Sunday, June 29, 2008

things i'm learning (haiti, part three)

providence ministries blog entry from port au prince, haiti:

October 26, 2007

When you enter the supply room of the Missionaries of Charity, it’s easy to miss the little things. There’s a table pushed against a wall with metal trays of random supplies including bandages, alcohol swabs, and half-used vials of IV meds. There are notebooks and ledgers containing each child’s name and treatments, xrays stuffed in files, and a clear glass paperweight. Hidden away behind all this chaos is a little index card box. The box is decorated with magic marker: a tiny rainbow and delicate script carefully spelling out, “Things I’m Learning.” I wanted so badly to open this box and discover the secrets written there. But in a way I have my own box, and I’m adding treasures to it each moment I’m here. Here is what is written on my heart today:

Jen and I spent about an hour and a half with a little girl this afternoon. Her name is Jennifer. Sister Rose Martha asked Jen to start an IV because she was dehydrated and listless. Jennifer is 9 months old and weighs 13 ½ pounds. Her lips are covered with weeping wounds from malnutrition and her skin hangs on her tiny frame in loose folds. Jen tried to find a suitable vein as I held her, but each time the needle pierced her skin the vein would disappear like smoke. We tried so many sites with the same frustrating results. And all this time Jennifer’s eyes burned right through me. She lay almost perfectly still.

This is Haiti.

You see a problem and the solution seems deceptively simple. You come to offer help and find that the solutions pour through your hands like water. I’m thinking of Jen and so many others in Haiti who fight so hard to make a difference. I’m playing the picture of days upon days with no discernible movement forward. I can’t describe the sensation of falling, of slowly sinking into something dark and terrible. But something pulls you on because the alternative is unthinkable. If you do nothing there is no hope at all. So you keep searching for the vein.

We never did get an IV started for Jennifer. Jen decided to insert a nasogastric tube to get her the fluids and meds she needed. Slowly, her little body animated. We handed her to the room mother, gathered our things, and left for the day. It would have to be enough. This is what I learned today. This is what is written on my heart.


  1. "so you keep searching for the vein"
    That's it. Right there. Hit the nail on the head.

    That one phrase speaks volumes of what it's like to go there . . .

  2. and not in vain

    someday no more
    love you

  3. Thank you, Terri, for bearing witness and for holding that baby. May we all be agents of change.

  4. This is an awesome post Terri.

    Ever heard the David Crowder song called "Surely we can Change" ?

    wow. so well written.

    MUCH love to you and your cute and fun small group/Haiti group.

  5. "You see a problem and the solution seems deceptively simple. You come to offer help and find that the solutions pour through your hands like water."

    That nails it Terri.

  6. Terri
    This crushed my heart, made me cry... and that's all i have to say about that.

  7. karen: me too.

    sarah: yep.

    dave: you've gotta come back with me one of these times...

    di: many, many tears. and so much joy.

    cathy: amen.

    tara: you know this more than most. thanks for letting me know i'm not crazy.

    tammy: my heart is mostly mushy pulp when i think about this. thanks for feeling it with me.

  8. i agree with Karen. i feel that everytime i face thsi kind of situation

  9. Allowing it to be enough--that’s a hard lesson to learn.

  10. my heartbeat echoes karen's:

    i am full and empty after reading that.

    the alternative is unthinkable.

    so you keep searching for the vein.

    no solutions, just an ache.

  11. I think we must have met before my friend,

    Perhaps we crossed paths in the mountains of Swaziland or in a clinic in Haiti,

    Write your words on our hearts,
    etch them into the fabric of the universe,

    And me we always have the grace to

    "I am still learning"

    My love to you sister, Maithri

  12. You fill me up.
    Or maybe you empty my cup of my own assumptions, taking me back to that place where everything is possible and nothing is known.
    I love these stories.
    And I think I have one of those boxes too.

  13. Missin you friend,

    Hoping life is full and beautiful,


  14. Just coming to see if you had posted at all -- wondering if your health is okay -- praying it is.

  15. Terri Churchill
    Have you been beamed up? Have you been taken up in the rapture? (if you have don't tell me, i have heard one too many horror stories of left behind.) Have you been abducted by aliens? If so, we want a detailed blog on that. Photos Terri we want photos.

    Do aliens eat cheeseburgers? What is the exact measurements of an aliens head? Inquiring minds want to know. Did you ask the aliens if they eat people? Hmm that might be a problem. Have you been eaten by a cannibalistic alien?

    Are you hiding a trip to rehab? Are you in jail Terri Churchill? Now i told you about that drug trafficking. Don't worry after you post bail i will give you a detailed review on ways to hide that. I thought we went over this already Terri Churchill, now ya went and got yourself busted.

    We practice radical acceptance, (does that sound familiar?) so as long as you are not selling drugs from the sanctuary, we can work with ya on that greed problem.

    I am on a roll somebody needs to stop me.