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Monday, January 25, 2010

Team Debriefing, Update, and Reflections

Pictured (in no particular order): Rev. Matthew Harrison (WR-HC), Rev. Glenn Merritt (WR-HC), Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Danelle Putnam (WM), Rev. Ted Krey (WM), Rev. Dr. Jorge Groh (WM), Olga Groh (WM), James Neundorf (WM), Sherie Auger (WM Caymen Islands), Rev. Ed Auger (WM Caymen Islands), Rev. Walter Ries Jr (Missionary from Brazil), Kisayrio Gebhart (WM Administrative Support), Rev. Carlos Hernandez (WR-HC), Jacob Fiene (WR-HC), Rev. Steve Lee (LCMS Pastor), Matthew Schlanger (WR-HC), and probably a few other people I forgot.

Today, from 9:00 a.m. until just after noon, the "team," minus the LCMS WR-HC Medical Medical Team (which returned yesterday), met to debrief and discuss the best way to pool resources to move forward to provide relief to the people in Haiti. The meeting was productive and offered time for the team to reflect and debrief on their experiences over the past few days. One thing that became apparent was that there were two distinct sets of experiences--the experiences of those who went into Haiti, to Port-au-Prince and Jacmel; and the experiences of those who stayed behind in Jimani at the Good Samaritan Hospital.

In summary, those who went into Haiti saw mass destruction of buildings and property, as well as evidence of the loss of human life. (Many bodies are still left buried in in the rubble, etc.) The destruction was great. However, apart from a few encounters with people on the ground, they were dealing mostly with assessing the situation, observing the conditions of the roads and buildings, and formulating logistically how further aid could be provided. They also noted that there were three basic needs: medical, food and nutritional, and spiritual and pastoral care.

On the other hand, those who remained behind at Jimani had a different experience altogether. There was the activity of the hospital and critical patients being flown in and out. Perhaps the most defining moment of their experience was the occurrence of two earthquakes/tremors that shook the compound. The first earthquake/tremor happened late afternoon/early evening just before dinner. In fact, I was sitting on the roof fiddling with "technology" to get an Internet connection for my laptop when the first quake/tremor hit. One thing I knew for certain was that I wasn't going to remain on the roof, and I quickly made my way down the stairs to terra firma. After that, I returned to the house where the doctors, volunteers, and caregivers were staying to relax some and reflect on what had just occurred. Mere moments after I "settled in," a nurse came running into the house saying, "We need a pastor! We need a pastor!" Carlos Hernandez and I responded and followed her to the hospital grounds. Meanwhile, Rev. Ted Krey and Rev. Walter Ryes (Ries) were at a different part of the hospital grounds, near the orphanage trying to assist there. The earthquake/tremor/aftershock caused the patients to relive what had occurred days earlier. Some were trying to flee, others were tearing their bandages off, and at least one jumped off a second story balcony, fracturing his pelvis. Once the situation settled a bit, it was time to help distribute the meals to the patients (and their families) for the evening. One Haitian climbed up to a high place and started shouting that the end of the world was near, etc. The situation over all was rather chaotic.

The second tremor occurred after many of the relief workers had fallen asleep and indeed felt stronger than the first one. The second tremor seemed to affect the doctors, nurses, and caregivers more than it affected the Haitians. One of the doctors panicked and tried to jump off the second story balcony. (Fortunately, he was persuaded to come down the stairs quickly instead.) A large number of the caregivers (including yours truly) slept outside that night.

The point being: the team that remained in Jimani was much more involved in the care to patients and caregivers alike than the assessment team that went into Haiti. Because the Lutheran pastors wore clerical collars, the Haitians, who are predominately Roman Catholic, took comfort knowing that a "priest" was praying for them--even if, the "priest" couldn't speak their language. The other protestant ministers (e.g., few Baptists) tended to blend in with the other volunteers and relief workers because they were not readily identifiable as clergy.

These two different sets of experiences were helpful in the team debriefing for the planning of the next stage of relief.

Currently, LCMS World Relief and Human Care is in the planning stages to deploy a Mercy Medical Team (MMT) to Jacmel, Haiti, very soon. Such a team comes at the request of President Kessa. Of course, over the next few days the situation could change, as it is rather fluid, but currently that is the plan. Further plans are being made on how to best provide relief for the next stage. The debriefing experience was good and allowed the team to express gratitude to each other and to look forward to the future.

- abc3+

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