JIMANI, Dominican Republic —
Delores York sits in the hallway of Good Samaritan Clinic just east of the
Haiti border in the Dominican Republic. Her feet hurt. She’s exhausted. It’s been
a long day for her and other clinic volunteers as earthquake victims fill every
room, waiting for treatment.
Suddenly York, an
International Mission Board (IMB) missionary from Abilene, Texas, who has
ministered among Haitians for the past 12 years, is back on her feet. She’s in
the lobby holding hands with Claire, a woman about to go into surgery to repair
her broken hip. Claire lost her home, looters stole everything she had and she
— like so many others — lost loved ones in the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that
rocked Haiti more than a week ago.
But the two women can’t stop
“She’s my sister,” York says
proudly. “She’s happy about Jesus saving her life.”
“I have hope in God,”
responds Claire. “God will get me through this.”
York and Claire just met at
the clinic, but they’ve become fast friends since York speaks Claire’s Creole
language. As hundreds of injured Haitians pour into the clinic, York and other
IMB missionaries helping there provide a valuable skill as interpreters.
“Hardly anyone here speaks
Creole,” said Dawn Goodwin, an IMB missionary from Jefferson City, Tenn. “We’re
able to help the doctors understand what exactly is wrong with the patient, so
they can give the treatment the patient needs.”
Language barriers only
complicate the situation in what looks like a war zone with patients scattered
on mattresses throughout the clinic.
Patients include amputees,
those with head wounds, infections and broken bones. They line the hallway as
ambulances pull up to unload new patients.
The only available space for
some is a patch of grass and dirt just outside the clinic. Rooms overflow with
patients, exhausted doctors and other medical volunteers, some just trying to
catch an hour or two of rest.
“It’s been a week since the
earthquake — and they’re still coming,” said Goodwin.
Sleep isn’t something
Goodwin, York or her husband, Sam, from Midwest City, Okla., have seen much of
in the past few days.
“I just did a 24-hour
shift,” Goodwin said. “I haven’t been able to get much sleep, but there aren’t
Interpreting is just part of
what the IMB missionaries are doing. A day at the clinic can include everything
from helping lift patients on and off beds to cleaning bathrooms.
The focus, however, remains
the patients — most of whom have lost their homes as well as family and
“Everything is gone,” said
Junior, who was visiting his wife, a patient at the clinic. They lost their two
children in the earthquake. “This is all we have,” he said as he pulled on his
“We have nowhere to go.”
After being released, many
patients are transported to Bethel Baptist Church in Jimani, Dominican
Republic, for temporary shelter. But their future remains uncertain.
For now, volunteers do what
they can to comfort the hurting and wounded.
Goodwin said the sweetest
moments at the clinic for her are times of praying for patients or singing
songs of comfort.
But in the chaos, even those
moments aren’t always easy.
“I was praying with someone
the other day and just started blubbering,” said Goodwin, who has worked among
Haitians for 17 years. “I’m grieving, too.
“I’ve lost friends. I have
friends living on the street. Ministering to my people has been helpful. It’s
helped my healing process.
“They have lost their
identity, their palace … everything,” Goodwin added. “They come here because
there is nowhere to go in Haiti. Some have been waiting here for days to
Though doctors continue to
rotate in, the number of patients is overwhelming. Workers at the clinic
estimate they have treated more than 1,000 patients.
Another challenge is the
equipment at the clinic. One evening, the X-ray machine was down, forcing
doctors to cut open an arm or leg to feel for cracks or breaks in the bone.
While so many stories coming
out of Haiti are sad, there also are miracles to report.
A woman and her 22-day-old
baby were transported to the clinic after being rescued from the rubble of a
building where they had been trapped for three days.
It’s easy to feel helpless
and overwhelmed in the midst of crisis, York acknowledged. But she wouldn’t
want to be anywhere else.
“For us, the hardest part
would be not being here,” she says.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — James is a writer for
the International Mission Board.)