It was a normal Haitian afternoon with the air boiling and people
seeking refuge in the shade. Part of the team was inside a white tent,
designated for our purposes as a medical tent. Wounds were being
cleansed and redressed. Stomach aches were being soothed with medicine.
The touch and care deprived were given full attention, even if for only a
few short minutes.
Gathered outside the tent were many, many more. Some were simply waiting
in line, anxiously awaiting in hopes we could help. Others were
gathered around those praying for healing for the many cases we were
untrained to handle. It was a lot of people.
Unknown to the team, in the midst of a normal day of ministry, a “large
mob” had been sighted. The alert was sent out and help was on its way. Team member Lindsey Webb recounts the afternoon’s events here:
It was the last day of the week and we were in the middle of doing a
basic needs medical clinic at the tent community. I was standing at the
entrance of the tent doing “triage” when a UN truck came down the tiny
dirt road. In passing it occurred to me that it was a bit odd but I
didn’t really think about it, that is until another truck pulled up…
and another… and another… and another.
Humvees and troop vehicles of various shapes and sizes clogged the lane
beyond the wall. Then they stopped and got out.
Still in the process of trying to decipher symptoms of vaguely ill
patients, I assumed Mark or another staff member was standing beyond the
large group crowded around the entrance of the medical tent and that
one of them would take care of whatever was going on.
They kept pouring out of the trucks: the Haitian police, the French
gendarmes, the Sri Lankan military, a Haitian UN force leader, and a
random Chinese guy (I’m still not sure what he was doing there). They
didn’t seem too anxious or upset, but they were all carrying automatic
weapons and beginning to casually encircle the gathered crowd.
The Haitian commander started walking through the crowd and heading for
the tent. He greeted us with a pleasant “Bonjour!” I returned the
greeting and he asked if I speak French. I said I did and he smiled and
peered around me to see what was going on in the tent.
“You’re just doing a bit of first aid?” he asked.
I told him yes, and explained the nature of the few services we were
providing at the moment.
“Oh that’s very good! You know…I have this pain in my back…” he
said, turning and pointing to his shoulder, “I really could use some
treatment for that. Of course, it can only be treated by a pretty young
He grinned mischievously. I took a look at his back, and shook my head,
told him there was nothing I could do and he was probably going to die.
Then everyone, AK-47-toting troops included, burst out laughing.
We chatted for a few minutes he asked what group we were with and asked
if we felt safe. They had noted the large mob of people clustered for
our medical clinic and had been concerned about a possible security
issue. I assured him that we hadn’t had any problems and everything was
going smoothly. He kept thanking us for our service and our desire to
help the people of Haiti and saying how appreciated it is.
He went off to take a look around the community while they were there,
leaving most of the police and soldiers waiting at the front,
joking,smiling and waving at us. After about twenty minutes the
commander returned, thanked us again and wished us a good continuation
as the group loaded up and rumbled back up the dusty road, leaving us to
bandage wounds and pass out toothbrushes.
It just goes to show that you just never know what may happen during a
“normal” day in Haiti.