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This blog exists only as an archive. It is a journal that serves as a window into my life as a Marine combat veteran serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; it was written with no filter, no politics and no agenda. Please feel free to follow my journey from beginning to end. Welcome to my life.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brother Jim's reflections for 23 Jan 2010

How much can one person take? Today after one week here we are still seeing seriously wounded people who have yet to see a doctor. We are seeing tent cities that have 1000’s of people living in a crowded space with no water, food, or sanitary conditions. On one level life continues, but on another level it will never be the same. 10 minutes ago I translated for a young boy who barely spoke. His head was soft as a rotten pumpkin, and his leg was infected. His grandfather brought him to the Jesuit compound because he knew there were doctors here. No one else in his family could take him because they are all dead. Today was the first day the grandfather found his grandson, and today was the first time the boy saw a doctor.

Earlier today with our team we drove to a location that a boy scout told us about yesterday. Again, 1000’s of people living under sheets in conditions that would be unheard of for an American pet. One woman of about 60 years old had infected wounds in her legs that allowed me to see the bones. Our doctors dressed the wounds and she bravely endured and hour long ordeal of scraping and removing flesh. I held her, we prayed, and I listened to her scream. To keep her mind off the pain I started singing the few songs in Creole that I know. A crowd formed and joined in with me. We all sang at the top of our lungs to keep the poor women distracted from the tremendous pain. She cried, held on tight, and sang. When it was over she said she will never forget us. When it was over she went back to living under the stars in a crowded park with open sewage.

We went to another park as well. Amputees, infected wounds, and dehydrated people came rushing to our medical station. They wanted water, food, and medical help. We offered limited medical help, but they were happy we came and asked us to come back tomorrow. Tonight we heard about another location that has even more need.... 8 days without a doctor. We will go to the new location most likely, abandoning the people we saw today. The space in our tap-tap is limited, and our team is getting to the point that unless you have something clear to offer we can not support your presence. Today Jake had to let go one of our translators. He now has lost his temporary job, and the friends he thought he had made. Our team will be better without him; he will sleep on the street.

The parks are full and every doctor on our team is worried about an epidemic breaking out. I took one of them to speak to the US military personnel we had already met at the General Hospital. Our doctors explained the situation. The US military was sympathetic to our request, and understood the problem. They asked a simple question... if they were to get port-o-potties installed where would they empty them? We had no response.

Twice today in the tap-tap I broke down and cried. I’m not embarrassed anymore to do that. Everyone on our team understands that reaction. My guess is most have done that as well. I ask myself how much of this can I take? Why can’t August be here already when I can go home and swim with my niece and nephews in a Michigan lake. Why can’t I see children other than those who want only a drink of water, or parents who are not grieving their dead children, buildings that are not a pile of rubble, or elderly who have the comfort my parents have and deserve? But then I stop and reflect... I will see all this again. My future is secure no matter how long I spend in this country. My family is not dead, and even though this is the first time in my life that I have not one cent to my name I know my present and my future will be productive. How much can one person take? I have hope, faith, and love, and therefore can take much much more. My prayer is that as noble as these people are they do not lose their hope, faith, and love. To this point I do not believe they have. To this point they continue their lives putting up with much more than I am. How much can one person take? How much can Haiti take? So far the answer is more than most people could ever imagine.

Brother Jim Boynton, S.J.


  1. Brother Jim.Thank you for posting your thoughts.
    may all the blessing come to you,twofold bless you.

  2. Brother Jim, Every now and then everyone just needs a hug. I'm sending you a bunch.

  3. God bless you, Brother Jim. We're praying for you all.

  4. Brother Jim,
    We are all missing you and praying for you here in Michigan. Thank you for posting your honesty.
    We will continue to pray for you and team RUBICON'S work and safety.
    Thank you God for your Blessings and that no matter what the circumstances we still see your good!

  5. Brother Jim:

    You'd be well advised to talk with the former military members of your team about such things as emotional and psychological fatigue and PTSD when you guys get back to camp at night.

    They may well be able to equip you with some insight and perspective that could save you much grief and distress as the situation progresses.

  6. Jim, I read the Rubicon blog every day and think of you and pray for you constantly. The work you're doing is unbelievable, and it has really brought the Prayer of St Ignatius alive for me; if I could be down there helping you guys out I would be. Keep the faith, and keep up the good work!

    Peter Guenther

  7. Fr. Jim, I read this and started a Novena to St Jude for you and the team and all the people of Haiti. When the nine days are up, I will start again, and again. When I do the Hours each day, you all are mentioned. You all are a shining beacon of light to the world. Thank you.

  8. jimmy, my tears are joined with yours and each one is turned into an ave. mum

  9. Praise God for all of you being present there with the most vulnerable ones. Thanks for your sharing, Br. Jim. Peace with you all as you are serving in Haiti. May the Lord continue to bless y'all with much strength to keep up with the hope, faith and love in Him.

  10. The beta-blocker Proplanolol is being shown to help serve as a "trauma pill". They're finding that if individuals can take dose following sone sort of traumatic effent that it helps to sort of poorly solidify the memory in the mind. It has to do with the adrenaline's function to really seal up those bad experieces that later become so hard to get rid of and bare their ugly head. The propranolol diminishes the "sticking" power of the tramautic memory to the place it is stored, so its not rembered as well. Maybe I'll bring some propranolol your way when I get down there,blessings, Jitterbug

  11. At the risk of sounding trite - you are exactly where you are needed right now. God has put you there because of your honesty, your heart and and your faith. He will be your support (and that may come in any or many of the options listed above as well as others not yet discussed). You will never know how much you can lean on God until you actually do lean on Him. You are in the prayers of many - as are the people of Haiti and around the world that you are touching. Cover yourself with your faith and be God's hands in the world - even when it's unimaginably hard.
    Eph 6:10-20

  12. Brother Boynton,
    You are surrounded in prayer. We pray that you have the absolute confidence that Jesus is with you always - even if you "decend into hell".

    You preached the Gospel to many young men in Michigan by sharing your joyful faith, including my son Jake who was on Kairos with you last year. Now it seems you are being asked to preach the Gospel with your hands: "to give and not to count the cost". "Do not be afraid". The people you are touching feel God's love through your loving hands. There is no greater love. "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD".