RELIEF AND REDEMPTIONMontevallo nurse brings healing, Gospel to Haiti earthquake victims
By Nancy Wilstach
Photos by Keith McCoy and Contributed
Montevallo’s Martha McMinn well remembers the sequence of events that unfolded in 2010: “In January the earthquake struck Haiti, and on Feb. 10, I was there on the ground.”
A registered nurse at Shelby Baptist Medical Center then (since retired), McMinn said she had been “consumed with watching the news” from Haiti and praying for its people.
Then it hit her: “You’re a nurse. You have a passport. Your immunizations are current.”
“Baptist Health Foundation put out the word that it was getting a group together” to go to Haiti in cooperation with the Baptist Mission Board.
McMinn and a friend and nursing colleague, Susan Alexander, signed on together.
“We had a week to get ready,” McMinn said. They were a team of seven—three nurses, three physicians and a chaplain.
She flew into the Dominican Republic, which occupies the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, and traveled by bus to Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital, where the ravages of the earthquake had rendered the airport unusable. The team spent 10 days in the tent cities surrounding the capital.
“People were suffering mainly from a lack of medical care,” McMinn said, noting that treatable injuries grow exponentially worse when left untreated. For example, she saw broken bones that had never been set. Sometimes infection had invaded open wounds.
As the team set up its medical clinic amid the post-quake chaos, McMinn said that she thought: “‘What have I done? Maybe I bit off more than I can chew.’ Then, like a ray of hope, I saw a child who had made a kite out of a piece of trash, and I knew God had sent me where I needed to be.”
Since that first February, McMinn has been back to Haiti every six months, mostly serving in and around Jacmel, a coastal city again hit hard when Hurricane Matthew cruelly slammed into the western end of the nation in October 2016. She had returned from her August mission when the hurricane battered Jacmel, and she said she was desperate to know what had happened there.
With 14 Haitian trips behind her, McMinn has become something of an old hand. “I went from a little bitty scared-to-death team member to a team leader.”
Her role is wider than nursing. “I don’t always just do medical—I do evangelism, too. I have shared the Lord. For example, in one week, 42 people accepted Christ.”
Her sidekick in evangelism is her interpreter, Anes, a young man whom she says has a natural gift for spreading the Gospel.
Because her work is coordinated by the Alabama Baptists, McMinn visits the same areas and coordinates with the same Haitians on each trip. Naturally, she has formed special attachments. One of the very special ones is Children’s Hope, a home-church-school for 930 children.
McMinn said the project was borne of the earthquake when workers from Montgomery’s First Baptist Church found 16 children living in a tent after their orphanage was destroyed.
“It has evolved,” McMinn said, “from its start in a rental mission house.” The church took on the project as its special mission. Today it has several colorful cabins, each presided over by its own Haitian “Nanny,” as well as a school, a church and a clinic.
That clinic is McMinn’s particular joy. “They don’t need our team anymore. Children’s Hope raised the money to build an on-site clinic—with a doctor, a lab and a dentist two-times a week.”
She smiled: “We taught them to fish,” a reference to the Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for the day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Children’s Hope still needs aid, though, she said. “If anyone wants to help them, the web site is Childrens-hope.com.”
Another of McMinn’s special attachments is to Anse du Clerc, a little community perched in the mountains above Jacmel where a small, cheerful, intense man called “Pastor Franky” serves a small, very poor community. It was anxiety about Pastor Franky that spurred McMinn to make that extra trip to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew. His home and his church were blown away, but he and his flock survived, she said.
Lest anyone envision five-star hotels, McMinn said she and her team sleep in tents on inflatable mattresses, and they ride to their destinations in the beds of trucks, occasionally piling out on the mountain side when a tire goes flat. One site was at the end of a 45-minute hike.
Still, she said, “there is so much beauty there. I don’t know what I am going to do when I am unable to go there anymore.”