Friday, 22 December 2017

The grip of Satan

One thing that has struck me recently is the grip that Satan has over Haiti.  Yes people go to witch doctors here and yes they have voodoo parties where they invite spirits to enter into them but the grip I see is one of fear.  It seems to me that Satan doesn't even really need to do very much in Haiti, people automatically give him the victory for many things that happen.  Let me tell you about 3 patients of mine.

My first patient is a  young guy, let's call him John.  In May John had an accident at work and hurt his knee.  He went to various doctors who told them there was nothing that could be done, in fact one doctor even suggested he get his leg amputated because it was useless.  Since May, John has been getting around on a pair of crutches and not putting his foot on the ground at all.

Since I started treating John his leg has become stronger and stronger but progress is slow as all the muscles on his leg are completely wasted away.  Two weeks ago John came for his physio and as soon as I start treating him he started wailing, rolling about the bed and crying.  I stopped what I was doing, explained that I cannot treat him if he is like that and asked what was wrong.  He responded, 'Julie there are some things that happen in Haiti which you just can't understand.'

So I asked him to explain. We talked for well over an hour and to summarize, John believes that someone has prayed to Satan to put a spell on his knee.  He told me that no matter how hard we work it is never going to get better.

We continued to talk, I talked to John about the gospel and explained if he truly believed in God and has the Holy Spirit living inside of him then Satan can't put any spell on him.  John said he believes in God, he goes to church but I am not sure how much of what he said was him telling me what he thinks I wanted to hear.  We talked about the freedom which we find in Jesus and how we are no longer slaves to sin.  And how if John believes Satan is putting a spell on him, then he has given Satan the victory and he will continue to live in fear and hopelessness.

I prayed with him, told him to go home and think about what we talked about. I said if he firmly believes the problem in his knee is a result of Satan then there is no point in coming back to physio because it won't help.

John came back to physio a week later with a completely different attitude, during the week he had had a dream that an old man came and removed a lot of cockroaches from his knee and since that night the pain has decreased.  He told me, 'last week when you were talking to me, that wasn't you talking, it was God speaking through you.'  I really think God is doing something in John's life, please continue to pray for him.  On a physical note, he walked on Monday with no crutches for the first time!

Now let me tell you about the second patient.  My sister in law, Melissa, was here just a couple of weeks ago, she treated a lady who brings her daughter for PT every month.  This lady has told me she gets ill every month or so, and during that time period she has a 'bad spirit', she doesn't know what she is doing, where she is going and she talks a lot even to the point where people don't understand what she is saying.  Every time this happens, her family keep her at home and people from the church come to pray with her and ask the spirit to leave.  This has been going on for 20 years. 

It turns out instead of this lady having a 'bad spirit' she is bipolar, and can easily be treated with medication.  Another 20 year victory for Satan where he didn't have to do anything. 

My third patient came just yesterday with his brother, a young guy who was shot in the head in April and now has two bullet fragments in his head.  After he was first shot his family took him to Port au Prince and they were told if they operate and remove the bullets he would die, but if they don't do anything he will probably die.  So he was sent home to die.  At this stage he couldn't move or talk, he could only open and close his eyes. Over the next few months he began to start moving, talking, eating and drinking.  By November he was walking on his own but he still had issues with his right leg and left arm so he came to Bethesda for physio.  After he told me the story I remarked that it really was a miracle that he was alive and that God must have a plan for his life.

This started a new discussion, his family have been taking him to a witch doctor to get better.  He doesn't believe he has two bullet fragments in his head, he thinks the bullet skimmed by his head and now he hasn't fully healed because of a spell someone put on him.  Yet again, Satan is getting the credit and victory for something he didn't do.  As we talked I could tell that God was really doing something in his life and he told me that he wants to become a Christian but he can't while he is going to a witch doctor.  After a long discussion (and no physio), I sent him to talk with Pastor Daniel.  Pastor Daniel later told me that during their discussion the young man stopped him and said you don't need to talk anymore, I am ready to accept Christ into my life.

And that's how I want to finish this post,  knowing there is HOPE in the despair, knowing there is LIGHT in the darkness and knowing that there is FREEDOM in Christ where people no longer have to live in fear.

Praise the Lord that he is working in Haiti and even though it feels like Satan has a grip on Haiti, little by little, one life at a time God is working to change Haiti for Him. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Five things I've learned

My sister in law, Melissa was just visiting for a week from Canada.  Melissa works as a psychiatric nurse with children and adolescents, she spent the mornings educating our clinic staff and treating patients.  In the afternoons she was teaching nursing students in Dr Rodney's medical school. Here are her reflections on her time in Haiti...

After a week of working at Bethesda Medical Center, teaching staff, seeing patients, and lecturing in the nursing school, I want to share 5 things that I learned:

It is wrong to assume that healthcare professionals in Haiti know nothing of mental health.

In my teaching at the nursing school, I came with the assumption that they would know very little. I was surprised to hear that they had a psychiatry component in their curriculum and the national registration exam includes psychiatry. They covered schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, depression, and anxiety. I had the general impression that their psychiatric practice was not current, and this might be because of a lack of current teaching materials and textbooks.  Because so few professionals are doing psychiatric practice, the students would have limited exposure to adequate clinical placements.

As always, it is better to understand what people know, and partner with them to fill in the gaps. I talked with the academic director and adjusted some of my presentations to match with information she thought relevant. I provided the newest version of the DSM 5 (the diagnostic manual of mental illnesses) in French for use at the nursing school and the clinic. I hope that access to diagnostic information will help the assessment of many patients. I also gave my slides and talks to Julie to find someone to translate. I would love to be able to provide more resources in French that would be helpful for the students and staff.

Where mental health treatment is not available, people suffer.

Because of the limited psychiatric care in the north of Haiti and wide-spread poverty, most people with mental illness do not have access to treatment.

We saw a young man who had struggled with symptoms of bipolar disorder for about 10 years. He became aggressive at home when experiencing mania. The family’s way of dealing with his behavior was to tie him up. He came to our office with his hands tied together behind his back. We were able to prescribe a medication that should help regulate his mood and treat his psychotic symptoms. We told the family that they should not be tying him up (especially when he was not experiencing mania), and that with effective treatment the manic episodes should be reduced if not eliminated.

People are resilient.

Dr. Rodney Baptiste and I saw a woman who had been struggling with symptoms of bipolar disorder. She would have days of not sleeping, as well as psychotic symptoms, such as feeling like Satan coming after her and hearing voices. Many people had prayed with her with no change in her symptoms. She had seven children and was managing to bring one of her daughters on a regular basis to see Julie for Physiotherapy. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be for someone to be as consistent in caring for her children as this woman. Dr. Rodney will be talking to his medication provider to see if he can get some Quetiapine (a mood stabilizing drug that is also an antipsychotic) at the clinic, as this woman would not be able to afford the medication otherwise. This woman was functioning much better than I would have expected.

Another patient we saw was a man suffering from HIV. He had lost some of his family because of his diagnosis and he also lost his job. His life was very difficult. As I was assessing symptoms of depression, I was surprised at how well he was coping and how much fight he had to continue to battle poverty and hunger.  He was very resilient man.  He continues to be supported at Bethesda for HIV treatment and social work.

Having someone understand your symptoms is validating.

Dr. Rodney and I saw a young woman suffering from panic attacks. As I was asking some diagnostic questions about this experience, I could tell that she knew that we understood her experience.  She started to cry.  I was able to give her some relaxation and breathing strategies to help her cope with her panic attacks.

At Bill and Julie’s home, I met with one of Julie’s friends. Her husband was murdered 2 years ago, and she has 4 kids. She has been working to support her family.  She has periods of time where she feels really heavy and sad.  These feelings are totally normal for someone that has gone through such a traumatic experience! The grief feelings have become less over time and were not getting in the way of working or caring for her family. In my opinion, was processing the grief and trauma well. Her strength has allowed her to be a good example for her children and for the rest of the family. I think sometimes it is helpful just to have someone tell you that what you are experiencing is normal.

Hope comes from the people.

There is no psychiatric hospital in northern Haiti. The psychiatrists that I learned about were ones that lived in Port au Prince, and traveled to see some patients in the north. There is a real lack of psychiatric services in the Cap Haitian area. 

I was really impressed by the curiosity and desire to learn of the nursing students and staff, including Dr. Rodney. I really think that they want to do the best they can for the patients that they see. I believe that with more knowledge and resources, that they could be a leading resource in northern Haiti.

Finally, I want to thank Julie Edler (my lovely sister-in-law) for asking me to come to Haiti, and Dr. Rodney Baptiste for translating for me, putting things into cultural context and for seeing patients with me. It was a great (and exhausting) week.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

From one world to another

We spent the week before last in Florida with my mum, dad and sister.  This year Bill got to come as EBS was closed for 2 days but he flew back in time for class on Friday.  We had a great time enjoying some good family time, some good food and some great roads! The boys especially enjoyed having all kinds of berries, grapes and yoghurt every day for breakfast which, unfortunatley has made breakfast back in Haiti not so fun.

We, of course had to go to the zoo, spend a couple of days on the beach,  do our Christmas and birthday shopping and stock up on a whole lot of cheese!

Apparently he's called bucket head!

My mum and Leah had to travel home on Saturday in time for work the next week but my dad flew back to Haiti with us for a week.  He got to help Bill with some library stuff, go to school with Sam for the day and preach in chapel here at EBS.  We also had to take him to a Caribbean beach.....something everyone must do when they come to Haiti.   He left on Friday and made it home by Saturday afternoon to Belfast in his shorts and t shirt! But that's another story!

Joel isn't too sure about this whole monkey thing!

The holiday feeling doesn't last too long once your back and back at work.   The poverty, the suffering and the lack of infrastructure always hits you a bit harder when you have been away from it, even if its only for a week.   There has been rain every evening and I can see the road getting worse by the day! However with the rain comes cooler temperatures which we are thankful more 3 showers a day weather.

This is the road when it was good...

The physio building is so close to being finished and I should be in within the next couple of weeks.  Praise God that all of the funding got here quickly and I am also in the middle of getting some Haitian guys to build some equipment for me.  I am hoping that everything will be ready at the same time!!

One quick patient story to finish, about a month ago I started treating a young guy who had a knee accident at work in May.  He went to a doctor in town and was told he would need to go to the Dominican Republic or the USA for surgery or he would never walk again.  Actually they told him he may be better off getting his leg amputated.  So he has been non weight bearing and using crutches for the last 6 months.  His leg is completely wasted away and he could hardly move his knee at all because of the weakness.  Fast forward 4 weeks of exercise later and he is weight bearing, walking with one crutch and working hard to get rid of that second crutch.  Amazing what a bit of exercise can do!

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Accrediation at EBS

Thank you for your beautiful, faithful prayers for our CETA Accreditation Site-Visit this past week!

After an exhausting few days full of tons of questions, meetings, setting up interviews, airport runs, committee meals, and an extraordinary amount of time and notes and thoughts and counsel...Friday our administration sat down with the CETA committee.

This committee is an incredibly experienced group, all working and leading seminaries and accreditation processes for years throughout the Caribbean, and they were SO full and free with an incredible amount of good advice and counsel. They had ideas our staff had never even THOUGHT of, concerns we never realized, encouragements we never would have thought to try, wisdom from lessons we haven't had to learn the hard way. 

Emmaus is SO thankful we have been pursing this accreditation, no matter how difficult and time-consuming and LONG it has been. Not only has the process made us a far healthier institution, but we were able to get WELL-evaulated last week by a large organization who has skin in the game and who is able to help us understand and achieve GLOBAL standards of theological education...for Emmaus, for HAITI.

The committee gave EBS 11 Commendations or things that really impressed them or that they believe we are doing really well, 11 Suggestions--things they encourage Emmaus to do--and 12 Recommendations, things CETA would require be done for accreditation.  

They will now submit these items to the CETA Association at large, who has been reading through our massive Self-Study book and will go through their recommendations and notes, and then make the decision whether EBS  1) is not currently able to be accredited, 2) could be accredited after attending to the recommendations, or 3) can be accredited now and continue to work on the recommendations.  

 So we wait, with your prayers!

But today was enough.
The recommendations and suggestions pertained to EBS getting more things more formal...CETA encouraged more review policies, an IT director, a qualified professional counselor on staff for staff and students, a qualified librarian and to arrange the library in a more user-friendly way, that we develop a formal process for board orientation and evaluation, find a degreed finance person, get together a Quality Manual, develop a curriculum review committee, develop measurable instruments for staff and student satisfaction, prepare the campus for hearing impaired or visually impaired students, and exit signs for the doors.

But can I share with you the commendations?  Because there is SO MUCH glory to God in it that we want to pause again and celebrate that with you...with you who have prayed and come and built and taught and helped and supported and loved and emailed and followed and sent and sponsored and BEEN a part of Emmaus, TODAY. 

They noted that our student-friendly tuition is really impressive and making it possible for men and women in Haiti to follow God's calling on their lives despite social standing, despite the poverty Haiti is known for, and noted that they have NEVER seen nor heard of a work-study program that allows students to work 10 hours a week for all they are receiving.   THANK YOU for the students you are and have supported, making this possible!

They complimented our "excellent facilities" and called Emmaus an "oasis in the dessert." THANK YOU to the MANY of you who have built, paved, painted, designed, and supported Emmaus.

They complimented our huge emphasis on the students educational and spiritual development and were amazed at how EBS is working sacrificially to greatly improve the education of our faculty and staff.  
THANK YOU to those who have been a part of this continued education through teaching, or through the supporting of our staff members!

They noted that EBS's mission to develop Christ-like leaders for Haiti and the World "comes alive through the all the day-to-day activities and interaction on campus."

Finally, they talked of their experiences and ministries in the United States, in Jamaica, in Turks and Caicos, the Dominican, in Haiti, in Cuba, in Trinidad, and noted that the committee was deeply impressed humbled that "Emmaus Biblical Seminary is truly a labor of much love and a Light to the Nations."

"If God uses ONE man from Emmaus," Dr. Stroude said passionately, "if He uses even just ONE woman to change the world for His glory, as we clearly see Him doing, then all of this, all of it, it has not been in vain."

Emmaus is  ok with the library needing work, good with job searching some more talented people for our staff, and ready to develop more documentation.  

But our great prayer has been that Emmaus might be HIS Light to the nations...that the mission of Emmaus--to develop Christ-like leaders for His transformation of Haiti and the world--might be OUR mission, might be real and true and deep, might BE REALIZED.

EBS has been poked and prodded, our pockets turned inside out, our weakest links all tested.  What more could we possibly have hoped for than to have the CETA committee's unanimous observations be THOSE commendations?

That is an answer to prayers of the decades.  

Praise the Lord.

Thank you for being a praying part of people here at Emmaus...for the transformation of Haiti, and the world.

Stacey Ayars, for the EBS Haiti family

Join us as developing Christ-like leaders for Haiti and the world continues TODAY at Emmaus.

Emmaus Biblical Seminary | Haiti | |

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

A day in the life...

The latest update from Bethesda...

A day in the life

Imagine you live in Haiti and you need to go to the doctor, friends have told you that Bethesda is good, that you will find the help you need there, but you need to go early.  So, the next day you get up around 4am to get ready, its dark so you light your kerosene lamp.  Once you're ready you walk to the main road to find a tap tap or a motorbike that will drive you to Bethesda.

 You arrive around 5am and get a ticket from the security guard, you are number 14 which means there are 13 people who arrived before you.  Now you have your place but the staff don't start work until close to 8am, so you wait. 
Once the staff arrive, you hand in your ticket and the staff will look for your dossier (chart). But, for you, this is your first time so the staff create a new dossier for you. 
Then, at 8am Pastor Exalus leads devotions for all the patients, by now there are almost 100 patients waiting to be seen. This devotion time includes a prayer, a song and a message from the bible.  After devotions one of the nurses stands up to give an education session on Tuberculosis.  After hearing what she says,  you begin thinking of people you know who cough a lot, maybe you should tell them to come here...

After devotions you line up to pay, a general consultation including lab work and medicine cost 700gds. ($12 US).  This is a lot of money for you but you really need to see a doctor.  
After payment, the next stop is vital signs where you are weighed, your blood pressure and temperature are taken.
From there you wait until your name is called, then you are seen by one of the four consulting staff: Dr Rodney, Ms Ketlye, Ms Prudence or Ms Jackie.

Once your initial consultation is finished you are sent to the lab for tests.  At the lab you are instructed to give a urine sample and you will need a blood test.  Once you have had the appropriate tests done its time to wait for the results.
You wait and by now your tired and hungry.  There are ladies selling food and drinks at the front of Bethesda, its 100gds ($1.60)  for food and 25gds ($.40) for a drink.  Your not sure if you can afford that after spending 700gds on coming to the clinic.
But then your name is called and you go and see the doctor or nurse who did your initial consultation.  You are told what is wrong and what you need to do to get better.  Then you're sent to the pharmacy to pick up your medicine.

By now its early afternoon, you are tired and ready to go home, it's been a long day. But you're happy that you were able to see the doctor, get your test results and medicine to treat what is wrong with you.  On top of that you learnt important information about Tuberculosis and you were encouraged from God's word...all in one day.  

Fundraising November

November is a month of special fundraising for Bethesda.  If you would be willing and able to hold a fundraiser for BMC please get in touch with us.  We will give you all the information and promotional material you need.

Our biggest project right now is to purchase and install a new digital X ray system.  We also need extra funds for the maternity clinic, malnutrition fund, medicine and our general fund which covers day to day expenses.
Perhaps your not able to hold a fundraiser, would you prayerfully consider giving a special gift towards Bethesda Medical Center in November?  All of your support no matter how big or small helps us provide medical and spiritual care to the people of Haiti.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Career orientated

Anyone who knows me well will know I am not career orientated.  Going to uni to become a physio was mostly to fill in time until I got married and had a family.  Don't get me wrong I like being a physio, I like helping people get better but I definitely don't want to do that until I'm 65 or 67 or whatever the retirement age is now.

I remember being at a pilates course and one of the other physios on the course was sharing with the group about listening to a podcast about rehabilitation of hamstring tears.  Everyone in the room was extremely interested in what she was talking about, then other people started talking about different podcasts they listen to.  The whole time I was thinking I don't have enough time or desire to listen to podcasts about physio!

Saying all of that when I am at work I try my very best to get people better, but when I am not at work I don't think about it.  I'm not listening to podcasts, or reading articles or doing research, I'm at home looking after the boys.

But last week the importance of physiotherapy was highlighted to me...I got a man up to walk for the first time in a year.  He had a stroke a year ago and had regained some good movement but had never been prepared for walking. So over the past month I've been working on preparing him for walking and on Friday he walked for the first time in a year.

Little Yvelinda, who first came to me in January with probable CP, uncontrollable dribbling, unable to old her head up or talk is now holding her head up well, rolling over and sitting for a few minutes on her own.  Her dribbling has almost stopped and she is starting to talk.

She came a couple of weeks ago with a skin infection...that's another story.

Little miracles happening in my very hot little room everytime I'm there.  We want to see more of those little miracles and that is why we are building this new therapy room.  We are so close to finishing, all the outside is done next we need to do the electrics, tile the floor, paint and add the windows and doors.  But our funding has run out so were stuck.  Please pray with us for the rest of this funding to come in and if you feel led to give please email me and I will explain the best and quickest way to give.

I have so many plans for this building which you can read about here and we have a PT team coming the first week in January and really need the space for the things we have planned.

Also, I learnt a lesson about faith this past week, on Monday I arrived in my room and my books were spread out over the plinth but my folder of notes along with my diary and some blank paper were gone.  This meant starting all my assessments again and not knowing what treatments I had already done with patients.

It was quite strange how my stuff was laid out when I arrived on Monday. 

 I shared this on Wednesday in prayer meeting and Danni prayed that everything would be returned. I was thinking there is no way, who would steal something then when they didn't find any money there, make the effort to return it.

Yet I was proved wrong, on Friday Dr Rodney came to my room with my folder of notes, my diary and the blank paper.  Someone had found them in the patients toilet.  O ye of little faith.  I didn't really believe that God could do that, but he did.

So were praying and believing that God will provide the rest of the funds to complete this project.  Will you pray with us?

Luke 1 v37 
For nothing will be impossible with God 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Being stretched

I've been working with a little girl called Lanouska since January of this year.  She is now 13 and has a very complicated most medical histories in Haiti.  Until she was 11 she was able to walk, not completely normal but mobile then one day she fell after school and hasn't walked since.

I have been going to her house to treat her every Friday we have been working on getting her stronger and being able to stand.  She has weakness and neurological issues in both her arms and her legs.  Having never worked in neuros or paediatrics I feel way out of my depth but she has definitely made progress since January.  After a few months I was able to get her standing with two people helping her.  Then Phil built me a standing frame for her which we have been using so she can learn to stand independently and she continues to improve. 

I have been trying for months to get her a decent wheelchair so she can go out and maybe even go to school.  Finally and thankfully  I was able to get one from the walkabout foundation and I delivered it to her last Friday.  She was very pleased and even able to push herself a little which I was not expecting because of her arm weakness.  This chair will keep her in a much better position and give her a little independence.

The issue now is the closest school won't accept her, shes 13 and with missing a couple of grades of school because of financial difficulties, then missing again after her fall she is now only in 3rd grade so she would in be in with the 8 year olds.  Not only that she would need someone with her to push her chair and take her to the toilet.  So school is not working out.  The family have talked about paying someone to come to the house but they just don't have the money. 

This is a very difficult situation, not knowing what is wrong with Lanouska makes her difficult to treat.  I am sure her family is putting on their hope on me to help her walk again which I don't know if that is going to happen.  It has also been hard to get her family on board to continue her therapy in between treatment sessions.  I have had lots of opportunities to share the gospel with her family so please continue to pray that God will speak to the family.

The new physio building is so close to being finished and should be done by the end of this month.  We are so thankful to God for his provision for this building.  I am working on getting equipment and other supplies I need so once the building is open we will be ready to go.  My plans for this new building are :

  • To continue to treat patients but have a bigger space to do so
  • To run group classes and education sessions
  • To work with Pastor Exalus and Pastor Daniel to incorporate evangelism and discipleship into these classes
  • To have group treatments sessions for children with neurological diseases so their parents can have a time to talk and support one another
  • When we have visiting PT's and OT's we can use this space as an education room to help develop Haitian PT techs in the area. 
I can't wait for the room to get finished!Dr Rodney continues to amaze me, not only is he a doctor, director of BMC, running the nursing school and teaching there and an elder in the church.  But he drew up the plans for the building and it looks brilliant!

I am still looking for any PT's and OT's to come and work alongside me, especially if they have a specialty.  As far as I am aware, there are no occupational therapists around the Cap Haitian area.  Your role would be to treat patients and educate not only me but other Haitian PT techs in the area.  If you are interested and want to know more please email me.

Meanwhile Bill has been teaching his two residential courses and his translator, Leme, told him 'Bill you don't need me anymore.'  Leme had just been in the room just incase Bill needed him but he is not using him so Bill is now teaching without his translator and is doing fine.  This year EBS is offering weekend courses for people who are working full time and cannot come during the week.  Yesterday was Bill's first weekend class and he will be teaching for the next two Saturdays. 

So were taking it easy this weekend, celebrating Matt's birthday last night and having home church this morning.  I find going to church in Haiti with the boys hard, trying to get them to be quiet and sit for 2 hours takes all my energy so when it comes to listening to the sermon in Creole I barely pick up anything.  Every 6 weeks or so we get together with our neighbours and listen to a sermon online, this morning was Francis Chan on John 21 when Jesus asks Peter, do you love me?  It was great, he challenged us on do we really love God and if we do how does that reflect in our lives.  


 One of the things I was able to do on during my time at home in Northern Ireland during covid was some more training, specifically in paedi...