Christmas is rapidly approaching and we take advantage of this time to reflect on our activities of 2009. God has truly been gracious to us.
Life at Bethel Clinic keeps us very busy. We now have five full time doctors, including an OB/GYN and a pediatrician, seeing the patients on a daily basis. Our lab staff has expanded and they are able to conduct a wide variety of tests while the patients wait so that the doctors will be able to recommend the proper treatment the same day. Felix is able to keep the pharmacy well stocked with affordable medications. We continue to see about 150 patients a day. Our vaccination program serves 16 communities and the child nutrition program has saved the lives of many children through medical intervention, food support and nutritional education for the parents.
We are in Year 6 of our AIDS Relief Program (PEPFAR) and currently have nearly 690 patients receiving anti-retroviral medication with another 500+ HIV+ patients receiving supportive care until they qualify to be put on ARV therapy. Our relationship with the funding consortium has improved after experiencing some challenges due to staff turn-over. There are plans in the works to shift the oversight of the program to a locally based consortium so we are hoping that that goes well without negatively impacting service delivery.
While many aspects of the AIDS Relief Program are positive improvements in our ability to serve our patients, it has brought some growing pains. We asked our close friends, family and prayer supporters for prayer on our behalf as things were tense here from December ’08 through May ’09. God, in His wisdom and marvelous way, took care of the situation as we stood firm, as several things straightened out without our intervention We are not totally out of the woods yet but things are a whole lot better. Thank you very much for standing in the gap for us and for God’s work here.
Visitors to the clinic continue to brighten up our lives and keep us on our toes. A quick glance through the guest book shows visitors from IHQ, SAWSO, THQ-Caribbean, DHQ, all the officers from the Bahamas Division, USA-E, CDC, USAID, ITECH (Washington State), World Concern, friends from Jamaica, France and Switzerland. Whew!! In October we were honored to receive a visit from the US representative of USAID, Dr. Robert F. He was very impressed with the operations and services provided and we were glad for the chance to share with him what the clinic was doing in our area of Haiti.
A special visit was made by Briana D., who had been our Salvation Army summer intern in 2007. Haiti has been calling her back and she brought with her her twin sister, Elyse and their friend Taylor. Although they weren’t able to be with us for very long, we did lots of fun things, even a day trip to the little island of Ile a Vache, off the coast of Les Cayes, Haiti. After the 45 min boat trip over, we visited a school and walked through local farms and villages. We finished the day at a beautiful beach in front of a very nice little hotel.
This year’s hurricane season ended up being the quietest season since I came to the Caribbean in 1995. There were only three hurricanes and no significant impact on land aras. We are VERY grateful for this after having four hurricanes pass over us in 2008. Those caused lots of damage to crops and housing and our main road to PAP still remains under water. The road crews were able to cut a road through the surrounding mountains so that supplies and fuel were once again able to get to all of us here in the south. We are hoping that they will pave the “new” road and they have begun to repair areas badly eroded during the recent rains.
Felix and I continue to be active in our Rotary Club. We most recently participated in a tree-planting event where we were able to get 1,500 tree seedlings planted on the mountains overlooking our area. I was asked to be the secretary this year, quite a challenge with the meetings being conducted in Creole. As part of my orientation, I attended the District Conference in USVI St. Croix in May. It was difficult to go since I had to fly out on Matthew’s birthday and I left him with Felix very sick with typhoid. By God’s grace he had the advantage of being surrounded by the entire medical team and, thankfully, he recovered well.
Time in the States was enjoyed by Matthew and Violet beginning in mid-June. Felix stayed behind this year to keep things running smoothly in our absence. This was my (Violet) homeland furlough year which, in God’s perfect timing, conincided with my 25th session reunion and my 30th class reunion at Asbury College in Kentucky. Matthew and I attended the Commissioning weekend in Merriville, IN. This was the first time back for me since 1995 and it was wonderful seeing and reconnecting with so many friends. After the weekend, we began traveling to see family and fiends. First stop was Minneapolis to see my two nephews, niece-in-las and my parents’ first great grand child, Alaina, now two. My sister, Debbie, brother, Bob and neice, Beka, made the road trip with us making it even more special.
We continued to travel with Debbie visiting places where I lived and served in the Central Territory, namely Peoria, IL and St. Louis, MO. We even were able to make it to St. Louis in time to attend a Cards baseball game, Matthew’s first ever ballgame. They were playing the Detroit Tigers and to Debbie’s delight, the Tigers won! I was just glad to be able to be in the newly rebuilt Busch Stadium with the beautiful St. Louis arch gleaming in the sunset. We had a great time with friends at a park cook out and relaxed in the guest house next to the new Gateway corps on St. Louis’ south side.
Our next destination was Knoxville, TN to see where my sister Diane does consulting work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She made arrangements for us to visit the American Museum of Science & Energy that highlighted the work done during WWII to develop the nuclear bomb. We had dinner on a beautiful river with some of Diane’s work friends and then headed out the next day to Wilmore, KY for the reunion activities.
Deb stayed with Aunt Margie in Lexington enjoying a relaxing time of catching up while Matthew and I went to Wilmore for the reunion. It was good to see all the new additions to the campus and to revisit old haunts, pointing out points of interest to Matthew who was exuberantly wearing his “Future Asburian” t-shirt. The horse program where they are training horses for police work was very fascinating. I was also able to meet up with several friends from my college days and stayed with Majors Mike and Cathy H., friends from St. Louis now working on campus with the Sally students.
After the Asbury weekend, we headed east to reach Mom & Dad’s home near Winston-Salem, NC. We had a nice stay with them, maximizing the time in the pool. Mom was able to give Matthew some swim lessons and he made good progress. I got him a used bike and he was just starting to get the hang of it when we had to leave. Since returning, he has gained a great deal of confidence with the help of the two officers’ children in FDN.
At the end of September, I returned to NC for a family gathering in VA to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday and my sister and her husband’s 10th wedding anniversary on October 2nd. Diane and Joe went all out in their planning and hosted nearly 20 of us in well-furnished cabins along a mountain stream. Activities included canoeing, horseback riding, biking, and lots of visiting. Thanks, Di and Joe for everything!
For Thanksgiving, General Shaw and Commissioner Helen Clifton came to Haiti to lead us during the Congress celebrating 59 years of service in Haiti. Felix, Matthew and I went into PAP, providing transport to 15 band members from our corps in Fond-des-Nègres. A nice group gathered at the airport to receive them on Thursday. That night was the dinner with the community and church leaders and Felix and I were blessed to be invited. Friday morning was Officers’ Councils and then the Welcome Rally in the evening. The Women’s Rally and Youth Concert were on Saturday. Sunday the March of Witness began at 7 am and wound its way through the streets of Port-au-Prince to the big auditorium that was rented for the Holiness Meeting. I was able to introduce Matthew to the General and his wife before the start of the meeting and they invited Matthew to have his picture taken with them.
It was a wonderful weekend made even more special by the presence of our friends, Majors Keith and Molvie G., currently on THQ in Jamaica. They were our leaders in Antigua and it was good to be able to share a bit of Haiti with them during the weekend. And then while we were waiting at the hotel to take them out to dinner one night, the other officers mentioned to me that there was a Nigerian sitting in the chairs across the room. I went over and in my “best” Igbo said, “Kedu?” (How are you?). I mentioned that I was married to a Nigerian by the name of E.. He looked amazed and said that he had been told to look up his cousin in Haiti by his relative, Martin E. Can you believe it, Martin is Felix’s oldest brother! The man is the son of Felix’s aunt and is from Oreri, a neighboring town of Igboukwu, Felix’s hometown. I gave him a big hug and quickly went to find Felix who was waiting in the car for us. Felix was thrilled and they started to quickly catch up with each other in rapid Igbo. What a marvelous gift from God, our Father. The man is a traveling evangelist and comes often to Haiti. They have exchanged business cards and will keep in touch whenever his travels bring him back to Haiti.
At just about 6:45 am on Sunday morning, the 20th, while Felix was preparing his sermon for the corps in Petit Goâve, the phone rang. He thought that it was a wrong number. But instead, he received an early Christmas present. The voice on the other end was that of a classmate of his from elementary school, Ndidi Umewini O.. He hadn’t heard from her for over 30 years. Felix had come to mind and she did a Google search of his name. She was able to get our number and called to see if it was the same person she had grown up with. Christmas greetings were warmly shared along with plans to keep in touch. God never ceases to amaze us as He showers us with every kind of blessing. God is so good!
Christmas plans: The plans are coming together for Christmas in the clinic. Our staff party is scheduled tof Dec. 23rd and will include a devotional service, food and gifts for all to thank them for another year of dedicated service to those in need. We have about 120 people who work with us in our various programs and it is always a good time when we can get together and reflect on God’s goodness.
After the party we will begin putting together about 75 food parcels for the patients and for some elderly and needy families in the area. Four of our dedicated staff will work to bag up rice, sugar corn meal and beans along with some other items on the 24th for distribution. On Christmas Day we will have a service with the patients and their families beginning around 9:00 am with the support of the band from the corps followed by the distribution of the food bags to the patients. Usually the number of patients is low as only the very sick stay over the holidays. After the clinic service we all move over to our TB sanatorium and celebrate with them. One blessing we usually experience is the testimony time with the patients. Last year a man gave his joyful witness that, in spite of his pain and suffering over 40 years, he was rejoicing in the knowledge of his salvation.
We are expecting Bob and Vicki, who are working at The Salvation Army Maison du Bonheur (children’s home) to come out from PAP along with their intern, Raylee and her parents. We have a beautiful beach about 30 minutes from us and we hope to be able to join them at the beach after the services are finished in the clinic. We plan to leave on Saturday, the 26th for a couple of weeks away. We will again be going to mission compound north of Port-au-Prince and perhaps to a mission compound in the mountains east of PAP. We are looking forward to these few days away.
The new year promises to be just as filled with activities, visitors and God’s blessings.
May God grant you a very blessed New Year!
FROM VIOLET, FELIX AND MATTHEW
- That 2009 marks 25 years of officership service for Major Violet: 11 years in the Central and now 14 years in the Caribbean.
- Major Violet and Matthew were able to participate in the PowerPoint congress and commissioning weekend, first time for Matthew and first time for Major Violet since going overseas in 1995.
- That things went smoothly at the clinic for Capt. Felix during Major Violet’s 6 week absence.
- That the services being rendered by Bethel Clinic continue to meet the desperate needs of the people in the southern region of Haiti.
- That God has been a very present source of help in the midst of some very difficult times concerning the management of the clinic.
- That this hurricane season has been very mild after last year’s busy season that saw four hurricanes pass over Haiti resulting in many lost lives and damaged crops and housing.
- That God will provide the right staff to work in the clinic: those with a heart of service and self-sacrifice and a life committed to Jesus Christ.
- Wisdom in handling the management of the clinic.
- That we will find a means to replace the Toyota truck which is now 10 years old and is the backbone of transportation for the clinic: taking teams on mobile clinic and to remote villages to vaccinate the children, transferring seriously ill patients to other facilities and carrying medicines and supplies from Port-au-Prince.
- That we find the help we need to get the clinic books put on QuickBooks. (Anyone want to come down for a month or two to do this?)