Thriving Villages is a Christian organization called to demonstrate God's goodness and compassion. We work collaboratively and holistically with individuals and organizations, utilizing our gifts and skills to address issues of health, poverty, and development in rural Pestel, Haiti and beyond.
We had a wonderful weekend in Hollywood. Really, what a special time.
I gave a talk on Sunday at lunchtime about the work in Pestel that is underway, and the talk was well-received. I also showed the "After the Earthquake" video and this proved to be really powerful.
The purpose of the talk was actually several-fold, as I came to understand it. It was an opportunity to talk about the needs of Pestel and the exciting work that they are supporting. It was also an 'inaugural' presentation for a new global health program that Variety International is developing! They wanted to showcase our collaboration to the members as a way to highlight the importance of this kind work around the world, and also to generate enthusiasm (and donations!).
Several of the Variety Intl chapters (called "Tents") gave specifically to the Haiti project! And an excellent number gave commitments to support the new global health effort!!! I think the VI board and those who are working on this committee were pleased.
They also announced that Monty Hall would be joining the committee that is developing the initiative! I think this is really helpful because he brings visibility to the effort.
We also learned another REALLY important thing at the lunch: it was announced just prior to the fund-raising effort that there were a number of individuals (in the board meeting earlier in the week) who had seen the video and were shocked to see the brown-murky water that the people of one village use. They have committed to develop a solution for that village to improve their water!!! This will tie-in with the meeting I will have with Water Missions International--a connection made at this meeting.
The black-tie event was a lot of fun! When we walked up to the reception area there were photographers and videographers and a red carpet. They didn't seem to be focusing their lenses on us, for some odd reason.
We had to leave early and Simon Cowell showed up after we left to receive a Humanitarian Award (for Idol Gives Back. He has actually been involved in a number of really important efforts. He also put together a charity song with artists, "Everybody Hurts" to benefit the people of Haiti). I did see Sarah Ferguson, Dutchess of York. Actually, I almost ran into her (literally) because I was busy talking with someone, and while we were talking and walking she was ushered in. The person I was talking to had to hold me back and get my attention.
About the black-tie event: it was quite a show! Lights and BIG screens and music etc. At one point Julia Morley, president of VI and Chairman of the Miss World Organization, spent a few minutes describing my work in Haiti. She then introduced me and they directed a spotlight on me. I stood and waved, and then saw my face on the big screens.
The weekend was a lot of fun, but we are VERY tired. Flew in this morning to Harrisburg around 10am after an overnight flight. Then off to see patients this afternoon.
We're glad to be home with our kids!
Thank you for praying about this weekend. I am so thankful for your words of encouragement. So many people at the conference came up to me and expressed gratitude for the work being done in Pestel.
Let's see---where do we go from here? Hollywood....then...Haiti!
Ok...so the field is usually a bit more rough and rugged than, say, Hollywood. But it is a field nonetheless.
Jen and I had a great day yesterday, and in the evening we had a chance to sit and talk with Rebecca (see her email below). It was so encouraging to us to hear from her how God has used her in her position, given her favor (her words, by the way....words that we have used often), and seen God working in numerous and exciting ways. At the end of our time we prayed together.
This morning I was reading Psalm 37. THAT is a really encouraging text. I have my presentation today so the words are particularly helpful to me:
Enjoy serving the Lord, and he will give you what you want.
Depend on the Lord; trust him, and he will take care of you.
Then your goodness will shine like the sun,
and your fairness like the noonday sun.
When people's steps follow the Lord, God is pleased with their ways.
If they stumble, they will not fall, because the Lord holds their hand.
Here is a comment by Rebecca posted to the blog, in case you didn't get it:
The "fantastic" Rebecca checking in w a comment here !! (smile inserted(
All great news for Haiti ~ actually, there was another fund-raiser in the Kansas City Variety Tent ~ they had a fashion show and raised $2,800, also to be presented today to Dr. Ben.
And it was a Past-President, Jody Reynold, long time support of Variety who offered to help ~ it is her NEPHEW, John Lane, who is w/ USGS and Army Corps of Engineers, has had several stints in Iraq -has volunteered countless hours for Variety in finding solutions for clean water in global communities.. I sent him a note and asked him if he was ready to go to Haiti. One word reply, "YES".
All wonderful. Thank you, Dr. Ben, you 'travel' in apparently unrelated circles- Hollywood and Haiti?
Ok, so apparently we are staying right next to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Have to check that out.
And we ran into a guy who looked REALLY familiar. Rebecca (who is fantastic to work with! She's the connection between ourselves and Variety) introduced us to him. It was Monty Hall. You know, from Let's Make a Deal. Really nice guy.
We sat in on a meeting (nuts and bolts), and during that time Rebecca leaned over to me and mentioned that there was a group from Ireland that wanted to give $1000 to the Haiti Project.
Soon after, she also mentioned that the video I put together was shown in the VI board meeting yesterday, and a woman came up to her to ask how her son could get involved in solving the water problem in Pestel. Her son is connected to Water Missions International. We may just have the starting points for tackling the water issue in Pestel.
Hard to get much different than Pestel and Hollywood.
Jen and I are in Hollywood, and we're excited about the Variety International meeting that we'll be participating in this weekend!!
I just got this email from Sister Fidelis, which is a VERY encouraging word:
Here arethe numbers of localities served and children seen up to and including May 19. Gerald, bless his heart, called each team between Wednesday night and Thursday morning for the latest. This is from March to the present.
I am impressed. You are to be commended for putting this program together so well, and training the workers so thoroughly. Bravo! Gerald also tells me that people continue to come back to thank them for this service. They are very appreciative of the program because they see such good results. Even other sections outside our commune have asked us to come to them. Gerald told them we could not, but invited them to come to one of our villages which they did. Palmis in Baradere came to Toma Eli recently. One of the reasons it is so popular, accesssible actually, is that there are no shots, and the med and Vitamin is tasty. Kids and don't oppose it. Many blessings on your meeting with the board and your presentation Sunday.
On another note: I have been very overwhelmed lately by the amount of work related to this upcoming Haiti trip, the many other responsibilities related to my work at the medical center (which all seemed to come out at the same time...literally). Some of the electronic issues related to taking the household survey using a PDA have been great sources of frustration and nail-biting. But some of the key elements are coming together at this point.
I really want to thank my wife Jen, my friend Jon Eager who will be going down with me, my friend Dennis who prayed for me last night when he saw I was discouraged, my in-laws for watching our kids this weekend, and all who have helped out and prayed to make this work.
It is a great relief to me to know that people are praying specifically for me and for the work going forward in Pestel.
Next weekend Jen and I will be going to Hollywood where I will be doing a lunchtime presentation to Variety International about the work being done in Pestel. In the evening of next Sunday I may have opportunity to talk briefly about the work at a black-tie event for the same organization.
I'd like to think that I'm to the point where I'm always in a state of wonder but never surprised (Because, hey! Why shouldn't it happen?!?). But this black-tie event which will feature certain celebrities is a different twist.
The inescapable truth is that God is being made known for His Goodness through my weakness.
And that's my prayer. I want others to see how Good and Great, how Mighty and Merciful/Compassionate He is.
I'm also beginning to realize, if this is accurate, that God seems to have a sense of humor. Perhaps I'm wrong about that one, but all this sure does tickle my funnybone. And while God doesn't have a funnybone, He certainly does have all Joy. And this might be one expression of joy.
So this is yet one more area where I feel quite outside my comfort zone. I feel over-stretched beyond my abilities. This is in many ways, UNcomfortable. Jen reminded me of a statement I made once to her when I told her that I will always take up the opportunity to talk on behalf of the people of Haiti.
"Always" is a bit of an exaggeration. She didn't buy that cop-out, though
I've got a lot on my plate right now, preparing for a number of significant activities in a short period of time. Thank you to all who pray for me, my family, the people of Haiti.
This is another potent appeal from Sean Penn related to diseases in Haiti. He is passionate about a 15 year old boy that just died of Diphtheria.
We don't get diphtheria because we are immunized--it's part of the Tetanus immunization (Td = tetanus + diphtheria; Tdap = Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis). It is fortunately rare in the US (about 1 cases per 100 million people; prior to immunizations it was 100,000 cases to 100 million people).
One my first trip to Pestel Dr. Seneque told me about a boy that had died the week prior from Tetanus. That both floored me and angered me.
No one should die (and suffer through) tetanus and diphtheria. The same is true of Diphtheria. They are both very preventable.
The concern with Diphtheria is that it is very contagious. In an under-immunized country such as Haiti there is potential for an epidemic. I just learned that the case-fatality rate is around 5% in kids <5 (and higher in adults). That means, if there are 100 cases of diphtheria, 5 people die. To put it in perspective, seasonal flu has a case-fatality rate of 0.4% (or 4 deaths per 1000 cases).
Please pray that the epidemic would not develop. Pray that God would move in people's hearts to move quickly and seriously. And perhaps, pray that there would be a concerted effort to improve the basic health of Haiti..all of Haiti.
I'm preparing for my next trip to Haiti in 3 weeks. My friend Jon Eager will be traveling with me to Pestel, and we'll meet Anderson in PAP.
As part of that trip I'll be collecting data from the workers who have been out doing measurements on all the kids. I'll be bringing back thousands (literally) of intake forms that have info to be entered into a spreadsheet. I'll develop the spreadsheet.
If you would be willing to help with data entry (basically, just typing the hand-written info from the intake forms into a spreadsheet) please let me know. Each form probably has about 10 data points (i.e. name, age, village name, height, weight, etc). It's not particularly hard work, just A LOT of work.
So my thought was that perhaps many hands could make for light work.