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Braak is back

Becky Vargo • Aug 16, 2018 at 12:00 PM

A missionary with local ties, who was critically injured in an accident in Haiti in early March, is continuing his recovery in the Grand Haven area with plans to return to Haiti next month.

Tom Braak, 55, the director of Faith in Action International, said Tuesday that he has a long way to go, but that he has until the end of the year to prove to the board that he is capable of leading its mission in Haiti.

Braak is the son of former Grand Haven resident Larry Braak, whose family operated Braak’s Bakery in Spring Lake for many years. Tom Braak grew up in Marquette.

The missionary; his wife, Filicita; and their 8-year-old son, Ryan, are staying with a relative in West Olive while Tom continues his therapy and recovery.

The family already has tickets to fly back to Haiti on Sept. 12, but Braak said they would work on raising funds to finish building their home and to purchase an all-terrain utility vehicle while he recovers. 

Braak said the accident occurred March 2 when he and a truck driver argued over money. Braak was on the flatbed of the truck that was filled with breadfruit plants that needed to be delivered to local farmers. The angry driver jerked the truck away, causing Braak to fall.

Braak said he grabbed onto something and was dragged across a rough rock and gravel road until he apparently lost consciousness, lost his grip and fell.

He was not run over by the truck, as stated in previous stories, he said.

Braak suffered a severe head injury, seven broken ribs, a dislocated left shoulder, punctured lungs, lots of bruises and two fractured hips.

After an hours-long ambulance ride, Braak was treated at a hospital in Port Au Prince, Haiti, before a quick fundraising effort brought in enough money to airlift him to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was transferred to Kindred Hospital The Palm Beaches, in Riviera Beach, Florida, until more funds were raised and doctors said he could make the trip to Michigan.

Braak spent two months in the Florida hospitals and almost another month at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.

In late June, Braak found a safe spot to sit and watch Worship on the Waterfront at the recently renovated Waterfront Stadium in Grand Haven. The missionary continues to attend the weekly event and said he is working hard on his physical and cognitive therapy.

Braak became emotional describing how doctors in Florida talked to his wife about the possibility of “pulling the plug,” or how he was likely to be a vegetable for the rest of his life.

“She thought I was going to die and wondered how she was going to keep things going with our son,” he said.

Braak said it was prayers from West Michigan and all over the world that helped him recover.

Braak said he becomes easily emotional because that was one of the parts of his brain that was injured in the accident. His short-term memory is also affected.

Although he still experiences pain from his injuries, Braak said he hasn’t taken any medication of any kind for three weeks.

“Some days are better than others,” he admitted.

Braak also has trouble with his balance and needs assistance stepping up onto a curb, he said.

“I will have to rely a lot on staff when I get back to Haiti,” he said. “I just have to be able to organize them. I will be relying more on them and my wife. It will become more of a Haitian project.”

Operations have continued at Faith in Action International while Braak has been gone, but they need help getting organized again, he said. 

“Faith In Action International is a Christian mission organization that exists to bring hope to the people of Haiti in the Artibonite Valley and surrounding mountains by spreading the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and by empowering them to meet their basic physical needs,” he explained.

A big part of the organization’s mission is to provide clean drinking water and to help farmers become sustainable. Mission groups are always welcome at Faith in Action, Braak noted.

Braak said he is anxious to get back to Haiti and would get on a plane “right now if I could.” But he understands that he needs to continue healing and he asks for continued prayers.

Braak said he hopes to remain in Haiti to live, but says if he is unable to continue to direct the mission, the Braak family could return to the U.S. 

You can find out more about Faith in Action International or make a donation on its website at www.faithinactionint.org.

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