For 20 years Dr. James Wilkins and his wife, Sandy, had a rich, full life in Girard.
For 20 years Dr. James Wilkins and his wife, Sandy, had a rich, full life in Girard. He was a family physician, and the couple raised their four children.
But they also felt a need to serve God and the needy in other parts of the world.
“We had done some short-term mission trips for a number of years, but in the mid-1990s we felt that the Lord was calling us to full-time ministry,” Dr. Wilkins said.
He and Mrs. Wilkins are currently home from the mission field. They usually return to Girard in August and December to see friends and family, including their son, Ben, and daughters Amanda, Rachel and Sarah, and their grandchildren.
They first thought that they would go to some Spanish-speaking area. Then, in 1995, they did a mission trip to the Dominican Republic near that nation’s border with Haiti — both countries are located on the island of Hispaniola.
“We saw a lot of Haitian patients and both felt, independently, that Haiti was where we were supposed to go,” Dr. Wilkins said.
Statistics on the nation are grim. Yearly per-capita income in Haiti is $400, making it the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the third poorest in the world. There is one doctor for every 10,041 people, and average life expectancy is only 51 years.
Dr. Wilkins first went to Haiti in 1996, to Lumiere, a hospital in the mountains of southern Haiti. He and his wife, who is an RN, ran an outpatient clinic there for seven years.
They are now at Christianville Medical Clinic at Gressier, Haiti, 15 miles west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital and largest city. The mission offers educational services from pre-school through college, and also has an agricultural program. Dr. and Mrs. Wilkins are in charge of the outpatient clinic.
“When we came, the clinic was open three days a week,” Dr. Wilkins said. “Now it’s open five days a week, sometimes six. We have four doctors, three of them Haitian. We do a typical family practice and perform some minor surgeries.”
The patients are very poor, and many of them are seen for free. Others may pay fees amounting to $3 or $1.25.
“We try to have a quality organization for the cheapest price possible,” Mrs. Wilkins said. “The hospitals in Haiti are poor, and we do as much as we can on an outpatient basis. We handle some cases that would be in intensive care in the United States. If a patient has a life-threatening illness, must be in a hospital and can’t pay, then we do help with that.”
Education is another focus — helping the Haitians to help themselves, teaching them to care for themselves.
“This is called Community Health Evangelism,” Mrs. Wilkins said. “In most medical missions, you work yourself to death and still don’t make a dent in the problem. CHE has an aspect dealing with impacting both physical and spiritual health.”
First step, she said, is to go into a community and see if the people there are interested. If so, a committee composed of local people is set up to identify what problems they want to address. “The people of the community have control over everything,” Mrs. Wilkins said. “We teach them that they can accomplish their goals on their own. We teach them logical thinking and problem solving — things we Americans learn from kindergarten.”
“We’ll start this program with one village and see what happens,” Dr. Wilkins said. “CHE has worked well in Africa. Generally, neighboring villages see how well it’s working in one area, and decide they want to try it themselves.”
The couple formed a 501(c)(3) organization, Haiti Health Ministries, which is headquartered in Girard. “All but one of the board members is in Girard,” Dr. Wilkins said. “The other is a doctor in Georgia.”
Dr. and Mrs. Wilkins welcome others who would like to take a short mission trip of a week or two. No medical background is necessary.
“We can have people count pills in our pharmacy,” Mrs. Wilkins said.
“We’ve usually got construction going on, and people can help with that, or just help with cleaning up,” Dr. Wilkins said.
“A trip like this opens people’s eyes,” Mrs. Wilkins said. “They are not aware of what the rest of the world is like. Everyone of us in the United States would be considered a millionaire in Haiti.”
“We do have water, electricity and gas in Haiti,” Dr. Wilkins said. “We just don’t have them all at the same time.”
“When the electricity goes off in the summer and there are no fans, it does get mighty warm,” Mrs. Wilkins said. “But we do this to glorify God and honor Jesus.”
Anyone needing additional information may visit www.haitihealthministries.org.