Dan Phillips hadn’t even been home 36 hours before another return trip was on his calendar. A year ago Memorial Day weekend Phillips went on his first mission trip, a medical mission trip to Haiti.
When Phillips stepped off the plane he saw people everywhere living in tents and shelters, and a landscape of dirt and filth. Although at that time Haiti was already five months into recovering from the massive Jan. 12 earthquake, “it was like it happened yesterday,” Phillips said.
Nothing, not even serving on the Vietnam evacuation team back in 1975, prepared Phillips for the poverty he saw in the Haitian villages.
Every day for about a week Phillips, who has been in emergency medicine for 20 years and has a medical office in Roxboro, went out with the medical team to different villages. The hospital he had envisioned working in turned out to be clinics set up in tent villages, church buildings with tarps on top, or outdoor amphitheaters.
They went to mountain villages and to what is considered the worst slum in the western hemisphere. The team worked among all the flies and mosquitoes and without examining rooms or labs to get blood counts and X-rays.
Although they cared for the Haitian people as best they could with the resources they did have, Phillips said he had a hard time dealing with the fact that he couldn’t do more for the people. Some medical conditions that could have been resolved very easily back home were difficult if not impossible to treat in Haiti.
The team saw patient after patient and treated for medical conditions such as skin diseases, high blood pressure, parasitic diseases, anemia and cared for many newborn infants. When Phillips went back last December his team treated many cases of malaria, typhoid and cholera.
Volunteers like Phillips began arriving in Haiti immediately after the earthquake hit, with the first team of N.C. Baptist Men volunteers arriving just three days after the disaster. So far, nearly 800 volunteers have helped care for more than 90,000 patients, constructed more than 800 temporary shelters and assisted with building 21 homes.
While volunteers are in Haiti to help meet physical needs, they are also there to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since January 2010, North Carolina Baptist volunteers have seen more than 1,000 Haitians pray to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
Phillips is making another trip to Haiti this month and is looking to go again later this fall. Between trips he is helping coordinate supplies for medical teams.
Medicines cannot be easily shipped to Haiti and many of the items teams need cannot be purchased in Haiti. “I’ve tried to be a resource for the teams going,” Phillips said.
Family doctor Cathi Sander is another North Carolina Baptist volunteer committed to helping in Haiti. “I went because I knew God wanted me to go. But that didn’t make me feel better. I was scared to death,” she said.
This was Sander’s first medical mission trip and her first international mission trip. She went to Haiti in early 2010 and again this past March.
Sander was on one of the first volunteer teams to Haiti. She said the 36-48 hour shifts pushed her harder than ever before.
One night, while working the overnight ICU shift without an interpreter, Sander found herself caring for two very sick patients. One man needed to be on a ventilator, another man suffered with chest pains.
“That was the most intense 12 hours of my life,” she said. Sander said her prayer over and over, “wasn’t even a full prayer.” She simply prayed to God, “I can’t do this. This is all You, right?”
Morning came, and God healed, as patients not expected to live did.
Later that same day, Sander had to change the bandages on a 14-year-old teenager. His wounds were so severe that had Sander been able to give him medicine to put him to sleep she would have done so. Numbing his arm was all she could do.
She spent two hours with the teenager, and he told her he was sorry for crying.
No matter what sickness a person had, from adults to children, “the only response I got back was gratitude. It felt so unfair because they deserved better than what I had to offer,” she said.
Sander said among the Haitian people she could, “see fear in their eyes when we told them we were leaving.”
The Haitian people are still in desperate need of help, and N.C. Baptist Men are still sending volunteers. Visit www.baptistsonmission.org.