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Help for Haiti: A Rock Volunteer's Story
By Rock Church - February 5, 2010

Anita Palmer, from an interview with Jerry White

The man was sprawled on the side of the road, badly beaten and covered with dust. No one stopped to help him until Jerry White and three friends came by on their way back to the temporary Port-au-Prince clinic they were stationed at.

Jerry White and his fellow medics attend to a Haitian left for dead on the side of the road.

White is a Rock Church member and former San Diego firefighter who rushed to Haiti after the January 12 earthquake along with a crew of volunteers, mostly from Southern California, who are part of an organization called Firefighters For Christ.

The 14 volunteers were based in Carrefour, the red zone region west of the country’s capital. A red zone designation, based on a U.S. federal emergency management system of evaluation, means the setting is so dangerous that people may travel there only if accompanied by the military. However, the team waited until dark to slip in. After all, they were carrying 1,000 pounds of medical supplies. Lives depended upon it.

The Haitian on the road had been robbed in the night and left for dead. All his family had died in the quake and he had given up on living, he later said. The paramedics examined him, gave him water, treated his many wounds, prayed with him, and transported him to a hospital.

Leatherman Tools and Super Glue

Walter Schmidt, left, and Matthew Bailey, right, with an America surgeon who walked in just in time to amputate this Haitian woman’s finger, and then left.

It was only one of many incidents where the firefighters saved lives and served their Lord.

Another time, three of the crew were faced with a woman whose finger needed to be amputated. It was a level of treatment they didn’t feel qualified to give. So they prayed. Literally minutes later, in walked a volunteer American doctor carrying a baby he needed help with. The physician handed the infant to the paramedics, and they handed him one of the Leatherman multipurpose tools most firefighters carry. He used it to amputate the woman’s finger.

The gash on this Haitian girl’s face is held together by Super Glue.

Improvising when there were no proper supplies was commonplace. Jerry recalls the young girl whose lip had a deep gash. With no sutures on hand, the firefighters closed the cut with Super Glue.

Helpless Outside a Collapsed School

Jerry and his colleagues met a Haitian from New York who had returned to his home country to help. His name was Vladimir. Vladimir became their guide and translator. On one of the trips from base to the clinic, they passed by one of the many destroyed buildings in the region. Vladimir stopped them outside its gate.

“This was a school,” he said. It had been five stories high. It was now flatter than a typical one-story structure.

The rubble to the left of the truck was once a five-story school. An estimated 200 children died in it during the quake.

“He said there had been 200 children in it at the time of the quake,” Jerry said, overwhelmed at the realization. “We just had to walk away. There was nothing we could do.”

The horrible experience motivated them to work even more tirelessly. “Our goal is to reach out to people to help them to know Christ. But we’re also firefighters, and firefighters have a tendency to look at a problem and figure out the most efficient way to solve it. We still had a big task to accomplish.”

Jerry’s team returned to the United States February 1. A second team from Firefighters for Christ left for Haiti soon after that. Read their stories here: blog entries »