By Michael Hall
The Hartwell Sun
Opening a mission hospital in Haiti while operating out of Northeast Georgia was never going to be easy.
Doing so as a pandemic spread across the globe, hindering travel and the ability to gather groups together, made it even more difficult than Love Him Love Them Ministries co-founder Linda Gunter could have imagined.
But with a truckload of faith, selfless giving from dozens of people, businesses and organizations and a shipping container loaded to the brim with medical supplies, Valley of Hope Hospital is set to open Saturday, Aug. 29 in Gallette Chambon, Haiti.
Gunter admits the daunting task of coordinating the shipment of supplies needed to open the hospital was almost too much to take.
“We almost gave up,” she said.
Medical care in an underserved area of a developing island nation during a pandemic was too important, however, so the opening of the hospital was moved to an earlier date than originally planned.
Travel restrictions were discouraging and raising the money needed to open the hospital and ship supplies was difficult, Gunter said, especially considering the primary fundraiser for Lavonia-based Love Him Love Them, a tour of the Haitian Orphan Choir comprised of youth from the ministry’s orphanages and schools, had to be canceled for 2020.
She soon learned to lean on her faith and let God handle things, Gunter said.
“I really believe God was saying, ‘You think you know what’s going on? I’ve got this under control,’” she said.
Much like the ministry itself, which was born out of desperate need following the 2010 earthquake that ravaged Haiti, Valley of Hope’s opening later this month was spurred by tragedy.
A young woman in labor came to a Love Him Love Them school and church facility in Gallette Chambon on the back of a motorcycle, hoping to find medical care.
The school did not have the resources she needed.
The nearest medical care facility was more than an hour away.
Despite the best efforts of Pastor Maxeau Antoine and others, the woman and her child both died before they could the get the necessary medical attention.
“This was our sign,” Gunter said.
Completing the mission would not be without its challenges.
She and her team knew that, but the Lord had called them to provide the people there a better option, she said.
The Hart and Hall county health departments each had donated items to the ministry previously and still had more to offer.
Love Him Love Them has a storage facility in Lavonia filled with donated supplies and an organization called Missionary Flights International donated even more.
Local doctors from St. Mary’s Hospital and from around the region had provided supplies like a centrifuge and microscopes so the hospital could operate a lab to aid in diagnosing patients.
The Hart County-based organization, Acts 1:8, also got in on the action and set aside some supplies to its orphanage in Haiti.
Now they just needed a way to get it all to Haiti.
Lisa Welshman, executive director of Love Him Love Them ministry, said a group of dozens of volunteers from area counties, including Stephens, Franklin and Hart, showed up ready to load the shipping container bought with donations, but its arrival was delayed that day.
“It was amazing how we got it down there. It was nuts,” Welshman said.
So the team put everything on pallets and organized it all to be prepared for when the container did actually arrive in a few days.
Then the driver from the company Unity on a Mission, who was donating his time to transport the container from Franklin County to Miami, got sick.
A new driver stepped up and a much smaller group of about nine people gathered again at a later date to load the container and see it on its way.
Thankfully, Welshman said, the truck arrived a couple days later in Miami and successfully made it to Haiti.
“It took over 100 volunteers, three trips between Lavonia, Gainesville and Hartwell to pick up supplies, coordination of donations being dropped off at all hours at the office and our storage area,” Welshman said.
“Plus, then truck driver No. 1 gets sick so we have to pray for another driver. That comes through and so he drives from Lavonia to Fort Pierce, Fla., to pick up five donated pallets of medical supplies then heads to Miami to the dock,” Welshman said.
It was enough to get the hospital going, but Welshman said there is still plenty more needed to make it operate as the ministry plans.
“We need major stuff now,” she said, adding that the group still needs beds, ventilators and other more substantial medical care items.
Gunter, who founded the ministry with her husband David, said the hospital opening despite the challenges is a testament to God’s love and power.
“We were literally in a spiritual battle,” she said about the effort to open Valley of Hope. “The big deal of opening the hospital is for spiritual care.”
Patients will come and receive medical care, but in the end, their spirit will be uplifted as well, Gunter said.
“Satan wants us to quit, but we have to keep fighting,” she said.
Gunter said the ministry “literally works off faith,” and relies solely on donations.
To donate to Love Him Love Them Ministries or to learn more about their missions, go to lovehimlovethem.org<http://lovehimlovethem.org> or call Linda Gunter at 706-599-7525.