Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Post-mission thoughts

I'm still processing all that Haiti meant to me, and I look back and realize that 9 days have the power to change the course of a life. I had not actually expected this though I was told this time and again. The common mission model is that of having an anchor missionary in a place and having teams of short term missions full of eclectic people with varied skills come in to do focused work throughout the year. The anchor missionary should be accountable and trustworthy in order to be able to do this effectively. To avoid situations wherein teams of short term missionaries go to third world countries to build a house that noone lives in or paint a building that then gets abandoned, the missionary needs to plan for these short term trips in advance.

I'm glad to say that our Haiti trip works well in that limited sense. It is only once a year that it happens, but Wayne State University is going in December, and I believe other teams go there as well. Father Roosevelt is clearly a man of the people with his heart firmly planted in Point a Raquette. He lives in modest conditions, and while there are those in the US who would ask why he is building a church when he could use the money to help the material needs of people (like a disciple famously asked Jesus why a woman would spend so much money on buying a perfume to wash his feet rather than spend it on the poor), he knows his people and they love him- it is so obvious.

I also see genuine faith. The petty differences in denominational affiliation that mark us out in the US or for that matter in India do not apply here. Protestants here seem not to carry so much baggage from the protesting attitude stemming from Reformation history against the Catholic church. Catholics on the other seem very similar to protestants in their worship. The sermons I heard and conversations I had with both US and Haitian leaders in Haiti point to this fact. The "bipolar gospel" or the "evangelical two-step" that makes a firm distinction between salvation of our souls and the desire to see God's justice accomplished among the poor also doesn't seem to exist. The people I met were worshipers and seekers of justice. There is no such thing as a "mercy ministry"- it is part of the package.

I've thought long and hard about going back with the same group. It opened my eyes to be part of a Catholic group, the leaders of which are Christian in every way that I consider myself to be. But I wonder if the future holds another opportunity to make more opportunities to go with another group. HART has a group of 25 who go yearly- they also have a waitlist that is 25-strong. After 5 years of serving God in this way, this has become an established mission group. They also go to Uganda, Cameroon and other places.

Father Roosevelt tried hard to get Joyce to return independent of the group. She wasn't sure, but clearly there is great need for more people to go. If we can have another group going to Haiti it would help the cause. I checked with Tom to make sure there would be no issues concerning a different denomination serving with him- he assured me that there would not be.

A recurring piece of conversation is the capability to implement EMR. Each year they talk about it but where there is scant internet access (except in the rectory) and difficulty in carrying networking equipment, computers and printers, not to mention the money needed to customize the EMR for the Haitians' needs, it has become a tough task. Although this is the case, I have an idea to create spreadsheet-based EMR that is not networked. Just like the triage forms we use now, we could fill out this information in a spreadsheet-based form which would then be consolidated into a table. The data from the triage, nurses, doctors and the pharmacy would then be consolidated at the end of the trip, and uploaded to a central location. It would need laptops (preferably tablets) with Microsoft Excel installed in each, as well as portable light printers capable of printing 1000 forms each day. Each station (doctor/nurse/triage/staff) would need to have one. Clearly this would limit our ability to carry pills and equipment due to baggage restrictions, but if we could get this equipment to Haiti as a one-time expense, it would help future missionaries. I will talk to Tom about creating this.

Another thought I have been having is about creating awareness. Tom and I talked about the intentionality of missions. Most of us in the team could afford to buy a ticket to Haiti and back with our own money. But one of us, Dr. Post created a letter that he sent to friends and associates in order to raise funds for the trip. This way a partnership could be established and more people could share in the riches of God's kingdom- the rules of which are to serve people that he came to save. Both Tom and I have had conflicting thoughts about publishing our activities on social media, in that we need to be careful to draw a line of distinction between promoting ourselves and sharing the news of God's transformation of the Haitian people. This is tough because our own motives are often mixed.

Friendships are among the most treasured souvenirs of this trip. Besides the friendships among missionaries, the bond between people in Haiti and myself is a priceless thing I would not trade for anything. It has been a very long time since I have seen people go out of their way to do something out of love, even simple things. This opens up a whole new dimension of Jesus' character that I have seen but also seen it fading away over the years.

More such thoughts, and I will try to pen these down in the next few days...

No comments: