Mission Moments: Haiti

Gary Fallesen

Mission Moments: Haiti

Coming to America – again

By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ

Sunday, Jan. 17

Putting the L-o-v-e in Loveland, CO: Elaine and Gary with Gilbert in front of the sign.

Gilbert emailed this story last year and he retold it to us, gleefully, during this trip. He was standing on two legs with no crutches in a line to pay a bill in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, when an elderly lady with a cane cut in front of him. “Let me pay first,” she demanded.

“It was because she didn’t’ realize I am an amputee,” Gilbert said, “and I was very happy about it.”

Another story: During the delivery of food as part of our COVID-19 relief program, Gilbert went twice to the house of Anette Laguerre. The first time he was wearing his prosthetic. The second time he was on crutches without his leg.

“She was surprised,” Gilbert said, “and said, ‘What happened to you?!’ I told her, ‘An accident.’” More than 13 years ago!

These are moments Gilbert cherishes. He wants to be looked at as a guy who can stand on his own two legs. With a little help from us and a lot of help from God, this is coming to fruition.

Gilbert returned early this morning to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he is a medical-school student preparing to start his ninth of 18 semesters of study and where he leads Climbing For Christ’s New Generation in the DR and Haiti. Elaine and I also returned to our home today in Rochester, NY. We were again blessed by our time with Gilbert. We have been honored to work with him and help him through the years, always excited to see God’s plan for his life unfolding before our eyes.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Saturday, Jan. 16

Gilbert with Hayley Fallesen at DIA. Gilbert enjoyed speaking some Spanish last night and this morning with Hayley in Colorado Springs and on the drive to Denver. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)

We drove Gilbert to Denver International Airport (DIA) this morning for his flights to Boston and then Santo Domingo. He was excited to be going home. But first he needed to get through security at DIA.

TSA escorted him to a room on the other side of security. This happened last year when we were traveling with him, and he asked afterward if they did that because he was black. He saw no one else being questioned and figured it was due to the color of his skin. This time, he messaged after he was allowed to proceed to his gate, it “was to check my prosthetic leg. When they checked me for the first time, they told me they found something in the machine, and the second time they all told me it’s OK.”

As we watched from outside security, we saw an officer carrying his right shoe (the shoe from his good leg) back to the X-ray machine. He then returned the shoe to Gilbert and he was told he could leave.

He reached Boston and was scheduled to fly again at 10:10 p.m., arriving in the Dominican Republic at 3 a.m. local time. He planned to sleep in on Sunday to prepare for a trip into Haiti on Tuesday. He resumes medical school next week. We prayed for him and for all God is doing in and through him (from studies to C4CNG) before he flew out of Colorado. We continue to pray that he will be blessed to be a blessing to others.

Friday, Jan. 15

Brendan and Gilbert. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

“Let’s see how much you’ve been practicing,” Brendan said to Gilbert, who then walked back and forth across the main therapy room.

“Really good!” Brendan exclaimed.

¡Muy bien!

It was our final day in Windsor, CO. Gilbert made his last visit to Quorum Prosthetics, where our friend Brendan made only slight adjustments to the knee and hip on Gilbert’s prosthetic leg.

Gilbert made a final pass across the room as Brendan videotaped him on his phone.

Gilbert walks toward Brendan as he videotapes his gait.

“Really, really good,” said Brendan, who continues to be impressed by the leaps forward Gilbert has made since receiving his prosthetic leg last January at Quorum. “I can tell you’ve been putting in a lot of work.”

“Yes,” the soft spoken and understated Gilbert said.

Gilbert then asked if he could pray for Brendan before we left. Gilbert is quiet, but he also is bold for Jesus. He knows that all things come from God and he is here to serve the Lord. Things most of us take for granted, he is quick to show gratitude. When you ask how he slept, he will say, “Very well, thanks be to God.”

Another day means another day to praise the Lord.

With that in mind, he prayed for Brendan and again gave thanks for all he has received here.

We said our goodbyes and headed south on I-25 to Colorado Springs to spend some time with our daughter Hayley and son-in-law Mitch before Gilbert flies out tomorrow. We will leave on Sunday.

Thursday, Jan. 14

Under Armour makes shoes that are perfect for Gilbert and his prosthetic leg. Last night we found him another pair at an outlet store in Loveland. Elaine thought the bag summed up his visit to Colorado: “Everything here was engineered to make you better.” Amen. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)

Gilbert and I met today to discuss 2021 planning for Climbing For Christ’s New Generation. He presented projects “big and small.” Among the larger projects which need funding: a latrine for every school in the four villages where we support 12 teachers and the education of nearly 400 children (cost $500 per school) and additional benches for schools cramped for sitting space ($40 per bench and a need for 40 benches).

He also proposed:

  • A workshop in late March for the parents of school children in which they would learn how to make flooring tiles for their homes. Currently, most homes have cement floors or no flooring at all.
  • A medical operation in August to serve a village or villages where there are no health services.
  • Three mission trips (April, September, and December) to underserved villages.

All of these are contingent on funding being available. C4CNG has some fundraising events planned, which can provide $100 or more USD.

We discussed the primary purpose of Climbing For Christ (to GO into the mountains where others cannot or will not go) which, of course, Gilbert fully understands. He said he is often asked by New Generation members why they must go to the hard-to-reach places. The answer is because that is where God sends us. Some of those people quit C4CNG, which is also God’s way of winnowing members and pruning HIS ministry.

Wednesday, Jan. 13

Brendan was amazed by the improvements Gilbert has made since Monday as he walked back and forth across the exercise room at Quorum. Brendan also fashioned a duplicate leather panel for Gilbert’s hip socket and gave him a tool to take back to Hispaniola with him in case his prosthetic needs repairs. He’ll only see Brendan once more before his return to Santo Domingo this weekend.

Our global Prayer Team is lifting Gilbert and praising God for all that He has done, is doing, and will do in and through our younger brother in Christ.

Tuesday, Jan. 12

Gilbert walks with Gary in the Moraine Park area of Rocky Mountain National Park. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)

Gilbert did walking exercises in his room at our hotel in Loveland and then we took him on a field trip. We drove an hour west to Estes Park and then entered Rocky Mountain National Park. We explained that national parks are located throughout the United States and are intended to preserve wild lands and animals. It was hard for a Haitian native to understand since his country has been deforested. Trees are continuously cut down there to make charcoal.

We pointed out 4,346-meter (14,259-foot) Longs Peak and told him there are 54 mountains in Colorado that exceed 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) – some of the tallest mountains in the United States outside of Alaska.

When we took a short walk in the Moraine Park area, Gilbert was nearly as high (at 8,160 feet/2,487 meters) as the highpoint of Haiti (2,680-meter/8,793-foot Pic la Selle), which is found near his home village Gentilhomme.

“Thank you for taking me to see the great mountains of Colorado. It was a very fun moment,” Gilbert said after we took him to Penelope’s World Famous Burgers & Fries (one of our favorites) in Estes Park.

Monday, Jan. 11

Prosthetist Brendan Tuchowski put tape on the floor as a target for each of Gilbert’s steps as he started working on how he swings his prosthetic leg. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

We said our goodbyes to the Quakenbushes and Canon City and drove three hours north to Windsor for Gilbert’s second week with Quorum Prosthetics. This week he is working on his walking.

Brendan taught him how to kick with his prosthetic leg and use his pelvis so there is more movement in the artificial knee. We covered in one hour what Brendan said would take three months to go over in a normal circumstance. But nothing about Gilbert’s life has been normal.

The goal is for Gilbert to have a better step (stride or gait) rather than swinging his leg. “I would like that,” Gilbert said, smiling.

We will do exercises with him (about 10 minutes every hour or so) the rest of today and tomorrow before he sees Brendan again on Wednesday. Then we’ll repeat the process the rest of Wednesday and Thursday before his final appointment on Friday. Our prayer is for God’s hand to be on Gilbert’s prosthetic leg and make his stride better than normal.

“When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble.” – Proverbs 4:12 (NLT)

Sunday, Jan. 10

Gary reads in English what Gilbert shared in Spanish at the Christian Family Fellowship. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)

Gilbert spoke in worship at Steve’s family’s home church, Christian Family Fellowship (CFF) in Canon City, CO. He shared a brief message of thanks to all who have helped him through the years.

“Many times, I have cried,” he said in Spanish. “I know what loneliness is, going through difficult moments and being discouraged. But also other times I feel happy and grateful to see how God saved me from death and today he has been using me through C4C as a means of blessing those most in need!”

I re-introduced Gilbert to CFF, which is a Climbing For Christ supporter, before I had the honor of preaching the sermon. I delivered a message on “Security” and putting our trust in Jesus.

Outside, the temperature (minus-6 C, 13-degrees F) was colder than anything Gilbert had ever experienced, and the snow-covered mountainsides were unlike anything he had ever seen.

We spent another day in fellowship with Steve’s wonderful family. Our daughter Hayley and son-in-law Mitch drove over from Colorado Springs for worship and lunch at the home of C4C mission veterans Laura and Adam Copper. Dinner was at the home of Steve’s other daughter, Brooke, and son-in-law, Justin Lee, where Gilbert again got to play several games of air hockey.

Saturday, Jan. 9

Gilbert, layered up in his winter gear, for a walk in the snow. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

Gilbert has seen snow – on the ground here in Colorado and even in the air on mission to Savane Zombi in December. But he’d never gone for a walk in the falling snow until today in Canon City.

We took his repaired-and-improved prosthetic leg for a walk around Steve’s neighborhood after the snow started falling so Gilbert could experience more winter-like conditions. A winter storm started today in Colorado with an inch or two of snow expected in Canon City and temperatures in the 20s F.

He said only that it was cold.

Friday, Jan. 8

Final repairs are made to Gilbert’s prosthetic leg. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

More changes were made to Gilbert’s prosthetic leg, including a new shell for the foot (donated by another company), and the way he walks improved immediately. Brendan said next week will be spent focused on his gait. But both he and Joe Johnson, the founder of Quorum who we saw for the first time today, are impressed with the strides Gilbert has made in one year in another country.

Joe and Gilbert were featured in a story in Amplitude magazine’s July/August 2020 issue, “Looking for the helpers.” The magazine also used a Climbing For Christ photo. The story briefly told how Climbing For Christ connected with Joe and Quorum and the help Gilbert has received from Joe’s company. “God’s always blessed me,” Joe is quoted in the story, “and that’s how I live my life.”

Blessed to be a blessing. That’s what makes C4C tick.

After a 2½-hour session at Quorum, we hit the road to drive from northern to southern Colorado. We are spending the weekend in Canon City with Board member Steve Quakenbush and his family. Steve’s daughter Laura and her husband Adam Copper, both veterans of Climbing For Christ missions, hosted dinner. Local Mission: Haiti supporters Eileen Lakey and Katherine Cook joined us, and they recalled Gilbert’s first Colorado visit 11 years ago and asked about the schools in Haiti.

He also told them about the courses (12 in all) he was trying to sign up for – long distance – today for his ninth semester in medical school, which will be underway when he returns to Santo Domingo on Jan. 16.

We finished the evening with Gilbert praying in Creole for the Copper family – Laura, Adam, and their sons, Logan and Alex.

Thursday, Jan. 7

Gilbert trying out a new knee on his prosthetic leg under the watchful eye of Brendan Tuchowski. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

Elaine bought Gilbert a down jacket today as temperatures remained colder than normal in northern Colorado. It was below freezing when we left our Loveland hotel this morning. Back in the Dominican Republic, where Gilbert lives and goes to medical school, the temperatures are in the 80s.

Despite the temperature and change in time zones, which has Gilbert waking up at 4 a.m. each day, he is more than happy to be here. Gilbert is grateful.

We returned to Quorum Prosthetics this afternoon for a 3½-hour session with Brendan, who did some more tweaking on the hip socket and waist belt and then replaced the knee on Gilbert’s prosthesis. He told Gilbert to do some more walking tonight, which we did, and let him know how it is feeling tomorrow morning when we go to Quorum for our next appointment.

As we left Quorum, Gilbert thanked Brendan and told him, “I am praying for you.” Brendan said he appreciated that.

During down time at Quorum, when Brendan was in the workshop with Gilbert’s prosthesis, Gilbert read his Bible in English to Elaine. Here, she helps him with a word as he reads 2 Chronicles 20.

Wednesday, Jan. 6

Gilbert trying out his repaired leg. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)

Gilbert was reunited with prosthetist Brendan Tuchowski at Quorum Prosthetics this morning in Windsor, CO. “Amazing,” Brendan said when he saw Gilbert walking without crutches.

The first goal in bringing Gilbert back here for work on his prosthetic leg was to make corrections where some pain is caused. This required the placement of a new leather strap on the artificial hip socket and the replacement of buckles around the waist.

Joe Dertinger, above left, a Quorum technician who also is an amputee, helps Brendan Tuchowski work on the hip socket of Gilbert’s prosthetic leg. Below, Brendan videotapes Gilbert walking after making repairs. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

He will spend some time walking on this and then, in the days ahead, Brendan will make any adjustments necessary before doing some walking therapy with him this week and next.

We asked Gilbert what it meant to him to have this leg.

“It is a great blessing for me to have my leg,” he said, “since when I wear my long pants many people do not even realize I am an amputee.”

He said it makes him feel better about himself to not be seen as an amputee.

“I don’t use it to do everything because where I move many times they have mountains and I am used to crutches,” Gilbert added, “but I really would like to stop using crutches.”

Tuesday, Jan. 5

Gilbert reading John 5 in English with Elaine from the Spanish/English Bible we bought him last year at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

Monday, Jan. 4

Gilbert arriving at Denver International Airport. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

Gilbert landed a half-hour early in Denver, CO, after flying overnight from Santo Domingo to JFK and then onward to DIA. Praise God for safe travel! He is very tired from being up all night flying. We returned to the Loveland/Fort Collins area, where he is scheduled to see our friends at Quorum Prosthetics on Wednesday in Windsor.

After lunch, Gilbert started catching up on lost sleep. He's been greeted by emails from several of our Board members welcoming him back to the States.

Introduction

Climbing For Christ New Generation (Haiti) leader Gilbert Lindor is scheduled to travel on Monday, Jan. 4 from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he is a medical-school student supported by C4C, to Denver, CO. He will be in Colorado with Climbing For Christ’s Gary and Elaine Fallesen for 13 days.

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