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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Making an Effort to Alleviate Suffering
Br. Kramer Cameron LC shares his experience on mission in Haiti, with Mission Youth (and his sisters!) and reflects on coming home

Br, Kramer Cameron with his sisters on Haiti mission
Br. Kramer Cameron LC with fellow Haiti missionaries, who just happen to be his sisters, Paulette (left) and Josefa.

Following is the testimony of Br. Kramer Cameron LC on his experience working with Mission Youth in Haiti this summer.

One Saturday morning in Haiti, I went with my friend Nameer to a place called the Wounds Clinic.

We drove with the Missionaries of Charity sisters. We were crammed in a van and sped along. The sisters prayed the rosary out loud, as we dodged traffic and honked the horn through the crazy streets of Porte au Prince. We drove up to a gate. Passing through the gate we entered an open area with an outdoor Church on our left. We got out of the van and went through another gate on our right only to find a small courtyard that was pretty empty. We were led to the end of the courtyard to still another gate.

All of the gates gave witness to the fact that we were right beside the roughest part of Haiti. As it opened, I stood in awe.  I saw a narrow area about as long as a basketball court. Within were grey cement ledges on either side packed with people: old and young, men and women, boys and girls. I ended up in a large side room also packed with people. All in all there were probably some three hundred people. And they were all there for medicine, or to get their wounds looked at and treated.

There were so many people and so many needs. I wanted to help out with the wounds because I knew it would challenge me, but by circumstance found myself helping with the medicines. For a while we mixed water with powdered medicine and placed the containers on the table. When the medicine preparation slowed down, I made my way over to the room where they were treating the wounds. These were no little bumps and bruises; they were gouges and holes and infections.

One American woman who had lived in Haiti for four years and volunteered her time to help out with the Missionaries of Charity on Saturdays, invited me to help her. She was taking care of the patients on a hospital-like bed – she seemed to have the worst cases. The first guy I helped her with had a huge open wound across his chest. It was about three inches wide and stretched from one collar bone to the other. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to look at.

She immediately got me involved in the process of treating him. It was bad… his dark skin folded over into the open blood-red wound. Much of the skin was gone, and I saw what I think was his muscle. She treated him, and I did what she asked. I held his hand as he suffered in pain. Everyone getting their wounds treated was suffering and in pain.

Helping at the Wounds Clinic that day was a heart wrenching experience of suffering – of God suffering in people. At the same time it was a heart-filling experience of touching Jesus Christ.

Post Haiti Reflections

Since my experience in Haiti I have been thinking -- their needs are so tangible. One baby needs her diaper changed. Another needs a cup of water. Another needs to be held, since his mother is not around. The man in the hospital with sores all over his body who looks like he had been on fire needs to be accompanied, prayed with and for his hand to be held. The lady with a huge wound on her leg needs it to be cleaned and covered with antibacterial anointment and wrapped again.

Jesus says, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to Me.” And touching and loving God in Haiti is so easy because the needs are known – the needs are in your face.

Conversations I had with a few young people in Haiti and since I’ve returned home reveal that for some reason, it’s harder to love at home and in our normal surroundings than in Haiti. Why? Here are a few probable reasons.

In our first-world countries, we wear so many masks. We dress ourselves up, put on makeup, take drugs to “medicate” ourselves, and are addicted to so many things. We have so many things, and we buy more. We consume so much of what we are “fed.”

We surround ourselves with glamour and glitter and sometimes the ones who appear to be the greatest “kings” are the ones who are suffering the most. Consider these words from the late singer, Michael Jackson:  "People think they know me, but they don´t. Not really. Actually, I am one of the loneliest people on this earth. I cry sometimes, because it hurts. It does. To be honest, I guess you could say that it hurts to be me."

Here I think it is even harder to love because it’s harder to break down the barriers that we build up around ourselves.  We are so busy, getting things done, making more money, being more successful. It’s hard to take the time to realize that the people around us are suffering and in need.

We can be in line with others at the coffee shop and be more like individuals trapped in walls placed side-by-side, unaware of our different personalities and needs. It’s like here we are walled in, and we think we like it that way. It’s like we are trapped in concentration camps of selfishness.

It’s almost impossible to know what one another’s needs are, even among our own family.

People who have gone to Haiti often say the hardest thing about going to Haiti is coming back. I was extra attentive as I flew back into Atlanta. On my flight I was so eager to meet the needs of those around me. I sat beside a young girl. As soon as I did she quickly tried to untangle her headphones and shove them in her ears – I didn’t even get to say a word to her until nearly the end of the flight.

How can you know if someone is suffering if we don’t even talk to each other? How are we supposed to help others who don’t express their needs?

When I landed in Atlanta and waited at my gate, I sat beside a sports bar. In Haiti, just hours earlier, I was with people whose stomachs are bloated. At the bar, men and women sit around eating all they want, on individual bar stools, facing the counter. They drink and drink and drink, consumed by alcohol and by the TV screens in front of them. They watch celebrities, golf, football training, tennis, advertisements selling products to make your hair grow back, vacations and cruises.

Were any of the people sitting there suffering? Who isn’t? Maybe their needs are greater and deeper than the needs of those in Haiti, but I will never know. Maybe someone is considering suicide, another’s parents are getting divorced, another is addicted to heroin and another has been abused. Who knows?

I realize we must go out of our way, out of our comfort zone and take the time to find out the needs of those around us. I challenge myself, and all, to go out of our way to discover others sufferings and needs.
Haiti Smile
A young girl smiles as, in the background, Mission Youth missionaries serve.
I present the challenge to tear down our own walls of selfishness and reach out to those around us who are also trapped. I present the challenge to make ourselves vulnerable in a healthy way, and let down our walls and tell those around us what we need.

Love is the ultimate destroyer of selfishness and when I went to Haiti, it was like I went caught in my own selfish concentration camp. But I left a free man.  



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