Amid a season of strife a rising tide of gang violence turned some parts of Haiti into No-Go zones, even for the police. A group of Christian missionaries travelled to Haiti with supplies for a community centre they’re helping to build. Shortly after leaving the airport in Port-au-Prince, things went terribly wrong. Fred Chalker, the founder of Living Waters Ministries was a part of the group. “About four hours outside of Port-Au-Prince, we came upon a gang of people stopping traffic,” Chalker said. “We were the only ones there. I’ve been there a hundred times, and never had any major problems, so this is not a normal thing that happened,” he continued.
“What concerned the missionaries most was that many in the crowd were armed. “The truck was swarming with men with guns and weapons. They pounded on the windows trying to break them to get in,” said team member Jackie Brandon. “One man’s standing there with his gun and he has two white lines down his cheek to his chin. It reminded me of voodoo,” she said. Team member Jeff Lee said, “We came around the corner and all of a sudden the road’s blocked off, there’s burning tires and debris, it’s a mass crowd of a hundred people well-armed with guns. As we approached they started shooting in the air. To be truthful, I thought we were going to die.”
Drew Pasler was driving the second vehicle along with the team doctor, Doug Burbella. “As we approached he said, ‘slow down,’ so we cautiously approached as we saw these people swarming the vehicle in front of us” Pasler said. “It was then I saw a rifle come around the side. We thought they were going to execute us. So I started reversing and Doug’s yelling, ‘go!’ and as I’m reversing that’s when we started hearing the guns firing that were pointed at us.” With their vehicle disabled by the gunfire, bandits quickly overtook the truck. “I could see there was a motorcycle next to us, and they had a machine gun and the window blew out behind my head.”
After a couple of seconds I heard Doug yell, ‘I’m dying. I’ve been hit.'” Pasler said. As the gang emptied both vehicles, the situation continued to deteriorate. “I looked back to see Doug’s face covered in blood and I could see he had two visible wounds and possibly more just based on the amount of blood that I saw,” Pasler continued. Then the gunman put his rifle up to Dr. Burbella’s head. But before he could pull the trigger, something extraordinary happened. Pasler said, “A man on a motorcycle just kind of pulled up out of nowhere in front of me. And he looked at me and said ‘it’s okay, it’s going to be okay.’ in perfect English.”
“Not yelling,” Pasler continued. “but in a regular talking voice, He said something in Creole, and everybody around us that had the guns just kind of stopped.” “Everything changed,” Brandon said. “The whole demeanour of the crowd just stood back. I don’t know what they saw, but they stepped back and the tension was gone.” But the crisis wasn’t over. Doug Burbella was slowly bleeding to death. “Once we arrived at the vehicle they said ‘Hey, Doug’s been shot,'” Lee said. “I immediately jumped out of the vehicle. We picked up Doug; he said ‘my neck is broken,’ so we picked him up, I had Fred get on the other, we picked him up and slid him into the back seat of the vehicle.”
Leaving their disabled vehicle, they rushed Burbella to the nearest hospital, almost an hour away. Burbella wasn’t sure he would make it, so he asked his friends to record his last words expressing his love to his wife and son. Burbella was rushed to Delray Beach, Florida. Surgeons removed bullets and bullet fragments from his neck and face. They said the fact he survived was a miracle. Now out of the hospital and recovering, Burbella wants others to learn from his ordeal. “I want people to know that if God can carry me through this with no loss of any function, really, whatever problems you have, God can carry you through them too.”
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