Local team travels to Haiti for medical mission

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2011

By Joanie Morris
For The Salisbury Post
Before planning a mission trip to Haiti with Bless Back Worldwide, Tom Loeblein was content in his life. Beautiful wife, beautiful kids. Amazing job and wonderful church.
Then he went to Haiti.
“I had never known what nothing was,” said Tom, who called the trip life-changing. “I had never seen nothing before.”
Tom, his wife Leigh Ann and one of his daughters, 17-year-old Joy, went on the mission trip in May as representatives of Bless Back Worldwide, a group that sends mostly doctors, physician assistants and others in the medical field to places around the world to offer medical expertise and procedures.
With the Loebleins went 12 other people — a dentist, dental assistant, four physician assistants, two medical doctors, an athletic trainer, nurse, journalist and photographer.
Part of the crew was from Salisbury. In addition to the Loebleins were Doug and Kelly Carroll, a husband-wife physician assistant team (Doug works for RoMed and Kelly works in the emergency room at Rowan Regional Medical Center), and Rachel Gray, a physician assistant with Salisbury Pediatrics Associates.
“Coming from America where we have so much (and going to) the poorest country in the western hemisphere, it is truly overwhelming,” said Tom, vice president of Healthcare Management Consultants. Tom was asked to lead the group because he has experience in organizing and coordinating. Using his skills, the group was able to do the maximum amount of work possible, without wasting the skills of a medical professional on coordination.
This was Tom’s first trip and Leigh Ann’s second; she went on a trip with Bless Back Worldwide in January.
Each person pays or raises approximately $2,000 to go on the trip — something Tom struggled with at first.
“That would go a long way,” said Tom. “That would buy a lot of food for those kids.”
After prayer and struggling with the decision — it would cost $6,000 for his family to go, a lot of money for those in Haiti, more than many there will ever see — the family decided to go.
“Once you go over there, you realize they can feed them and they can clothe them, but it’s when the mission teams go over there they can feel God’s touch,” said Tom. “They don’t get that love. The mission teams that go over there give that to them. We’re God’s arms and hands reaching around them and telling them they are awesome.
“It was hard to come back,” he added. He plans to return to Haiti within the next year.
Tom likened the struggles the people of Haiti go through to the book of Daniel, in which Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were delivered by God unscathed from the fiery furnace.
“Even though these children have nothing, they had smiles on their faces and a peace about them,” Tom said. “It’s almost like that (supernatural protection of the young Jews) with these children.
“It’s so amazing to look at these little faces with nothing,” Tom added. “Despite that, we know that God loves each and every one of them just like he loves our own children. He gives them a protection of joy that is just mind-boggling.”
While in Haiti, the group created medical records and performed physicals on all the children at Cassa Major, an orphanage; painted the inside of the dining facility in Cambry; completed an inventory of medical supplies and the pharmacy; organized the medical supply storage, as well as pharmacy, including discarding old, unusable medicines; and saw 390 medical patients, 181 dental patients and extracted 120 teeth.
In addition, they attended church services, prayed with the Haitians and “loved on a bunch of children.”
While he struggled with the cost at first, Tom said it won’t make him hesitate in the future.
“We have a responsibility,” he said. “We’ve been given so much.
“I have just fully realized how much we truly have,” he added. “It changed my whole perspective on life as to what truly is important and what you can live — and what other people do live — without.”
To participate in mission trips, Tom recommends starting at home — talk to your church pastor and pray about the decision. If you are unable to go on a trip, consider donating for others to go.
“Whether they give $10 or $100 or more, they are making a huge difference in a child’s life over there,” he said. “(They are) sending somebody that’s going to take care of them.”
Learn more about Bless Back Worldwide by visiting www.blessbackworldwide.org
Contact Joanie Morris at 704-797-4248 or news@salisburypost.com.