Trial by Fire ~ A Mission Experience
A number of years ago I was charged with developing and implementing a healthcare mission in Bondeau, Haiti. I was so excited. For years I had been traveling to Haiti, a tag-along with groups involved in the post-earthquake rebuilding of the Episcopal hospital in Leogane – Hopital Ste. Croix. I had become frustrated with the politics of the project and yearned to get out into the rural communities where there was no hospital – no medical care of any sort. I wanted to “do” something.
Bondeau was indeed rural, and the inhabitants of this small rural area just outside of the port city of Miragoane had indeed received no medical care – ever. They were destitute, without sanitation or clean water, and lived in huts scattered here and there in the wooded and mountainous area.
The South Florida Haiti Project had developed a school in Bondeau – but it was very basic, with no other assistance for the children, their families and the surrounding community. Conversations with community leaders indicated that a community-based healthcare program was top on their list of needs.
Well, we took it on…and in March of 2013 a group of us, carrying lots and lots of medications, toothpaste and toothbrushes, and many other related items embarked from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to our Haiti destination – Bondeau.
Our five-day journey was an incredible experience filled with many, many challenges ranging from very questionable transportation to over 400 men women and children literally crowding us out of the rooms that we had designated as treatment areas. People were panicked at the thought of not being seen by one of our physicians. My main task became one of crowd control and putting out fires.
This was my introduction - Mission 101- on how to, and how not to, develop and implement healthcare missions in remote areas of Haiti.
We have traveled to Bondeau 18 times since March 2013, and we have learned so much – so much. Successful healthcare missions are not unlike successful ventures of any kind. They require assessment of needs, detailed planning, goals and strategies to attain those goals, and a solid partnership with those on the receiving end of the mission project. More than anything, however, they require a solid understanding of the fact that Christian mission is the activity of sending and being sent in Christ, and is grounded in the missionary nature of the triune God as revealed in scripture. It requires humility and discipline, as well as deep compassion that comes only from being present with “the other.”
Our Diocesan Mission Protocol Manual is an essential guide to preventing “trial by fire” mission experiences, and opens the door for sound and blessed collaborative relationships that help to grow God’s Kingdom wherever we are led to serve. We invite you to join one of the many diocesan mission groups – Help Us Spread the Good News – the world needs you.