It’s Monday night, March 23. The routine is the same, but our hearts ache. Nurse Eden, brush her teeth, read her bedtime story, pray and sing her lullaby. We start singing the verse, “No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you” and tears stream from his eyes. We don’t know when Jeff will be able to sing to Eden again. It could be weeks, it could be months. To lighten the mood, Eden thinks Daddy is laughing and starts to chuckle. We end the song in tears and laughter.
Jeff has started working but things have been slow paced as he eases himself into the workings of the hospital. We begin adjusting to our routines and settle into our new space. Eden begins to walk more confidently outside with the rocks, leaves, flowers, dogs and chickens. Despite the poverty and crime all around us, life is peaceful within the hospital gates. We feel safe in our little compound with eight missionaries living in a fenced off area. It’s breezy and the sun shines.
On Sabbath afternoon, we take our usual walk around the neighborhood and up into the hills. We receive the familiar stares and “Chinwa” (Chinese) comments that I have come to understand, but this time was different. As we keep walking, some utter “Kowonaviris” and others cover their nose and mouth. I begin to sense the reality of our situation if COVID-19 enters Haiti. How will the people respond? There is a possible case of COVID-19 in the north and we discover the man being tested is getting harassed by the Haitian people…
Our missionary community prays that God would spare Haiti from the virus, but on the night of March 19 we receive the news. Two cases of COVID-19 have been confirm in Haiti, and country is on lockdown. Airports, ports, schools, churches and factories have been shut down. A countrywide curfew has been mandated. It seems that we won’t be going anywhere any time soon. What does this mean for the hospital? What does this mean for our family and fellow missionaries? Jeff gets to work immediately coordinating with the other administrators, planning for a screening process, and implementing what he can with the other volunteers and hospital workers. His once slow-paced days are now in full force. However, things seem to move frustratingly slow while the weight of responsibility bears down on his shoulders.
Every day we receive decision-altering news. We are staying in Haiti through this crisis to support the hospital. We will be safe. Will we be safe? Some predict a humanitarian crisis so electricity, food and safe water may not be available. What will that mean for Eden? Maybe it’s not safe. Asians and Whites are not welcome by the community. Foreigners are bringing COVID-19. The hospital will be in danger. They are threatening to burn down the hospital. Maybe we need to leave. We can’t leave. We are at a loss. After the airports closed, we hear about repatriation flights that will evacuate foreigners to the U.S for only a few days. Jeff needs to stay and work for the hospital, but perhaps Eden and I should leave. But how can we separate our family and for how long? Weeks? Months? Eden will be running and Daddy will miss it. Eden will be talking and Daddy will miss it. We keep praying for wisdom, and the answer is unclear. The morning of Monday, March 23 comes and we need to make a decision and get a flight booked for the next day. I don’t want to leave, but what about Eden? We are leaving.
That night we have a nice dinner with the other missionaries and the Haitian administrator’s family. After dinner we discuss our plans. Four missionaries, including Jeff, will be staying to help the hospital. Soon after, we receive news that the hospital leadership is very concerned about the community’s reaction to foreigners being at the hospital. Some community members are threatening the hospital and things could escalate fast. The Haitian administrators make it clear – we must all leave. It’s for our safety, and for the safety of the hospital. The gravity of the news sinks in, coming from leaders who are well connected with the pulse of the community. It’s not what we want to hear, but we all know, God has answered our prayer. It’s time to go. God’s timing has been revealed. By Wednesday, March 25, all the missionaries leave Haiti Adventist Hospital (HAH) with heavy hearts.
Jeff, Eden and I are back in Loma Linda for an indefinite time. We are so grateful that our family is able to stay together, but our hearts go out to HAH. The devastation of COVID-19 in high-income countries has been unprecedented, however, a crisis like this in the poorest country in the western hemisphere could be catastrophic. Jeff and the other missionaries are doing what they can to help remotely, but those on the front lines at HAH are the ones meeting this challenge face to face. We ask for your prayers.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways, acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5