Thursday, August 12, 2010

Julie's Medical Mission to Haiti

Several months following the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in January, many people in Haiti who had sustained physical injuries were in desperate need of rehabilitation therapy. From June 26th to July 3rd of this year, I joined a Medical Ministry International (MMI) medical mission team to Port-au-Prince to help meet some of this need.

Those with complex fractures, amputations, spinal cord injuries and many other injuries needed therapy to regain function and mobility. In response, MMI organized their first Haiti project that focused specifically on Physical Therapy. Once there, we partnered with several other organizations, including Christian Blind Mission (CBM) and Handicap International (HI), which were already working there to fill this huge need.


Before the trip I was concerned that going to Haiti on a small team of six volunteers, of which only three were therapists, we would have limited ability to help. However, my concerns were alleviated when I was informed that we would be partnering with CBM and HI to assist them during a shortage of available physical therapists. God's timing is amazing!


CBM and HI had established several physical therapy tent clinics around the city and also had therapists working one of the private hospitals. I was privileged to have the opportunity to work at each tent clinic as well as the hospital setting.


The heat was, at times, unbearable. It was 38C in the tents and treating patient after patient in that heat was exhausting but it was a very gratifying and enriching experience. What I found most rewarding was educating the patients and teaching the Haitian Rehab Techs who, despite having minimal training, were eager to acquire as much knowledge and skills as we were able to impart to them.


God graciously taught me many things on this mission trip. He gently helped me overcome many personal fears and insecurities, by simply facing them with the belief and trust that He would be with me through them all. I have gained a much broader perspective on the plight of the poor and what is really needed to make a difference in their lives and in their future.


I now see the immense value of teaching and the lasting impact that it has in changing the plight of not only individuals, but also communities and even entire nations. God has now placed in me a desire to teach and I prayerfully look forward to where He would have me serve Him next.


Thank you for your encouragement and support. Right click here and select Open In A New Tab to see my trip video without leaving this page.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Finding Hope in Haiti

P1020819.JPGThe Joy of Children. The students laughed and giggled for the photo as they played with my hair and a little boy proudly sported my sunglasses and Tilley hat. A make-shift seven class school of lightweight lumber, metal roof and tarps stood nearby where they learn their lessons. On a gravel driveway noisy and ferocious games of soccer were played. Once lessons were completed at noon they each received a hot meal, perhaps the only proper one they will have all day.


Medical and Design Assistance. The Education, Medical Assistance and Services (EMAS) team of Canadian volunteers endured suffocating heat in stale air of the concrete block building: a replacement building for the two storey church/school that collapses in January's earthquake. This well built structure shows the capability of Haitian builders. But this building is too small for either church or school and so eMi Canada was asked to plan out new, permanent facilities on the site where only the temporary school stands.


Looking Ahead and Pressing On. Our Engineering Ministries International Canada team of volunteers from Canada and the United States met with the El Shaddai Baptist Church leaders to discuss their vision for the property. It is to include a large church, a school and a health clinic where they plan to operate an ongoing medical clinic staffed by Haitian nurse practitioners and the occasional visiting medical team.


A Master Plan. Throughout the week eMi investigated site conditions for supplying of fresh water, managing sanitation and distributing power. We also explored several different schemes for the layout of the entire property. Several very productive meetings were held with the leaders of the church community to gain their feedback and further directions.


Being a Neighbour. This community of believers has worked hard to raised funds in very challenging circumstances to go toward the purchase of this property and after the earthquake, funds toward feeding and providing necessities to sustain families that had lost everything. With the help of EMAS and the assistance of eMi the church is looking forward to beginning construction on the permanent facilities soon. Aid is only lasting if those providing it are committed for the long term. eMi comes alongside for a relatively short term but since we partner with long term visionaries like EMAS, willing to tough it out for the long haul, the help keeps happening long after we are no longer in the picture.


A Model of Christ's Body. We left this model of their new facilities in Haiti and will be producing construction documents once home so that they will have materials for both fund-raising as well as construction purposes. In a country where hope seems understandably in short supply, the community of El Shaddai Baptist church is living out hope itself. Loving neighbours, working hard and leaning all the while heavily on the Lord, they know very well where their strength and hope comes from.

Project Photos. A new set of photos has been placed in my Photo Gallery and you have three options to view it. If you want to browse the set, click here. If you wish to see a Slideshow of the photos, click here. If you want to spend a little more time looking and reading the Photo Details, click here. There is also a new video on my side bar for this project trip. Thank you to all those who have given to this work through your financial support, encouragement and prayer: you have made this project a reality.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Returning to Haiti

On May 18 I will be back in Haiti. After 10 disaster response teams from eMi, this will be our first traditional design project to address the reconstruction of permanent buildings. My team will serve the El Shaddai Baptist Church community in Bon Repos, a neighbourhood at the north edge of Port-au-Prince.

Our task will be to design a church, a primary school and a community health centre on a relatively undeveloped piece of land. The church and primary school will replace ones nearby that collapsed during the earthquake. The new primary school will continue its 15 year tradition of functioning as a feeding centre for children whose families are unable to provide them with nutritious meals.

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eMi was introduced to this community by EMAS Canada, a ministry that provides medical and educational services to communities in need all over the world. EMAS project leader, Dr. Pierre Plourde of Winnipeg, Manitoba has brought teams to Bon Repos for the past 10 years and will be our liaison with the El Shaddai Baptist church community. The beginning of our work week will overlap a few days with Dr. Plourde's EMAS medical/educational team.

A good friend of ours in Calgary will be on the EMAS medical/educational team. Julie and I met Colin and his wife Patty in Vancouver some years ago when we were all still "young adults" attending Granville Chapel. Although our teams will be staying in the same place and overlap for us just four days, how exciting it will be to serve in Haiti alongside a good friend from home.

With the devastation to so many buildings from the earthquake, this will be my first eMi "camping" trip as we will be staying in tents and sleeping on foamies and thermarests at a rural farm property outside of the city. I'm hoping to secure a booking for a guest house in town with facilities a little more conducive to a working team with lap-tops for the second portion of our stay.

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During my time in Port-au-Prince I will have an opportunity to meet the president of a theological seminary (STEP) to see how eMi can come alongside them in their need for planning as they look to rebuild and perhaps even relocate their partially collapsed school. Our connection with the school is through Dr. Gordon Smith and his ministry reSource which provides resources to theological schools in many developing countries.

You can see more details of the project by visiting the link under Greg's Upcoming Project at the top of the right side bar of this blog. "Thank you!" to all our supporters and friends who have come alongside our family in many different ways and are praying for us, making it possible for me to be a part of this work. I look forward to sharing with you about this project upon my return.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

DRC - In the Shadow of a Volcano

13 pieces of missing luggage. By Wednesday our team finally had all its luggage and was buzzing along with master planning the 20 acre site and finalizing the program of each building. The goal was to provide space for their administration needs but also included in our work were two commercial retail/office buildings and a bank building as fund-raising vehicles, an addition to their undersized medical clinic, a library/conference center that also houses a bookstore and finally an expansion of their church to include attached washrooms.

Administration. The offices of the Community of Baptist Churches in Eastern Congo (CEBCE in French) currently reside in the original mission house in Goma by Lake Kivu. A new building (above) for the senior administrators and their support staff who oversee a couple hundred schools, churches and medical centers will be the centerpiece of the re-organized property.

Commercial Retail/Offices and Bank.
These twin buildings (below) and a bank (above) will provide sources of funding for CEBCE as it manages numerous schools, churches, medical clinics and pastoral training throughout eastern Congo. These developments are meant to reduce the reliance of CEBCE on foreign donors and also create work and exposure within the local context.

Expanded Medical Center. This new building (below) is about expanding the capacity of current facilities and providing proper support spaces for the work of the doctors and nurses. Dedicated space for a laboratory, administration offices and pre and post operative patient rooms will greatly enhance the level of care able to be provided and reduce stress on the staff as well as the patients and their families who come to provide additional care.

Library & Conference Center.
This will be a building (below) that will serve the needs of both CEBCE and its neighbours. The ground level library will serve the adjacent Kindergarten to Grade 12 school but will also be open to the public. In addition there will be a public coffee shop and bookstore. On the upper level is a conference center for CEBCE teaching and training but can also be rented out to generate additional funding when not used by CEBCE.

Increased Infrastructure. A site like this cannot be used without providing services like clean water, sanitation and electrical power. So extensive research of the existing infrastructure was conducted including testing water samples and investigating the adequacy of city provided water and power to meet the proposed demand increase.

Sustainable Design. “Sustainability” is a common catchword in development projects. Economic sustainability targets for long term projects in the developing nations are often difficult to manage at the local level. But CEBCE has embraced this challenge by including commercial short and long term rental space in their development model.

As well, space that is often revenue neutral (i.e. conference/meeting rooms) has been taken out of the administration building and given a building of its own to encourage rental from outside sources. This active interface with the public extends to the coffee shop, the public library (that also serves the school) and what will be one of the only retail bookstores in all of Goma.

Optimistic look to the future. It was wonderful to come alongside this group of dedicated, self-sacrificing, humble but also strong and courageous leaders of CEBCE who have a desire to serve and love the people of eastern Congo in the context of both natural and man-made disasters. Intelligent, creative and with a great sense of humour these leaders live out God’s amazing love and grace every day. The story of redemption here in this embattled land stretches from healing of the soul, stretching of the mind and nursing of the wounds to the feeding of the belly. To me, that’s a perfect reflection of Jesus.

Project Photos. A new set of photos has been placed in my Photo Gallery and you have three options to view it. If you want to browse the set, click here. If you wish to see a Slideshow of the photos, click here. If you want to spend a little more time looking and reading the Photo Details, click here. There is also a new video on my side bar to the right for this project trip. Thank you to all those who have given to this work through your financial support, encouragement and prayer: you have made this project a reality.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

DRC Three Days In

Missing Luggage. We are doing well here in the DR Congo. Two team members were delayed and arrived in Kigali a half day and a day later than the rest of the team. I sent the team with our contacts on a bus up to Goma and stayed in Kigali for one night to wait for the volunteers as well as return to the airport several times to collect the straggling luggage. After three more flights Kenya Airways has been so kind as to deliver 12 more pieces of luggage but one is "still not here". I am thankful to be able to say I have friends in Kigali who took great care of me in these shifting circumstances.

Soccer Gear. The good thing is that all the bags carry donated soccer gear has made it. We have arranged to meet the teams next Sunday. We have been told the girls team (ages 12-14) have now additionally become a wonderful choir and will perform for us. Something else to look forward too!

Designing on Lava. Upon my arrival in Goma with the two stragglers, our team walked the large property with the ministry reps. We are designing their new headquarters where they will oversee the operation of dozens and dozens of schools, medical clinics/hospitals, churches and vocational training centres in eastern DR Congo. The new facilities will be right on top of the lava flow that flattened their previous facilities in 2002 (first such incidence in 120 years of work in this region). It's definitely some new territory for our volunteer architects and engineers!

Please continue to pray for team unity and a servants heart as we put together a complex master plan and design the buildings for this amazing ministry.

Pray too for the arrival of one more piece of luggage, that of our volunteer architect, as he awaits his drafting tools and borrows some clothing for (hopefully) just a few more days.

Julie says in an e-mail that she and the kids are doing great. I'm bummed because I missed Cam's first appearance in a city-wide Allstar soccer game but I look forward to seeing the video that Julie took when I get home. Blessings.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Volcanoes, Guerillas, Gorillas and Genocide

The city of Goma, in North Kivu province, is considered the capital of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In this very large central African country where the capital lies far to the west, this border city to Rwanda has seen some very rough times. In the late 1990’s its location put it in the midst of the First and Second Congo Wars, the second of which was dubbed “Africa’s world war”. This conflict saw the death of nearly 5.5 million people, mostly from disease and starvation, as well as the displacement of millions more from there homes.

A large part of Goma’s recent history is also wrapped up in the effects and aftermath of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The areas surrounding Goma experienced a massive influx of both genocide victims as well as those who perpetrated the crime. This volatile mix resulted in violence and conflict that to one degree or another still exists in the region.

The ecological focal points in this region are the fragile forests and the famed mountain gorillas that dwell in them. The price for a tourist to get close to these magnificent animals is upwards of $500 for the one-hour experience. Besides destruction caused by the encroachment of humans these precious but limited forest habitats were recently threatened by fire as the result of burning lava running down the sides of a nearby volcano.

Working to bring peace, stability and the mind-renewing love of Christ in the midst of this volatile mix of political instability, environmental concerns and outright human conflict is the Community of Baptist Churches in Eastern Congo (CEBCE). For many years this group has founded churches, established schools and brought modern medicine to this region.

eMi first partnered with CEBCE in the fall of 2008 with a disaster response team, in conjunction with Samaritan’s Purse, to provide water filtration and sanitation to serve 2,500 people at a camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP). Representatives of CEBCE were the local coordinators for these efforts.

In 2002 a rare but deadly volcanic eruption of nearby Mt. Nyirogongo sent lava streaming through the city of Goma, wiping out the main administrative and ministry complex of CEBCE. Our eMi team of 12 will help to redesign a new multi-use ministry center. The facilities will include a new health center and medical laboratory, a guest house for visiting pastors and teams (like ours), conference spaces and commercial retail spaces which will provide revenue to help fund the work of CEBCE.

Our team will be flying into Kigali, Rwanda and drive overland into the DR Congo. Our prayer requests for the team include safety in our travels in the sky and on the ground, unity as we get to know and work with one another and sensitivity in listening to and providing a design that is well suited to the ministries of CEBCE. We also ask for prayer for all our families at home who need to handle the ongoing busyness of life without those of us on the team.

You can see more details of the project by visiting the link under Greg's Upcoming Projects at the top of the right side bar of the blog. Thank you to all supporters and friends who have come alongside my family and me in so many different ways, making it possible for me to be a part of this work. I look forward to sharing with you all about this project upon our return.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Response to Crisis in Haiti

For all those who have asked me for updates regarding the condition of the children at Haiti Children's Rescue Mission, I am thankful to report that all the children are safe, as is Pastor Jean-Fritz, Madame and their small staff of house parents.

I have just received news that a benefactor in Texas has applied to have all the children of HCRM be flown as soon as possible to Texas where they can be cared for while the process of adoption into American families is ongoing. This is wonderful news but as you can imagine, a stressful and vigorous process is needed to ensure the proper and excellent care of each child during this whole process.

Please pray for Pastor Jean-Fritz and Madame as they prepare to part ways with these children and look ahead to receiving many more during this terrible and trying time in Haiti. They still need funds immediately for the ongoing care of these children and also as they look to the future they will need money to construct the orphanage facilities that our eMi team has designed for them.

Please see the Support Us page at Canadian donors will continue to receive receipts for their support through Acitve Christians With A Mission (ACWAM): However, American donors cannot currently receive a tax receipt.

eMi now has two trained first response teams in Haiti. We work in conjunction with Samaritan's Purse and Food For the Hungry. To read more about our efforts go to and refer to our news items at the bottom of the page.