With Hurricane Tomas threatening Haiti and one million people still living in tents, nine people from Winchester and other parts of Kentucky arrived in Port-au-Prince Tuesday for a mission to Ranquitte, a community of 22,000 in Northeast Haiti.
Our team came to install solar panels at the Calhoun-Spady Missionary School and to repair computers, deliver medicine, as well as toothbrushes and dental supplies from Kentucky. A spreading cholera epidemic increased the chances of disaster for an already hard-hit Haiti.
News crews from ABC News and the Associated Press arrived with us on the same flight from Miami to Haiti. The reporters unloaded portable satellite dishes and other equipment needed to cover Tomas. As we checked our mission supplies in at the Miami airport, Hans Jurgens, an ABC News broadcast engineer, mentioned that they always leave generators behind in Third World nations.
“Would you like this generator?” Hans asked.
Scott Mandl, our mission team leader from Richmond-based Christian Flights International (CFI) eagerly agreed, knowing the 7,000-watt generator could provide precious power to do construction at the school or to generate electricity for mission medical and dental teams.
Haitian porters babbled in Creole while they negotiated to carry the media gear and the 17 plastic bins of supplies brought by our CFI team. A jeep carrying an armed United Nations soldier roared past us outside of the airport fence.
Our team from Kentucky includes two physicians, Steve Spady from Hindman and Paul Maynard from Pikeville. Others include myself, Kevin Osbourn from Winchester, my 17-year-old daughter, Savannah, Zak Kratzer from Richmond, Sandi Parton from Somerset, Andrea Conatzer from Mount Sterling and Scott.
A driver picked up the team and drove us from the Port-au-Prince airport to the Mission Aviation Fellowship, where we boarded small Cessna planes that would take us over the mountains to the Central plateau. A sea of blue-tarps and tents covered the landscape as we took off from the capital city.
The planes landed on a grass field in Pignon, as oblivious goats grazed on the edge of the runway. One of the teams’ planes turned around just after takeoff when an alternator failed, but climbed back in the air an hour later after a quick repair by the MAF mechanics.
After the entire team arrived in Pignon, we piled into the beds of three Toyota pickups for a 12-mile, bumpy ride to Ranquitte. All along the way, the vehicles jerked through ruts and over rocks. It was another reminder of one of the many things taken for granted in America: paved, smooth roads.
As we traveled to Ranquitte, people along the way smiled and shouted. Children ran after us yelling, “Candy.” Others waved and said, “Bon soir,” or good afternoon. A bright November sun illuminated lush mountains, and fields filled with palm trees, bulgar and sugar cane, wild descendants from the long abandoned plantations.
An hour and one half later, we arrived at the Calhoun-Spady school campus. We unloaded supplies, washed and rubbed our hands with Germ-X, reminding us of yet another blessing taken for granted back home: clean, pure water.
Ivy Solomon, known as the Mother Theresa of Haiti, hosted us for a dinner of delicious cabbage, homemade bread, and mashed potatoes with gravy at her home on campus. Ivy, who will soon turn 90, asked Dr. Maynard and Dr. Spady if the next day they would examine a young woman she knew who was suffering from pelvis and leg pain.
“Sure,” Spady said.
Eighteen years earlier, on his first mission to Ranquitte, Haitians woke him in the middle of the night and took him to a mud hut to deliver a baby. His daughters held flashlights and the Haitians chanted “push, push.” Eventually, a baby boy descended into his hands.
“They named the baby Steven after me,” Spady told Ivy at dinner. “Is there any chance you know a young man named Steve in Ranquitte? He would be about 18 now.”
“No, but I’ll put the word out to find him,” Ivy said.
The next day, Ivy called Spady inside her home. When he walked in, he saw an older woman and a shy, young man standing before him. His name was Steve.
“Here they are,” Ivy said.