Friday, January 22, 2010

Changing of the Blogs

We want to thank everyone who has followed, supported, and especially prayed for us over the past weeks.

This blog was originally set up to track our short term mission project, especially as a way to keep in touch with family and friends of the team members.  HATS has run a separate blog site for some time that tracks a lot of the overall mission activities.  Rather than duplicating efforts, we're going to wrap this blog up and defer to Karen's existing blog for ongoing news and developments with the HATS mission.  You'll find that Karen and her family have already posted several articles there since our team returned, describing the conclusion of the construction project, updates on Serlande's condition, and Karen's experiences with the aftershocks, repairs, and ongoing life in Haiti outside Port-au-Prince.

The site is at, or you can click on this link:  HATS Blog Site.

As we close things off, we wanted to highlight some upcoming events the mission team is involved with:

  1. Saturday, Jan 23, at 6:00 pm, Yarmouth Wesleyan Church will be hosting a welcome home celebration for the team and fundraiser for HATS.
  2. Sunday, Jan 24, at 8:30 am Atlantic, CBC Radio is scheduled to broadcast an interview with Karen and Gerry
  3. Sunday, Jan 31, at 10:00 am in Dartmouth, Tim and Heidi will be sharing their experiences during the morning service at Regal Road Baptist Church
Once again, thank you all for your love and support.  We urge you to continue to follow the ongoing situation in Haiti through the main HATS blog site, and to do all that you can to help the Haitian people during and following this crisis.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thank You from Karen

I saw the team safely unto the Embassy grounds on Monday.   It was very hard to say goodbye but I was so very thankful to know they were safe and sound.

I want to say a huge thank you to all fourteen members of the team.  I speak on behalf of the HATS family,  HATS employees, and the community that HATS serves. 

You were a great group.  You came with servant hearts and you served well.   I appreciated every minute I had with you - working, talking, laughing. 

Tim, Heidi, Kate, Aiden, and Erin.   You are a lovely family.  You all became involved in the day to day aspect of HATS,  the work and the lives of the HATS children and HATS employees.  You accepted everyone and blessed them all by your friendliness and helpfulness.  I would like to have you return again, as a family next time, instead of part of a large group.  The HATS family and your family would be able to do many things together.   Tim, the Chief Computer geek, could of course, clean up all my computer messes and get me straightened out again.  It seems to me that you did that for me last year too, Tim.   Thanks to all of you.

Brian # 1.   It is always good to have you here.  You work hard at whatever task is needed and you are a constant support for me, no matter what is going on around us.   Thank you for everything.

Brian # 2.  This was your first time with us at HATS but hopefully not your last.  Thanks for all the hard work and willing spirit to do whatever was needed.  Thank you for accepting Alex (Ti Luc) as Ti Brian.  He asks about Papa Brian and tells people his name is Ti Brian. 

Bob.  What can I say??   This was your fourth time with us, I think.  Thanks for being such a big and important part of HATS.   Everyone knows and loves you now.

Leonard.    This was your first time here.  I hope you were blessed by it as you blessed others.  Thanks for being willing to do whatever was needed.  It was cute hearing you speak Acadian French and people who know very little English, saying Speak English please. 

Peter - pastor and friend.   You were with us for one week, instead of two.  It was a good week.  I liked having you around and found it easy to talk with you.  Thank you for being willing to work wherever you were needed and for continuing to do what you could even when not feeling well.  You were uneasy about something to do with Haiti but did not know what.  You felt to go home early and told me you needed to be praying for the rest of us from Canada.  The day we took you to the airport, the same day as the earthquake, we took you to see the palace.  I could sense being there made you uncomfortable.  (You had good reasons but at that time we did not understand them.)  You wanted to get to the airport.  A few hours after you saw the palace, it was no more.  Many people inside lost their lives.  

Colton.   It was your first time.  Thank you for coming and doing, and being.   Your mother did a great job of bringing you up!   You are a very respectful, caring and considerate young man.  Continue to follow the Lord and let Him direct your life.   You can go a long way and touch the lives of many.

Ben.  Thanks for everything.  It was great to have you back for a second time.  I have no doubt you will come again.  You have a great sense of humour and at the same time you are sensitive to the hurts of those around you.   A good combination.

Jim.  My wonderful silly cousin.  (Does sillyness run in our family?)  It was your first time at HATS but I know that you will be returning and hopefully Irene can join you.  Thank you for everything.  It was great having two computer geeks here this time.  Two of you!  And I still ended up not knowing what I needed to before I lost you guys.  Guess I can't blame it on you and Tim.

Gerry.  Last, but most certainly not least.  Gerry, it is difficult to put anything into words for you.  My heart is filled with thankfulness.  Filled!!!   You were my earthly rock of strength while here.  God knows, and you and I know, how valuable your time here was.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  I will be waiting for your return.  Bring my Newfie buddy, Heather, okay!

All fourteen of you were a tremendous blessing  to all my kids.  Thank you for all the love and attention you gave them all.  A special thank you for all your patience, understanding and help with my special Alex (Ti Brian).

My God bless each and every one of you and your families.  I love you all.

Final Posting

Dear Friends,

Over the past 2 weeks you have followed our experince in Haiti. You have sent us messages of encouragement and your prayers . I want to say thank you to one and all at this time. We had a wonderful group of people sharing this experince and we have given each other encouragement when it was needed.  I believe we all have grown closer to God during this time . We are not done with Haiti.  Some of us will be going back soon.  Please continue pray for these wonderful people and do what you can to help. I have had reports of so many people that are going above and beyond to bless this poor nation!

God Bless You All
Gerry Rhyno

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Update re: new Aftershocks

Many have probably heard about the new aftershocks earlier this morning.  Thankfully we've just had an email from Karen confirming she's still okay, though the tremor was "not small" and she hasn't had a chance to reassess the buildings for any new damage.

Please continue to pray!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Home Safe

Just a quick update that both NS contingents have arrived safely in Halifax now, after nice smooth flights.  We were overwhelmed with all the people who came out (a number all the way from Yarmouth) to welcome us - thank you so much!

Description of Monday's Voyage

It's hard to believe we crammed so much into just one day yesterday - late in the day we were talking about things that happened in the morning and wondering if they had occurred the week before or not!

The day started before dawn with a 4:00 wake-up.  We hit the road by 5:30, initially in two pickups.  Stopped in Pont du Sundae just as the sun was rising to pick up our armed-and-uniformed police escort.  In St Marc we met up with the minibus we had hired and transferred over to it.  After dropping the pickups off at the police compound for safekeeping, we hit the road again about 7:00 or so.  The main road out of St Marc was blocked by something that was going on, so we took the back road out of town - a different side of the city from what we'd seen before.

As we got close to Port we began to see more and more signs of the earthquake.  There had been damage to walls, cracks in buildings, etc., before, but now we began to see collapsed houses and buildings.  As we got close enough to begin to see the city, all that was visible was a fog or haze from dust and smoke, despite the bright sunny day.

On the road into Port, we found ourselves right behind a UN patrol convoy of Brazilian troops.  Were we glad to be going in with them!  Along the road were piles of rubble, obviously where the dump trucks had been depositing debris.  People were climbing all over the piles, scavenging.  Damaged buildings or walls, some collapsed entirely, became more frequent.

Our "escort" turned in at the airport grounds.  US Blackhawk and other helicopters were everywhere.  A large military cargo plane flew low over the road on final approach just as we drove by the runway.  UN vehicles, Haitian police, and troops were everywhere.  Thankfully the aid program was rapidly kicking into high gear.  (A solider escorting us to the airport later in the day commented that the Canadian representation was looking likely to be on the scale of our involvement in Afghanistan, but with one to two weeks instead of six months!  Our hearts go out to the troops and their families who will be bearing the stress of being stretched so much by two major and difficult missions.)

As we reached the main roads of PAP traffic became quite intense.  People lined the grounds outside the airport, and small tent cities could be seen.  Crowds lined up outside the entrance to an industrial park, where dump trucks and vehicles were also queued two lanes wide for quite a distance.  This was apparently a distribution site for food and/or water. A pillar of dark smoke rose from somewhere in the distance.

Damage wasn't as immediately apparent - the streets and sidewalks were busy, and many buildings appeared fine from a distance, or with relatively minor cracks.  There were buildings that had been flattened and that we cringed to think about very much, but even on the main road (DelMas) they weren't as uniformly destroyed as we had feared from rumours and TV coverage.  As we moved further in, destroyed buildings became more frequent, but a lot of debris had been removed to allow traffic to proceed already, and thankfully we didn't see as many obvious horrors as we had feared that the kids might be exposed to.

Lineups for food, water, and gasoline were blocks long in places.  The need there is immediate and great, and people are afraid of the looming supply shortage with the normal infrastructure destroyed.  Very simply, Port-au-Prince was the center of the country in nearly every sense.  The destruction of basic utilities and infrastructure, not to mention shipping and logistics, government, health care, education, commerce, etc., leaves those you speak to simply stunned or in tears.

As we climbed DelMas into the hills around PAP, we saw another large crowd on the left side of the street.  "Wow, another food lineup.  I feel bad for the people there," I thought.  Then we found out that was the Canadian Embassy!

Karen and one of our police escort hopped out once we got turned back around to find out how to get in.  Unfortunately, we had to work our way through the crowd on foot (with the kids) and present ourselves with passports at the gate.  Further, no baggage except a carry-on (not a big deal, but we had "loaner" suitcases and such that we wanted to be able to return).  We quickly organized ourselves, grabbed a couple things from our bags, and worked our way through the crowds to the lineup.  We found that there wasn't much of a line for Canadian citizens - most were Haitians looking for a way out of their country and situation, but who unfortunately were mostly bound for disappointment.  As citizens, we were able to proceed through relatively quickly.  People were packed against one another, but were amazingly accommodating to having a bunch of nervous Blancs jostle through them, backpacks bouncing against them.  "Pardon", "Merci", and smiles of sympathy and understanding for the kids and their anxious parents were common.

Once we got to the gate, the sight of Canadian Forces troops and embassy staff was such a welcome sight!  Members of what we believe were the DART team, Royal Canadian Dragoons, RCHA (?), and/or other units were on guard at the gates.  Military Police and Haitian security staff were on duty to process those requesting access.  We were so thrilled with the reception we received - calm, professional, good humour, friendly, efficient, are all words that describe it.  We were quickly processed through the gates and directed to a spot in the shade by several very friendly and confident staff.

Karen was able to accompany us inside after leading and coordinating our trip through the crowd.  We were so thankful for her help, and the chance to see everyone safely inside and say proper good byes.  We have all become so close as a team and to Karen over the past weeks. 

Did we mention that Karen is something of a force of nature?  As soon as she had seen us in safely, she went back to the gates to negotiate with the staff there to see if we could bring at least some of our bags through.  She disappeared back out the gates, and in a few minutes the truck was seen backing up to right next to the gate.  Next thing we knew, Karen and then Luckner were lugging our suitcases (some weighed awfully close to as much as Karen does herself!) up to and through the gates one at a time!  She had gotten the okay for us to bring one suitcase apeice through.  That was more than we needed, since much of the team had given away most of what they brought either for the PAP mercy mission or to be left with Karen for local distribution, so we were able to bring all of our bags through.

The staff at the embassy were excellent.  We were proud to be Canadian.  They had a system nailed down and knew what they were doing.  Despite days of exhausting hours and demands, they were friendly and joking.  They updated us regularly and told us what to expect, ensuring our needs were taken care of.  We arrived there about 10:30 or so and after a short wait, dropped off our suitcases for shipment back to Canada in a few weeks (we couldn't take them with us, but they should get back eventually, which was wonderful), presented our passports for processing, and progressed to a waiting area. We were told they were going to try to get us out on an afternoon flight, which we were amazed by - we had expected to camp on the grounds for a day or two at least!

We had been a bit frustrated at not being able to get through to the Embassy or get much information before arriving, but once we got there and saw how many people they were managing, and what a wonderful job they were doing, we immediately understood.  We can't say enough about how good they were to deal with, looking out for everyone's well being.  We're grateful for their speed and efficiency - we know that having the kids with our group made our evacuation a higher priority than if we had just been a group of adults, but we are so thankful.

We hadn't been at the waiting area more than an hour or two when we were taking to a staging area for those being prepared to convoy to the airport.  Four or five small buses had been hired, along with several SUV's.  A squad or two of Canadian troops and a number of Haitian security staff accompanied the convoy and each bus, and these were being filled and taken to the airport as quickly as the logistics allowed.

We were only in the staging area another hour or two when our names were called and we boarded the buses.  After a false start or two and some delays while things were coordinated, we were taken the short distance to the aiport where we entered the grounds directly.  The tarmac was crowded with planes of all shapes and sizes from many different countries and organizations.  US troops were everywhere, as well as UN troops and police.  Canadian flags were seen on stacks of aid packages, and soon Canadian Forces troops were also seen.  Aid agencies, rescue organizations, etc., from all over North America and Europe were everywhere.

Soon we approached the biggest Canadian Air Force jet most of us had seen (A C-17 Globemaster).  We waited while a Forces Rescue helicoper was offloaded from it (!) and while we waited the Flight Surgeon came aboard each bus to give us a quick briefing on what to expect.  (We'd go through security, go up the ramp, and be seated on the floor - just like Air Canada he joked.)  After a bit we were taken right to the ramp at the rear of the plane, went through a security search, and boarded the plane.

Our seats were quite literally on the floor of the cargo area.  Cargo straps were run across, and five people on each side of every row were strapped down together.  There was a stretcher rack near the front where three or four elderly people with medical needs had been placed, right next to the two flight nurses and the flight surgeon.  Our bags were strapped down on the cargo ramp, along with the last bus load of people.  Water was handed out to everyone, with instructions from the doctor to make sure we all drank to prevent dehydration and fainting.  The ramp (and those on it) was raised as we prepared for takeoff.

The flight was excellent.  We were so thankful for the treatment we received.  The crew were efficient, yet compassionate and caring, joking and doing their best to keep things light.  They were so humane and friendly!  For many of us it was something of an adventure to travel this way, and we were so grateful to live in a country blessed with such resources and capabilities.  As soon as possible once we reached altitude, boxed lunches were distributed to everyone, with a small feast in each.

Once we arrived, Red Cross blankets were distributed to those dressed in shorts and +40 in Haiti instead of -3 in Montreal.  We were were fast-tracked through Customs and Immigration and greeted with coffee, juice, cookies, and snacks.  A few fast phone calls ensured, and then on to waiting buses for the ride to the hotel.

At the hotel, the Red Cross, Quebec Government, and aid organizations had a welcome center set up.  More food and drinks, clothing, travel arrangement, hotels, meal vouchers, toiletries, social works, crisis counsellors, free cell phone calls - anything we might need was there waiting and even being pressed upon us to ensure all of our needs were taken care of.  Staff were there to direct and assist us all.  It was amazing - we were overwhelmed and felt so unworthy of all the attention and treatment, especially compared to what so many of the others with us (and even more so those who were still in the midst of Port-au-Prince) had been through.

We were exhausted by this point - here are a couple of photos showing the condition of the kids by that point (around 11:00 pm or so Eastern):

The hotel, breakfast buffet in the morning, etc., were wonderful yet also overwhelming in many respects.  We can't say how thankful we are to all those who helped us yesterday, amazed at how quickly and efficiently we sped through everything, and grateful to our Lord and all those who supported us in prayer.  What we experienced was nothing compared to what those of Haiti continue to experience, and we pray that people here will focus on the suffering of those in Port-au-Prince and the rest of Haiti, and do all that they can to help aid and support them in this time!

Flight Clarifications/Updates and TV Interview

Hi all - here are a few updates to our flight information. 

As well, please note that CBC TV is doing a live interview from Halifax Airport with Ben Churchill who will represent the team.  The interview will be at 6:22 pm Atlantic.

We've wound up dividing the NS contingent between two flights.  Ben, Brian (Deux / Bowers), Colton, and Leonard are on AC 160, leaving Montreal at 2:00pm Eastern and arriving in Halifax 4:28 pm Atlantic.

The second NS group will be on AC 686 leaving Montreal 5:10 pm Eastern and arriving in Halifax 7:39 pm Atlantic.  This includes Gerry, Brian (Un / Roberts), Bob, Heidi, Tim, and the kids.

Jim will be leaving Montreal for Vancouver via WestJet 505, leaving 6:20 pm Eastern and arriving 8:54 pm Pacific.

Last leg home...

We've had a good night in Montreal and been very well cared for by the Embassy in Port-au-Prince, the military flight crew, and the government and Red Cross when we arrived here.  (Embarrasingly well treated.)

They've already scheduled our new flights home.  Jim will be flying to Vancouver tonight around 6:20 pm Eastern, we believe via WestJet flight 683 or Air Canada 195.  (We don't have exact flight numbers yet, but those look to be the likely candidates.)

The Nova Scotia crew departs Montreal at 14:00 (2:00 pm) Eastern, we think via Air Canada flight 160.  (It's extremely strange, and very sad, for us to be going our separate ways now!!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Safe and Sound

Everyone is now safe in Montreal.

In the Air

Great news- I just recieved a call from Foreign Affairs and everyone is in the air now and will be arriving in Montreal at 9:30pm local time (10:30 pm here). The Red Cross will be providing them accomodation at the Windham Hotel in Montreal. Their flights home to Halifax will be arranged after that.

On Board

The team is now buckled in and ready for take off :)

On their way home!

Hi again,

Just had another text come in that they are boarding a Canadian Military Flight (a Hercules) on their way to Montreal! :)

At the Embassy

Hi Everyone,

I just had a text message come through from Brian Bowers and he said they have arrived at the Embassy and are okay, awaiting a flight out now.

Thank you,

Prayer Vigil for Haiti

There will be a prayer vigil held at Regal Road Baptist Church in Dartmouth, NS this Thursday, January 21st, between 7 and 8 pm. All are welcome to attend.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The hospital

Update - it appears that the source of the problems was that Serlande's sugar levels had reached a very high point and that she hadn't been monitoring her levels properly.  She was in a great deal of pain, and is still in hospital, but it appears that things are beginning to come under control and that she should be okay.  Thank you all for the tremendous response and prayers on her behalf!

During the day, various team members spent time assisting with watching over her in the hospital.  The following post describes some of Brian Bowers observations which paint a bit of a picture of what that means in Haiti versus in Canada...

As Serlande, the oldest orphan in the orphanage, was admitted to the hospital at 5:30 this morning, we decided that we would do rotations sitting in the hospital with her and the house mother, Cecile.

These are notes from Brian Bowers:

It was my turn this morning to go and sit with Serlande at the hospital. Karen brought me at about 7:45 am for the first couple of hours.  I am trying to process the terrible conditions I was seeing, but I just couldn't fathom it. The only word that describes it is HORRIFIC.  It reminded me of the show M*A*S*H when the triage rooms would be overrun with casualities, but this is real life. The 300 foot hallway was lined with injured people as far as you could see. People laying on makeshift beds of blankets with a family member trying to look after them the best they could (doctors and nurses won't- they only give treatment, nothing else). There wasn't a doctor or nurse to be seen at first, but eventually an American doctor came down the hall and I suppose because I was White, I stood out a bit. He stopped and talked for a minute. He said that he had been up almost non-stop for 5 straight days now and that there was at least 40 surgeries that HAD to happen today, but that he also knew that thery wouldn't. There aren't enough doctors to do them. "We treated over 600 people yesterday. It is absolutely heartbreaking. We will do what we can for your loved one when we can get to her." That was all he could say. Be thankful for our healthcare system. Unfortunately, I was there when a lone nurse, pushing a little cart, started at one end of the hallway and started cleaning the wounded people's cuts. There were major head injuries, cuts, broken limbs everywhere and when she started her duties, the screaming started. The odd thing was that before she started cleaning the wounds, I didn't hear a peep. No complaints, nothing. I was told by the doctor that the Haitian people were the toughst people he had ever seen. They never complain about pain- so you know they were in agony when the screaming started. There was a young girl next to me who had no family member with her, who had a badly injured hand and as they worked on her, she cried.
I couldn't help but think of my own little gitl, Kaitlyn, and wonder what this poor girl was thinking. She was all alone, trying to make sense of all that had happened. We are all trying to do the same thing, I guess. Trying to make sense of it all.