A Lesson in Small Things (With Great Love) Haiti Medical Mission Nov 25-27

It’s been said “life is like a roll of toilet paper. The nearer the end, the faster it goes.” The same can be said about mission. All of a sudden, we’re saying our good-byes and thank-yous. And the gratitude is sincere. Our translators, drivers, local clinic teams, local Chalice staff, cooking/hospitality team, and security staff have all been truly exceptional. Two of our (male) translators were unexpectedly thrown into detailed female reproductive anatomy talks, and took them on with grace and gravity. The local clinic staff put up with the Canadian invasion with patience and openness. And our hostess and her cooking team kept us energized with sumptuous Haitian delights, including roasted chicken, tostones (fried smashed plantain), and a fruit salad that we nearly came to blows over.

We came under the name of a medical mission, but it was so much more. It could have been called a community mission, given the amount of time we spent in the homes of families, checking on patients and visiting sponsored children. On one of the first clinic days, Dr Lisa met a woman in her forties who was presenting with advanced, malignant tumours. Dr Lisa was shaken to have delivered the bad news, and could tell the woman was frightened. Dr Don wondered if the woman was baptised, and if not, if she would like to be. In short order, Fr Duncan arranged to visit the woman in her home, just to visit and pray. But he regretted not having his chrism oil with him, and decided to return a second time. On Monday, he returned, armed with his anointing oil and a homemade teddy bear, made by the mother of one of our team. She greeted him with a huge smile, and listened to each word as he gave her the sacrament of the sick. And afterwards, Fr Duncan asked which of her children would like the bear. She wanted her youngest daughter to have the bear, and there were joyful smiles all around.

The mission could also have been called a spiritual mission. We prayed together each morning, before each meal, at the start of each clinic day, over elderly patients, in the homes, at Mass (all 2.5 hours of it, starting at 6:30 am on Sunday – thanks very much!) and with our whole teams during our good-bye ceremonies.  Today, one of the Chalice Haiti North social workers, Wilny, asked if he could lead a small prayer time with our team before lunch. We walked up to the “grotto” – a Marian shrine that overlooks the school and clinic in Grand Bassin that emulates Lourdes in France. During his prayer, he invoked Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Haiti’s patron saint. Sitting up in our vantage point, looking over the Haitian landscape that the Marian statue oversees, we could feel that she was keeping an eye on this country which holds her so dear. The Haitian people exemplify hope – they persevere for better tomorrows despite frustrating, unjust and sorrowful todays. We have deep gratitude for the love we’ve received and witnessed during our brief stay here, and we know that Our Lady will continue to multiply the exceptional work being done here for the future of these children.
Chalice volunteers and Haiti North site staff in front of the Marian shrine.

We’ve become a family – Canadians and Haitians alike, and it will be difficult to part ways.  We learned a song to serenade the two clinic teams in our send-off party, and goes to the tune of Edelweiss. Perhaps it’s final lyrics sum up what we’re feeling right now.
Friendship and peace may they bloom and grow/
Bloom and grow forever/
Bless the children, bless our friends/
Bless our family forever.