“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30, NKJV).
I'm sure everyone is familiar with this lament from God through the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel about how the leaders of God's people abused their power and oppressed the people in ancient Israel. The same is true around the world today. Leaders are supposed to shepherd those under their care and in their sphere of influence; abuse of power is common, whereas true loving kindness and compassionate care are rare.
However, in Haiti, nurses under the leadership of NCF-Haiti chapter leaders have taken on the challenge to “stand in the gap” for their people. Recognizing the tremendous need for education and guidance in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of nurses led by NCF-Haiti vice president Vanessa Roland and her colleagues began providing health education in churches and other venues where people could gather. Nurses handed out masks and taught about health and hygiene, especially in relation to prevention of COVID-19.
INITIATING HEALTH BOOTHS
Moreover, the nurses initiated the practice of street corner “health booths” to provide hand sanitation and masks which are hard for the general public to obtain. This effort spread among nurses and college students as well as the Scouts organization that had done this kind of outreach all across Haiti in 2010 during the cholera epidemic. Efforts by nurses and other public health-minded leaders and individuals have mitigated the spread of coronavirus even though the vaccine is not readily available in Haiti.
Another way NCF-Haiti nurse leaders stood in the gap for individuals and communities in Haiti was after the 2021 earthquake and hurricane that devastated southern Haiti; these nurse leaders gathered a team of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare personnel. Even though vicious gangs prowled along the main roads in the affected areas, these courageous nurses led their group by back roads to the town nearest to the epicenter where there was much suffering and great need. This team provided healthcare, food, and help with rescue efforts, clearing viable shelters that could protect people from the elements.
EDUCATING AND PROMOTING HEALTH
Today, NCF-Haiti nurse leaders continue to provide health education and promotion among the Haitians. Currently, they see a need to explain the odd behaviors of Americans and others who are opposed to mask mandates and vaccination requirements. With the Internet and telephone communication, multiple opinions from the world are readily available, producing confusion and lessening the positive health impact of education on people's behaviors. Nurses in Haiti now need to counteract misinformation as well as provide accurate information.
According to the International Council of Nurses (ICN), compassionate care is mandated by The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses (ICN, 2021). This kind of care requires nurses to be creative and to think outside the box to give the best care possible. Solutions are not always easy and may require sacrifice on our part, as shown by the nurse leaders of NCF-Haiti and their colleagues. Additionally, loving kindness is promoted throughout the Bible as the practice of kind attitudes and actions that flow out of the well of love within us who are followers of Jesus Christ. Christ in us is not only the “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) but also the fountain or wellspring from which flow life and light and love (Psalm 36:9). This is the basis for the kindness and compassion that should characterize all of our service as nurses in a hurting world.
God calls all nurses to stand in the gap wherever he has placed us. This means that we need to sacrificially do our part in the great effort to alleviate suffering and to promote health. How this looks in practice may be different for each of us, but it is required of all nurses in our role as workers in God's Kingdom and ministers of health and healing.
International Council of Nurses. (2021). The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses