Windermere resident helps bring hope to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew

Windermere resident Lynn Johns is set to go on her second medical missions trip to Jeremie, Haiti, since Hurricane Matthew.

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  • | 1:13 p.m. November 30, 2016
Despite having nothing, these Haitian orphans often are seen happy and smiling.
Despite having nothing, these Haitian orphans often are seen happy and smiling.
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WINDERMERE  It costs her thousands of dollars each year to go on medical missions trips to a small, poor village in Haiti, but Windermere resident Lynn Johns has a good reason for doing so: It forever changes people’s perspectives.

“Up until I was 50, I’d never been on a medical missions trip,” she said. “If you show up in Haiti with a Band-Aid, they think you’re a doctor. There’s one doctor for every 35,000 people in Haiti. When we show up in a bus with medical scrubs and bags, they think it’s a top-notch medical team flying in.” 

According to WorldBank, Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world, with significant needs in basic services. In the United States, about 15% of Americans live in poverty. In Haiti, 77% of the population lives in poverty.



Johns went on her first medical missions trip to Haiti with Rebati Emmanuel — a group out of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Cross Plains, Tennessee — about two years ago. They go to Jeremie, Haiti, at least four times each year and partner with El Shaddai Ministries International to provide medical treatment, construct buildings and love on the orphanage’s children.

The group’s name — Rebati means “rebuild” and Emmanuel means “God with us” — translates to its mission quite literally. 

Johns went on a medical missions trip to Haiti just after Hurricane Matthew, and she will head back for a week in early December. 

“It really develops a deep bond with these children and watching them grow,” Johns said. “Now that we sponsor them, they’re given food, water and schooling. We had built a church, a school and a safe home with everything they needed.”



Hurricane Matthew tore through Haiti in early October, destroying much of the progress Rebati Emmanuel and ESMI had made in the small village. In Haiti the structures are not up to hurricane code, and concrete blocks are made by hand. Tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of work was destroyed in a period of 24 hours.

The only structure that remains in Emmanuel Children’s Village is a two-story home where the pastor and his wife take care of the more than 60 orphans. Johns said it is the building God told him to go to to ride out the storm. No one was physically hurt.

“The heartbreak of it all is that what was completed is now devastated,” Johns said. “Matthew literally took it all away. It looks like a bomb went off; it’s terrible. When we say they have nothing, we’re not exaggerating. It was very hard for those of us who went on that trip because we thought, ‘How could they be happy? How could they be playing with rocks, running around in ripped clothes and being happy?’”

But despite having nothing, the Haitians are some of the happiest and most grateful people Johns has ever met. The last trip consisted of a nurse practitioner, two doctors, three nurses and three volunteers on triage — including Johns, who is not in the medical field. 

“I am proof that anybody can go on a medical trip,” she said jokingly. “I’m just a mother and grandmother who can put on Band-Aids — that’s my qualification. In Haiti, that makes you a doctor.”



At least 300 to 400 people were waiting in line to be seen when they arrived, and over the course of five days, Johns’ group saw more than 1,200 people. The team worked for at least eight hours each day and saw many routine ailments, a few cases of cholera, many children with respiratory infections, a baby with hydrocephalus and a case of tuberculosis, among others. However, they were surprised to find that aside from some cuts and a couple of broken arms, there were not nearly as many storm-related injuries as expected.

“We set up in places that aren’t medical clinics,” she said. “They wait patiently; they’re very kind and appreciative, and we were surprised we saw very few injuries related to the storm. For them, if you give them ibuprofen, most of the time they tear up, and they don’t understand that it’s free.”

Johns’ upcoming December trip is at capacity, but she will head out again in March 2017 and is collecting donations for that medical trip. They will need a large amount of basic first-aid supplies, such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, Neosporin and eye drops.

The overall need for supplies, financial resources and medical personnel is huge, and Johns added that if people are willing to donate first-aid items she will collect them for the March trip, which leaves March 23.


Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].


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