Reprinted with permission from Elevation Church 2010 Annual Report
Flying into Port au Prince, Haiti, we expected the mountains of rubble. We knew a million people were still living in tent cities one year after the earthquake. But on the jolting bus ride through overcrowded streets, we were stunned by the mounds of rotting trash, the extreme poverty, and mile after mile of filth and chaos. I remember Dr. Kay Hawkins staring out the window and saying what we all were thinking, “Where do you begin?”
George Collins, PA-C knew he couldn’t sit idly by in his Matthews, North Carolina home knowing he had a gift he could use to help the people of Haiti. Just days after the January 2010 earthquake Collins assembled a team of 21 primarily medical personnel to travel into the hub of the disaster to help mend broken bones and shattered lives.
Captivated by a vision God placed in his heart, and moved to action by the teaching of Pastor Steven Furtick, Collins took one audacious step of faith after another to launch Bless Back Worldwide. To date, three Bless Back teams have served more than 600 patients, delivered close to four tons of medical supplies, and saved countless lives.
“George’s passion sparked my interest to get involved,” said Elevation Church worship leader Chris Brown. Collins recounted to Brown incredible stories of God at work in the lives of that first Bless Back team, and in the lives of those in Haiti they were able to mend both physically and emotionally. “But I’m not a doctor,” Brown thought. “I wondered what I would do if I went to Haiti. And that’s the beauty of Bless Back,” said Brown. “Whatever gifts you have, God can use them to help people.”
Brown led worship for five nights in January for 160 children at the orphanage in Les Cayes. The kids captured his heart. They taught him songs of praise in Haitian Creole. Brown refocused the team on God’s truth each night after long days serving patients in the orphanage clinic and at the general hospital in Les Cayes.
Images from the hospital and the orphanage both haunt and inspire Brown two and a half months later. “There was an HIV-positive patient with a terrible, paralyzing, scaly skin disease. He could barely move his arms and fingers. None of the Haitian medical personnel would go near him. Our team felt called to touch him and care for him. We cleaned him, applied medicated cream, gave him antibiotics, and he was healed. It really was miraculous to see him open and close his hands for the first time in months.”
Brown recalls finding another man alone in the open-air hallway with a gashed-open, badly broken leg. His name was Chapriolet. “He’d already been there two days. We wondered how much longer he’d go without treatment if our team hadn’t arrived.”
Our surgical team spent hours setting Chapriolet’s leg and tried to close his gaping wound. But with no money, and such poor follow up care, we wondered aloud if he might still lose his leg anyway. The need was overwhelming at times. There was a real doctor in the overcrowded, garage-like emergency room only 30 minutes each day. The Bless Back teams saw three gunshot victims on this trip. All three died.
But hope was everywhere, too. Pastor Steven quotes North Point pastor Andy Stanley who says to “do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” And that’s where we found peace in the suffering and chaos. We believe God miraculously healed seven of the Les Cayes orphans who fell ill in the middle of the night. Our team treated two cholera patients at the clinic, and brought them both back from the brink of death. Our team helped a young mother bring a baby boy into the world. And one of the Les Cayes orphans no longer suffers from a potentially life-threatening hernia.
George Collins could have let fear paralyze him. He didn’t know the first thing about starting a non-profit, or organizing teams to travel into a dangerous, broken country. But he knew God was calling him to do that very thing. And he trusted God to bring the right people to the team to make the vision a reality. And Collins is the first to give God all the glory, and to say he’s come through time and again.
In his book, Axiom, author Bill Hybels asks the question, “What life are you waiting for?” He says if you’re waiting for some other life to be bold and courageous, you’re kidding yourself. This is your time. We all saw the images from Haiti. We are all now seeing the devastation in Japan. Not all of us will be called to serve halfway across the world. But God calls on each of us to serve the least of these somewhere, now. God is calling on this generation to change the world. You know the right thing to do. Will you have the courage to do it?