Ministering in Haiti Through Medical Missions
As they treated the sick by day and led soul-winning crusades by night, the medical mission teams of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, laid the groundwork in September for more expansive missions efforts in 2009.
The first medical team, consisting of fourteen medical professionals and four lay persons, returned from Haiti in September having made the first of what the church hopes will be lasting "connections with the people," said Ray Sanabria, missions minister at Idlewild.
Idlewild plans to return to Haiti this year.
Over the week they served, the team saw more than one thousand patients in their triage center and the team dentist extracted one hundred teeth. Medicine, valued at $12,000, was donated through Kingsway Charities, a non-profit organization that supplies medicine to third-world countries, for use in the center.
"God multiplied the supplies and medications we brought," said Nadine Pelham, a registered nurse and leader on the mission team.
After seeing patients in the center and giving out nutrition supplements, the team still had enough left over to leave two suitcases full of medicine and supplies for the church; five suitcases of medicines and liquid nutrition were left for a ministry that cares for and feeds ill and starving men, women, and children; and two suitcases of medicines and medical supplies.
"It really did feel like the loaves and fishes," said Pelham. "Many of the team left Haiti with only the clothes on their backs."
Pelham continued, "There were many stories of God's hand at work, but truly the most remarkable is the story of Baby Poutchino."
Poutchino, a three-month-old infant born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate was brought to the clinic for treatment. This is a condition where the lip and palate fail to close completely and it makes feeding very difficult because the child is unable to suck normally.
Leslie Turner, a nurse on the team who works with infants with this anomaly, has personal experience with the condition as she was born with a cleft lip and palate.
"When packing for the trip, Leslie felt compelled to bring one of the special feeding bottles used for this condition," said Pelham. "Leslie worked with the Poutchino's young single mother for several days, teaching her how to use the bottle and care for Poutchino. He went from drinking just drops of formula from a one cc syringe to eating three ounces at one feeding!"
Before leaving Haiti, Poutchino's mom, Lucia, was connected with a missionary at an orphanage and steps are being taken to bring the infant to Tampa for surgery.
"God blessed the efforts of our team to Haiti beyond all our expectations," said Pelham.
Haiti, an already impoverished nation, was ravaged by storms during the 2008 hurricane season. Heavy rains and flooding washed away gardens and killed animals, both sources of food and income for the people.
The United Nations reports that a quarter Haitian children suffer from chronic malnutrition and more than half of the population has no access to drugs.
The Lutz congregation donated three thousand pounds of rice and nine hundred pounds of beans for the local church to distribute to the community.
"It was amazing to watch this church become missionaries in their own community," said Pelham.
In the project trips for 2009, Idlewild medical mission teams will treat physical ailments, teach nutrition, and distribute food and vitamins. The teams will seek to minister to the Haitians' spiritual needs as well.
"They play with the children waiting to be treated using Vacation Bible School resources," said Sanabria. "In the evenings, the teams lead crusades, preaching, worshipping, and giving personal testimonies."
More than 1,500 Haitians attended the September crusades and nearly three hundred accepted Christ as their personal Savior as a result.
"We are doing more in fewer locations when it comes to missions," said Sanabria. "We are increasing the number of times we go to a place and working on building long-term relationships with the people."
The church is using the resources provided through the Florida Baptist Convention's Partnership Missions Department to connect with local churches and have guides in the country. The convention has been partnered with the Baptists of Haiti for thirteen years.
"We have never done a project in this area before, and to do a medical project was very strategic to our work in Haiti," said Craig Culbreth, director of Partnership Missions. "The team was well received and did a fantastic job. The Florida Baptist Convention is very grateful for the work Idlewild does in missions and is glad to be partners with them."