Haiti – Part 1

I’m leaving for a medical mission trip to Haiti for 2 weeks in a matter of days.  Naturally, my life – aside from residency – has been largely focused on this big deal.

This is the season of Lent – a time of giving up and doing without, in Christian circles.  Well, let’s be specific: Lent is commonly practiced in more traditional branches of Christianity where guilt historically ran its totalitarian regime on the human soul.  Back then, the guilt-vibe generated extreme and wonderfully creative (in a Nazian sort of way) acts of suffering and penitence.  Think dull iron hooks and exposed collar bones.  Anyway, these days, many Lenten observers give up something rather level-headed, like T.V., to remind them of the suffering of Christ.

My family – slouching ever closer toward the Episcopal church, thanks largely to this wishy, squishy, lukewarm, doubtful Christian in the loosest sense of the word (as charged by my hyper-conservative heritage) – is observing Lent this year.

Wife is giving up chocolate.  Eldest daughter is giving up goldfish (the crackers, not the creatures).  Next daughter threw out the same.  Things get hazy in the lower echelons.  I’m trying to give up desert, but…lukewarm, you see.  We’re all giving up restaurants.

map_of_haitiBut what we’re really giving up is 2 weeks when I’m in Haiti, doing work I had once hoped to do full-time.  Truth is, I sold my soul to medicine in a mist of Christian charity back when I was debt-free, young, rather dumb and convinced I could do anything.  Something about, “if God is for us, who can be against us?”

Then I ended up $300,000 in debt and unlikely to be free of it until after retirement.  Couple that with the recent incident where guys uttering something similar to the above scripture – but in Arabic – blew up the World Trade Center and Pentagon in firey madness.  Suddenly, relativism and reality colluded to hamper as many elements of my personal life force as existentially possible.

So, I’m soon off to do for 2 weeks – jaded, hopeless about the lofty ideals I once had for my career – what I once had hoped to do with my professional life.  Not the last 5 years of it, but the first 40.  And to do these 2 weeks, my kids will give up their Dad.  For some of the younger and more empirical kids, there will be a lingering question about whether or not Dad is gone forever.  The older ones will have to deal with a MUCH quieter and decidedly feminine-heavy abode, with all the accompanying sorrows drama and virtues.

My wife will give up my daily witty commentary on  politics and my clothes flung to every corner of the house (actually, her Lent may get under way not long after I return).  She will also take care of everyone by herself for 2 weeks.  I flatter myself to suggest that this is much different that usual…but I suppose I have put a diaper on someone in the past month or so.

Me?  I can’t say I’m giving up much at all.  My passion for travel and curiosity about the rest of the world trumps the negatives of dusty, sweaty days in a medical clinic.

Long ago, I figured I needed to just be honest and admit that the reason I wanted to be a missionary had much more to do with the love of knowledge and travel that it did the lost souls of Ximbiaha.  Sure, Jesus loved me enough to die for my purity and for our relationship – yeah, I really do actually believe that, lukewarmness notwithstanding – and if you push me you’ll find that I do have a reasonable amount of energy for passing some semblance of that kind of altruism on to someone else.  So, Haiti won’t be much of a sacrifice for me.  There are lots of upsides in my world.  It’s a brier patch sort of thing.

Except that malaria is endemic there.  So’s dengue and typhus.  I gotta say, if I end up crapping my innards out for 3 weeks…consider my debt to Lent paid in FULL!

9 thoughts on “Haiti – Part 1

  1. Have a good, safe trip. Excuse my ignorance of things missionary. Do you proselytize openly, as in preaching? Or does your medical work do the “speaking” on its own?
    For Lent, I have added yogurt and ice cream’…

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    1. secretwave101

      Professor –

      I don’t know about the others, but I do not intend to do anything more than simply be a doctor, although I suppose I will answer spiritual questions honestly if they do arise.

      My take on proselytizing is complicated, wishy-washy and probably hypocritical. Fundamentally, I think it’s disingenuous to do one thing (medicine) to entice someone into something else (becoming a Christian). I’m not even sure how a person becomes a Christian, anyway. So – in a statement sure to bring profound despair upon my conservative Christian friends and loved ones…and seal forever my chances of drumming up financial support for long-term medical mission work – I don’t believe in proselytizing in any form.

      It’s just too much like an infomercial. I might reply to questions about my faith if the wine is good and I don’t have a good book, but my work in the 3rd world is just that. Work. I’m not trying to turn anyone into some other religion.

      How could I possibly have the audacity to foist my warped, American notions of God on anyone else?

      Going into a desperately poor place and providing some much-needed help is an act of imitation on my part. I’m imitating what I believe God did (and actively does) for my soul. I, sometimes, find great joy in the imitation of altruism even though I know full well my actions are selfish at their base. It’s still fun to pretend to care, pretend to serve, pretend to love. One day, I may be able to do these things fully and truly, with all selfish motives removed…but in the meantime, there is joy in the imperfect imitation of them.

      For now, the mimicry is enough.

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  2. Doctor, that’s a good answer. There might be room for meaningful change in the world were more of us cognizant that we are practitioners, practicers, forever neophytes, and imitators of. The only thing new we ever create that really matters flows from acting out informed and open-minded/hearted imitation of God — and that, in its best practice, turns your action in Haiti, say, into active worship.

    I hate that the $300,000 debt and fundamentalist-driven terrorism has caused this detour in what you wanted to do. Me? I don’t at all believe that “everything happens for a reason” or that windows open when doors close, etc. If the debt were miraculously gone, would the state of the world still prevent you from doing missionary medicine fulltime? (You don’t need to answer… It’s none of my business, exceedingly vague. I don’t do 2 am very well anymore.)

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    1. secretwave101

      The only thing new we ever create that really matters flows from acting out informed and open-minded/hearted imitation of God — and that, in its best practice, turns your action in Haiti, say, into active worship.

      If, in the end of time, this is the description of my motivations, I will have succeeded in life. In my highly-edited and stylized Christian worldview, there can be no higher compliment.

      To answer your second question: no, I do not believe that there is anything keeping me from mission work except for money. Said another way – if all my debt were miraculously gone, and I had some way of providing at least a reasonable upbringing for my kids, I would almost certainly be working in the 3rd (or, these days, 4th) world setting.

      This is only presumption, mind you. I’ve never been debt-free. Even as a kid. Back then, my parents went bankrupt and owed money to the IRS, creditors, banks, and probably more than a few neckless ape-men coasting slowly through neighborhoods in El Caminos.

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    1. secretwave101

      Tara – Thanks for checking in! I’ve been reading your blog as well. My condolences to the husband!

      Mad respect for you and the family! I was there for two weeks; arguably as much tourism as aid. You’re doing the real work. Stay strong and courageous!

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  3. I was going on and on to my hubby (who is better now – Malaria be damned) about how entertaining your writing is … he said “what is the name of his blog” — I said
    Dr Secret W. Ave 101 —- he looked over my shoulder and said “Oh – you don’t think it is Secret Wave????” (mocking tone) —- whatever …

    so — now that I got him to look at it and read a post he is signing up to become a reader. (And he agrees – entertaining writing … liked your global warming post too.)

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