“You hear about all these people who go on mission trips out of great compassion—a desire to help. That wasn’t me,” he says. “The first time I went to Haiti it was out of a morbid curiosity to see how the poorest people in the Western hemisphere lived.”
We are sitting in a circle on the rooftop of the guesthouse, just as we have every evening of our time in Haiti—gathered for a devotional and some decompression time. But this night we are joined by Dr. David Walmer who has just gotten in country. His wife, Kathy—the leader of our team, asked him to share his vision for Family Health Ministries with us.
He tells us how he first came to Haiti on a mission trip with his church. “We were painting walls,” he says. “And when they found out I was a doctor, they graciously arranged for me to hang out with one of the local physicians…”
It changed his life. The state of health care in Haiti opened his heart in new ways. (Read more about this part of David’s story and about an amazing way he is helping fight cancer in Haiti now in this New York Times article, “The MacGyver Cure for Cancer“).
“I had a near-death experience when I was young enough to do something about it,” he says. “What I found was that God was here in Haiti waiting to change me.”
That was over twenty years ago. That was two health clinics ago, an orphanage, a school, plans for a women’s health and birthing center … these are just a few of the programs Family Health Ministries founded and supports. The Walmer family has dedicated much of their life to improving the lives of the Haitian people.
As I listen to David tell his story, I think of the people we have served in the clinic this week—each one full of grace and gratitude. And I know God has changed me too. Later in the week, some of us go walking out in the streets of the town. I’ve seen the bougainvillea growing wild over the walls and I’ve been longing for a picture. So we take our cameras out into the street—five women, three with lily white skin and two a beautiful brown. Everywhere we go, the people stare. We told Nicole we’d look for some passion fruit for her, and little bananas. Theodora helps us haggle in Kreyol over fruit. We leave with some mangos and green plantains.
My eyes are big from all there is to see.
On the streets of Haiti, there is color—from the garishly painted tap-tap trucks and bright-hued murals on walls, to the wide array of fruits the people sell—color everywhere. And noise. The incessant sound of horns honking and voices and dogs barking … throngs of people everywhere. Port au Prince never sleeps.
Morbid curiosity. I keep turning those words around in my mind.
I carry with me now the faces of the patients we served in the clinic all week. Almost 600 in four days. I carry with me now the faces that stared into us as we walked the streets of Haiti looking for fruit. Each a life with hopes and dreams—each one loving and making a living under the hot skies of Haiti.
God is still changing me through what I saw in Haiti.
The people gape at our pale skin and western dress and I want to take a picture of every beautiful face I see. I don’t want to forget.
But instead, I frame up the bougainvillea and I snap shots of the streets on fire with her pink.