Texas Baptist Groups Unite to Send Medical Aid to Haiti
January 28, 2010
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    ADDISON – Two doctors, a nurse and a load of medical supplies flew out of Addison Airport on Monday in one of the first Haitian relief trips arranged by a network of Texas Baptist organizations.

    Mike Roberts, a member of Park Cities Baptist Church who donated use of his company jet, said it took days of calling to get landing times at an airport in Port-au-Prince, which was devastated by an earthquake on Jan. 12.

    “We have a two-hour window to land, load and get out. There’s no place to park,” said Roberts, whose Dallas-based company, Source Direct, offers computer support services. He said his pilots scheduled four landing times, and they plan to shuttle people and supplies back and forth from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before returning to Dallas in about a week.

    The relief trip was organized by the Texas Baptist Mission Foundation and the new Faith in Action Initiatives of Baylor Health Care System, which matches medical workers with volunteer opportunities.

    Bill Arnold of the mission foundation and Don Sewell of the Baylor initiative said they’re pulling together relief aid from the state’s large “Baptist tapestry.”

    The doctors and nurse are from Baptist Temple Church in McAllen, and the supplies were provided by Baylor employees and Baylor Health Care System.

    On Saturday, two doctors from Baylor University Medical Center left with a group of surgeons and anesthesiologists from Austin-area churches to work with Mission of Hope Haiti.

    In Fort Worth, Texas Baptist Men have 5,000 water filters and buckets ready to be shipped out, Arnold said.

    Bible recordings

    In Addison on Monday, the last bit of cargo loaded on board were recordings of the New Testament in Haitian Creole. Then nurse Servando Silva, urologist Glen Diacon and family care doctor Matt Johnson climbed aboard.

    Silva said they have a tent for four and contacts through the Texas Baptist Mission Foundation for several organizations. “We will provide needed care and extend God’s grace,” he said.

    Roberts, the president of Source Direct, joined the medical team bound for Haiti to work wherever he’s needed. He hopes to be able to send messages to his three children and his wife, Rachel, who he said has suggested they adopt one of Haiti’s many orphans.

    He said the FAA has mandated that every seat on every plane must be filled when leaving Port-au-Prince, and he’s curious to see who his pilots will shuttle out of the country.


    Arnold and Sewell are experienced at pulling together resources from the vast state network of Baptist organizations. Sewell worked for the Texas Baptist Mission Foundation for 12 years until he took a position last month to run the new Faith in Action Initiatives.

    Joel Allison, president and CEO of Baylor Health Care System, established the program to match volunteers and resources to fill needs around the world, among other objectives.

    “We have always worked to respond when help and support is needed in the communities we serve and beyond,” Allison said, “but several months ago we decided it was time to take our Christian ministry to the next level and formalize the processes and strategy around our mission projects.”

    Just weeks after the program kicked off, the earthquake hit, killing an estimated 200,000 Haitians and injuring many more. “It’s a baptism of fire,” Sewell said.

    Baylor officials stress that credit for the work must go to employees who donate their time, money and skills, from working in clinics in underserved areas of Dallas to visiting countries around the world to share their expertise.

    “In missions work, the great keyword is flexibility,” Sewell said. “That’s what we have in our doctors and nurses who are making a great sacrifice. They know what they’re getting into in part, and they have to be open to the fact that they’re stepping into the dark and trusting that the resources will be there.”

    Sewell said he has a list of 20 to 30 doctors, nurses and technicians who have volunteered to go to Haiti. He’s working his way down the list as opportunities open.

    Two Baylor doctors, Christopher Berry and Jim Walton, left for Haiti on Saturday with a team of surgeons and anesthesiologists out of Austin. Walton, who practices internal medicine, said the group wanted to include primary care physicians.

    Walton sent this text to Sewell on Monday:

    “We have opened a hospital surgical area, post-op recovery and urgent/emergent ward since arriving … The severity of the injuries and the lack of care since the earthquake has made a bad situation worse … the people are leaving Port-au-Prince seeking care and shelter outside the city … bringing all of their infections and untreated broken bones with them … we are caring for people in this makeshift hospital that would typically be admitted to our hospitals in Dallas, and some would go to our intensive care units …”

    Volunteers are already beginning to survey the long-term needs for Haiti, and Sewell hopes to fly in on Friday to help with that assessment.

    “It’s the cause du jour right now, and sadly with other news and other events in the next two or three months, there will be something new to relegate Haiti to the background or focus of attention,” Sewell said. “We don’t want to do that. We want to make a serious statement to help Haiti get back on its feet.”

    Date: 2010-01-26