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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rev Harrison's LWR Blog Post

John Nunes of LWR asked me to blog for LWR... Here is my first post.


John, Friends of LWR, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Already last Tuesday, a team of a dozen triage and emergency medical specialists hit the ground here in Jimani, in the far southwest Dominican. This LCMS World Relief and Human Care medical mercy team arrived late in the evening after a six-hour drive from Santo Domingo. A team of helicopters, financed by a generous individual, had been flying and continues to fly in victims of the quake. Port au Prince is some 50 miles distant, across the Haitian Border. I write this morning at 8:30 a.m. from the veranda of a large vacant home, which now houses forty or fifty medical professionals, including the LCMS team. The hospital runs on two shifts and performs about 40 surgeries per shift. About one third of the procedures have been amputations.

Large relief agencies are beginning to arrive on the scene from Puerto Rico and other places, and the LCMS team will exit later today. It's amazing how God times things. They came at a moment of burgeoning numbers of casualties arriving and fatalities taking place at a very high rate. For two critical nights, the LCMS team staffed much of and ran the operation. I am in awe of these faithful folks.

As I remained in Jimani, an assessment team from the LCMS entered Haiti with LCMS partners who met us at the border, and proceeded to Jacmel and Port au Prince. Seasoned disaster man, Glenn Merritt, who is in Jacmel as I write, expressed his thoughts briefly but ominously. "I have seen things today that no person should ever have to see."

Last night was traumatic for the 1500 Haitians here at the medical compound.

Around 6:00 p.m. a tremor shook the area. Everyone fled for their lives into the yard in front of the buildings. There was widespread mourning and weeping, fear in the eyes of little children, and old men looking skyward and shaking their heads. All the patients had to be re-triaged because they had pulled the I.V.s from their arms.

Amputees crawled out of a makeshift recovery ward in an open-air chapel. It was pandemonium. LCMS Missionary Ted Krey (nephew of LWR Board member Phil Krey), quickly urged all of us clergy to make our way among the large crowd, comforting and praying with the people. The three languages among the people are Creole, French, and Spanish. I came upon a little girl and her mother. The child was but five or so, with a pelvic body cast that extended down both legs, as well as an arm cast. She was terrified. I reached down to touch her and bless her in the name of Jesus (it's so important to have one's clericals and crucifix on), and she grabbed my hand, and pulled on my arm, pleading with me. I sat with her for twenty minutes. I prayed, I tried to speak comfort to her and her mother. I sang "I am Jesus Little Lamb" and her breathing slowed. Finally Brazilian Missionary Pastor Walter chanced by in the melee. "Walther, what does she want." "She is asking if you have
some way to take her and her mother away from here." I did not.

But she had been cared for, her life spared. Many others have not been so fortunate.

Thankfully there has as yet been little or no incidence of Typhoid or other infectious diseases. But as I've talked with the surgeons in between shifts, there has been great concern over secondary infections, particularly with amputees, and with the inevitable absence of physical therapy and prosthetics, much less care, in the wake of the trauma which will accompany these dear people for the rest of their days.

As I finish, the helicopters are up again, and there are reports of completely insufficient aid into Jamal (where most of our Lutherans live). Water of course is a critical issue after just two or three days, food after two weeks. Those who have been on the ground here repeatedly express how each day the chaos has become a little more controlled, and that reality is going on throughout Haiti. It will be vital for LWR to carry out its invaluable mission, particularly in the area of its forte, material goods
(school kits, medical kits) as the crisis enters its intermediate phase. And LWR's tremendous capacity for building and assisting communities in obtaining economic capacity and security long term will be a vital mission for year to come.

Last week Pat Robertson suggested that Haiti had some deep dark sin in its past which brought this curse. In God's inverted, cruciform economy, were a sinless Son of God suffers for the unrighteous, I rather think this is God's shaking of us sinners in the U.S., for ignoring our impoverished brothers and sisters, also brothers and sisters in the faith in Haiti. Lord, have mercy.

Matt Harrison

Executive Director, LCMS World Relief and Human Care Board Member LWR

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