No More Running Away

November 21 2014

Editor’s word: This is a longer than normal testimony, but well worth the time to read it. It’s by Jen, an ob/gyn physician from Oregon who participated as a short-term volunteer on an Men for Missions medical mission trip to Haiti in early November 2014.

We arrived at Mango Bridge and set up 4 consultation areas (3 doctors and 1 nurse), 1 chiropractic treatment area, 1 vitals station (blood pressure/pulse), 4 prayer/evangelism stations and a pharmacy. With the strength and grace of God we were able to see, treat and minister to over 200 people! If you speak to each person on our team you will get a different story about what impacted them most at the mobile clinic. I would like to share with you my story...

At the end of the day, a woman entered my consultation "room" to be seen. She had serious scars on her face, neck and right arm. But most distressing of all was her left hand. It was severely swollen and deformed, rendered unusable, and had several open wounds with obviously necrotic tissue. She explained that she had fallen into a fire in June and was severely burned. She then also showed me more scarring on her back and chest. With the help of some people in her church, she had gone to the government-run hospital in Cap-Haitien for treatment. They were able to provide treatment for most of her burns, but recommended that her left hand be amputated. As a single mother of three children, she could not accept this treatment plan as it would render her unable to perform many of the daily tasks that are required of her. So, she returned home.

By God's miraculous power most of her burns healed, although she is left with scars. But her hand was very severely damaged and had become infected. The infection has been so prolonged and severe that the tissue in her fingers had swollen to the point that the skin split open and I could see the bones of each of her fingers. There was obviously dead tissue surrounding each of these splits and also a large open wound on the back of her hand that had likely never healed from the original burn. I was moved to tears. I have never seen anything so horrific in my medical career. I desperately wanted to run away.

She explained how her husband had left her with their three children (ages 6-10) and she used what little money she had to feed and educate her children. She had no money left over for transportation or medical care for herself. She had not seen a doctor since August. She had a tremendous amount of pain, but sat stoically as I examined her mangled hand. More tears. More desire to run.

I spent several minutes emphasizing to this woman the extreme urgency and importance of seeking hospital care for this problem, knowing there was nothing medically meaningful we could do at this mobile clinic. I explained that while a surgeon might not be able to save her hand, they might be able to save her life. I wanted to get her out of my consultation room as quickly as possible, because her hand was disgusting to look at.

But the Holy Spirit tugged my heartstrings and clearly told me there were some things I could do to help this woman. I led her outside to pray with some members of our team and we prayed for miraculous healing. I then led her to the pharmacy area and gathered several supplies. Almost as an afterthought, I had hurried around the (permanent) clinic in the morning to gather some simple surgical tools and supplies (gauze, iodine cleaning solution, tape, scissors, scalpel, tweezers, ointment). These are not items that they typically bring on a mobile medical clinic, but somehow the Lord must have known I would need them.

I gave her an injection of an anti-inflammatory/pain medication and then began the tedious work of cleaning and debriding her wounds. To distract her I began to ask her about her family and she called over a beautiful young girl that she introduced as her daughter. She then showed me a photo of her with her three children. The photo was tattered and obviously a couple of years old, but she held it out for me to see as if it was her most treasured possession. As she shared with me the names of her children her face lit up with a tremendous smile.

The storm clouds began to gather, the rest of the patients had been seen and everyone was quickly packing up the pharmacy and other supplies so we could leave before it started raining. I continued to work and I could tell by the occasional flinches that this was a painful process for her. Once the wounds were cleaned the best I could and some of the dead tissue had been removed, I began to bandage up each one of her almost unrecognizable fingers. At one point while I was concentrating, the woman touched my arm with her good hand to get my attention, looked me in the eye and began to sing to me with the most angelic voice. More tears. But this time all I wanted to do was stay and sit with this beautiful sister in Christ.

I asked the interpreter what the words were to her song. When the woman finished singing she shared that she was singing Psalm 27, which was her favorite Scripture to reflect on when she is facing hardship:

The Lord is my light and my salvation - so why should I be afraid?

The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger - so why should I tremble?

The one thing I ask of the Lord - the thing I seek most - is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life...

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living.

It is only by a true miracle from the Most High King that this woman - who had so many reasons to be afraid, so many circumstances which could cause her to tremble, so many things she could ask of the Lord, and so many reasons to doubt the goodness of God - could sing these words.

It is only by a true miracle from the Most High King that this woman - a fearful, trembling, unequipped ob/gyn from Oregon, who has spent the past two weeks seeing medical cases that would cause many to doubt the goodness of God - could be shaped into a vessel to pour out His love to one of His hurting daughters.

Today, I praise my heavenly Father for the opportunity to serve His kingdom. I praise Jesus Christ, who came to unite us together in His name. And I praise the Holy Spirit who breaks my heart to the point of action, so that I would not miss my opportunity to bless and to be blessed.

Whatever difficulty you are facing today, hold tight to the promise of Psalm 27 - do not be afraid; do not tremble; you will live in the house of the Lord, and you will see His goodness while you are here in the land of the living.

In His service,

Jen

Photos of the actual medical trip, but none include the woman treated. Dr. Jen is pictured in the second picture down, green scrubs.

Tags: haiti, medical missions, doctor, compassion, short-term trip,