By Blake Tommey
Délivrence Gédé toils from sunrise to sunset at her home in the rural mountain community of Magandou, Haiti. Each day, she sweeps her house, washes dishes, tends to her animals and then returns to work in the garden. She also washes clothes, irons them and ties up any loose ends. When she finally finishes her bath and evening prayers, bedtime should come as the ultimate, restful reward. Except that was not the case.
“I would lie down and it was like a dead body lying down,” Délivrence said.
Délivrence was enduring the agonizing effects of extreme high blood pressure, though she did not know it then. Persistent headaches, dizziness and chest pain eventually sent her to the nearest hospital—25 miles away in Léogâne. But doctors failed to discover her condition. Despite many more complex and dangerous trips down the mountain to seek care, Délivrence still found no diagnosis and no relief from her pain.
That’s when she met Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Jenny Jenkins, who had begun making periodic trips up the mountain to provide blood pressure clinics and other medical care for rural communities like Magandou. Since 2010, Jenkins has been partnering to renew God’s world in Grand Goâve, Haiti, through medical, educational and reconstruction initiatives in surrounding communities. With support from the CBF Offering for Global Missions, Jenkins is being Christ’s presence with local families, schools and churches to rebuild homes, train educators and address a preventable health crisis.
After a few minutes with Délivrence, Jenkins, a former oncology nurse, found the culprit—severe hypertension. Since Délivrence was already fortunate to have avoided a heart attack or stroke, Jenkins arranged for her to receive steady blood pressure medication as well as periodic screenings when the health team visited Magandou. Soon after, according to Délivrence, her health problems began to improve drastically and she became a new woman.
“Nurse Jenny and the clinic have transformed this community,” Délivrence said.
“It supports the community. It helps the community. Because of her, we do not run all over the country anymore. Everyone—kids, babies and adults—come with all kinds of sickness. Nurse Jenny represents a member of the community of Magandou. God sent her to take care of my life. Anytime I am in prayer, I ask God to increase her life and everyone that he sent up to Magandou, to save this community’s life.”
Injustice in Haiti, Jenkins emphasized, is such that health crises like that of Délivrence are embedded in the country’s history, economics and infrastructure. Because the population is descended from African slaves brought over by the French, many endure what many medical experts believe to be a likely genetic predisposition to hypertension and diabetes. Those conditions escalate with high-carbohydrate diets and little access to green vegetables, not to mention irregular or no health care. Furthermore, most Haitians, especially those living in rural communities, simply don’t have the means or ability to negotiate miles of rough terrain to reach the nearest hospital or clinic. In the end, many die from utterly curable diseases, Jenkins said.
In response to this systemic health crisis, Jenkins now conducts free monthly health clinics, blood pressure screenings and diet-management seminars in the communities surrounding Grand Goâve. Délivrence not only attends each screening and seminar, but has become the health clinic’s fiercest advocate among her neighbors in need of health care and education. As with Délivrence, Jenkins added, direct treatment is often the immediate objective; but ultimately CBF’s health initiative in Haiti is about empowering people with knowledge of how to care for their health every day.
“The most valuable thing we can give people is knowledge,” Jenkins said.
“Haiti has a beautiful, resilient people and they have done some amazing things in this country. We have the opportunity to come alongside and say, ‘You don’t need me to fix this, but maybe I can give you a little bit of information that you can take to change your country and your world.’ That is why we believe education has become so important, in teaching and sharing knowledge, so that they continue to grow and change, and make Haiti what it needs to be.”
Though her husband is no longer living, Délivrence relishes the love and company of her nine children when they visit from Port-au-Prince. As she continues to monitor her own health and mobilize her neighbors to do likewise, Délivrence says she is forever grateful for the chance to reclaim her life and serve the God who sustains her still.
Watch a video story about Délivrence and Jenny Jenkins’ ministry below:
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This article appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of fellowship! magazine, the quarterly publication of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Read online here and subscribe for free to fellowship! and CBF’s weekly e-newsletter fellowship! weekly at www.cbf.net/subscribe.