Members of two Jackson, Tenn., UMCs (Aldersgate & Jackson First) make medical mission trip to Haiti


Members of Aldersgate and First UMCs in Jackson, Tenn. traveled to Haiti in April on a medical mission trip. Susan Crocker, a member of Jackson First UMC (top center photo), provides a personal account of the team's experiences. (Submitted photos)

By Susan Crocker, Jackson First UMC, Jackson, TN

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Hands were clapping on every side of me, and I could hear hymns rising up in the early morning, warm air.

The sun rising held promise of another hot day in Haiti. The sounds of rhythmic clapping and singing in another language were exciting and spiritual. The wooden benches vibrated as the clapping and singing got louder and louder. Our American team looked around at each other when we recognized the song being sung as “How Great Thou Art.”

I held a severely disabled child, Pierre Richard, on my lap and my hands held his as we clapped together and sang the song in his language and mine.

Each of us later recounted that moment in time as a "God moment." The heat, the sweaty bodies, the clapping and singing of the Haitians with their hands, faces and smiles lifted up in the midst of this impoverished place to sing praises to Jesus was unforgettable.

“Advent” means the arrival of illumination or grace or redemption itself; but even for those Haitians without belief, the country seems to be standing on tiptoe, offering a sense of expectancy and attention. I’ve been one of the few on our planet who’s never known homelessness or hunger or a first-hand view of war; I’ve had all the comfort and ease I could want.

Our April 2015 mission team from two churches in Jackson, Tenn. (Aldersgate UMC and Jackson First UMC) saw how the other half (which is to say, 99.7 percent of our neighbors on the planet) lives and we looked a little beyond our too-comfortable ideas and easy assumptions.

Yet, sitting in the open air, tin-roofed, jam-packed church that morning singing hymns ... It was as if Advent was happening at that moment.

Many things are beyond description... How do you tell someone how an apple tastes? We all hear about the devastation and immense poverty in Haiti. But, how do you describe the taste of dust in your mouth as you ride on an open bed truck with the hot sun beating down on you? How do you tell someone about the child on the dirty mattress in a cinder block home alone and unable to move? How do you describe inhumanity? The answer: You can’t.

During the course of the April 11-17 week, we all decided there was more than the mind can attempt to wrap itself around. There is a place that is hell on earth. Yet, there is a prevalent sense of passion in every heart you meet. There are cheek kisses, arm strokes and shoulder squeezes. There is a focus of living every day for God. Praises are lifted up for Jesus constantly and when you pray, it is fervently for healing of this child of God. Every one matters - every single one.

Peter, our team dentist, described the moment a tooth broke and Regan prayed it would come out whole. Two seconds later it did. Praises were sung.
Lorie brought a tiny, three-week-old baby around for us to see. She was severely malnourished and dehydrated and her mother was unable to care for her.

Bill and Mickey rubbed scabies cream on heads and toes and offered kind and patient touches.

Courtney spent all day with Peter disinfecting dental instruments and offering a kind smile and making everyone feel comfortable and laugh.

Greg, our team physician, patiently listened to every complaint of headache, stomach ache, etc. He and Deline, a resident, were the front lines of medical care.

Jacob and Barry prayed for each person in the clinic each day.

The patient sees all the doctors. Then, before leaving, hands of prayer are laid on that person for a very personal prayer of healing.

Bob was our front line man. As people arrived, he made sure everyone was in the right line and stayed there. It was no easy task. He weighed, measured laughed and joked with everyone. He was the first person each day to offer a kind touch and smile.

I was the fortunate one; I worked with severely disabled and at-risk children. The five children I worked with during the week would break your heart. Yet, they would light up as we volunteers played and taught them colors and songs.

Not all of us can go to Haiti, but we can each find a place that is in need. It might be five minutes from your house. It might be a smile at the grocery counter check-out lady who found out her daughter has cancer. Those places and "God moments" are all around us.

Reach out, open up and find them. Find the spirit that is its center and it becomes something you bring back into your “regular life.” There is an expectation of Christ coming here in Haiti. Advent (Perhaps that is what Haiti has taught me?) need not be the focus of only one season.

O come, O come , Emmanuel And ransome captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appears. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel