive of activity. We watch curiously as a fight breaks out around a tap tap. A teenage boy leans down to pick up a piece of rubble and aims it at another man. Yelling and shouting, others try to intervene.

“Maybe someone didn’t want to pay the tap tap fare.” Jason muses.

“Who knows?” I reply.

The main road turns into broken pavement and wet gravel. As the truck sloshes its way through, it accidentally splashes another truck with its windows open. “Hey,” the man yells angrily shaking his fist. Oops, better be more careful around the puddles. We send him an apologetic wave and carry on.

Looking through the window I marvel how normal all this has become; the garbage littering the streets, the crowds of people, the vendors, the smells, the bumpy roads.

At what moment in time did what once was so foreign become so familiar? I wonder.

Fifteen minutes later we arrive at the international terminal to drop off Matt. After a three month internship with MAF it’s time for him to return home to Canada. Baggage handlers jostle each other in attempts to grab his one suitcase and backpack but Matt keeps a firm grip on them. We wave goodbye and then head back to the domestic terminal.

Locking the truck we dodge puddles as we make our way to the airport entrance. Dropping our backpacks on the X-ray scanner we head through the metal detector. Since in all the times I’ve gone to the airport I’ve never heard it go off I’m almost positive it’s malfunctioning. “At least it looks good,” I remind myself.

Curious stares are cast in our direction as we make our way to the main office. Although “Blan” (white people) are fairly common in Haiti with the influx of relief and work teams, “ti blan” (little white kids) are not. Oblivious to the stares Jayden walks behind me, proudly carrying his Thomas backpack.

At the front office a manifest is filled out and Jayden and I are weighed on a big scale. Jayden thinks this is great fun and watches in delight as our backpacks are weighed as well. With the manifest filled out we head through the main airport doors onto the tarmac.

The airplane is waiting, and as Jason completes the checklists I help Jayden get in and fasten his seat belt. Ten minutes later we taxi to the active runway. Taking off I look across at the bright blue sky and the mountains in the distance. Even with her poverty and filth, Haiti still is a beautiful place.

25 minutes later, Pignon’s airstrip comes in sight. Holding Jayden’s hand in preparation for a bumpy landing on the grass airstrip I soak in the green. Rainy season always changes the village from brown to green and l love how fertile it looks.

Pulling to a stop at the side of the runway, Jason helps us get out and unloads are bags. Boaz opens the gate and Pastor Caleb and Debbie walk in to greet us. It’s nice to see them again after almost a year. Jason still has more flights to do before joining us, so we bid him goodbye.

Roosters crow and hens cackle as we make our way through the familiar gates.

We make the short drive to Pastor Caleb’s house where we are met be Esther who Jason had dropped off the afternoon before.

After our second pancake breakfast we get ready to hit the local market to buy food for the food distribution planned for the afternoon.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Feeding Program - By Esther Krul

I sit down on the cement steps and wrap my arms around a small boy. No one knows his age, but by his height I assume he’s at least three. The heat of his body overwhelms me as he weakly clings to me. I try to help him stand but he’s too weak and malnourished. Giving up, I simply hold him. With him in my arms I instantly feel my body temperature begin to climb. It’s my fifth day in Haiti, and I’m still trying to adjust to the 40 degree Celsius weather.

The sounds of children singing momentarily distracts me and I look up to see see about one hundred and forty children sitting on benches in front of me. Many are barefoot and their clothes are worn and tattered.

When the singing stops the Haitian man leading the feeding program announces in Creole that it is time to eat. Immediately all one hundred and forty children straighten up and stop talking. An older boy nudges me and then motions for me to pass him the child I’m holding. Without his warm little body snuggled against me, I instantly feel a little cooler which is welcome relief.

Empty handed now, I get up and head to the outdoor kitchen to collect plates of rice and beans to distribute. After handing out a dozen or so plates with the other volunteers I stop at a table where a little boy is lying with his head on the table, fast asleep. His plate of rice and beans sits untouched in front of him. I walk up to him and tap him on the back.

“You need to wake up and eat,” I tell him, but there is no reply. I pick him up and gently touch his hands. Opening his large brown eyes he looks at me and offers a weak smile. “Come on, you need to eat,” I urge him again. I pick up his spoon, fill it with rice and beans and bring it to his mouth. He opens his mouth and starts to eat it, but seconds later his head falls down into his arms again and he’s once again asleep.

I tap him again and once again he’s only awake long enough to take a bite before he dozes off. With this slow process it seems to take forever for me to help him finish his plate but finally we’re done. After helping him drink his water he slowly sits up and offers me a grateful smile. Then being one of the last to leave, he slowly shuffles to the gate.

As I look around at the court yard that was once full of children, my heart breaks. Many of these children are still living in make-shift tents and most of them don’t know if they’ll get any other meals besides the three time a week feeding program meals they get here. It's hard to see children suffer.

Trying to stay positive I think about the small difference I made here today. Even if it was only holding one child and helping another eat. I know it made a difference to those two boys.


Canada, 3:00 a.m.
Ring, ring, ring. The sound of Jason’s cell phone alarm wakes me and I roll over sleepily. Today is the day. Our last one in Canada. No time to waste I slip out of bed, give Jason a gentle nudge and then head to the bathroom for my contacts. Once I can see clearly I give my teeth a quick brush and run a comb through my hair. 15 seconds, record timing.

Now I’d better check if Esther is awake.

I head up the stairs and sure enough the lights are on. I laugh as I watch her straighten her hair and double check her reflection.

“This has nothing to do with your boyfriend driving us to the airport does it?” I tease.

Before she can sputter back a reply I vanish back down the stairs to Jayden’s room. He’s sleeping like a log and I manage to change him completely without waking him. Leaving him lying on top of the covers like a store mannequin I head back to our room to collect our suitcases. Today is the day!

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Caribbean heat wraps itself around me like a warm welcoming hug. “Ah feels like home," I whisper into the darkness. Although exhausted from the many hours of traveling and the miles of walking to catch connecting flights, I can’t stop the smile from growing into full bloom on my face. I love the warmth!

Surrounded by a half a dozen suitcases I watch from my vantage point on the sidewalk as Jason interacts with several taxi drivers.

“Ou pale Creole?” He asks a Haitian looking taxi driver and suddenly three of them are nodding.

“Wi, wi, wi!”

I watch in delight at how friendly they become. Within minutes we get a half price discount fare to our hotel and we’re on our way.

Fun in the sun, some time at the beach, shopping and water sliding.

What a great way to end our midterm break!

Port au Prince
I watch the freckled face of my sleeping son and gently rub his cheek. 35,000 feet up I shift in my seat to get comfortable and then glance at the man across the aisle. Jason and Esther both got bumped up to first class which leaves me looking for someone to talk to.

“Do you live in Haiti?” I ask the man across the aisle.

“My family does,” he replies, “but I’m not sure yet.I have a one way ticket booked and it just depends on if I can find work and how I adjust. Is this your first visit?”

I laugh. “Nope, I’ve lived there for almost three years.”

“Really?” He looks at me in surprise. “Do you like it, living there that is?”

“I love it.”

He seems even more surprised. “What’s there to love?” He asks astonished.

“Well, I love the people, the lifestyle and the weather's pretty great too! Except for August, that is.”

“But it’s dusty and the roads are horrible and there’s no malls and nothing to do.” He argues back.

“That’s just perspective. Life is real there, a little gritty but real, and trust me there's lots to do!"

I go on to tell him about MAF and then about the Apparent Project. Seeing my excitement and hearing about ways that organizations are helping his people perks him up a little. He asks me to write down the name of the Apparent Project so that he can look it up online. I hand him the paper just as the captain's voice comes over the speakers. It’s time to fasten our seat belts and get ready to land.

Since my buckle is still on, I lean over the still sleeping Jayden and absorb the familiar landscape below.

Almost home.

Caribbean music filters through the hallway and I smile. Pulling our carryon baggage, Esther, Jason and I head to the waiting bus. Looking through the window I see the main airport sign is missing a T.

Welcome to Haiti!

Dust and charcoal smoke mix with the humid air as we make our way to the truck. Carrying the sleeping Jayden I soak it all in.

When he starts to wake up I put him down and instantly he complains.

“It's too hot, too hot.”

“You’ll be alright,” I smile down and pat his head.

He looks up at me disbelievingly and my smile turns into a grin. “You’re a big boy now, remember?” Lifting his head he walks a little taller, still clutching my hand.

With suitcases and carry on tied down in the back of the truck we are on our way. The rutted streets, wandering pigs, earthquake damage and the sounds of vendors calling, all remind me that I’m home.

20 minutes later we turn down our familiar street. Jason honks and a few minutes later a grinning Anoud rolls open the security gate.

“Denise, Denise, vini.” He yells. She comes running and I hug her. It’s so nice to see them and their kids. Carrying two backpacks I make my way up the front steps, Jayden close behind me.

“We’re at Jayden’s house! We’re at Jayden’s house!” He shouts excitedly as I open the front door.

Stepping inside the familiar sights and smells of home surround me. It’s sure good to be back. Closing my eyes I silently thank God for his care and faithfulness toward us.

Home at last.