Lancaster County Missionary Shot in Haiti While on Service Trip

Jan. 24, 2012, 10:43 a.m. EST
York Daily Record

He wanted to switch his cellphone from his pocket to his bag, but Chad Esh knows it is not wise to flash valuables if you aren’t sure of your surroundings.

And his surroundings at the time were a bit chaotic.

Esh was riding in the back of a pickup truck a week ago, stuck in traffic jam on a crowded road outside of Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince,while on his way to work on a missions project.

Esh, 21, of New Holland, glanced around, felt satisfied no one was watching and stashed the phone in his bag. He jumped to the ground to see if he could figure out how long the traffic jam was going to last.

Then: a man, a shove, some words in Creole, the sound of a gunshot, a slow-motion drop to the ground.

Esh found himself lying on his side, shot through the hip and gut, his stomach filling with blood. A man who had taken Esh’s bag now was rifling his pocket for his wallet.

“I didn’t think I was going to die,” Esh said. “I felt my mind was there too much. I felt too conscious. But I’m not sure what was going through my mind.

“I was having a hard time comprehending I had been shot, like, whoa, this is really happening.”

Esh is recovering this week in a Florida hospital, where he underwent his third surgery Monday.

He hopes to return to Lancaster County in about a month. An active person who likes snowboarding and skateboarding, he hopes he will recover, walk again, return to his old life and, eventually, do mission work in Haiti.

Esh does not know who shot and robbed him. No one has been apprehended.

A young man with a deep faith, Esh has chosen to forgive, saying that is what God wants him to do.

“It hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be, just because there has been so much love and support shown to me,” he said. “It’s one of those things that I don’t really feel I have any right to hold a grudge against someone when there is so much love and support shown to me.”

Haiti is a country that has suffered staggering hardships since a January 2010 earthquake killed more than 300,000 people and destroyed almost 100,000 buildings, according to federal reports. A recent report by Oxfam, a humanitarian organization, said that two years after the earthquake, more than half a million Haitians remain homeless.

Aid workers continue to travel to the country to continue the rebuilding process.

Esh and his family have a history with Haiti. His parents, Lloyd and Mary Ellen Esh, are former mission workers there. The couple lived in Haiti for two and a half years, when Esh was a baby and a toddler.

The Eshes, who have seven children, live in New Holland. Esh is the pastor of New Covenant Mennonite Church in Ephrata, and the couple owns Dutchland Quilt Patch and Weaver’s Dry Goods.

Chad Esh first traveled to Haiti in December 2010 and returned early last year to rebuild houses and work at a school from February to May.

Before the shooting ended this year’s trip to the country, he and a friend, Shawn Yoder, 24, of Kinzers, had planned to build a home for a 17-year-old teenager who had lost his home and most of his family in the 2010 earthquake.

Yoder and Esh, who had taken time off from his job for a local tree service company, arrived Monday, Jan. 16. Other relief workers planned to drive the two to their work site in Carrefour, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.

They were stopped in traffic when the holdup occurred.

“I just remember this guy – he just walked up to the vehicle and pushed me over a little bit and grabbed the bag,” Esh recalled. “I said ‘Don’t touch that.’ I think I grabbed it, and that’s when I got shot.”

Lying on the ground, Esh saw the gunman waving his gun around and yelling at people. The man who was driving the pickup truck Esh had been riding in sped away, trying to protect others who were in the truck.

Esh doesn’t know exactly what happened next, but he and Yoder ended up in the cab of a dump-truck driver, who was behind them in traffic.

The driver started racing toward a hospital.

“I remember lying there and he’s driving like crazy,” Esh said in a clear, strong voice. “I remember my vision just went black, and here’s where I thought I might be dying.”

Yoder took off his shirt and used it to try to stop the blood pouring from his friend’s stomach.

The driver, who was headed to a different hospital, instead stopped at the Project Medishare Hospital, which was established by doctors from the University of Miami’s medical school. Four surgeons there had the expertise and tools to help him.

As they examined him, Esh asked one of the doctors how bad it was, and she said she did not know. He then asked if he could call his parents, and during a very brief conversation with his mother, told her that he had been shot.

“And that’s the last thing I remember,” he said.

Esh was in surgery for 10 hours. Doctors repaired the damage to his colon and other internal organs.

Early the next morning, Esh was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. His parents flew down to Florida, where Esh again underwent surgery. Doctors there worked on injuries to his left leg.

When Esh awoke, he was confused.

“The first thing I consciously remember was seeing my mom, and I thought, ‘What on earth? How did they get here this fast?’ I thought I was still in Haiti,” Esh recalled.

Friends from church and home sprang into action, transporting his six brothers and sisters to Florida late last week, finding the family a condominium to stay in and sending support and prayers and Facebook messages to Esh.

“I couldn’t type at first, but now I am trying to respond to all the messages,” Esh said, adding, “I can’t keep up!”

Members of his family will remain in Florida as Esh recovers, though his 19-year-old sister, Annie, and 16-year-old brother, Tyler, are leaving soon for their own mission trips to Africa. His entire family plans to go to Thailand this summer for mission work.

It’s in their blood, and it is in Esh’s blood, as well. He’s already traveled to China, Burma and Vietnam for other work.

“I definitely want to go back again to Haiti,” he said. “I don’t know how soon it will happen. I have a lot of friends there, and there are a lot of people who mean a lot to me there.”


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1 thought on “Lancaster County Missionary Shot in Haiti While on Service Trip

  1. May God bless you, brother! Keep faith in Him.Everything will br well soon.

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