C-N Volleyball's Angelle Hayes Reflects on her Spring Break Mission Trip to Haiti
"Sir, I'm so sorry, but I can't do anything to fix your eyes, you are blind. I can't even understand what you are going through, and I'm so sorry that I can't heal you." Junior, volleyball player, Angelle Hayes shares her experiences in Haiti on a medical mission's trip with the Carson-Newman nursing department. Hayes suffered a concussion much of her junior volleyball season limiting her playing time for the Eagles, little did she know, while sidelined, God was preparing her heart for His work. "Angelle is our heartbeat on the team. I was heartbroken to go through a season seeing her in street clothes. Reading her experiences in Haiti validate how important a coaches ability to see beyond the wins and losses is. I am so thankful that Angelle experienced such an amazing trip and that Carson-Newman was gracious enough to organize and lead this for our nursing department." says Head Coach Mincey. Angelle takes some time to answer questions about her experiences.
1) Why did you decide to go on this trip?
I had never really planned on going to Haiti for spring break this year. MY plan was to go to Florida with several of my friends, but it wasn't God's plan. One afternoon I went to help Mrs. McBee sort out medications for the trip to Haiti because I had a little extra time. We began talking about the trip and my past experiences in Honduras. She told me that there was one person she was waiting on to receive money for the trip, and if he didn't pay by that afternoon they would need to find someone else to go. At this point, the thought didn't even cross my mind to go. It wasn't until a few hours later that I began to feel called to go. That's all I could think of the rest of the day-God continued to place the thought in my head. I got Mrs. McBee's number from a friend so I could let her know I was interested. I sent her a text (or so I thought I did) saying that if that one guy didn't pay I would love to go. The next day, on the way to clinical, I told Whitney Moody that I was feeling called to go on this trip. She overheard Mrs. Henley talking to Mrs. McBee saying that they needed to find someone to take the last spot on the trip. Whitney jumped right in and told them that I really wanted to go. I got pulled out of my patient's room to confirm that I would take the last spot, and without even giving it a second thought, I said yes! After clinical I went to give Mrs. McBee my deposit for the trip and told her that I was so glad she got my text about me wanting to go. Little did I know, I sent the text to the wrong person, and she never got it. She had NO idea that the thought even crossed my mind on wanting to go, it just so happened that God put people in the right place at the right time. I was stunned to see how God made it work to give me the opportunity to go on this trip. I didn't know one single student that was going on this trip. All I knew was that God wanted me aboard this trip, so I listened to His call.
2) Your anxiety toward the trip
Having already been to Honduras several times for mission work, I somewhat knew what to expect on the poverty aspect of 3rd world countries. I had been told multiple times that Haiti was a lot worse, and much more dangerous than Honduras. This of course made me nervous, but I knew I was going for a reason, so all I could do is trust. Before I left for Haiti, I talked a lot with Megan Wilson (Women's Tennis) because she had just recently been to there. We began talking about the demeanor of the Haitian people and the voodoo curse that the country had on them. Apparently Haiti has had this voodoo curse on them that was to last 250 years. Well, that 250 years was up right around when the earthquake hit Haiti. Many people were so scared to go to Haiti during this time of the curse, because there was some sort of demonic/satanic vibe throughout the country. Around the time of the earthquake was when that 250 years was up, and Megan said that she believes God sent that earthquake to encourage, we as Americans, to help His people. God continues to work in mysterious ways, and all we have to do is follow His call. The people in Haiti need hope, need comfort, and most importantly, need love-and that's what we went there for-to provide that for God's people.
Being only in my second semester of nursing school, I was also nervous about what I was going to be doing on this medical mission. I've been in clinical steadily for about 3-4 months, so I felt like I would be able to do some simple assessments. Little did I know, I would not only be assessing, but trying to diagnose patients based off of their symptoms and the information that I received from them. Going on a mission trip over-seas not knowing anyone, is a little nerve racking; however, these words continued to go through my head the day before we left: "Step into the unknown and feel my presence." I felt God saying this to me to reassure me that I was doing the right thing, and that He would be with me every step of the way.
3) Your enthusiasm toward your groups mission
It was apparent in everyone who went on this trip had a heart for God's people. Everyone was very excited to help the people of Haiti. We all knew that Haiti was a very poverty-stricken country, and we wanted to do whatever we could to help these people. Knowing that we were going to help these people's medical situations was a very exciting feeling to have. I was very eager to show God's love to people through trying to improve their health.
4) What did you all do (how many were in your group)
We arrived to Haiti with 16 people (4 pastors, one coordinator, and 11 nursing-affiliated students/teachers). Our mission for the week was to go to multiple communities, orphanages, and churches to set up clinics for the people to attend if they had an ailment that was concerning them. We would travel anywhere from 1-3 hours to get to these particular destinations. One day we even traveled six hours. Once we arrived to our location, we would scope the area out and find the best place to set up a pharmacy, position where we would do assessments, and a place that the patients would wait to be seen. There were usually four to five of us doing assessments (an RN, Dr. Boyce, two senior nursing students, and me). The other students were in charge of documenting information that we obtained from each patient, taking blood pressures, and getting medications to give the patients. The other adults were manning the crowd, double-checking that information was correct, and figuring out which medications to give which people. Our main goal was to, as accurately as possible; diagnose the people we saw so we could give them the right medications based on their problem. We wanted to do anything to improve their lives.
5) Something you experienced that we as Americans wouldn't even be aware of?
When deciding to go on a mission trip, you have to have a mindset to be patient, and to be extremely flexible, because plans hardly ever go how you expect them to. Our team's original plan was to go to a village about 3-4 hours away, but due to a protest that blocked the streets, we had to turn around and come up with another plan. We were led to a church that had about 40-50 people waiting in the pews for us to arrive. Word spreads fast when people hear Americans are in their town handing out free medicine, so the numbers continued to increase. We set up in our stations, and began assessing and diagnosing those that came to us. Throughout this day, I saw a teenage girl with a tooth abscess where her upper gums were protruding out of her mouth due to an infection after having a tooth pulled. However, this wasn't the worst thing I saw. I had finished up seeing a patient, so I called the next one over that was waiting in line. I looked out of the corner of my eye, and a woman was carrying her son in her arms. She proceeded to sit down in front of me and told me that her son hasn't been able to walk or talk since he was born. This boy was about six years old, and was completely limp from head to toe. I sent them over to see someone with more experience than me, and we came to the conclusion that the boy had cerebral palsy. Our leader went over to talk to the mother and explain to her what her son had was a disability. The mother then began to tell her that people in the community have been telling her that her son was possessed by a demon and that's why he can't walk or talk. The mother had been sending her little boy to a voodoo priest to attempt to cast out this "demon." The voodoo priest had been casting spells on him trying to heal the boy. We calmed the mother down, and went into further explanation as to why her child REALLY can't walk, and that it is because of a disability that he was born with, NOT a demon. We then told her that her son would most likely be disabled for the rest of his life. She burst into uncontrollable tears and said, "But this is my only son." We hugged, loved, and prayed on the mother and her son, and gave them information about a disability clinic that the leader in our group was planning on starting. We strongly encouraged her to never take her son back to that voodoo priest, because her son does not have a demon inside of him. She shook her head saying, "yes, okay. I understand." Our leader took the little boy into her arms and he instantly began to smile. God is in each and every one of these people, and it's amazing to see his light shining through them. I had never seen someone be that consumed by voodoo, or nevertheless, I've never really heard of voodoo because I'm so sheltered living in America. There are believers out there that believe whole-heartedly that the devil is inside of them controlling their every move. I could never really understand this until I saw it for my own. Satan is out there, but God is bigger and better. I saw so many real life examples of this, and this little boy with cerebral palsy was just one of them.
6) A moment you will never forget
The last day we were in Haiti we set up a clinic in a church that used to be a voodoo temple just a short three years ago. From stories I heard, really terrible things happened where we were. Like normal, we saw several people with multiple different problems. Towards the end of the day, a 72-year-old man sat down in front of me with a chief complaint of eye problems. I saw several people throughout the week that had vision problems to where they would need glasses, so I figured this was a similar situation. I began to ask him more in depth questions about his problem, and I found out that he was completely blind. I slumped in my chair and thought to myself "I cannot do anything to even somewhat heal this main of his ailment." It was one of the worst feelings to have because he came to us hoping we could do something to help his problem. I began to search for another problem that he might have. I asked if he had any aches and pains anywhere, and he said "Yes, all over my body-my back, my knees, my hands, and my feet. Everything always hurts." I wasn't necessarily happy that this main had aches and pains, but I was happy that I could do something to help him in one way or another. I went over to our pharmacy table and grabbed a package of Tylenol Arthritis. I brought it to this man and said, "Sir, I'm so sorry, but I can't do anything to fix your eyes. I can't even understand what you are going through, and I'm so sorry that I can't heal you. But, I do have these pills that will help with the pain that you are having throughout your body." I then went on to explain how to take the pills and to stay as hydrated as he could. As soon as I finished explaining everything to him he said, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you SO much! God bless you." I've never seen someone so happy and thankful in my life after they got told their sickness couldn't be healed. This man was so appreciative for what he GOT instead of what he DIDN'T get. He wasn't focused on how I couldn't fix his vision; instead, he was grateful that I could help with some simple pains that he was experiencing. It just goes to show you that people who have so little, have hearts that are so big and that are filled with such hope and joy.
7) A relationship you made
Going into this trip I hardly knew anyone. I went into it with open arms and an open heart. It was tough going on a trip not knowing anyone, especially one that is overseas. Throughout the week, we all became more and more comfortable around each other. I feel like I became closest with a senior nursing student named Mackenzie. After we were finishing up a clinic one night we saw a couple kids that were sitting on a bench by themselves that were looking somewhat down. Once we noticed this, we both walked over to them and attempted to talk to them. Well, that didn't work because we couldn't understand each other! So, I asked a little boy named Mardoche if he would dance with me. I stuck out my hand and he just smiled and sat there for a few seconds, then put his hand in mine. With no music, we just went with it, making our own little rhythm as we attempted to swing dance. I know I had a blast, and it sure seemed like he did too! It was about time to leave, so I gave him a hug goodbye. He followed me all the way to the bus with a continuous smile and a wave goodbye. The next day we came back to the same place so I saw him and his whole family! I assessed his older sister and met his father and younger brother, then went on to take a picture of their family. People in Haiti don't have mirrors, so taking a picture of them then turning the camera around for them to see their faces is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Watching their reactions is priceless. Once again it was time for us to leave, so I said my goodbyes and hopped on the bus. Mardoche's dad came up to the window that I was sitting at on the bus and handed me a piece of paper and said, "We love you. We love you so much. Thank you." The slip of paper had Mardoche's name on it, his phone number, and address. It amazes me that one simple decision to ask a little boy to dance with me, could lead to not only a relationship with one person, but a relationship with an entire family.
8) How did God touch you during this trip?
This question is so hard to answer, because I was touched by so many moments in the short week that I was in Haiti. I think I was most touched by the grateful and thankfulness of people of Haiti. There were numerous times that people would come to us with problems that we couldn't fix, and this was heart breaking. I wanted to fix everyone, and I wanted everyone to be happy. In those moments that we couldn't do much to help some of the people, we would give them vitamins to help their overall health. A simple pack of vitamins resulted in massive smiles. These people were so grateful for anything that we gave them, even if it wasn't going to cure their main problem that they approached us with. Back in the States, if we went to a doctor for a problem we were having, and found out he couldn't fix us, we would go ballistic and start throwing a fit. The Haitians cherish everything that they have, and don't take anything for granted. It makes me feel so bad, because people there have NOTHING and are happy, but yet we have EVERYTHING, but still complain all the time about what we don't have.
9) How can you use this experience to make you a better nurse?
Going on this trip not knowing anyone allowed me to have time with just God and me. In previous mission trips I've known several people going and I always want to make sure that they are having a good experience. By doing this, I'm more focused on other people rather than myself. Although that's a good quality to have, I need more time with God, and this trip provided it. I've been going through some tough times lately, and I just continued to get reassurance that God has everything under control. I can't control certain situations that I am in, but instead, all I have to do is trust that the big guy up top has everything figured out. There's no need to worry, no need to freak out about the future. I need to take one step at a time in order to see what God has in store for me. I need to trust that I am the clay, and God is the potter. He is molding me into the woman that he wants me to become. My main focus needs to be on God, and not on other worldly things that veer me away from him. God is my main man, and He needs to by my priority.
This experience has provided me with such great opportunities to practice my nursing skills that I've learned so far. I probably assessed around 150 people while in Haiti, which provided me to learn more than I could ever imagine in one week. It allowed me to become so much more comfortable with assessing people and trying to figure out what the underlying cause of their symptoms was. Nursing isn't just a job, it's a ministry. I'll be helping people when they are in their lowest of lows. Nobody looks forward to being hurt or sick. When people are in the slumps and not feeling well is the best opportunity to let God shine through me, as I give those people hope and encouragement. I have the opportunity to share God's love every day in my future occupation; I just pray that I can do it in the right way. I pray for wisdom and guidance that God will lead me to the right things to say and the right things to do in situations that He puts me in. I pray for these things for my relationship with my boyfriend, for my friendships, for my family, and for people that will enter my life that I don't even know right now. I still have so much to learn about nursing, but this trip has got me one step closer to becoming a better nurse because of the opportunities that God provided me. We saw a total of 745 people throughout the week, and I look forward to taking what I learned in Haiti to the hospitals in Tennessee. I'm so blessed that God opened the door for me to go on this trip.