One at a Time

Posted Feb 01, 2010 by 21 Comments

What an unbelievable first day.

Our bus from the Dominican Republic arrived at 6am. We had a few hours to wash up and unpack, then headed straight out to the village of Chambrun. The team of doctors and nurses I was traveling with traded notes on the supplies they had brought as I stared out the window in amazement.

Here, in a city I had visited just three months before, was the definition of devastation. Buildings lay in rubble, walls had tumbled down, and just about everywhere I looked were people sleeping in tents, still afraid to go inside.

The NVM medical team getting ready to head out to Chambrun.

As we drove up the dusty road to the Nehemiah Vision Ministries clinic, I saw a handful of people milling around outside. “Huh,” I thought. “I expected to see a whole lot more…”

But then, as we rounded the corner, I was struck by the sight of hundreds of Haitian men, women and children sitting on benches crammed into the whatever shade they could find.

People were huddled under trees, sitting shoulder to shoulder on benches… Word had spread that there was a free clinic happening in Chambrun, and they had all come for help.

The doctors, nurses and pharmacists from our team began setting up and familiarizing themselves with the clinic. After wiping down a dental chair and moving a tub of medicine or two, I started to feel a little useless. So I broke out my camera and started walking around to get a sense of the bigger picture.

Crowds wait outside the medical clinic for a chance to be seen.

Outside the clinic’s doors were around 200-300 people hoping desperately to be seen by one of the doctors that day. Some of the patients had walked for miles to get to the clinic. Others came from the nearby villages.

It became clear right off the bat that most of the patients were not direct victims of the earthquake. There were only a few who had broken bones from falling rubble. Most people were there for different reasons.

The fact is, two and a half weeks after the initial shock, most people with severe wounds from the quake have already been treated or have died due to infections.

No, these were not direct victims of the earthquake. But almost every single person I met was indirectly affected.

This grandmother must now take care of two infant babies.

For example, one elderly lady came into the clinic with twin infant girls. As the doctors asked her questions, she sobbed in fits of hopelessness. This woman’s daughter had been killed in a building collapse and now, with no food or family to help, this aging grandmother was responsible for these two newborn babies.

Another woman I met sat helpless as a nurse treated her tiny daughter. The attending doctor asked her how often she feeds her baby. The woman burst into tears and said, “I have no food!”

With elementary schools closed across the country, many children that used to eat once a day at school now go for days without eating. Nation-wide, hundreds of malnourished children are dying each day as their parents look on, helpless and alone.

Several of the doctors in our team said afterwards that they had heard something odd from many parents. They heard several times about children that liked to “lick the dirt.” After discussing it a little bit, the doctors came to a conclusion about what was causing this peculiar behavior. These children are so deprived of essential minerals that their bodies have begun to crave dirt to get what they need.

What I saw on my first day was not at all what I expected. Instead of gaping wounds and gushing blood, I saw starving children and adults ill from water-borne diseases. Instead of performing amputations, our doctors were handing out vitamins.

A little girl has her feet bandaged.

These weren’t the earthquake victims we’ve see on the evening news. These were the helpless masses that have been left in its wake. I realized for the first time that in a nation as devastated as Haiti, it will be food, medicine and clean water that lay the groundwork for reconstruction… Not dump trucks and cranes.

As we neared the end of the first day’s work, local volunteers from NVM closed the gate. No more patients could come in…

But there were still hundreds left outside.

I started to feel a bit hopeless. With millions of people in need of help in this country, what could we even accomplish? We couldn’t even help everyone in one small village.

And now the government is clearing land for a 50,000 person tent-city on the main road just a 10 minute walk from the clinic in Chambrun. Tens of thousands of hurting, starving people in need of medical help, in need of food… of water.

One of the clinic's doctors tries to diagnose a young boy.

It all seemed so hopeless.

Last night, however, as I went through my pictures from the day, I realized something significant. I saw a picture of a tiny child whose mother now had vitamins to give him. “We helped them,” I thought. I saw a photo of an elderly lady walking out of the clinic with brand new crutches for her swollen feet. “We helped her too…”

Photo after photo. Face after face. These are the people we did help. And without our clinic, they would still be completely helpless.

“One at a time.” That’s the phrase that keeps running through my head right now. One at a time.

The only way we can ever make a difference in Haiti is if we are willing to help people one at a time. The moment we get lost in the overwhelming misery of a country brought to its knees, we run the risk of losing our hope in the beautiful work that is happening here.

The truth is, children are being saved. Families are being fed. Hope is still present in Haiti.

Even if it only shows up one person at a time…

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Next Steps
    • Nehemiah Vision Ministries needs your support to continue serving the people of Haiti. Will you consider supporting them?
    • The current medical team has a big need for multi-vitamins (children's and adults'). Email for more information on how to donate!
    • Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti and the many families struggling to find food...
    Next Steps

About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. Kristen Arnold said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 11:51 am  

    Awesome stuff Barry, Thanks man! I’m glad you can be there to be the eyes of those of us who desperately wish we could go!

  2. Sharon said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 11:56 am  

    It’s like the “starfish” story. We can become overwhelmed and not help, or we can do what we we are able and help those individuals we can. I think it’s part of moving from seeing statistics–“2 million affected”–to seeing individual people–mothers, fathers, babies, toddlers–each with their own story. And that’s why we need you and WND–to tell the stories beyond the statistics.

    BTW–I hadn’t thought of the kids who would have been fed at school. Wow. Praying…

  3. Curtis Honeycutt said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 12:29 pm  

    Barry, we’re praying for you and the people of Haiti.

    …you should’ve taken my hat with you. Are you using sunscreen?

  4. sara said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 12:34 pm  

    Thanks for being the eyes and ears for those of us desperate to help.

  5. Eness said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 12:48 pm  

    So from here, how do we help one person, one day at a time? Anyone have ideas?
    It is good to be updated on what the immediate needs are. Thanks, Barry. Stay safe

  6. Dave Rod said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 12:52 pm  

    Please, let’s not move on. Stay engaged. One at a time. For the long haul.

  7. Chuck Easton said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 1:28 pm  

    “one-person-at-a-time”, it’s really the only way we can make a difference, whether it’s in Haiti or Indianapolis. I believe “we” (church in America) have a greater responsibility to Haiti because they are our neighbors. Thanks Barry, for letting us see the heart of the people you meet in Haiti. May we mobilize to continue to make a difference…

  8. Brad Ruggles said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 1:36 pm  

    Wow, what a great first-hand report of the tragedy this disaster has left behind. You’re right, we so often thing “big picture” but forget that we make the biggest difference in lives of individuals…one life at a time.

    Great reminder. Praying for you.

  9. amy bell said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 1:38 pm  

    thank you for sharing their story…thank you for giving them a voice…i am praying for us to stay with the story and not leave them

  10. Amy Sorrells said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 1:40 pm  

    Awesome post, Barry. Thanks for “taking us with you.” My newspaper column the week after the earthquake was about helping, “one at a time,” too:

    Helping one has a ripple effect–helping one by praying for one. By filling one food bag. By giving $10 that can buy a box of bandages to cover 20 wounds. By sponsoring one orphan at Nehemiah Vision Ministries. By serving in our communities. And on(e) and on(e) and on(e). Like Chuck said, may we mobilize–here and in Haiti and everywhere–and continue to make a difference!

  11. Jo Nading said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 2:05 pm  

    Ya know – Jesus “saved the world” – and although he was able to “do it” in one fell swoop, we know and believe he died for each individual….and that is how we are changed…individually. I can’t be changed vicariously through someone else’s acceptance of Christ. And so, that is how we must administer change – one life at a time. So if God holds out hope for His world of individuals, then we, too, are called to hold out hope for the individuals of Haiti. Barry – you are getting it. No matter who you and WND are helping – it is one life at a time. And that’s what level God cares about….individual hearts. Thank you so much for being our eyes and ears and sharing your heart. Perhaps as NVM collects names of individuals, we could be praying for people on a first-name-only basis. I loved when we did that for 9/11 victims and families. Thinking of you and praying for you.

  12. Amy Osgood said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 2:11 pm  

    Thanks Barry! This is such a great reminder that while the devastation overwhelms us, it does not overwhelm God. I think in western society we look at the masses and not the people. The people have names, faces, identities etc. But who knows what God has for the individuals who are treated? Who’s to say that their life being saved/healed wasn’t the turning point for a much greater, future work?
    Maybe they will rise above their circumstances and feed a multitude more 15 years from now. What a gift that God gave us a narrower vision….that we might better focus on what is right in front of us. Continued blessings and prayers!

  13. Julie Buczkowski said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 3:39 pm  

    Thanks for the honest update. It IS overwhelming. Even when you believe that it doesn’t matter that things are overwhelming–that you still have to do what you can–you still become frozen by what seems like impossibility to make a dent. Haiti needs us one at a time. So do many, many, many others around the world.

  14. Steve H. said... 


    February 1st, 2010 at 4:39 pm  

    Thanks for reminding us that the earthquake isn’t the only thing affecting the people of Haiti. My prayer is that the church will not forget them when all the governments have. Thanks for being the church Barry!

  15. Lisa M said... 


    February 2nd, 2010 at 3:11 pm  

    Barry – Can’t imagine how it feels to be there in person and to ache. Thanks for letting us in on the reality – horrible as it is. Can’t stop thinking about the children and how hungry they are moment by moment. You previously asked how we felt about shielding or not shielding our kids from this and other instances of heartache and injustice. I even asked my kids. We all agree that we need to expose them (with the exception of certain images) for so many reasons. But kids are hungry to help and to do their part to make things right. And it doesn’t seem fair yet again that we have that “privilege” of sheltering our kids when other mothers, fathers, grandparents have no option to protect their children from injustice. They’re living in the middle of it. Praying for you today and each day. Please continue to keep us informed and challenged.

  16. Dave Kostka said... 


    February 2nd, 2010 at 5:48 pm  


    As noted, you ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE in Haiti helping one person at a time. We are always presented the “big picture”, but you can only address by breaking it down to the nano level…which you are doing. Will pray that God intervenes in providing you encouragement and wisdom and protection…Hang in their for the total journey and race…will be praying …thank you for sharing…

  17. Jane VanOsdol said... 


    February 4th, 2010 at 9:16 am  

    I think you have it right, Barry. You do something about the ones God puts in your path and lays on your heart. And you pray. Praying for you, Erika and the team.

  18. Mitch Beaverson said... 


    February 4th, 2010 at 10:50 am  

    Thanks for giving us this important glimpse into what is now the current state of a nation, Barry. Our neighbors. May God bless your efforts and those of NVM in the days, months and years ahead!

    Even in the midst of rubble, broken hearts and dashed dreams, God is in control. Praise God for his sovereignty and his mighty hand–so ready and able to save.

    Lord, we praise you, even now, for the plan you are unfolding in each of these lives. Thanks for letting us be part of your plan.

  19. Tasha Simons said... 


    February 11th, 2011 at 8:39 am  

    This article makes me want to go to Haiti! Their need is so great… so glad you could be the hands and feet of Christ to our brothers and sisters in Haiti, Barry.

  20. Ruth said... 


    February 11th, 2011 at 11:23 am  

    Great article….thank you. Continuous prayers.

  21. Jason Wilds said... 


    February 11th, 2011 at 2:52 pm  

    Thanks Barry reminding me that one person can make a difference one at a time.

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