Journal from Haiti, #2

Family Legacies

Martin Johnson with child  who has Kwashiker

Martin Johnson with child who has Kwashiker

This journal chronicles the six months my mother spent in Haiti, working as an RN in a clinic sponsored by a non-profit located in Searcy, Arkansas. Jerry Myhan, Director of the Clinic, had his young family with him. Haitian workers in the clinic served as interpreters, clerks, and medication management. The following is taken from the journal she kept with a little editing on my part.

Oct. 1987 —-  Weekend Adventure

In late October we decided to make a weekend trip to the Dominican Republic. In case you are not familiar with the island, Haiti occupies the western side of a large island, and the Dominican Republic takes up the eastern two thirds of the island.  After gathering information regarding the correct papers, and  the border closing time at 6 PM, we packed on Thursday night, tried to work the clinic efficiently and leave in time to cross the border before it closed. Our first mistake was that D.R. time is one hour ahead of Haiti time!

After a 10 minute delay here and a 15 minute delay there, we left at least an hour later than we had hoped. We took a shortcut around Cap Haitian that turned out not to be a shortcut AND a sudden downpour did not help. Add in all the potholes, goats, cows and people on their way home to this our misadventure and we obviously didn’t make very good time. But we were not to be outdone. We had planned this outing. We needed it, so we pressed on. After asking 2-3 people where to go to get the papers we needed (another 30 minute task), we finally reached the Haitian side of the border about 5:30 P.M. Darkness had fallen.

Van packed for the trip

Van packed for the trip

Onward we pressed through the Haitian gate into no man’s land – about one fourth of a mile to reach the Dominican Republic side. A river creates a border between the two countries and a good bridge creates a crossing point. The commandant along with four or five more official and unofficial people met us half-way across the bridge. The message is clear, “You can’t go any further tonight.”

After much parleying – they spoke only Spanish as opposed to the French and Creole spoken in Haiti, and none of us knew Spanish – we understand we can leave the vehicle with our luggage where it is. We can walk through the border and spend the night in the town until morning, when we can continue on our trip. This sounded okay with us until we found out we had to leave our passports plus money to guard the vehicle and money for the commandant. We would also need to pay someone to take us to a hotel.

We decided against this. In the meantime the hard rain had turned the river into raging waters. We had difficulty hearing above the roar of the river.

So . .  . we piled back into the 4-wheel drive; Jerry turned around on the proverbial dime, and we headed back across no-man’s land.

But . . . we couldn’t find the road! It was under water. Jerry followed an outline through a grove of trees. As the Haiti side came into view of our headlights it looked like there was another river rushing over the road. Jerry stopped, and we all viewed the situation. Debbie, a certified scuba diver, even volunteered to check out the depth.

Typical road BEFORE a huge rain

Typical road BEFORE a huge rain

Suddenly . . . Jerry shifted into Low,  floor-boarded the gas pedal, and we plowed through.

We could see five or six guys on the Haitian side of the gate watching us. The silence in the car indicated the seriousness of our situation, and we each sent urgent prayers to the Father asking for safety.

And then. . . the headlights went out! I thought they had shorted out – man, was it dark! I visualized us floating down the river, drowning. As the lights slowly came back, we realized we had been in water so deep it came up over our headlights. The water was at least three and a half or four feet deep. The motor never hesitated as the guys at the gate dropped the chain and cheered as we drove through.

Our cheers joined in as we thanked the Lord for our safety! Dianne (Jerry’s wife) said she had her eyes closed the whole time, clutching their daughter, Meredith. Later, Jerry said he wouldn’t try this again or recommend anyone else doing it.

We drove back to Cap Haitian, spent the night at Jerry’s house, arose at 5 AM on Saturday to try again. We. Were. Determined.

We finally got through the border at 11 AM. A tour bus had arrived just ahead of us at 8 AM, and it took that long to process all the people on the bus.

Traffic at the border

Traffic at the border

It was 2 PM before we reached Peurto Plato. We spent almost 24 hours there, attended church services Sunday, arrived back at the border, and found someone (we paid) to show us where the commandant lived so he could come and process us.

I suggested to the team that if we ever go to the D.R. again, we either fly or take a fishing boat!

Postscript from Martell

Once again I am amazed by her courage and sense of adventure at the age of 60.

I’m giving thanks to the Father for

  • the team of Christian workers who served in the clinic
  • the support of Americans who supported these workers with funds, prayers, and encouragement
  • their safety on this adventure

JoyMartell

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