Living Water Ministries Haiti
Attack April 4, 2019
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On Thursday, April 4tha 6 member team from Living Water Ministries, Fred Chalker, (Founder) Jeff Lee, Doug Burbella, Drew Pasler, Rod Foster, and Jackie Brandon our one female team member, arrived in PAP Haiti at 11:00 am. The purpose of our trip included setting up 20 new computers and 2 servers in the Anse Rouge Christian School Media Center. Jeff Lee and Doug Burbella were going to look over the location for docking and housing for our water craft vessel which had been especially designed to deliver supplies to the various communities which Living Water Ministries aids. This vessel was scheduled to be shipped over around the first of June. This was also a trip to lay out the design for our agricultural training center, helicopter pad for emergency evacuation, kickoff of three economic assistance programs that include, a goat farm, sea salt farm, chicken and egg farm, and to arrange for a tanker truck to deliver water to the village of Anse Rouge which is completely out of water. These programs provide training for the local villages especially those graduating students that are part of the network of 50 schools where Living Water provides food and educational materials to 6,000 students. A state-of-the-art school complex has just been completed in the NW region, which was being equipped with computers now that the satellite Wi-Fi system had been installed. A meeting had been scheduled to meet with the Gonaives Rotary Club regarding the Water for Wellness Project that LWM is proposing to the Rotary Organization for sponsorship.
The 21 boxes of new computers and equipment valued at $20,000, was loaded into the back of the Toyota Hilux pickup truck and covered with a tarp to protect it from rain. Drew, Fred, Doug and Belony a Haitian native that assists Living Water, rode in the pickup truck with Drew as the driver. Jeff, Rod, Jackie and Pastor Etienne, a native Haitian, who is the President of LWM Haiti, rode in the Land Cruiser. Pastor Etienne was the driver, while Jeff rode in the front passenger seat with Jackie and Rod in the back seat. The two vehicles left Port au Prince around 11:00 am.
Traffic was heavy as we traveled north on National Highway #1. It took extra time since we tried to keep both vehicles close together. Several stops were made to try to find diesel fuel for the Land Cruiser. There was enough fuel to make it to the LW Campus, but not enough for the return trip. No diesel fuel was available at any of the gas stations along the way. We made a couple of stops to pick up various items we needed to have while in the NW region where our campus facility is located.
By 2:00 pm we passed through Saint Marc. We were about 45 minutes north of Saint Marc when we came to a place where the road was completely blocked with some burning debris and wood that was piled across the road creating a road block. Immediately an angry mob of more than 100 men many with guns, including automatic weapons AK47, rifles and handguns, sticks, and other weapons surrounded our Land Cruiser. The shots that we could see were being fired up into the air, but we heard other shots fired that we could not see the direction of their trajectory. The mob started beating on the windows with their hands and sticks and guns with such force that we thought they were going to break all the windows. Some began to jump up on the hood of the vehicle and began to beat on the windshield, and then climbed up on the roof where the luggage carrier had several suitcases well strapped down. All of this tugging and pulling was causing the truck to rock back and forth.
Pastor Etienne opened his window to try to talk with them to find out what they wanted, hoping they were only going to ask for money and would then let us go through. But instead, they pulled Pastor out of the car leaving his door wide open. They were yelling and took Pastor to the back of the truck; other men reached in to grab some of our cell phones which we fought to keep. One of the gang members reached across the driver’s seat and grabbed Jeff’s arm and tried to pull him across the seat to get him out of the car. They managed to take his cell phone.
One of the men had two white painted streaks on his face that started below each eye and went down over his checks to his jaw. He tried to open Jackie’s door by reaching in through the driver’s door to unlock her door. She was able to relock the door before he could open it. This happened 5 or 6 times. After a couple of minutes they let Pastor come back to stand beside his door of the vehicle. The gang was yelling at us and beating on the vehicle. Pastor asked us if we had any money we could give them. Rod had $200 (US) in his pocket that he gave them.
They told the pastor to have Jeff roll down his window but Jeff only rolled it down about 2” and tried to communicate to the mob on his side of the vehicle that we were there to bring help and food for the children. They were beating on his window but Jeff seemed to communicate with one the individuals that apparently was trying to aid us. Some arguing ensued outside Jeff’s window then they backed off from Jeff’s window for a minute.
They started yelling again, telling the Pastor they wanted Jackie to get out of the car. Jeff and Rod yelled at Jackie to stay in the car. Jackie looked at Pastor and asked him if she should get out of the car, he said yes, so she did. We didn’t know what to expect when Jackie got out of the vehicle but shortly after she did they started to back off and told her to get back in the car. One of the men in the crowd retrieved Jeff’s cell phone and returned it to him. So it was clear that everyone there was not intent on harming us while clearly there were many that did.
There was a great deal of commotion and arguing within the mob when we heard some additional gun shots. They began moving some of the roadblock so we immediately took advantage of that moment and made a U turn to go back toward Saint Marc when we heard more gun shots. At that point we did not know that those gun shots were being fired at our other truck that had been following us.
The Toyota Hilux pickup truck that Drew was driving saw that lead vehicle was being surrounded by this mob and stopped about 100 yards short of the crowd. In accessing the situation they noticed multiple individuals with long rifles pointed toward them and they motioned us to come further forward. In hopes of saving the computers and their lives they attempted to back out of the area in reverse as fast as possible. As they reversed the men with the rifles began to fire at the vehicle hitting it multiple times in the front. It was at that point that Drew attempted to make the dangerous k-turn in hopes of being able to outrun the mob. While the vehicle was being turned around the rear passenger side tire was shot out making escape even more difficult.
Once the vehicle was facing away from the mob they attempted to make a run for safety. However the tire was shredded, the vehicle was badly damaged and would not go over 8-10miles per hour. The mob continued shooting at the truck as they attempted escape. It was during this process that two of the gang members jumped on a motorcycle to purse them. The passenger on the motorcycle had a machine gun in his hand and began to chase down the truck. Unbeknownst to the driver the motorcycle was quickly gaining on them and approaching the driver side of the truck.
As the motorcycle began passing the truck they swerved and the passenger on the motorcycle opened fire on the truck attempted to disable the driver Drew, but instead shot out the rear driver side window critically injuring Doug. Drew ducked while driving as the shots rang out. It was then that Doug yelled, “I’m dying…I have been shot”.Drew looked back and could see that Doug was covered in blood and had been shot 2 times in the face and neck. Without the ability to go faster and Doug in critical condition Drew was forced to stop. Fred also noticed that there was another man with a rifle ahead of them as well boxing them in.
The men on the motor cycle made Drew get out of the car with the gun pointed at him as they continued to yell. Drew was standing there as more and more gang members from the mob arrived from the rear of the vehicle. These men were aiming at Drew, but as Drew looked back he saw that one of the gang members had a rifle pointed at Doug’s head and was contemplating shooting him again. When Doug realized that this was happening he played dead as he came in and out of conscious. It was then that Fred and Belony came around the front of the vehicle. Belony and Fred spoke to the men in creole in attempts to calm the situation, see why they were shooting at us, and what they wanted. At this point the gang members started to loot the vehicle and began to take all possessions from Fred, Belony, Drew, and Doug (who was still playing dead). The rifle was still being pointed at Doug and the man wielding it had a blank stare in his eyes.
It was then that another Haitian man on his motorcycle pulled up out of nowhere and stopped between Drew and the gang members. The unknown Haitian man grabbed Drew by the right arm and in perfect English with no accent said “Its ok, it’s going to be ok”. He then yelled something out in creole and in an instant all of the gang members stopped everything they were doing. They pointed their guns down, and began to give back all of the possessions that they had just taken moments before. It was puzzling to Fred, Drew, and Belony and made no sense based on what was currently transpiring. It was then that Drew was able to tend to Doug in the back of the Truck. When Drew looked back to thank the man, the man on the motorcycle was nowhere to be found. As Drew held pressure on Doug’s wounds and stabilized his C-spine. The Toyota Land Cruiser with Etienne, Jeff, Rod, and Jackie approached.
As the SUV approached they heard Fred and Drew yelling that Doug had been shot. Jeff and Rod immediately jumped out to help Doug. The scene was horrific. Doug was in agony, struggling to breathe, coming in and out of consciousness, covered with blood lying on his back in the back seat of the truck. Not having any time to access Doug’s injuries further, Drew and Jeff carried Doug to the land cruiser and laid him on the back seat. Fred elected to stay with Belony to fix the tire on the truck and save the supplies from being vandalized that were brought for the children at the school even though we all tried to get him in the Land Cruiser with us.
Jackie was placed in the front passenger seat and Jeff, Drew, and Rod crawled into the back of the Land Cruiser on top of the luggage that was already inside. Doug was covered with blood. He was bleeding profusely from the left side of his neck near his carotid artery. Drew took off his shirt and used it to apply pressure to Doug’s neck to help reduce the flow of the blood. Doug was conscious enough to inform us the he thought his neck was broken but because of the amount of coagulated blood that was puddled on his chest we thought that he had been shoot in the chest as well. Our closest point of medical help was back in Saint Marc, about a 45 minute drive. Pastor drove as fast as he could while Drew and Jeff kept pressure on his neck, and stabilized him as best as they could. Meanwhile we all prayed continuously.
We continued to keep Doug awake but it was difficult for him to speak as we would later find out that his vocal cord had been injured. Doug was slipping in and out of conscious but the pain he encountered with every bump in the road shocked him back to alertness. His pain was intense but he seemed to be slipping away. We thought that short of a miracle Doug was not going to make it. After about 15 minutes Doug informed us that he felt his was going to die and asked that Drew record his last words for his wife and children. It was in that moment that we realized there was a strong possibility that our friend was not coming home. The thought became overwhelming. We continued to pray as Doug was speaking out what we thought could be his last words.
Doug slipped back in and out of conscious until we arrived at the hospital. The conditions there extremely limited but the doctor did what he could to stabilize Doug. Once we were able to remove Doug’s blood soaked clothing we were able to see that he had not be shot in the chest but that he had been shot in the upper left shoulder, left neck, left cheek and jaw. His neck and jaw were fractured, his vocal cord was severely injured, and he had fragments of metal in his neck, shoulder, and chest. The doctors tended to Doug but did not attempt to do anything except take x-rays to evaluate Doug’s ability to be transported. They started an IV and gave him injections of antibiotics and tetanus. We spent about 3 hours at the hospital trying to make arrangements to have Doug life-flighted back to Florida. We had no option to have him flown out of the current location so transportation was arranged to take him by ambulance to Port Au Prince.
While the doctors worked on Doug our attention turned to Fred who stayed behind with the other truck. We feared the worst, but by the grace of God, the mob was not interested in the $20,000 worth of computer equipment we had brought for the school that was in the back of truck. Fred and Belony were able to change the tire and drive the truck to the hospital.
Jeff elected to stay with Doug and have him taken to the Port au Prince Hospital where he remained overnight. The four other members of the team traveled back with the two vehicles. Over the next 15 hours arrangements were made to medivac Doug back the US on a medivac jet which left Port au Prince around 1:00 pm on Friday, April 5th. Doug arrived at Fort Lauderdale airport where he was reunited with his wife Sue and was transported to the Delray Medical Center. The rest of the team traveled back to Florida on Saturday.
Doug has multiple injuries including a broken jaw, shattered vertebra, and damaged vocal cord on the left side of his throat, shrapnel in his neck and chest. He had 2 bullets in him when he arrived. The surgeon removed one of the bullets from his jaw which appeared to be a large caliber rifle round. He still has another bullet lodged in the vertebra of his neck. We are not sure at this time of what medical procedures will be required. Doug has lost feeling in the lower left quadrant of his face as well as his left upper chest area.
This was not a political incident. The police had been looking for the gang leader and found out that he was back at his house. He lived where the road block had been set up. The gang members were trying to protect him. They had been burning trucks and stealing trucks and looking for cash so they could run from the police. As we drove back toward the hospital, we saw the police traveling toward the roadblock. We later found out that 2 policemen had been killed in the fire fight that ensued.
Living Water Ministries has been going to NW Haiti to preach the gospel, to love the people, and to help them improve their living conditions for over 30 years. Other than one other serious incident in 1987, we have never experienced anything like this. We know, without question, that the Lord protected all of us. This account of what happened could have had a very devastating ending. Our Lord stood with us and we are thankful for all those who have prayed and support us.
Living Water Ministries has had an incredible impact in the region. They have built villages, churches, wells and cisterns. We were in the process of shipping over a specially designed shallow water landing craft that could distribute 20,000 pounds of cargo, supplies, medicine and food. This incident has greatly set us back. Our 600 acre site in the NW has the ability to change the lives of tens of thousands of people, giving them the opportunity to provide a livelihood for themselves as we teach them and provide the resources they need to become self-sufficient.
We are ready to continue the work that has started in the many villages of NW Haiti. We are ready and willing to return with whatever support we are given. We are asking especially now for help to meet the tremendous financial burden that Doug is facing during his road of recovery. We will be setting up a go fund me page to raise funds for Doug’s recovery. In addition to the medical expenses for Doug, LW faces thousands of dollars of repairs to our vehicles that were damaged.
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