Monday, January 25, 2010

Traveling Thoughts

January 17, 2010

Haiti. My first time back overseas since I returned from Africa two years ago. Before leaving for Tchad, I had many months to prepare myself. Granted that was for a whole year and this is just for a week, but one day is just not enough time to be ready for what I can only imagine awaits us. And I don't mean being ready in the sense of having my bags all packed and saying quick goodbyes. I mean being ready emotionally for ugly devastation and very possibly entering the biggest disaster I will ever respond to in my life-time.

I know what poverty looks like, I know what horrific medical conditions look like, and I know what death looks like. My time in Africa included daily doses of it all. But all of that was cushioned by the people accepting and living with their lives that way. They knew how to enjoy their days despite the extreme hardships they faced, and taught me to do the same.

In Haiti, however, the people won't have that peace of mind to pass on. They've just had their meager belongings and homes ripped from their hands. They've seen their dear friends and family crushed under poorly constructed bricks. And they are alone in the grips of survival since everyone around them is grappling to deal with the same disaster. If Haiti is anything like Africa and how I've seen many 3rd-world countries to be, community is everything. Everyone's lives are interconnected and I can't imagine how that has been affected. Surely a disaster in the U.S. is devastating, but how much worse it would be if we actually knew every one of our neighbors personally and to then lose half of them instantly.

As these thoughts all whirl around in my head, we are in the air, flying towards Miami. During the quick half hour we speed-walked through the Houston airport, we received a call from the ACTS world relief director we will be working with. Before we left, the plan was that we would be working with some orphanages and hospital, so it was a surprise when he asked if we had packed any rescue equipment. Apparently the new plan is that we will be heading out in search and rescue among the debris.

I am not surprised that what we thought we would be doing has changed. As I was telling the reporter last night and TV crew this morning, if there is anything that I have learned from my trips overseas, it is that flexibility is a must. And that I almost never have actually done what my initial job description said.

It might even change again by the time we land in Port-au-Prince. When I think about search and rescue, it brings mixed feelings. Initially I'm excited about being out in the front of things, finding and rescuing people. It is what many of us heroically dream of doing. But honestly, when I think about it, how many live people are there going to be to rescue after 6 days. This more likely will be a task of locating and extricating bodies from the rubble. Even if we did find someone holding on, are there even trauma centers or good medical facilities to just whisk them off to? So it will certainly be a grim task. I also doubt more my skills in search and rescue. I haven't even done the SAR training in Colorado yet for my degree. There are so many other IRR students wanting to come who are so much more qualified than I am. I am very comfortable with the medical side of things, but setting up pulleys and systems to extricate people is different. At least I have some rope knowledge from rock-climbing...and despite my doubts and misgivings, I know God is sending me for a purpose, if none other than to remind me that it isn't by my power that people will be saved, but by His.

Well, we are landing in Florida now and must immediately head out to buy supplies that the commercial flight wouldn't allow us to carry. And it will be necessary to pick up as much rescue equipment as possible for our new job. The plan has been to fly out on a chartered jet sometime tomorrow morning to Haiti and I have heard that our team will be one of the first to be ferried over to get search and rescue in action immediately.


  1. Wow, I am proud of you and look forward to reading how you are processing things. I know you now have skype, we should chat sometime soon.

  2. Thanks Sarah for helping us understand how the people in Haiti (as in many 3rd world countries) live in a community environment with their neighbors like family. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for them to loose so much in an instant. I believe it will be this close knit community that will help them through the difficult days ahead. I pray that the world can understand and help them get settled again.