Haití: Casa de Refugio – Refuge house – Kay d Refuge, Masion de Refuges
This one’s a bit less than 20 pages; its only 18 and a half. Here in San Cristobal, about 35
minutes from Santo Doming, DR, two recovery homes have been established for our
brothers, bible students and “friends of the truth”. San Cristobal is a bigger sized city here
in the Dominican. To my knowledge it has 4 kingdom halls and 9 congregations. 2
congregations stand out for their odd names; “Madre Vieja” which translates “Old Mother”
and “Lava Pie” which means “Wash feet”. Both are named after neighborhoods, or so I’m
told. So there are 2 of these rest and recovery homes. The one I’m in is a very spacious 4
bedroom house owned by some Jehovah’s Witnesses who currently have it for sale. It was
not being lived in, so it had no water service connection or electricity. The first two days
with no running water or lights was less than fun for the 10 patients and 2 volunteers, 8 of
whom were women. So the owners lent it for this purpose. When I got here on Feb 1st, it
was just getting set up. The overseers are a 40-something couple from Atlanta, USA but of
Puerto Rican and Cuban decent. They have been serving here as need-greaters for years.
Javier and Amarylis Gonzalez. A better combo you will not find. He is organized,
hilarious, warm, compassionate etc. She is all heart. She threw herself into this project
200%. She held absolutely nothing back. Borderline neurotic and dramatic. (Y no lo
Upon arrival and at present we have 10 Haitians. 6 patients and 4 escorts. Of the 10, 5 are
baptized and 5 are “bible students”. (Term bible students used loosely) We are expecting
more from Azua, Bani, Barahona etc. Other homes with the same purpose have also been
set up in La Vega and Santo Domingo. Its basically for ones who are post and pre
operative. They’ve had their surgeries, amputations etc, and need to rest and recover and
have someone to clean and dress wounds and monitor their meds. Many need corrective
surgeries since many of the first ones turned out to be botch jobs. Others need some
counseling and professional help with post traumatic stress syndrome. But it’s unreal how
Haitians cope; they are no strangers to hard times. America would be crippled, but they
just deal with it. Some could go back to Haiti relatively soon, but many have nothing to go
home to. Their families are sleeping under tarps in the streets. So our Dominican brothers
do Haiti bethel a service looking after some of our brothers over here while they continue
to provide aide to the many affected brothers over there. For the hundreds if not thousands
of unfortunate ones who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, they have been taken to a refugee
camp just across the Haitian border to recover from surgeries. Its hardly the appropriate
place for a lot of these people given the nature of their injuries and the continued care they
need. It’s amazing how Jehovah keeps his promise in 2 Sam 22:26 to all those loyal and
even to a few who are “friends” of someone who is loyal. (Tongue in cheek)
Many of our brothers (to not specify and then be wrong) are sleeping in Kingdom Halls
throughout the country.
I went to visit the brothers we have in the San Cristobal Hospital. They are being so well
looked after by the local brothers. At least 1 or 2 sisters are at their bedside approximately
16 hours per day, most of which speak creole. Others sit with them and hold their hand
and have learned to say a few words. But it’s still comfort. No hospital food for our
brothers. They have home cooked hot meals delivered to their rooms 3 times a day +
There are a few delicate no-blood cases. We are waiting for surgery and trying to raise
blood volume naturally with natural juices and black beans. If their hemoglobin can go up
in a few days, then they can proceed with surgery, and can afford even a little bit of blood
We have a sweetheart 75 or so year old sister named Liliane. She has been baptized for
32 years. She broke her arm and has a cast bigger than her entire body. She also has a
nasty wound on her toe. She almost had to have it cut off and still might. We keep
monitoring it and cleaning it. But she is amazing. So sweet and never complains. She
sings kingdom songs too. I’ve got some awesome video clips of it. A spiritual daughter of
hers called Stephany escorted her. Stephany is 19 years old and has been baptized for 4
years. So helpful around the house. Evelyne is another baptized sister mid 20’s or so. She
came as an escort for her injured, sister, brother and mother; none of which are JW’s. All
have or are currently students of the bible, although for 1 of them it’s been years. Injuries
vary from just a mouth abrasion, to awful skin tears and a leg with lots of steel pins in it.
Only a few days ago Evelyn explained how she found her mom after the quake. She found
her unconscious in a big pile of dead bodies. Someone dragged her unconscious mom out
of some rubble and mistook her for deceased. So who knows how long she was lying
under or on top of a bunch of corpses. And who knows how many others died that way
after being mistaken for dead. Unimaginable.
Then we have my current favorites: A married couple called Mysson and Miriam Dorcy.
Mysson is 26 years old and serves as Ministerial Servant. He also graduated from the 10th
class of Ministerial Training School in Haiti. His wife has some minor hearing problems,
unrelated to the earthquake. She escorted him. They have only been married for 2
months. Some honeymoon. Both are regular pioneers. They currently have a room to
themselves but I told them to enjoy it while it lasts because we expect many more to arrive
over the next few days and weeks as they get released from the hospitals they’re in.
Mysson has a broken leg which is currently in a cast. The cast isn’t really doing much and
he will likely go in for surgery this week.
The day after I got here, we still needed a lot of odds and ends around the house. So I
was able to go out and buy wash basins, face cloths, cleaning supplies, garbage cans,
board games and other random household supplies. This also coming from surplus
Brookswood congregation donations. Thank you so much. Before I left I went to each
patient and asked them if they needed or wanted anything form the store, like something
sweet etc. At first everyone said No, just to be polite. After I insisted, someone bashfully
said “Chocolate”. Another said ice cream and another a can of Pringles. So I hooked them
up with lots of sweets. Like a fat kid in a candy store…literally.
A lot of the big things are coming from the Worldwide Work funds, but LOTS of other stuff
is coming from private donations from brothers both local and abroad. 1 brother furnished
one of these houses. He bought 10 brand new beds and mattresses and tables and chairs
and a stove and fridge. I don’t even know his name, not important. Another brother came
today and without even identifying himself asked to speak to me and asked what else I felt
we needed here. I said 4 rocking chairs for staff. We have 5 plastic chairs to sit on and
nothing else. I said we also could use 8 more fans, a book shelf for a theocratic library I’m
working on and a TV and DVD player. I brought my laptop and all of the societies DVD’s. I
showed a few of them like 6 times in one day. My laptop will burn out if I keep that up.
Anyways, within about 3 hours a truck pulled up with 3 guys on it. The original brother was
not with them. They unloaded 4 rocking chairs, 8 fans, a 21” TV and a DVD
player. No questions asked. Im still waiting on my bookshelf.
All cooking is being done at the “Madre Vieja” house and they send us 14 or so, hot meals
3 times per day. Although we should be up and ready with a functional kitchen soon since
a stove was installed today plus some gas tanks. We have had some construction going
on as well. 2 hired laborers built wooden partitions for the rooms for more privacy.
We were in need of some bed linen and pillows and towels. I saw some at the store but
they were too expensive. So I called up World Bank Jordy since he has access to
storehouses with goods and funds. I had in mind around a dozen of each. He asked me
how many I needed and I told him to do what he could do. “How about 30 of each?” 30 will
do. He personally delivered all the goods within 24 hours with his mom. They also told me
to inform them of 5 amputees. They have connections in Columbia where they’re from to
assess and fit 5 patients for prosthetic limbs for free! So I’ve passed on this info to my
superiors so that at least 5 of our brothers get this opportunity that otherwise wouldn’t
happen in Haiti. Keep praying so that this works out. This Alvarez family is and has been
so amazing. So willing to help those in need with no expectations of reward. Genuine love
for others. He later told me that these donations were not even from their World bank
resources; rather from private family and friends? donations.
You really notice the difference between our baptized brothers and “bible students”.
Everyone is grateful and “Please” and “Thank you’s” have never been a problem but some
of the healthy ones who escorted a loved one help out around the house more than
Here’s an example:
We need constant cleaning, sweeping and disinfecting since infections control is proving to
be an uphill battle. Hygiene both personal and general is not at the same standard in Haiti
as in other parts of the world. Let’s leave it at that. Its a bit of an education for some.
Mysson’s wife Miriam is amazing. I needed 2 volunteers to sweep and mop an area where
the construction guys had left lots of saw dust. Since it was in Miriam’s room I figured she
could sweep and another could mop. So I went into the Ladies room and asked someone
who will remain unnamed, who is not injured but rather an escort for her injured daughter
who is a bible student. I specifically asked her since she was the one who was lying
around all day the most. She flat out said “No” in front of everyone because she had a
headache. I said it would only take 5 minutes. A Haitian JW nurse visiting from Texas who
was dressing wounds asked her in to cooperate and to obey when your asked to do
something. She said No again. One of our sisters stepped up and said she would do it in
her place. So I take her to the mess, which is where Miriam (our regular pioneer with the
injured husband) is. I instruct/ask Miriam to clean up the mess along with the other sister
who stepped in for the lazy one. Miriam tells me that she doesn’t mind doing it on her own
and doesn’t need help. What a difference in attitude.
To her credit though, she obviously felt bad after. I researched comments in Creole about
“cooperating and serving one another and obeying direction from those taking the lead
and theocratic order” etc and dropped them all, back to back to back, in my next meal
prayer. After lunch she was sweeping inches behind me all afternoon with a big smile on
her face. Bless her!
This house is getting better and better by the hour…literally. I reckon lots wont want to
leave. Most will put on weight here.
This morning I conducted morning worship in Creole. It wasn’t terrible but far from great.
We did the days text with a few comments and read a chapter of the bible together in
French. Myself and Mysson (injured MTS grad) are the only baptized brothers in the house
who speak creole / french. And he is stuck in bed “avek yon jam krase”. (broken leg)
Javier is an M.S. as well but speaks no Creole. So i’ve had to pray before meals in Creole
in the womens room since Mysson is in his own room with his wife and they pray together
before meals and at bedtime. I always had a standby prayer memorized for opening and
closing a bible study, but I’ve never had to pray for a meal in Creole. I got nervous when
the first meal prayer was sprung on me short notice and I used my bible study prayer. So I
ended up thanking Jehovah for his word the bible and I said that we were gathered here
together for the purpose of understanding it better. Could be worse I guess. Let’s eat! My
2nd and 3rd meal prayers were a bit more occasion-appropriate.
Im excited to have Mysson here. Even though he has a broken leg and will need surgery,
he can help out on the spiritual end of things. Although there is a plan to set up telephone
tie in with a local Creole congregation, we can do a weekly Watchtower study ourselves
and he could conduct it with his leg elevated. Also, the only other male patient at the
moment who is lightly injured in the mouth has studied in the past. Sounds like its been
years though. But with so much free time, i’ve seen him reading the bible loads and
reading the book of bible stories book. I was going to start a study with him, but maybe it
would be good for Mysson to conduct it.
My sister arrives tonight from Canada to help out for 10 days. We mostly need medical
and nurses assistants. We are doing lots of wound care, patient transfers, escorts to the
hospital for x-rays, and general bedside care. (Side note: The local hospital ran out of
those large x-ray sheets. So they?ll do your x-ray no problem, but it?s on B.Y.O.X.S. basis.
) We hand out meds and make sure everyone takes their
drugs at the right time. So I’m a pill pusher, which is a scary thought. We need some firm
but loving characters to help establish house rules. Im going to propose that rule number 1
be that no one is allowed to streak past me half naked in the middle of the day running to
pass someone the mobile phone, under any circumstances; not even for a long distance
Myself, my sister Christine and likely Jared and Jael Kekos from Kansas USA are going to
Jimani and the Refugee camp over the border this Sunday for a few reasons. I want to
check on Jameson Denis and on my “no blood” guy who’s wife is still in the hospital. And
I’m dying to spend an afternoon preaching at the refugee camp. Its a ripe territory with
200-300 injured Haitians doing nothing but waiting to recover or be reunited with family. Im
taking my laptop this time and can set up a tent for viewing our DVD’s. Should be fun.
I got Mysson (injured Haitian MTS grad) to speak to Jameson over the phone for me. I
have a hard time understanding him over the phone. An injured man beside him in the tent
who knows him from the neighborhood told us that his mom has surfaced. She is not dead
after-all. Good news right? Yeah I thought so too. Well, she apparently was told about an
“american” (me) who has been looking after him and got him a mobile phone etc. She sent
word for me to just take him, that she lost everything, her home etc. She knows he has a
fractured everything below the waist and cant look after him since she is likely on the
street. Heartbreaking. I’ve not seen the news in weeks but I’m told that there is a lot of
child abduction for human trafficking going on. I was looking into getting Jameson from the
refugee camp and bringing him here to recover with us, but I got shut down on that idea.
I’ve even got the Alvarez family working for me trying to get paperwork to temporarily get
him back into the DR at least while he recovers on the condition he’s taken back later.
Unicef is apparently on a mission to locate and look after kids affected by the quake
because of the alarming number of kids who have disappeared from Port-au-Prince
hospitals and shelters and has already rang Bethel inquiring about any kids we have under
our care. I’ll say it again, I’m well impressed with some of these charitable organizations.
I get 5 hours of talk time on my mobile each month. It’s February 3rd and I have only 2
hours and 21 minutes left to last me until March 1st. I’ve used half my months phone credit
in 3 days.
Anyways, it looks like I could be here for weeks at the very least, if not months. More than
likely this group home will be running for months and months. At the moment I’m loving it
and would love to stay for the long-haul. Ask me later if it?s still the case. At the same I feel
bad for Victor back in my home congregation. There’s a bit of a work load for him and
Since I wrote that last paragraph. A few days have passed. Instructions from Bethel were
to reduce everything and everyone. So the house I was working at was temporarily closed
down along with it?s staff. 1 of our patients was sent to bethel in Haiti to be examined since
his injuries were minor. The rest were transfered to House #1. I believe its at max
occupancy. Approximately 20 patients and escorts. We were really disappointed when we
were informed as to the decision and so were our patients. Some were in tears. But we felt
so much better when we visited the next day, (Sunday, February 7th) and saw them settled
in nicely. Im not gonna lie, our house was much more fun and I doubt they?ll doing ?movie
nights? any time soon, but they are being well cared for and thats what matters.
At one point 3 representatives from the Haitian consulate came to our care home. Looking
very official in sharp suits and pant suits for the women. They drove up in a ?not so official?
beat up Toyota Corolla. They asked for a tour of the house and we gladly showed them
around. They asked to speak to the patients and we took them to the main room. They
asked the patients how they felt and how they were being treated. 1 or 2 of our patients
spoke and said right away: “We are Jehovah?s Witnesses, and so are all the ones taking
care of us. They have been kind and caring and we have everything we need and more.”
Yeah you do! Pringles and ice cream! The consulate thanked us.
On Friday night we had the meeting in Creole thru telephone hook up. Over a cell phone
and thru the TV speakers. We transfered everyone into chairs in the dining room and we
listened. The sound was as good as it could have been but still not great. Most understood
about 50%. I, about 4%. It was one of the longest meetings I?ve attended. We were sat
down for the first time that day after about 13 hours of nursing and patient transfers to the
hospital for x-rays etc. So the minute the meeting started, so did the yawns. But our haitian
brothers enjoyed it. One of the main reasons for merging the 2 houses was for the spiritual
feeding program. Under one roof, they will now have ALL the meetings done in person. All
5 meetings will be conducted at the house in Creole. You can?t beat that. Plus, under one
roof, nurses and doctors and others only have to make 1 house call to assess and care for
This week was slightly less of an adrenaline rush than was Jimani. But it was still action
packed. We worked 16-18 hours a day. We got to know our haitian brothers a lot better. I
didn’t get that in Jimani.
I was able to bring in Julie Laviolette and Beatrice Marin to join our House #2 staff. I
think the deciding moment was after I had to interpret, instructing a Haitian sister what to
do with a vaginal suppository, and that it was supposed to be that big. I used more
gestures than words, since its been a few months at least since I?ve explained that in
Creole/French……or never. Get me some female interpreters!!!
Since these 2 sisters pioneered in Haiti for 8 years, they know not only the language, but
almost more importantly, they know the culture. They were able to explain to me why
almost everyone turned their nose up when at movie night, I offered honey roasted
peanuts with a mini snickers bar. And why on earth they would prefer spaghetti with fish at
breakfast time. They were invaluable to our team. Not only were their language skills so
effective, but they exude love, warmth, compassion and personal interest.
I was able to speak to 9 year old Jameson Denis a few times over the phone this past
week. His mom has made contact once. But she insists that the ?American? take him. It
doesn?t work that way. There are Haitian laws that say otherwise. There?s a local process
for adoption and then it goes international, since they feel it?s best for a child to stay in
familiar surroundings (country of origin) if possible. I feel like that might be “the best” for
almost anywhere except Haiti, especially now. I was trying to (behind the scenes) see if I
could get legal permission to bring him back onto Dominican soil and bring him to our
house #2 to care for him myself until he was walking again. But since my house was shut
down and beds are at a premium, this will not be possible. I was going to go see him, but
at the last minute I decided not to go. I don?t think it would be healthy for him or me. I?ll just
feel bummed out that I can?t help him.
My other reason for going to Jimani and the Haitian Refugee camp was also to see
Trastama, the no blood guy and his injured wife. He phoned me several times during the
week and was no longer in Jimani, rather in another hospital in the south of the Dominican
Republic. His wife was not doing well at all. I still don?t know the specifics.
On Saturday Feb, 6th I was asked I was asked to return to my assignment in Pimentel,
San Francisco de Macoris. I?m on stand by for now. Hopefully I get called back.
My no blood guy from Jimani called me about 2 hours ago. His wife passed away
yesterday. It was a 2 minute conversation since we were both out of minutes. But he
sounded ok with it. And I quickly told him he did what he could and that most importantly
he didn?t violate God?s commands. Jehovah will resurrect her. I urged him to keep reading
the Bible teach book along with the bible we gave him and to study the bible with
Jehovah?s Witness as soon as possible. He eagerly agreed. I?ll call him in a while and
have a better conversation.
Im trying to give a positive spin to this report on purpose. The truth is, it was a positive
experience and we had a lot of fun and laughed a lot. We had some really low moments as
well. Beatrice and I went thru something pretty brutal at the hospital that was on par with
anything at Jimani. Only she and I and the young brother with the amputated leg will ever
know, aside from the obvious rest that are watching from heaven.
Telling some that they were being transfered back to Haiti wasn’t fun at all. With limited
language abilities, I had to reassure them that they would not be dumped at the Haiti
border. Rather they would be taken to Bethel in Haiti, be checked out by doctors and have
breakfast. Immediately I was told that they had no home to go back to. I had to make it
clear that they could not stay at Bethel either, but that there they would be given
suggestions on where to go from there. The unfortunate thing is that at least hundreds of
our own baptized brothers are currently sleeping in streets or on Kingdom Halls properties;
many too frightened to enter the kingdom hall itself because of the aftershocks.
At any rate, it?s all training and it?s all experience for future things that may come. Thank
you for your continued prayers and emotional support. And for your generous
Liliane the elderly sister was everyone?s favorite. One morning she said: “Frere Steven,
you forgot to do morning worship today. We did it on our own”. I hadn?t forgotten, but that
one day things got crazy right from 8am and didn?t stop. The kind of older sister you love
being around and want to put in your pocket.
If anyone would like to send Brother Mysson Dorcy (the 26 year old MTS grad with a
broken leg) an email here?s his address, although it could be weeks or months before he
He is a quality brother and I?m looking forward to visiting him in Haiti once he?s recovered.
Maybe we bonded since he was the only baptized male patient we had at my house. We
were vastly outnumbered. It was the ?estrogen zone? for sure. Or maybe we bonded as
fellow MTS grads. Anyway, when I visit him I?m going to lay in bed and ask for ice cream
and I’m going to kill him I get fish spaghetti instead.
Not to be forgotten is the amazing display of love and hospitality shown by the local San
Cristobal brothers and sisters. I had the privilege of splitting my time between 2 different
lodgings. I was treated like a king at both. The Diaz family were the first ones to take me
in. Myself and Joaquin bonded instantly, another fellow MTS grad.
Then I switched over to accommodations much closer to the house I was assigned to.
Roger and Anita Montero bent over backwards for us. My sister and I were well looked
after. Definitely friends for life. 2 of the many examples of “following the Christian course of
hospitality.” (By the way Roger, I didn?t mean to steal your bible, song book and bed linen.)
In closing, I?m sorry to those who sent really nice emails from other continents as a result
of forwards, but I?m only writing in english at the moment. But thanks for the kind words
even if I can?t read polish, portuguese or australian. Your words reaffirm just how united we
are. When one of us suffers, we all hurt. That?s what empathy means, your pain in my
Warm Christian love,