Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Mysterious Reappearance of Heather Elyse

(This is the story of events that happened four years ago in Haiti. If you missed yesterday's post, please read it first and then come back to this one.)

Early in the morning, the emails started flowing again.

Thursday, Feb 7, 2013 at 5:56 AM [Staff member]
Ryan F, Nick, and Laura Brown traveled by tap tap to the hotel last night where we stayed. Wesmin was there and very upset. Blamed the Americans (us) for leaving her. Says my kids are safe. Of course I wish we hadn't left but she gave us all clear coherent instructions yesterday morning on what she wanted us to do and we did what she said including Wesmin.
He says Heather was put in an ambulance then transferred to another hospital and he does not know which one.
[A staff member] got us a list of hospitals in Petionville which I sent Ryan F. He said that he visited three and she was not there. They are now with Molier, still looking.
Please pray! Tim any advice? Should you contact the embassy?
Call me if you need to.

6:58 AM [Staff member]
I am so sorry. She was sick but wasn't sure if it was just her normal sick with something else or what. I don't think it's cholera. Whoever finds her, see if they will test for typhoid fever. She was feverish with chills and aches and was complaining of lung/chest stuff but says she always has breathing issues there. She tossed and turned and moaned most of the night and was not feeling well since Monday so I would think if it were cholera it would have taken her out before then. We also traveled all day without stopping for bathroom breaks so again, just didn't seem like it was cholera.  It could be a flu or Haiti funk on top of her other medical stuff.

Heather Found?

Then things seemed to take a positive turn. 

At 7:46 AM, a person named "Claude Murielle" sent an email to Heather's two main email addresses with the subject line, "Found Heather." 

Greetings friends,
My wife and I write you this morning and apologize we couldn't get a letter to you sooner. You see we are not so well adjusted to Internet nor do we keep proper Internet at our house.

We were celebrating our 34 anniversary yesterday and found a near death patient at a gas station trying to buy drinks. She was in coherent and looked like she was going to pass out. We had just exited the hotel OASIS. I am a doctor and my wife is a nurse. We took her to the hospital in Petionville but they would not take her saying she seemed to have Cholera. They transferred her to another hospital who wanted to get her to US. No one would accept her due to clear other issues.

We apologize but we had to go through her purse and belongings to try and find out who she is.

She is a lovely young lady and we can't tell you how blessed we are to have her under our care. I can't believe how many children she has. Please tell the children their mom is in good hands.

We need to know where to return her. She tested positive for cholera and malaria. Also, she has very bad lungs. She is on an IV and we administer antibiotics

We are not kidnappers. We live in Boston and know how Haiti hospitals are. She looked near death and we felt strongly we had to do something.

We adopted a little girl 18 years ago. My wife can't have children. Adoption was what lead us to Christ.

We feel strongly that this young lady we care for has a huge calling. We love looking at all the pictures online. She seems to be a real life angel. We are so happy God bring her to us. We spent most the night crying over her blogging.

We would love to donate and help your organization once we get her better

We need an address to drop her off please.

Again sorry we use her phones and purse.

Dr. CM

There was much rejoicing on the part of the staff at this turn of events. 

Four minutes later, "Claude Murielle" sent another email: 

We will check Internet tonight but there was a Haitian man we called that tried to steal her. We could tell he was lying so we did not release her to him. We knew she would die if someone didn't get her help. So we apologize if this man was good but he seemed like he was lying. We are Haitian born and we know our Haitian brothers very well. 

Of course, everyone interpreted this to mean Wesmin.

One of the staff members immediately emailed this to the thread:

Whoever talks to Wesmin, Please let Him know we are so thankful he went back to check on her. She didn't even want him to. She told him to go back to Club and clear it out in case there was cholera there. Please let him know over and over that no one thinks this is his fault and none of us knew it was this bad. She was more achy sick and i had been in the bathroom more than she had that night so we weren't really sure she had cholera but we kept checking symptoms online to what she had and trying to see if it was close. She was (in her own words) irritable which is a sign but the aches and chest/ breathing was different. She just wanted some juice in the morning and to rest. I would have gotten a ride to the airport or stayed if we thought it was this bad. I feel terrible and wish we would have known. Again, so thankful Wesmin went back to check on her.

Wow. So glad that couple found her. The malaria would make sense now with the extra symptoms.....

Praying for her. I'm glad she was able to be with it enough to share abut herself. Helps us to know she is conscious and still with it.

I just want to apologize to everyone for leaving her. I just really didn't know she was that sick.

In a direct reply to "Dr Claude Murielle," another staff member responded this:
Praise God!!!! We have been worried sick. Is she in the hospital or with you now?
Numbers to call:
Ryan [Number redacted]
[Name redacted] [Number redacted]
[Name redacted] [Number redacted]
[Name redacted] [Number redacted]
[Name redacted] [Number redacted]
Molier [Number redacted]
Thank you for you care!!!! Please respond so we can find her. Thank you sooooo much!
"Claude Murielle" wrote back,
Alrighty so I don't understand why I call all those numbers. That is so many numbers. This is very strange to me. Does she have a husband I can talk too? I did not see one in all her pictures. Who is [name redacted]? I need to talk to someone related. she is with us in our home as a guest. You say you need to find her? How did she become lost in the first place?
Maybe my email was not so clear.
Also, we accidentally answered an email and call. We don't know how to use these phones.
I need to talk to someone related to her. What about husband or kids?
When she wakes I will find out what this email means with all these numbers.

The staff member responded, 
I am sorry I was unclear. I am [name redacted]. I am in America. The numbers I gave are ones of staff and missionaries for our organization. Giving Hope Rescue Mission.
They have been looking for her all night in Port au Prince because she was no longer in the hotel. The hotel front desk told the missionaries she was taken to the hospital but they did not know which one. The President of our organization [name redacted] can contact you or her pastor [name redacted]. Heather is unmarried.
We are so grateful for your care.
Thank you,

The Embassy

Meanwhile, Ryan and company had driven over to the US Embassy after failing to find Heather all night. Ryan and Nick went inside the embassy, where they were not permitted to use their phones. Ryan was given a sheet of paper and was asked to write a report of the incident. He did so. 

In the meantime, Moliere was waiting outside in the car with Laura when his phone rang. It was one of the Americans, and he handed the phone to Laura. Laura was told about the email that had come through, so she went inside the embassy to inform Nick and Ryan that Heather had been found. 

However, the embassy wanted proof that this was true. Did they have a phone number or address of where she was? No, they didn't. Without that, they couldn't close the case.

The emails continue

8:29 AM [Missionary] 
I have contacted Moliere, who handed the phone to Laura Brown.  I let her know that Heather was found, safe, on the mend from what we know, and in good hands. She went in to try and get Ryan and Nick, so we could stave off any added drama with the Embassy.  

Laura just called saying the Embassy needed confirmation that she's ok - a phone number/address of where she is at.  Which we don't have.  Laura is giving the Embassy my number to get the contact info.  I'll just be honest of what we've heard and the situation.  Pray for God's lead and for no unnecessary drama with embassy action.  

Anna, let me know if you get any contact info for this couple.  I could forward these emails to the embassy - the two from Dr.CM.  

Let us meditate on the ONE who was right there to get Heather at that gas station at the very point of need - he brought earthly ministers for her.  He will carry this whole process through!

8:39 AM [Staff member]
I would suggest that it might be wise to keep in contact with the embassy on this until we hear directly from heather or someone sees her in person and confirms the situation. I believe that God is active in this and is directing you all on the ground with his spirit and discernment. Bless you guys!

9:13 AM [Missionary]
I just spoke with the embassy.  I've forwarded the first email from this doctor and they agree the do not wish to drop the case until we have Heather, have spoken with her or have an address/phone contact.  The embassy finds it strange that this man would not give a number or address, but it's very likely - and judging from their emails - they are being extra careful for her safety.   I trust the Lord will not allow our feet to stumble... and will lead us in the way we should go.  Standing on Psalm 32:8!   Thank you for your caution and insight!

I'm off email now, due to internet, so text of call if I am needed!

9:16 AM [Staff member]
I talked to [person] and [person]. She is calling the hotel Oasis and verifying this man Dr C was/is there.

9:18 AM [Claude Murielle]
I think I am understanding a little better. Still confused on some issues.  Your email makes clarity.

Haiti is dangerous. The fact the man I called yesterday tried to lie and steal her makes me wee nervous.

 Yes I need to speak to someone directly and yes I want to be the one to drop her off so I can see everything and meet the people who take her and exchange numbers. I want to keep in touch on her care. She needs antibiotics twice a day. She needs liquids every hour. Please add salt and a spoon of sugar to her water.

Where are the kids? Cholera is dangerous and you can die from This. It is a luck she is still alive. She needs an xray on her lungs. Please someone needs to make sure her kids don't have cholera. I don't understand how an American got Cholera.

I need an address and a phone number. I can have her at her house by this Evening at 8 pm. I need to know who the person is I drop her off at and need them to give me their number when they recognize her face. I want the number of these men you say.

Thank you personal assistant.

Dr. CM.

9:31 AM [Michelle S]
I just talked to heather. She is OK. Please tell them embassy she is OK. I didn't tell her the embassy was involved or she would have freaked. She said the Dr is going to drop her off.

9:45 AM [Staff member]
Just spoke with the Hotel Oasis. They confirmed that "Dr Claude Murielle" was not a guest and recommended embassy involvement.

They did go to Heather's room and spoke with Wesmin. They seemed suspicious of him, but I assured them that he is someone we trust.

In light of Michelle's email I don't think we should do more with the hotel.

9:46 AM [Michelle S]
Do not contact the hotel please

10:13 AM [Staff member]
Heather is awake talking to Michelle and I, still weak, making plans. Everything is getting worked out. Thank you for your continued prayers.

10:21 AM [Staff member]
Praise the Lord!

10:28 AM [Staff member]
Such good news. 

In the light of all this, the need for missionaries to have smart phones is very apparent.  I can't imagine how hard it was for those searching for hospitals to be doing so without GPS. Or not being able to keep up with the email conversations going on here. It's very easy to use Natcom or Digicel SIM cards in unlocked iPhones. If it is ok with everyone, Charity and I can create a post to collect iPhones so the missionaries will be better able to communicate with each other, offer updates and so forth. Of course we won't mention Heather's situation in the request but will mention how an hour and the right directions to hospitals could save lives in the future. 

Let me know if this would be ok.

2:35 PM [Staff member]
I have spoken to Heather several times. Everything is okay. Just resting back in Montrouis for now. She will be writing everyone later when she feels better. Thank you for your prayers. 

*end of thread*

Trip back to Montrouis

Once Michelle and another staff member had actually spoken with Heather on the phone and reassured themselves that she was awake and stable, they got word to the embassy that they could close the case and Ryan could go home. 

Moliere drove the group along Route Nacionale #1 back towards Montrouis when they came up behind a familiar green vehicle. 

"That looks like Wesmin's car," Ryan thought. They pulled up beside it to pass them. 

Sure enough, it was. There were Heather and Wesmin in the car together, talking and laughing. Heather appeared perfectly healthy.

The aftermath

Heather accused Ryan of being "totally inappropriate and acting out of line" for his actions in going to seek her in Port au Prince. There was absolutely no recognition of his heroic, self-sacrificing action. Given the light that he had at the time (and assuming that all of the available data was true), the choice NOT to go seek her would have been unconscionable.

My humble opinion on interpreting these events 

Looking back from the perspective of four years later, and knowing what I now know, this is what I think about the situation. These are only guesses, but they are the guesses I'm currently applying to make sense of the way things went down.

I think....

  • Heather made the whole thing up 
  • Heather was with Wesmin the whole time and was dictating to Wesmin what to do and not do (i.e. now stop answering Ryan's texts; now call Michelle S and tell her such-and-such, etc.)
  • Heather used a few "real" symptoms that her staff members had seen to make the whole thing believable that she had become so gravely ill so quickly.
  • "Claude Murielle" was an invention of Heather and Wesmin together (Heather thinking it up, and Wesmin writing it). They would have opened a gmail account and died laughing over the way they imagined it would go over when it came through. 
  • When things looked like they were getting gravely close to being found out (i.e. Americans at the embassy and calling the Oasis hotel), Heather had to call Michelle to "end" the whole joke.
Things that simply don't line up or make sense
  • Michelle's very first email: "I was informed that heather was taken to a hospital in port today, for what I am not sure.  Wesmins guess was cholera.  He just told me that she is on an iv and unconscious." 
  • This states some very clear facts: "Heather was taken to a hospital in port." There are a finite number of hospitals in port. "Wesmins guess was cholera." If she was admitted to a hospital, there would be no more "guessing" because she would have tested positive or negative. "He just told me that she is on an iv and unconscious." Therefore, Wesmin must have been at the hospital long enough for Heather to not only get admitted, but also get put on an IV and THEN lose consciousness. For Michelle's email to be true, Wesmin must have called her and known all these things.
  • Then the story changes, and no one seems to notice the discrepancy. Suddenly, Heather is found incoherently wandering around a gas station. She is fortuitously found by a compassionate person who just "happens" to have this insane combination of characteristics: 
  • A doctor
  • A Christian
  • A person who lives in Boston, but who is also a Haitian, and is also presently in Haiti
  • Someone who has adopted a child
  • Someone who has medical training, near-fluent English, and a home in the US, yet doesn't know how to operate a smartphone

Other discrepancies from the doctor's email (read this as if Heather is the brains behind it, and suddenly, the whole thing falls apart):
  • This doctor ran into Heather who was "near death" despite being presumably upright and walking around at the gas station. People don't typically intervene on behalf of a complete stranger when they are merely "incoherent and look like they are going to pass out." 
  • Then he took her to the hospital in Petionville, and the hospital refused to admit her, but still managed to "transfer her" to another hospital that wanted to get her to US, but yet "no one would accept her." 
  • This doctor presumably follows Heather through all these transfers, and despite his medical credentials is unable to get her admitted anywhere, so he takes her to his OWN PERSONAL HOME (on his anniversary night, no less), where he puts her on IVs and antibiotics and she goes unconscious.
  • This doctor seemingly cares so very much about reuniting Heather with her family that he trespasses on her purse and phone, but he somehow manages to wait all night before attempting to contact anyone. 
  • Heather managed to let her cell phone battery die early in the morning despite spending the night at the premier hotel in Port where they have electricity. Yet as soon as the doctor rummages through her purse for the phone, it works perfectly for him to look up who she's connected to. 
  • Instead of making a phone call, the doctor chooses to write an email, because that's the most efficient way to get in touch with someone in an emergency, right? 
  • The doctor just "happens" to choose from among Heather's thousands of contacts the exact right two email addresses to write to, including Heather's OWN email address, which wouldn't make sense to anyone other than a person who knew that someone else read Heather's email. He manages to do this despite being so clueless about the phone's functionality that he "accidentally" answers a call and replies to an email and has to apologize for this.
  • The doctor feels the need to mention, "We are not kidnappers." This is so obviously "Heather's fingerprints" it's like a dead giveaway.

Things that make me feel sick inside over this situation
  • All the people who put themselves in danger and lost an entire night's sleep with no thanks or recognition 
  • The staff being made to feel horrible and guilty over leaving the country (something that could easily be manipulated later by a clever person into making people waste money and time on changing their ticket, simply because they felt guilty over the last time when they didn't do it) 
  • All the urgent requests for prayer over a situation that was FAKE.
Other observations
  • You can see here that no one believed that Heather had a husband at this point, contradicting what other people had seen in earlier visits to Haiti.
  • Notice that no one questioned the validity of (a) Heather being violently ill (b) Heather's whereabouts being unknown (c) the doctor's blatantly false email (d) Wesmin mysteriously knowing and then not knowing where she was. No one noticed the discrepancies. This is how good Heather was at hiding the fact that she was the one behind all the drama. In hindsight, it seems completely obvious, but in the thick of the situation, there was so much chaos that we simply accepted the data at face value without looking any deeper. 
  • Notice, too, how much dirt Heather threw onto Wesmin through this situation. I, for one, took it at face value at the time and felt that if this doctor had mistrusted Wesmin enough to refuse to release Heather to him when he came to pick her up, then Wesmin must be suspicious indeed. 
  • Observe Heather's incredible, blatant self-promotion in the doctor's email: "She is a lovely young lady and we can't tell you how blessed we are to have her under our care. I can't believe how many children she has. Please tell the children their mom is in good hands....We feel strongly that this young lady we care for has a huge calling. We love looking at all the pictures online. She seems to be a real life angel. We are so happy God bring her to us.  We spent most the night crying over her blogging....We would love to donate and help your organization once we get her better."
  • It's also worth pointing out that this whole situation was supposed to be confidential. Therefore, no one could reach out to the people outside the situation to get a reality check or a healthy dose of skepticism. Even if we had "disobeyed" and shared it, though, it's doubtful if other people's opinion would have made a big enough dent to get us to see the light. I know for myself, I was still very much "drinking the kool-aid" and was therefore largely impervious to outside perspective. For instance, my dad saw right through it (not this situation per se, but the whole Heather thing in general), but I couldn't accept his version of the story for a long, long time. Furthermore, the number of people I respected and trusted who were also believing the story was so high that it bolstered my confidence in a "Heather-favorable" interpretation. How could this many smart and informed people ALL be wrong when they all went through the situation together? Looking back, it is hard to believe how long Heather was able to play this game and how many variations of it she was able to pull off before people stopped believing her.

Well, congratulations if you made it through all that. 

What's incredible is that future events made this one seem mild and tame and forgettable by comparison. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Mysterious Disappearance of Heather Elyse

Yes, that sounds like a Hardy Boys title. And the story that unfolded was almost Hardy-Boy-esque in its absurdity and unlike-real-life-ness.

So there I was on day 3 of my cholera recovery. I was doing quite well overall, taking it easy, trying to avoid too much contact with other people, and using lots and lots of bleach. Bleach and I became very good friends during that episode.

I had spent the night hooked up to an IV bag after receiving such kindness and great treatment from the clinic in Cabaret. In the morning, I was feeling much better due to being rehydrated, and the diarrhea had slowed way down due to the Cipro knocking it out. I still had quite a bit of abdominal pain, but I was able to drink normally and keep everything down. I didn't eat a lot, but just took it easy and rested most of the day.

One of the important things with cholera is not reinfecting yourself, and regular soap doesn't kill it, so you have to use bleach. The nurses had taught me the proper bleach-to-water ratio. By 4:00 Wednesday afternoon, I was amazed to discover the energy to bleach all my clothes, clean the bathroom, wipe down my entire floor with bleach (even moving the bed and all the furniture), and do all the laundry for my bleached clothes, bedding, towels, and cleaning rags.

Funny story--I had soaked my clothes in bleach water for the obligatory ten minutes, and I had taken them to the laundry room, where they had been through the washer and were just finishing in the dryer. When the dryer finished, I went in to pull the clothes out. Some guy I didn't know was in the laundry room, too, putting clothes in the washer. "Hi," I mumbled. "Hola," he said. "Hola," I said back. Then his eyes widened and he did a double take. "Wow! Are you ok?"

"Oooohhhhh," I realized. "I must look like a fright! I should have waited until he was gone before I came in here. I forgot what I must look like to people." There I was, greasy hair, bare feet, no makeup, and IV tubes still dangling out of my arm, affixed with big obvious X's of white tape. "Yeah, I'm ok," I said as nonchalantly as possible. "I'm going to be fine," and with that I swept my clothes out of the dryer and high-tailed it back to my room. Aaaah! Embarrassing!

For some context on what was about to unfold, a couple of Heather's staff members had come down to Haiti for a short visit. They were going to fly out early on Feb 6th, so they had left Montrouis the day before and went to Port au Prince to spend the night in the Oasis hotel, where they would be closer to the airport for their flight in the morning.

Heather and Wesmin went with them.


Towards evening on the 6th, Ryan F came down to my room.

"We've got a problem," he said. "Heather wasn't feeling well after the group went to the airport this morning. She thinks she may have cholera. She was texting early on in the day, but the battery on her phone died. Wesmin was with her initially, but now he doesn't know where she is. For a while he was texting me, but now even he has stopped answering his texts. A group of us are leaving now to try to find her. I'm taking a Tap-tap to Port tonight with Laura Brown and Nick."

"Whoa!" I said. "Can I go?"

Ryan hesitated. I realized that only a few hours earlier I had been hooked up to an IV for my cholera.

"Never mind," I corrected myself. "What am I thinking? Well, I'll be praying for you."

Ryan departed. I remember being struck with how I had never thought of just how difficult it would be to find someone who had gotten lost in a city in a foreign country if they were sick and their phone battery died. I wondered how Ryan could possibly find her. It is well known in Haiti that it is not safe or recommended to drive after dark, and especially not late at night, in Port au Prince, and I knew Ryan was risking his neck to go and look for Heather.

Then the emails started flowing.

At 5:40 PM, Michelle S sent an email out to all the missionaries and staff.

Hello staff,
I was informed that heather was taken to a hospital in port today, for what I am not sure. Wesmins guess was cholera. He just told me that she is on an iv and unconscious. Please pray. Please keep it amongst the staff. I don't want any of our adoptive parents to panic and you know how private a person heather is ;)
I will keep everyone updated, but please pray fervently.

5:41 PM: [Staff member]
"yes, will start praying and won't stop until we hear that she is fully recovered."

5:46 PM: [Staff member]
"Yes, of course. Praying wholeheartedly and fervently. Thank you for updating us and for all you do, Michelle."

6:05 PM: [Staff member]
"Been praying all day. She was not well when we left this morning. :("

9:02 PM: [Staff member]
...She was sick when we left at 5:30am but insisted we all go. She told us that she needed juice and so Wesmin bought some at the gas station. She said that she just wanted to sleep and that she would decide when Wesmin returned if she needed to go to the hospital. We had two cars at the Oasis hotel. The new red one and green Mazda. We were in the green Mazda today because it's the only one with a working air conditioner.
Heather was not able to answer texts. Her phone batteries were dead. She emailed Wesmin at 11:45am saying she needed to go to the hospital. My guess is that he arrived there at that time or soon after based on when he dropped us off at the airport.
I talked to Ryan F and told him the situation and to go find them. When I landed i received the text that said he was headed to Port with Nick and Laura to look for them. Received a text from Wesmin that he sent while I was in the air that said he was worried sick. She was in the hospital with iv. He didn't mention what hospital.
I wish we would have stayed.....ughhhh
Exhausted myself, but feeling fine.


Meanwhile, Ryan and the crew who went to Port had managed to get in touch with Moliere, a Haitian driver who had reliable vehicles. We often hired him for airport runs and other things. The group left the tap tap behind, and Moliere drove them to the Oasis hotel, the last place where Heather had been seen. The front desk told them that Heather had checked out that morning, but that Wesmin had reserved his room for another night and was still there.

Ryan dialed Wesmin's room number from the front desk telephone. Wesmin picked up the phone and acted enraged that he was being contacted. He refused to come down to the lobby, and he said he was with a woman and wasn't about to leave her alone to go down and talk to Ryan.

Unsuccessful on that front, they spent the whole night driving from hospital to hospital in Port au Prince, asking if Heather had been admitted there and not finding her. Laura Brown is a nurse who is fluent in Creole and has extensive work experience in Haitian hospitals, so she was an invaluable resource to them in this endeavor.

No luck. None of the hospitals had her.


MANY people back in the US hit their knees for fervent prayer. Some of them would faithfully continue all night.


I went to bed and slept all through the night, which I considered to be a quick and dramatic answer to prayer for my recovery from cholera.

Continued tomorrow at 9:00 AM EST.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

I Get Cholera, Day 2

If you missed Day 1, read it here. This is part of a series reviewing events that happened four years ago in Haiti.

February 5, 2013

Overnight my temperature spiked at 103.3 and gradually started to go down, reaching 101.5 by the next morning and then leveling out at 100.2 about midday.

Through the morning, everyone kept checking on me. One of the missionaries made me some Pedialyte, which I drank, but 15 minutes later I vomited it back up, and the experience was so unpleasant I found it difficult to motivate myself to drink again. I tried little sips every few minutes, but every few minutes ended up being more like every hour, and by 2:00 I had only drunk about an inch from the glass.

The missionary men came to my room to pray for me early in the morning, which I greatly appreciated. Then I just slept or listened to sermons for a while. They came back about 2:00 and asked if I would like them to pray for me again, which I said I wouldn’t turn down.

I have to be grateful for the watchfulness and initiative of Ryan F. He had made some calls and found out about a clinic outside of Cabaret where there were some American nurses. He got the phone number for them and arranged an appointment for me. He was tired of taking people to St. Marc and watching them be stuck 15 times before they got the IV in. So he drove me down there, with our interpreter along, and me lying feebly in the back seat, hoping and praying that I wouldn’t have diarrhea too many times on the car trip. If it weren't for Ryan, I would probably have languished for another day or more before I got any medical attention, and who knows how much worse I would have gotten by then?

The first part of the drive, the part on the paved road, was fine, but then we got onto the dirt road. The clinic had sent a Haitian named Frank down to meet us at the turnoff where we connected with the dirt road, so he hopped in the car to guide us, and I had to sit up. He was an older guy, dressed in a red shirt, and he had such a pleasant face and genuine smile that even in my foggy, semi-incoherent state I appreciated it.

The road was very bumpy, but it took us way up into the mountains, to give me a glimpse of rural Haiti that I had never seen before. The vegetation was very dry scrub bushes and sparse brown grass, covered all over with a thick layer of dust near the road. Haitians rode by on thin horses, their backs laden with burlap sacks full of market produce. A little girl, walking along in the middle of nowhere, stopped to smile and wave. Goats and cows grazed along the sides of the road, un-fenced-in and untied. The houses were built of poorer materials, and they were so few and far between, I wondered how in the world anyone subsisted up here. There was no visible agriculture going on, no cultivated lots or crops, just stony dry ground and thorny bushes. How did they get their supplies? I wondered. Even getting bare rice and beans seemed a bit difficult to imagine. There weren’t exactly tap-taps running up and down this road. And how in the world is it possible that there’s a clinic back up in here? I wondered. We topped a little rise and I could see the sea in the distance, which meant that our switchbacks had turned us around temporarily to face the way we had come. This was the first time I had ventured over the mountains in any way. It was like a great hike with the vehicle doing all the work.

We drove on and on. What I was told would be 30 minutes felt like it took 2 hours, because every jolt and bump took its toll on my miserable abdomen. Finally I could stand it no longer. “I think I have to go to the bathroom,” I said. “Can you pull over?” The place was remote. There were no houses or cars or motos or people. I would rather go on the ground, outside the car, than go in a bag in the car with 3 men, and then have to smell it the rest of the way. I waded gingerly through the thorns and down a steep bank to a place of relative privacy, but by no means hidden from view. Thank the Lord for skirts, I thought, which permit you to do something like this relatively modestly. I was just squatting down when I heard a slight rustle. A Haitian was slowly riding by on a horse. He stared at me all the way, this apparition of a white woman in a long white skirt with a roll of toilet paper in her hand, obviously about to use the side of the road as a toilet. I waited until he was gone and then tried again. Thank the Lord I could hold it! I thought. This time no one happened along, and I finished my business with as much modesty as I could and got back in the car, trusting that the guys had kept their eyes forward and not looked around backward to where I was. Nobody made any comment except for “We have about 6 or 7 more minutes to go,” and we went on. That 6 or 7 minutes felt like 20, but finally we made it, parked the car, and got out.

I walked slowly in with Ryan and Jack accompanying me, and immediately, Lori and Alicia, sisters, saw me, got me into a room, and started treatment. They took a malaria test and a cholera test, gave me some anti-nausea medication, and put me on an IV. The cholera test came back positive, malaria, negative. They answered all our questions and gave us as much time as we needed and were very flexible with what we wanted to do. I could stay overnight in their cholera house, or go home with an IV and medicine, or just stay for a few hours, or whatever I thought was best. I opted to go home with the IV. They showed me how to change the IV bag when mine got empty and were overall very helpful. They also filled a tote bag with 4 extra IV bags, a whole bottle of Cipro, a whole bottle of Zithromax, 5 parasite treatments for kids we have here, lots of bandaids and alcohol swabs, tubing kits to install two IV bags, some anti-nausea pills, syringes to measure the proper doses of everything, and some bleach powder to mix with water for sterilizing things properly. They didn't charge us a penny for the care or the supplies. Amazing. We wanted to do something to bless them back after they treated me so helpfully. Ryan said, “You can take me here anytime if I ever keel over.” I heartily agreed.

We had to do the drive back in the dark, which Ryan heroically did. I lay in the back seat all the way home, holding myself as still as possible despite the jostling. I fell asleep once we got to the paved road and could scarcely wake up enough to discern which was the way back to the apartment building once we got home at about 8:00 pm.

I walked back to my room, went to the bathroom, and then lay on the floor for about an hour, trying to work up the energy to take a shower before I went to bed. Finally I did. I got up, showered, got ready for bed, and gratefully snuggled between the sheets with my IV bag hanging above me, dropping the life-giving fluid into my veins. I slept sweetly.


Continued tomorrow at 9:00 AM EST

Saturday, February 4, 2017

I Get Cholera, Day 1

This journal entry was written four years ago and never posted. It provides a glimpse into the things that happened and the way I was thinking about them at the time. I had been incredibly grateful that I never came down with cholera myself during all the time I was caring for the babies in the hospital in Port au Prince. 

However, after I got back from Port, I spent about half a day scrubbing the floor inch by inch in one of the rooms at Club Indigo because two American guys were coming down and were going to stay there. The room had previously been lined with babies' cribs, and the floor was caked with grime and crud, but I joyfully took a rag and bucket and washed it down, scrubbing on my hands and knees, excited about the guys who were coming and utterly unconcerned about investing some hard work into giving them a clean place to stay. (Club Indigo had a cleaning staff who would come through with a mop once a day, but they just did a quick pass over the room, and this room definitely needed deep cleaning.) I remember getting extremely sweaty due to the amount of elbow grease I had to exert, and I emerged from the room disheveled with my hair a mess.

Only after I finished scrubbing the room was I told that babies with cholera had been kept in that room while I was at Port. I hadn't worn gloves or taken any special precautions while I scrubbed the floor. I'm sure that some of that grime and crud was cholera-infested feces. And that's how I think I came down with cholera after being fine the whole time up to that point.    

February 4, 2013

Ever since I got back to Haiti, I have been trying to have a girls’ night with the missionary ladies. I brought summer sausage and three kinds of specialty Wisconsin cheese that I had gotten in the US, and I wanted to have the ladies over for fellowship, prayer, and snacks. Monday I was at the creche as usual, but it seemed like nothing was going on that night. Ah! My girls’ night! I thought. So I called and texted people and set it up.

About 6:00 in the evening, I happily set to work making some homemade chai tea. About 6:30, I went to pick up one of the ladies from her house. (First time driving at night in Haiti!) Suddenly, as soon as I walked in the door to my room, I felt nauseous. It was only slight, and I pushed it out of my mind. I continued making the chai and cutting the cheese and summer sausage. Two more ladies came about 8:00, and I served everyone chai.

Then I had to go to the bathroom. It was diarrhea. I took my temperature. 99.3. I was sure I was in for it. I told the girls that maybe they should all go home, because I just had diarrhea and I told them what my temperature was. They decided to stay, and we did have a lovely time talking, though I was curled up in a fetal position on the bed, huddled under a blanket and feeling worse all the time. We had a prayer time together, lifting up each other’s needs, and that was also very wonderful.

The ladies left, and I took my temperature again. It was 101.5. “Oh, no!” I thought. I went to bed, where I thrashed and moaned all night long, getting up frequently to go to the bathroom, and having weird, feverish, delusional sensations. I remember at one point feeling like I had four bodies, and trying to decide which one of them I would send to the bathroom. Nobody wanted to go. Finally desperate urges caused one of them to take the initiative, and I was surprised that all of me went along.

The signs of cholera are liquid diarrhea and vomiting, with a distinctive, almost lime-green color, a distinctive smell, and a texture sometimes like rice. I was sure I had it. Cholera works by stripping your body of the water in your cells. Long after the digestive system is emptied out, the patient continues to have diarrhea, because the disease is eating away at the intestinal lining, breaking down tissues, and emptying out all the water in them. Bowel movements are like pure liquid with a few small solid chunks of matter (which I imagine would be bits of villi). It was truly agonizing.


Read the next post: I Get Cholera, Day 2

Friday, February 3, 2017

Filling In Some of the Gaps in the Cholera Story

Since posting my cholera story, I have gotten a TON of feedback, input, and information from a variety of sources who contacted me. Here are a couple of interesting pieces to the story to fill in the gaps.

  • I didn't know what happened at the creche in my absence. I stated in the comment section under Cholera Day 2 that I didn't think these kids would have gotten sick if they had stayed at the creche. This was my best attempt at making sense of the situation, but it turns out that may not be an accurate interpretation. 
  • One of the missionaries just told me that the babies who were sent with me were the ones who were more healthy or had more "chub" who the creche considered to be the least likely to come down with cholera.
  • 7 babies from the creche got cholera and were moved to Club Indigo, where an American named Jessica (who happened to be visiting) took over their care, ensuring that they were given proper treatment, checking on them every hour, and pretty much working to the point of exhaustion to ensure that they all recovered. They did. 
  • Club Indigo never authorized these kids to be living at Club, so when they found out about it, it was a big deal that Ryan F had to smooth over with Club officials. Fortunately, he had a great relationship with them and was able to do so. 
  • The Club Indigo situation triggered the need to look for a new site to keep babies, and the organization located and rented a house in Pierre Payen, right off the main Hwy 1 on the south side of the road. All the babies got moved to that house on January 30, leaving the baby house empty at the creche in Montrouis. 
  • On Feb 1, one of the missionary couples, R and S, moved out of Club Indigo and into what was formerly the baby house at the creche, because it was much cheaper for them than living at Club Indigo. (I am purposely not going into detail about what happened to them in the whole Haiti mess, because it is their story to tell, but in my opinion what I watched them walk through was perhaps the most heartbreaking story of all the ones that I witnessed.) 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Cholera Day 11: 10 babies and 11 days In Port Au Prince

Day 11: Wednesday, January 30, 2013

In the morning, Kerlande and Clauciane were so indignant at the conditions at the Joanne's that they insisted I call Wesmin to tell him about it. They were convinced the babies were going to get sick again if they stayed there.

It was difficult. I barely had a way to wash my hands there, much less take all the necessary precautions for preventing the spread of cholera.

I called Wesmin and he said that he would send a tap-tap that day. We went and picked up Sephora as if we were going to transfer her to St. Damien’s, but we took her home instead, where she rode home on my lap on the tap-tap. Wesmin had said she had already been tested for HIV and Tuberculosis, and he said he preferred that she be treated locally.

The ministry had obtained a new creche for the babies in my absence, and this was the moving day for everyone. Our tap-tap pulled in to the driveway, and almost immediately afterwards, all the other vehicles came, bearing all the other children who were moving in.

One of the missionaries gave me a ride back to Club Indigo, and my ordeal was over. I moved back into my room, never so grateful in my life to relax after the stress and burden of the experience.

Of course, the stress and burden of the adventure in Haiti was far from over. Little did I know that the missionaries would quickly be told by Heather that the new creche location was a SECRET creche, and we were not under any circumstances to tell anyone where it was. But that's a story for another day.

If you missed the previous posts, here's where you can start: Cholera Day 0

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cholera Day 10: 10 babies and 11 days In Port Au Prince

Day 10: Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sephora was still in the hospital, and the nurses were saying that her cholera strain was resistant to the antibiotics and also that she had other issues going on, and they wanted her to get tested for HIV and tuberculosis. They gave me a paper authorizing a transfer the next day to St. Damien’s, the neighboring hospital and apparently the highest-quality children’s hospital in Port-au-Prince, according to Mallery.

Read the next post: Cholera Day 11.
Start over at the beginning of the story: Cholera Day 0

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cholera Day 9: 10 babies and 11 days In Port Au Prince

Day 9: Monday, January 28, 2013

Pranel got released and went back to the Joanne's. I felt like I couldn’t send Kerlande and Clauciane home yet, because as long as we had babies in two locations, we needed someone to stay to watch them in both places. They were also really helpful because they washed clothes by hand every day, keeping the babies’s clothes and sheets clean. This was something I was still not as skillful or as knowledgeable of how to do, what supplies to use, or where to get them, but they seemed to know instinctively. They also knew how to keep the babies quiet and happy all day long, while they cried a lot more with me.

From an email that I wrote to a friend:

"One thing that has been really cool about being in the hospital is that my Creole has grown tremendously! I feel like it grew more in this one week than it did in the three months I was in Haiti before. I still have great difficulty understanding everything people say, but more and more, I can communicate. It's still rough and simplified and baby talk, but it's coming.
You remember how I shared with you that I don't exactly love babies? So this whole experience has been one of dependence on the Lord and constantly drawing from His supply of love, and meditating on truths like "Love your neighbor (even a baby) as yourself." So the other day, it blessed me so tremendously that the nurses at the hospital all remarked that I treated these babies with a lot of love. Ah! They could see it! Even though I couldn't feel any love of my own, Jesus had succeeded in loving these babies through me in a tangible enough way that others around me were convinced that I was just there adoring these babies with all my heart. No... but Jesus was! It brought a fresh supply of tears to my eyes to realize that I had been the vessel of His love in this way, and He blessed me with the manifestation of His glory at succeeding in using this weak, clueless, not-really-useful-when-it-comes-to-babies person."

Read the next post: Cholera Day 10.
Start over from the beginning of the story: Cholera Day 0

Friday, January 27, 2017

Cholera Day 8: 10 babies and 11 days In Port Au Prince

Day 8: Sunday, January 27, 2013

At 6:00 in the morning, before anyone was stirring, I got up and bleached the floor in the bedroom where Jackson, Kerlande, Clauciane, and I were staying.

Then I called Watson, my moto driver, to come and pick me up to take me to the hospital. However, he didn’t know where Joanne and Doug's house was, and though I gave him the address, he couldn’t find it. Doug took me out in the car to a well-known landmark, where we met up with him and then had him follow the car back to the house so that he could see where it was for next time.

I got to the hospital and worked with Roselord through the day. Pranel's and Sephora's symptoms were still hanging on. Annita came after church “just to visit the babies.” She ended up offering to staying through the night and work, which I had intended to do, but when she was willing to do it, I was willing to let her.

Moses, one of the babies at the Joanne's house, had been having diarrhea for 4 days, so they brought him to the clinic, where he got admitted and tested positive for cholera.

I stayed the night at the Kimballs.

Read the next post: Cholera Day 9.
Start over at the beginning; Cholera Day 0

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cholera Day 7: 10 babies and 11 days In Port Au Prince

Day 7: Saturday, January 26, 2013

I got up in the morning, ate breakfast with the kids, and saw that they were doing very, very well. The staff was giving them excellent care, and they were happy. I asked if they knew a moto driver they trusted who could take me back to the hospital, because their schedule that day didn’t allow for their driver to take me to the hospital. Frentz (Mallery’s husband) called a guy named Watson who came to get me, and I got to the hospital about 10:30. As I paid the moto driver, I also asked him if he could possibly come to get me again if I needed a ride, and he said he could. I got his name and number and went into the hospital compound.

When I got there, I met up with Annita and Manette. They had worked all day Friday, all night Friday night, and were expecting to work all day Saturday. We had agreed to pay $10 for the day shift and $15 for the night shift for each person. We had paid them the $10 each for the day shift on Friday, but we owed them $25 each for Friday night and Saturday. In addition to their work with the babies, they had also washed all the clothes. This in itself was worth a great deal, because Joanne’s laundry lady refused to wash them out of fear of touching the cholera-infected items, and we had had to pay another lady $15 to do it on Thursday. The amount of laundry we produced was unbelievable, yet understandable considering the quantity of diarrhea and vomit we were dealing with, so it was a splendid bonus to have all the clothes clean.

Annita told me that Doug had come in the morning to restock our supplies of diapers, wipes, etc., but that he had not paid them. I was indignant all over again. It was simply not right. I couldn’t go on seeing our workers not taken care of. I had no money, but this time I did have my debit card and driver’s license, so I could at least go to a bank and withdraw money at an ATM. I told Annita I would take care of it, and I called Watson, the moto driver who had brought me to the hospital, and asked him if he could come back to get me. He said he could, so I went out to wait for him.

On the phone with Watson, I had said that I needed to go to the bank and withdraw money at an ATM, but he evidently hadn’t understood me, because when he picked me up, we started going back exactly the way we had come when he brought me from Joanne’s. At first I thought, “Well… maybe this is a shortcut to a place where we can go to a bank.” But as we got further into remote residential areas, I at least had to ask. “Are we going to the bank?” I asked. “I don’t need to go back to Mallery’s. I want to find an ATM machine.” He turned the moto around and we started going back towards the more commercial parts of town.

We tried three banks before I finally got a chance to withdraw some money. After I got the cash, I asked the moto driver how to buy minutes to recharge my phone, which he helped me to do. Then we went back to the hospital. It all took an inordinate amount of time, and I got quite sunburned.

I was thirsty and hot. I paid the moto driver and then asked one of the nearby street vendors for a water bottle. It cost me 25 gourdes, and I asked if they had another one. They didn’t, but they went to get one from another vendor.

While they were gone, I opened the one I had. I tore off the plastic shrink wrap and opened the cap. The cap opened without ripping away from the little ring that is supposed to stay below the plastic lip at the bottom part of the lip of the bottle, and I thought, “Oh great. This is one of those bottles that they warned me about.” Joanne’s interpreter, Dony, had warned me that sometimes they took these bottles and refilled with them with different water which wasn’t safe to drink. When the vendor came back with another water bottle, I noticed that it was filled to a different level than the one I had. Without removing the shrink wrap, I twisted the cap slightly. I could see that it, too, was going to be able to unscrew without punching off the little safety ring. “Yep,” I thought. “These are bogus…not from the factory that the label says.” I had already paid for the second bottle, too, and I asked for my money back for both of them. I explained quite nicely and calmly that this bottle looked like it had been opened before, and I couldn’t drink that water, because it would make me sick. It made me sad to do it, because I was extremely thirsty, and I really, really wanted water, but I couldn’t drink water that was going to make me sick.

The guy gave me my money back for the second bottle, but not for the first. The reason for this, which I didn’t understand at the time, was that I had removed the plastic shrink wrap from the first bottle, and everyone had seen me do it. I could barely understand the creole spoken around me, but I could gather bits and pieces of phrases here and there. I asked again, calmly and a bit beseechingly, for him to give me my money back. A crowd of people gathered around, and they all started speaking loudly with each other in Creole. One man came, as it were, to my defense, and I thought for a minute that I was going to get my money back. 25 gourdes is about 60 cents, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I thought it was perfectly reasonable to expect to return something that showed obvious signs of being opened before and refilled and get my money back. The man seemed to be demanding that the vendor return my money back to me. However, several people stepped in and said something I didn’t understand, which I afterward surmised must have been them reporting that they saw me take the plastic shrink wrap off, which, in their minds, meant that it certainly had not been opened before I touched it. The man shrugged his shoulders and disappeared into the crowd.

Another man shouldered his way forward, picked up the water bottle, and set it down with a decisive thump on the top of the cooler. “Take this bottle, and go away,” he said.

In that instant, something in the back of my mind told me that I ought to take his advice, go away, and just drop it. However, I didn’t obey my instincts.

“No, I want my money back,” I said, still calm, unruffled, and unafraid. “I can’t drink that water. It will make me sick.”

“Then take it and throw it away,” he said in exasperation. “You’ve lost it.”

That didn’t make any sense to me. Why had I lost it? Only afterward did I realize that in their minds, the presence or absence of the plastic shrink wrap (which I had taken off myself) formed the definition of “opened before,” while to me, it was the plastic cap itself, and the water level, and the whole aspect of this bottle being a “re-bottled” water. We were talking about two different things, and I didn’t know it, and they didn’t bother to understand my point of view. “No, I want my money back,” I repeated. I stood there, almost like a Haitian approaches an American, with my hand out, standing there without speaking.

More conversation ensued, more heated discussion in Creole by all the bystanders. Another person commanded me to take the bottle and go away. The voice in my head told me I’d better listen. I sighed. “Okay,” I agreed. I picked up the bottle and walked away.

Later, inside the hospital, motivated by my extreme thirst, I drank the water. It didn’t ever make me sick.

But after that, whenever I walked by those vendors, someone would make a comment about a water bottle and 25 gourdes, and the whole crowd would burst out laughing. The first time it happened, I apologized humbly in my broken Creole for my role in that whole drama, but that caused another burst of laughter. It was somewhat intimidating to walk in and out of the hospital after that, because I felt that I had unwittingly made enemies, simply because I didn’t understand.

Aside: It’s interesting how one comes to understand things here. Having gone through this experience, I understand that it’s not quite as simple a matter as it is in America to make a return of a simple item. There is no such rule as “the customer is always right.” There is no allowance made for the defectiveness of an item being grounds for a return. Now I understand—but if some seasoned missionary had tried to tell me as much (which no one ever did, because there are so many of these things, no one could possibly keep track of them all to tell the newcomers), I would have believed it, but I wouldn’t have understood.

When I got back to the hospital, I learned that Malachi and Jackson were getting released. Mallery only had room for one more, so she was going to take Malachi, and Joanne would take Jackson.

In the afternoon, Joanne came with Dony, her interpreter, and they brought Jackson and me back to her house. This left only two children at the hospital, Pranel and Sephora, curiously enough, the same two who had been admitted first. I started making plans for sending Kerlande and Clauciane back to Montrouis, since we wouldn’t need so much staff at the hospital anymore. I thought they could go back Sunday or Monday.

On the way, we stopped at a restaurant, where Dony ordered me a take-out meal of goat over rice, which was delicious and spicy and a very-needed boost to my energy level. Dony also gave me money from Joanne to replace what I had paid the nannies.

Back at the Kimballs, it felt good to take a shower and pour cold water all over my sunburn. I spent the night there.

Read the next post: Cholera Day 8.
Read the story from the beginning: Cholera Day 0

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Progression of Control in Spiritual Abuse

How I Saw Spiritual Abuse Progress

In the experience I had with Heather Elyse, I was lured gently and inevitably down a path of giving up more and more control without ever realizing it, until I was behaving out of fear and uncertainty at every turn. Here is the pattern that it followed.

Earliest Stage: Give up trivial things 

The first stage of being swept into the net of control really didn't look like being controlled at all. In this stage, we were asked to give up things that we really didn't care one way or the other about, or things that were too insignificant to raise your hackles.

  • Photos. I was taking a lot of photos when I first arrived, but Heather immediately instructed me not to post them, telling me that Hague convention prohibits photos of children who are up for adoption. I had no clue that there even was such a thing as the Hague Convention, so I just accepted her word as true. 
  • Adoptive parents. I was told over and over that I was not to have any contact with the adoptive parents. I was not to make any attempt to get to know them, and I was to refuse to approve any of their friend requests on facebook. However, these people were all strangers that I didn't have a burning desire to get to know, so it didn't seem like a big deal. I also didn't have any context or background for what was involved in an adoption, so I didn't have a framework for what a "normal" adoption should look like. (The effort to obey this command, however, did prove to be detrimental, as I could never keep the adoptive parents straight or figure out who went with which children. Instead, "adoptive parents" morphed in my mind into a somewhat faceless collective group rather than individual people.)
  • Wesmin. At the beginning of my time in Haiti, I was explicitly told not to talk to Wesmin, not to get to know him, not to have any contact with him, and to avoid him. However, this was easy to do, because my daily routine didn't throw me into Wesmin's way very much. 

Hypocrisy on the rules about these same trivial things 

  • Photos. Heather retained the authority to make an "exception" for which photos could be posted, so one day I was allowed to post a picture of all my schoolchildren on my blog. At the time, I failed to notice the point that if it was ok to do it one one occasion, it was not true that it was really forbidden. Or if it was really forbidden, it was not ok to do it even once. Heather therefore subtly established herself as being "above the rules" in that department. 
  • Photos were also wielded as a control mechanism towards adoptive parents. Take photos only of the children when they're dressed in gorgeous clothes and hairbows. Don't take pictures of children with skin sores or snotty noses. Don't post photos. Don't allow adoptive parents to have any access to photos. Don't share photos with anyone. Share a regular photo update of the children, but withhold the photos of any kids who belong to parents who aren't "waiting well." (And because I had no contact with adoptive parents, I had no context or basis for how to evaluate what "waiting well" even meant, and had to take it at face value, too.)

Villainizing innocent parties

  • Creche staff - Even before I got to Haiti, Heather was bashing her Haitian staff to us. "The Haitian nannies don't nurture the children. They leave everything a mess. They have no clue how to make kids thrive the way Americans do. etc. etc. etc." 
  • Wesmin - Heather stated to us single ladies that Wesmin was not to be trusted, that he had a dirty mind, that he was not a godly man, that he was into pornography, and that we should stay as far away as possible from him. She created fear and distrust by her words without us ever getting to know Wesmin for his own sake. I still don't know the truth about Wesmin, but I suspect that he is one of the people that we ought to feel sorry for the most. Looking back, I wonder if Heather manipulated and used him more than almost anyone else.
  • Adoptive parents - Adoptive parents were constantly being labeled as "crazy," "making trouble," or "creating drama," and there was a seeming attempt to create a great deal of animosity and distrust against them. 
  • Birth parents - Every month on the 15th, the birth parents would come to visit their children. People would fill the creche yard, sitting with their children and visiting quietly with them. Perhaps they would bring a popsicle or a bag of chips to share with the child. But instead of being able to see the beauty of it, Heather cast a cloud of annoyance on this visit, considering it a nuisance and claiming that people trashed the place and created a huge waste of time on that day. Birth parents were also being constantly labeled as "crazy," which was one of Heather's favorite terms for anyone who was not currently in her good graces. 
  • IBESR - the Haitian government's child protective services division. IBESR was also "crazy" and was mentioned with an eye roll or a bad attitude.
  • The Haitian government - The government of Haiti was also met with contempt and disrespect, and while I know there are valid charges of corruption towards Haiti's government, there was seemingly no respect even for procedures that were relatively standardized and efficient.
  • Haitians in general - Haitians in general were villainized as being lazy, good for nothing, drug addicts, and voodoo worshipers. Again, there are some bad people in Haiti, but the population as a whole was given an unduly broad-brush negative stereotype.
  • Other adoption agencies and orphanages. Right next door to our creche, there was another orphanage run by a Christian woman, and yet we were told that she was "crazy" and that we shouldn't go over there or get to know her. The same held true for another organization that was just around the corner from our creche. Therefore, we were isolated right off the bat from other helpful Americans who could have served as an early warning signal for some of the things that they could tell weren't right. 
  • Local churches - When we arrived in Haiti, we were specifically instructed not to attend any of the local churches. We were told they were bad, off-base, and full of needless drama. I didn't get to attend a Haitian church until March 17, but when I did, I found it to be delightful. 

Middle Stage: Shutting Down Information Sharing

Then it moved to information.

  • "Don't share that." 
  • "They weren't supposed to know that."
  • "You weren't supposed to say that." 
  • "You aren't allowed to share that."

To this day, I'm not "allowed" to be sharing what I'm sharing about the whole experience, but I have chosen to boldly disregard that order and thus throw off the remaining traces of authority that I was still granting Heather over me by me keeping silent.

When I was in the middle of the experience, I remember being disoriented and bewildered by the amount of information that was "not allowed to be shared." It was so unpredictable and so extensive, and "classified information" was often in so many innocent, innocuous categories. I was left thinking, "HOW could anyone ever predict that they weren't allowed to say that???" But the effect of long-term, repeated run-ins with getting in trouble for saying something "wrong" was that everyone quickly concluded that no one was ever allowed to share anything with anybody. And so communication quickly shut down.

Fear of invoking Heather's displeasure over telling something that wasn't supposed to be shared grew to such an extent that in July of 2013, two other girls and I were living in the US in the same house, and Heather was in Haiti, and yet we were all mutually afraid to tell each other if one of us had received an email from Heather, lest the other two were "not supposed to know about it." How she wielded this much fear from another country, over adult women, is still mind boggling to me.

Looking back on it now, though, it makes total sense that everything had to be kept a secret. There were so many lies flying around that Heather could only continue to operate by keeping people in the dark about what was going on. If people could communicate freely with each other, they would have a chance to see the lie, and she would be found out.

The genius of Heather's operation, though, was that she so carefully crafted each lie that she was the last person that any of us suspected to be the instigator of it all. Like a master ventriloquist, she successfully projected the blame onto other parties and hid behind such a believable facade of innocence that the outrage never landed on her. In situation A, she contrived to have the Haitian nannies be the enemy. In situation B, it was Jasmine who "ought to be fired." In situation C, it was Wesmin who was to be feared and distrusted. In situation D, it was the adoptive parents. In situation E, it was the Haitian government. And on and on it went. Dancing a dance like this must have been thrilling and terrifying all at the same time for Heather as she gambled to see how far she could push the envelope and still get away with it.

I will just take a moment to say to anyone reading this: If you ever find yourself in any organization where everyone is operating under a culture of fear, secrecy, and withholding of information, GET OUT. You are unequivocally in a dangerous environment of spiritual abuse. It will be costly to get out. It will take courage. You will have so many swirling clouds of conflicting information, you might not know which way is up. If this is the case for you, please get in touch with me so we can talk. But GET OUT without delay.

Late Stage: Abuse and control are essentially complete

  • The leader begins to demand unquestioning loyalty, and threatens (or performs) outright rejection of anyone whose loyalty is suspect
  • The abuser begins to aggressively expand their jurisdiction, claiming new areas where they have a "right" to give orders and be obeyed. They often do this by simply expanding the scope and dimension of the orders they are giving, and when they see obedience, they accept this tacit agreement that they have authority in that area, and there is no going back. 
  • The leader begins to give illogical orders, but they are accepted without question. For example: "No visitors are authorized to visit the creche any more." "The creche in Pierre Payen is a secret creche. Don't tell anyone of its existence under any circumstances." 
  • The followers begin to have to perform extreme mental gyrations in order to justify to themselves that there is a valid explanation for what is going on. For instance, during that time, I consoled myself by saying, "Well, the enemy even accuses God of lying, so if accusations of Heather lying are flying around, it's only consistent with the pattern of the enemy."
  • When the leader senses an impending departure of the followers due to how crazy things are getting, the leader uses blackmail as leverage to keep the followers in line. In the case of Heather, she used adoptive children as blackmail over the adoptive parents who loved them, threatening to cancel the adoption, taking away the children, hiding the children, or otherwise manipulating people through what she would do (or did do) with their children. 


I just reread the article by Tara Livesay on their side of the perspective on what happened when they came into the creche with the Cox's. I was taken aback by the vision of myself as a fearful, unsure person who was under the sway of so much control. Yet when I was in the midst of the situation, I didn't know I was exhibiting fear. I remember how I felt that day that I saw the Livesays at Club Indigo, and I would have rejected a "fear" label as preposterous. Me, afraid? I would have scoffed at the idea. I remember the next time I saw the Livesays when they came in to the creche with the Cox's to look for their son. Again, I remember how I felt, and I would have never though of myself as fearful. Nay, I was bold and nonchalant to walk out of the house and go over and stand by Tara and talk to her. "Me, afraid? Never."

How strange! How can a person feel unafraid while at the same time manifesting fear? If I wasn't the person who lived through it, I would say it wasn't possible. But looking back, it's clear to me that I was exhibiting fear that day, I was under the sway of undue control, and whether I felt it or not, I was.

I make this point to emphasize the fact that people who have gotten sucked into spiritual abuse without realizing it are very often blind to the fact. They can't see the obvious. I couldn't. In February and March of 2013, I was still passionately defending Heather. It would be many months before my eyes would be opened, and that only after seeing a mountain of damning evidence. Being in a situation of spiritual abuse feels confusing and chaotic. You are under the influence of a master manipulator, a spin-doctor who can easily and deftly come up with the most compelling reasons in the world why black is white and white is black. As counter intuitive as it seems, it feels impossible that the detractors have any logic, so you dismiss their side of the story.

If someone you love has gotten caught in the vortex of spiritual abuse, don't be surprised if they can't see the truth. You will be frustrated with them for not being able to see the obvious, but don't let that frustration build a rift between you. When your loved one finally does emerge, they will need their "before-abuse" relationships to be intact and a safe place to recover.


There's so much more. Tracing the progression of control in spiritual abuse is tracing only one layer of a multifaceted experience that didn't come with labels attached to cut-and-dried categories. You live life in a story, but you retell it after the fact piece by piece in categories. There are other layers yet to peel back. Stay tuned. 

Cholera Day 6: 10 babies and 11 days In Port Au Prince

Day 6: Friday, January 25, 2013

In the morning, the babies were happier than I had seen them in a long time. They had toys! They were released from the four walls of their cribs! They all looked bright and healthy, and I knew they would be getting the best possible care. Mallery said they could accept up to two more children, and I instantly resolved that the next two to be released would go to her rather than back to Doug and Joanne’s, because I was highly impressed, and quite favorably so, with their setup.

We had a delicious pancake breakfast, Gail gave me a bag loaded with snacks, which was a treat and a blessing, and then Mallery's driver took me back the hospital. On the way, we stopped at a grocery store, hoping to find an ATM there, but they didn’t have one. Still, I was able to use my debit card to make a purchase, so I bought a package of bread rolls, a tub of peanut butter, and a package of plastic spoons to spread it. This ended up being a welcome source of food at the hospital, where food had been scarce for me.

Later I wrote in an email to my close missionary friend in Montrouis,
"After the worst episode of overwhelming circumstances that left me frustrated and crying, I prayed, and God showed me that I was "seeing the winds and waves boisterous" and sinking in the waves instead of walking on the water. He brought me back to fix my eyes on Jesus and grab ahold of Him in faith, and since then I have been at peace. The next day in my Bible reading, I read the account of how he stilled the storm. I thought about my "storm" and realized that I didn't need to lament, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" but instead, I realized that He could speak the word at any point and simply still the storm. 
That happened with the departure of the kids to Mallery's place. It was like suddenly the whole crisis was suddenly tamed, the emergency was over, and everything was right-side-up again. They have such a great setup, where the kids will be healthy, well fed, and cared for with amazing competency."

Once I got back to the hospital, I found that one more of the children was going to be released, so I contacted Mallery and she said she would send her driver to pick her up.

We determined that I would go with her to spend the night, so for the second night in a row, I stayed at Mallery’s. I mentioned earlier that I just so “happened” to have two changes of clothes with me in my bag. Now I found that I needed the second one, too. God had foreseen my every step, and had provided for me to have everything needful in order to walk in the path before me.

Read the next post: Cholera Day 7.
Start over at the beginning: Cholera Day 0

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cholera Day 5: 10 babies and 11 days In Port Au Prince

Day 5: Thursday, January 24, 2013

(Note: From here, the tone of my journal changes somewhat, because it was written down three weeks after the fact instead of right at the time.) 

I got up in the morning and went back to the hospital. Kerlande and Clauciane went home. I worked with Annita and Roselord and Manette.

During the course of the day, the hospital told us that they were releasing four of the babies: Hope, David, Nadiya, and Ugnel. I texted Joanne and told her, and I asked the hospital if it was okay if we waited until the car got here to pick us up. They said it would be fine, and we waited. I planned to go home with the babies and stay the night at Joanne’s, with Kerlande and Clauciane coming back to cover the night shift.

One thing that we instituted for the first time that day was a sheet of paper recording every little thing about each of the babies. We wrote down the time and amount of every feeding, diaper change, bowel movement, or throw up. After the breathless state of emergency we had continually been in for the past several days, it felt good to finally get on top of things and have a bit of a system and organize our care a bit. Twice a day, the nurses would ask us for each child, “How many times did they have diarrhea? Did they pee? Did they vomit?” and we had so many people changing diapers, and so many children altogether, that it was impossible to remember or accurately count up the number of times. This information was vital for the doctors and nurses to know so that they could make appropriate decisions about the babies’ care, so getting it down on paper with an accurate count was a very important and useful step.

All day, we waited for the car to come to take the released babies home, and the hospital was very patient with us for delaying so long. Many, many people were in the waiting room, and the hospital desperately needed these cribs to open up for other children.

Joanne’s husband Doug finally came at around 9:00 pm. I was so ready to go home and get a night’s worth of sleep. The nurses had a shift change at 7:00, so the people who had told me about the babies who were released were no longer at the hospital. The nurse on duty came up and rattled off five names, not four. Hope, David, Nadiya, Ugnel, and Pranel.

I looked at her with surprise. “Pranel?” I said. “But he vomited a ton today.” I indicated the sheet of paper, where no one had as many instances of vomit (or anything) as he did. The nurse squinted at the paper suspiciously and grudgingly admitted that he had. “Okay, we’ll keep him for observation,” she announced. “The rest can go.” I was utterly grateful for the fact that we had written everything down today. If not, we might have been expected to take home a still-very-sick baby. It was surprising that Pranel should still be this bad, since he had been here the longest, but nevertheless, such were the facts.

Doug asked me if the babies who were being released were free of cholera, and I honestly answered that I didn’t know. He asked the nurse if these four children had tested negative for cholera. (All the children tested positive upon admittance to the hospital.)

It just so happened that this particular nurse, who had a heart of gold when caring for the children, came across as very gruff and defensive when dealing with people. So when Doug asked her about the children’s symptoms, she lashed out with a tirade to the effect that, “If the doctor said these children were fit to be released, then they are fit to be released. You will not come in here and alter the hospital’s policies. The children are going home because we say so.”

Doug shot back, “But have they been tested?”

The answer was no.

Doug shook his head. “I’m just asking that they be tested. I want a negative test result before I can bring them into my house. I have fourteen other children to think about. I can’t have children coming into my house who are still contagious for cholera. I’m responsible for all of them, not just these.”

The nurse adamantly repeated her statements about the children's fitness for release.

Doug adamantly repeated his insistence that the children be tested.

The nurse adhered to the hospital’s policies and the doctor’s word and walked away.

Doug went over to me and softly said into my ear, “In a few minutes, I am going to walk out the door and go home. Do you want to get to sleep tonight? You can go with me if you want to. I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to go or stay, but if you want to go home and get some rest, I’m going home now.” He walked away to give me some time to ponder the decision.

What a blow! I was tired, and there was no doubt that I wanted to sleep that night. Of course I did. But far stronger was the absolute certainty that it would be the height of irresponsibility for me to walk out the door with Doug and abandon these babies, forcing the hospital to deal with their presence. I walked to the corner of the room and lifted my eyes to the Lord.

“Lord, what do you say that I do?” I asked.

“Stay,” He replied.

So I told Doug I was staying. “Okay,” he said with a shrug and a helpless tone of voice. “If you don’t want to get a good night’s sleep, that’s up to you.”

I looked at him and said perfectly calmly, “It’s not that I don’t want to sleep tonight. I do. I just think I should stay. I perfectly respect your decision, and I don’t accuse you in any way.” What I did not say was, “For you and me to both leave would be scandalous and highly offensive to the staff at this hospital. We were turned away from three hospitals before they took us into this one. I’m saving your skin if any of the children at your house DO come down with cholera, so they don’t turn you out at the door at the sight of your face.”

Doug walked out of the hospital and went home, oblivious to the affront he was causing, not just to me, but to the hospital staff and to all the waiting parents who needed a crib to lie their child in for the night. His request that they be tested, though reasonable enough on the surface, could not be complied with. According to information I later received from an American nurse, cholera remains contagious for seven days after the last appearance of symptoms, so they would have still tested positive, but after a person is symptom-free for 24 hours, they are technically “over” the cholera and the hospital releases them because they can now eat and drink normally again, with normal defecation and urination.

When Doug had left, I went over to the nurse who had so forcefully argued with him. “Madam,” I said. She looked up in surprise, hard lines of contention still visible on her face. “I don’t know what to do,” I went on in Creole. “I agree with you that these babies should be released. However, that man has absolutely refused to let the children into his house. I don’t know where else to go or what to do with them.” Her face softened. She understood my plight. I knew no one in Port. It was already 9:30 at night. Who would take them, even if I did have contacts?

I walked back to the corner of the room and lifted my eyes to the Lord again.

“Lord,” I said, “what do I do now?”

“Make a phone call,” he said.

I wanted to call Heather and spill out a story of indignation in her ear, but she was in the US. I called Ryan F instead. His wife picked up the phone. “Oh, how are you?” she asked.

“I’ve been better,” I said with a sigh. Then I quickly added, “The babies and I are fine, there’s no new danger,” sensing that my words could be interpreted all sorts of ways. Then I briefly summed up the story to her. She briefly summed up the story to her husband and handed him the phone.

“Okay, give me a second,” he said. “I have an idea for a plan. Let me make a phone call and get back to you.”

Intrigued, I said goodbye and hung up the phone. An idea for a plan? This was unexpected news.

He called back and said that there was a woman named Mallery who was coming to pick up the babies. She was someone who had been contacted about taking in some of the evacuated babies, but it had never actually been confirmed. Nevertheless, she had been working all that day to make preparations to take in five of our kids. She had staff, a nurse, and a location to take care of the kids. They were on their way and would be at the hospital in a few minutes. Ryan had given her my phone number and said that she would be calling me shortly.

Mallery called after I hung up the phone, and her husband, Frentz, a Haitian, spoke with the nurse to find out precise directions to the hospital. They arrived in a white van and I met them outside and led them in to meet the babies. We collected the four who were being released. The nurse still had her hackles up and refused to speak anything but French with Mallery and her friend, Gail, who was also a nurse. Gail had a few questions about the medication the children had received, and Mallery, who spoke perfect Creole (being married to a Haitian) was trying to translate for her, but the nurse wasn’t making things any easier.

However, just before we left, the nurse snuck up to me with a genuine relief and kindness in her eyes, laid her hand on my arm, and said, “Miss Rebekah, thank you.” I knew that there was more meaning behind those simple words than behind many a flowery phrase spoken by more flattering lips. I comprehended how much gossip would have flown, how much complaining about these arrogant, unfeeling white people, who thought they ruled the world and wouldn’t remove the children from the hospital, etc. etc. etc., that was now stopped, prevented from ever happening in the first place.

For my part, I was just in a daze of admiration at God. The exit that He provided when all possible options seemed closed up was so perfect, I felt like He was simply showing off for my delight and amazement, doing His work with a flourish.

I accompanied the little party of believers in their van and we drove to their house. On the way, I heard stories of how God had provided for the founding of their ministry, stories of God’s unmistakable faithfulness and guidance, that made my heart soar with the glory of His ways. We got to their property, and they had a separate house all set up just for these babies. They had literally been expecting to get them this very day, which was a surprise to me, since Ryan had said that no one on our end had ever been explicitly clear that any of the kids were coming at all. But it was God’s preparation for snatching us out of the difficulty that we were in. The little house had electricity, its own bathroom, and cribs and pack-n-plays set up to accommodate the children.

God had even overseen little details, like the fact that I unexpectedly “happened” to have two changes of clothes in my bag. I was able to spend the night and take a shower and have a fresh outfit to put on in the morning to get back to the hospital. There was even a cot set up for me to sleep on. I slept soundly and peacefully in a place that seemed like heaven on earth.

Read the next post: Cholera Day 6.
Start over at the beginning: Cholera Day 0

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cholera Day 4: 10 babies and 11 days In Port Au Prince

Day 4: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I got up about 6:00 in the morning and started feeding babies and changing diapers, longing for the moment when Joanne would come to relieve me and I could go home and sleep.

Annita went out to wash the dishes, and when she tried to come back in, the hospital security wouldn’t let her bring the bowls back in that we were using to feed cereal to the older babies. “No one else is allowed to feed their children inside here,” they said, “and they’re complaining to us that you are breaking the rules.”

Rules? Who would have thought? We weren’t allowed to feed our children inside the hospital? But sure enough, all the other families had their tiny little children outside in a little waiting area (the same place where I had had to put my backpack on a shelf the first day), feeding them their breakfast. You would see a parent holding a child in one hand and an IV bag in the other hand as they went to the outdoor tent where a few chairs and benches were set up. When I tried to go out a little later and bring the bowls in, with a box of rice cereal in my hand to show that we weren’t feeding anything messy, the guards stopped me, too. So we had to bring the kids outside and feed them.

Annita stopped me just after I was turned around at the door by the guard. She looked me in the eyes and put her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t be upset,” she said, her voice calm, commanding, and peaceful. “It’s not man. It’s not coming from man. It’s from the hand of God. Don’t fight against man.” Her words were so true, and instantly gave me peace.

Funny story—when I mixed up the rice cereal for the first two kids, one of the ladies sitting nearby asked me, “Is that ice?” “No, it’s rice,” I replied. It did look sort of like crushed ice, though. (It’s almost funnier in English than in Creole, which is the language the exchange took place in, because the words don’t rhyme or sound anything alike in Creole. Ice is glase, and rice is riz.)

At 8:00, I had Jackson outside in the feeding area and I just had the feeling I should call Joanne to see where she was. I was desperate to get home. I was depending on her arrival, because I felt like I was sinking, drowning in exhaustion. “Oh, I’m at Wahoo Bay,” she said. “I’m just now leaving. I’ll be there. I’ll be there. I’ll tell you the story when I get there.”

My heart sank.

Wahoo Bay? I knew she had driven Ryan back to Club Indigo, arriving there about 11:00 pm, so she must have stopped for the night on her way back.

Now I was angry. Wahoo Bay is a luxury resort. So not only was she 2 hours away, she had spent a lovely night in a nice resort while I was slaving away with the babies, losing my sleep at the hospital. I was as polite as I could be to her and hung up the phone as fast as possible, before I said anything I would regret later.

I could just see yesterday happening all over again. Roselord, who had worked through the night with me, needed to go home and get her sleep, not twiddle her thumbs all day, waiting around for Joanne. Dear, sweet Annita and Loselie had worked all day yesterday, all through the night, and were willing to work all day today, so they were going to be tired by the end of the day and need to be relieved. I was NOT going to stand for another day of “I’ll be there, I’ll be there” and treat these ladies the way Kerland and Clauciane had been treated the day before.

Something snapped in me. I was not going to stand for it. I was not going to wait around all day again. I was not going to depend on Joanne and have her not come through for me again. Until now, I had deferred to her the lead, consulting her for final decisions and allowing her to be the head of the operation. But in that moment, I decided that Heather had committed these babies to my care, and if Joanne was not going to come through for me, I was going to make sure that I didn’t fall through on them. I was going to rise up and make things happen instead of just letting them happen to me.

I strode resolutely back inside the hospital, fighting back tears. My posture of “woman on a mission” must have been obvious, because a couple of the staff who saw me laughed as I went by. I heard them and turned around to see if they really were laughing at me for the way I was walking. They were. Just for effect, I made a dramatic expression of the way I felt, pressing my lips together and balling up my fists and shaking my head. They started asking me what was wrong, and I replied that I had no words to express what was going on, and I had better go away and pray before I talked to anyone. I first went in and asked Roselord to finish feeding Jackson, who was left on the bench outside with his bowl of cereal next to him. Then I fled, went around to the back of the hospital, sat down on a cinder block, and bawled.

But a nurse named Nirva followed me out there, and she coaxed the story out of me. Then she addressed me with an authoritarian, commanding tone of voice that was not at all unkind. It was strong, like a rope to pull a drowning person back up onto solid ground, and forceful, like someone who had been there before. She said to me, essentially, “Stop crying. Crying makes you weak. It gives Satan opportunity. It causes you to focus on your problems. You need to pray. Look to God and ask Him to give you strength.”

Take it from a Haitian woman, I thought. Who else has faced more adversity and unpleasant situations? She knows. I’m only just now getting a taste of challenge, after having nothing bad ever happen to me all my life.

She continued to repeat what she was saying (as it was in Creole and I wasn't getting the whole thing the first time around), until she succeeded in making it clear. She got me back on the feet of my faith and told me the truth. "I want you to stand up and pray now, out loud. Cry out to God about it."

The truth has a forcefulness about it. I realized that I was “seeing the wind and waves boisterous” and therefore I was sinking. So I took her advice, looked to God, and asked him to give me strength. I prayed out loud until I knew that I was stably back on the grounds of faith, and I was able to pray out of my position In Christ and claim His strength and victory in this situation. I realized that it was far more important for me to learn to draw strength and grace from him than for this situation to go away or for me to get sleep.

After I prayed, I had peace. I took a deep breath, walked into the hospital, and started making arrangements for the nannies to eat and for Roselord to get home.

Joanne called me back and asked if I was mad at her. “Yes!” I admitted. She explained that she was experiencing such bad diarrhea all day yesterday that she simply hadn’t been able to make it back to Port last night. Uh oh, I thought. I told her that I forgave her and apologized for getting mad at her. I saw that the enemy wanted nothing better than for us to get at each other’s throats, and I would have no part of that. She said that Dony (her interpreter) was coming and would be there at 9:00 to pick us up. I told Roselord and she was willing to wait until then to go home.

Dony arrived at about 9:15 and gave Roselord the money she needed to take a tap-tap home. He probably brought supplies, too. I don’t remember. We were constantly running out of diapers, wipes, and formula, and needing more.

Joanne arrived about 10:00 and she was very kind, very subdued, and I was very understanding and very calm. I can’t remember now how the day went, but I know I left Annita and Loselie alone. I must have gone to Joanne’s house, where I rested and took a shower. We were supposed to bring Kerlande and Clauciane, the two nannies from Montrouis, to the hospital by 7:00 for the shift change, but we didn’t get there until about 7:40. I walked in to the hospital and Annita and Loselie were sitting in chairs, looking exhausted. Annita gave me a stern look. “I can’t get home now,” she said. “I missed the last vehicle that’s running. You have to be on time.” I apologized profusely and made arrangements for Joanne’s driver to take her home. I went with them and then went back home to Joanne’s house, where I slept in a house for the first night since I had been in Port.

Read the next post: Cholera Day 5
Start over at the beginning: Cholera Day 0