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Haiti Mission Trip Journal May 2012


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Journal of a Haiti Mission Trip May 2012 by sisters Ann Brau and Joyce Getchell President and Secretary of Reiser Relief

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Haiti Mission Trip Journal May 2012

  1. 1. Fr. Reiser’s Nieces take to the streets of Haiti nieces of itslate founder Fr. BernardReiser. Heres what theyhad to say during their firsttrip to Haiti in May 2012: Ann Brau ~ Ann Brau Our first there could be so much in every direction we day! We poverty in such a beautiful looked. The Haitian spent setting. But reality set in people we have met so far most of it after we left the airport and are friendly and traveling, saw villages of tin shanties, accommodating, and we so we dirt roads covered with are blessed to be staying didn’t get litter, and signs of poverty in a guesthouse witha chance to seemuch of Haitiexcept for whenwe were comingin for our landingand on our shortdrive on our “taptap” from theairport to thehouse. As wewere landing, Iwas struck byhow beautiful thecity looked fromthe air. Largelysurrounded bymountains, it washard to believe 2
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  3. 3. Amongst it all, there was a presence of God them living 6-8 people in these dark one-room shacks, elderly people sitting inside dark homes or outside in the hot sun with nobody to look after them, small children carrying buckets of water weighing more than themselves from our water trucks to their “homes,” countless children with no clothes at all, children playing in sewage-infesteddelicious food and air no windows, no beds, no waters and walkingconditioned bedrooms.. furniture and no sign of barefoot over filth and food to be eaten, many of garbage, small babies left ~ AnnHow can I begin todescribe a day likeyesterday? A daysurrounded by a city madeup of dirt-packed roads,garbage everywhere,children with visible signsof malnutrition andphysical impairments thathad never received medicalcare, people of all agesliving in tin shanties withdirt floors, leaking roofs, 4
  4. 4. The little red truck that could..... save more more lives every day. 5
  5. 5. crying and alone in darkness while their mothers were out getting water for their families, no bathrooms or running water, no hope for the future. And yet, children running from all directions to greet us, children with huge smiles on their dirty faces begging for hugs, wanting to be held, tugging us from all sides, naked children finding joy in sitting under the water trucks drinking the water dribbling down the back of the truck or trying to catch it insmall buckets, children wanting to tell us their names, ask us our names, play gameswith us, babies that were happily willing to be scooped up in our arms and stay forendless periods of time, children climbing into the newly-fetched buckets of water withdelighted grins on their faces as they splash in the cold water, children joyfully followingus through the garbage-filledstreets, alleys and beaches gladlyposing for pictures as weexamined their lives and theirhomes, children who foundhappiness in a street, city, countrythat has so little to offer and solittle hope for the future.And amongst it all, there was apresence of God…It can’t be described. I couldn’tbear to be there, yet I couldn’tbear to leave—all in the samebreath. Words can never dojustice to the experience. Not evenpictures can explain it. Yet I sharea few with you.Blessings,Ann 6
  6. 6. This is my one commandment, that you love one another ~ Joyce We were asked yesterday to choose one word to describe our day. The first word that came to my mind was grit, probably because I was so dirty when asked to think of a word! I had grit on my hands from turning cartwheels with the kids, grit between my fingers fromholding naked children, grit onmy shorts from holding childrenwho ran through garbage andsewage with no shoes, grit on myface from dirt blowing fromunpaved roads, grit in my nosefrom breathing smells that comefrom no access to sewagesystems.Not to mention the grit that ittakes the people of Cite Soleil tosurvive from day to day.It’s one thing to imagine what itwould be like to live without water, but quite another thing to carry 50 pound buckets of water through narrow alleyways to shanties to lift that burden from a skinny child, pregnant woman, or elderly woman, and then turn around and do it all again and again. But then another word came to my mind as I was reflecting on the Gospel of John 15: “This is my one commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…. You did not choose me but I chose you.” 7
  7. 7. This is the first time in my 42 years on earth that I have felt like I could quite literally bethe hands of Christ in this world. “For I was thirsty and you gave me water to drink.” Itwas so simple and pureand good and true. So Ichanged my word of theday to HANDS.God used my hands to givewater to the thirsty. Howincredible is that? Godused my hands to holdbabies needing love. Godused my hands to play withchildren looking forvalidation. God used myhands to lift heavy bucketsonto women’s heads sothey could cook, drink,bathe and feed their families. God used my hands to hold a water hose and fillbuckets.God used my hands to move buckets into place and out of the way. God used myhands to show his love. It’s easy to smile in Cite Soleil because all the children aresmiling at you. In fact, I couldn’t stop smiling for the first half of the day. And then wewalked back to the furthest recesses of the slums. Back to where the sewage and muckstagnates. Back where people perch on outhouse structures over the ocean to go to the 8
  8. 8. I can’t walk away from misery and do nothing. bathroom and where other children swim nearby because they have nowhere else to swim. Back where people have to struggle more than their neighbors just to carry a bucket of clean water. Where sharp corroded sheet metal and rusty nails poke out around every corner. Back where pigs root, and chickens squawk, and the barefoot kids wince because the ground is so treacherous with sharp shells and garbage. And I couldn’t smile anymore. My face wouldn’t move. But all the kids around me were still smiling.As Fr. Reiser said, I can’t walk away from misery and do nothing.Peace, Joyce ~ AnnChange… Tonight I was recallingan event that happened yesterday.I paused and had to be sure—was itonly YESTERDAY that we did ourwater truck delivery?How could only one day havepassed and yet I have changed somuch? Who could have told meeven one day ago that today I’d berubbing lotion over the bodies ofsick and dying women of all agesranging from younger than my owndaughters to women older than myself and be completely comfortable with it? 9
  9. 9. And how could I have known I would have the opportunity to visit a school that mybeloved late uncle helped to fund and see 625 smiling faces of children, being taught in classroom settings that are primitive compared to what we are accustomed to at home and they were thrilled to meet us? I visited a medical clinic so far behind United States standards that there was no comparison, but yet I found myself truly impressed with what they DO with what little they have. And finally, that I would go to an orphanage filled with so many sick and dying babies, hold them in my arms and feed them and love them and somehow be able to walk awaybroken-hearted at the end of the day only comforted by the fact that I WILL be back tosee them again?Everything about today was so detached from my “real” world but yetso completely comfortable for me to do in the world I live in here in Haiti.I think our Lordis allowing me toexperience thisknowing that Iwill go home a“changed”person. Mypicture of whatFather Reiser sawhere in Haiti,what moved him,and whatinspired him towant to helpthese people is so much more clear to me. The importance of what we are doing atReiser Relief has deepened.My interest in continuing Father’s mission has turned into a passion to continue. WeARE needed here in Haiti.Blessings, Ann 10
  10. 10. ~ JoyceMy word for today is RESILIENCY Myword for today is RESILIENCY.Today we drove to Reiser Heights; aschool that Reiser Relief supports. Itis in the mountains above Port-au-Prince, so I was able to take in thebeautiful Haitian countryside andeven catch a couple of ‘cool’breezes.On our way to Reiser Heights (we rode in the back of a pick up part of our way there…brought me back to my farm days!), I noticed a woman with one leg begging for help from passing drivers. And I was struck that thiswas the first ‘beggar’ I have seen in Haiti. I truly seemore beggars in downtown Minneapolis than in Port-au-Prince and Cite Soleil. The Haitians have anincredible resiliency that I am coming to admire. If abuilding is too structurally damaged to use, they pitch atent along side it and set up shop or housing on thesame land. If they need to make money, they find something, ANYTHING, to sell or peddle. If they need to pitch a pile of rocks into a dump truck and they don’t have a bobcat, they use a shovel. If they don’t have electrical lines to their home, they string their own. If they don’t have tillable land on which to grow crops, they grow them on hillsides, in pots and in crevices. If they can’t afford a butcher, they butcher on their own rightReiser Heights School 11
  11. 11. in the street. If there is no seaton the bus, they hang off theback. If they don’t have achainsaw, they use and ax. Ifthey don’t have an ax they use amachete. They don’t wait for ahand out or assistance or aid orthe Red Cross, they just makedo.The kids at the school today had no electricity, no flushing toilets, no iPads, cell phones, white boards, and sometimes no paper or pencils. But they are resilient. They learn and make do with what they have. We passed out candy and stickers, and the kids were so cute, sticking them to their hands, foreheads, tummies and noses.There is something soincredibly refreshing inthis resiliency. I live in aworld filled withregulations, protectiveservices, social services,insurance, lawsuits,ordinances, judgments,laws and programs. Notthat any of this is bad; itmakes us safer. But doesit make us too safe?Does it make usdependent? Does itmake us reliant? I’ll say 12
  12. 12. this, it sure was fun to ride in the back of a pickup truck again, just like I used to do as akid with the bull calves on our way to the Sales Barn. I read a beautiful devotion in a book today called “God is No Stranger.”“Father, They say I am poor.Thank you, Father.May I also be poor in spirit, that I may inherit the kingdom of God.” What kind of world would we live in if we all thanked God for everything that we view as a misfortune? Peace, Joyce God was everywhere ~ Ann Similar to questioning as a little girl why Santa Claus didn’t bring Christmas presents to poor people, I’ve always questioned why God couldallow for there to be poor people in theworld. Today, as we were driving up toReiser Heights, a school founded by FatherReiser, I finally realized that God had notforgotten the people of Haiti. As weclimbed higher and higher into the hills ofHaiti, God was everywhere.He was in the clouds that formed aroundthe tops of the mountains, He was in the lush green trees and plants that adorned the roadsides as we drove higher and higher, He was in the valleys lined with crops meticulously tended by hand, 13
  13. 13. by Haitian hands, and when we finally arrived at Reiser Heights, He was in the eyes ofthe children that greeted us. Sometimes it takes things less than perfect for us to be ableto see what is truly good. And today, God looked down on the world and saw that allwas good. Blessings, Ann ~ Joyce My word of the day is MINISTRY. We started our day at a sunrise worship service in a tent that is almost beyond description. The Haitians are so unabashed in worship and so filled with the Holy Spirit. It set the tone for a beautiful day. After breakfast we traveled to Titanyen, a village outside of Port-au-Prince where Grace Village is located. On the way there we stopped at aschool with dirt floors, no bathrooms, noplayground, no food, and hundreds of children.There are so many opportunities to make such ahuge difference in Haiti.We also stopped at a mass grave where tens ofthousands of Haitians were buried, unidentified,after the devastating earthquake in 2010.One of our Haitian guides and translators,Wilson, shared the story of how he lost 55classmates in the earthquake. He had stepped out of his school to buy a bottle of water, and was across the street to witness the collapse of his three-story school that killed all of the students in his class. He also lost his father in the earthquake. The next words out of his mouth after describing his losses were, “I give thanks to God.” What an 14
  14. 14. Serve the elderly through what I will call guerilla health careincredible example of faith. God calls him to great things. In Titanyen I had the opportunity to serve the elderly through what I will call guerilla health care and meals on wheels. Guerilla health care involves 3 untrained women (me, my sister Ann, and our teammate Shelley), attempting to minister to the needs of the forgotten elderly with Neosporin, powder, basins, peaches, Spam, straws, water, washcloths, clean sheets, clothing, and wet wipes. Shelley gave sponge baths while Ann and I applied powder anddistributed food and water in their shanties. Myheart was broken wide open when weministered to Antonia. A paraplegic, Antoniasuffers from bedsores and a fungal infection onher feet, and was on a flea-infested blanket ona filthy mattress soaked with her feces andurine. If a dog were found in such conditions inthe United States, the owners would be chargedwith animal cruelty. I couldn’t stop crying. Wedid what we could to clean her up, applyointment, change her bedding, pray with herand give her nourishment. But it was clear that what she truly needs is 24-hour care in an elder care facility. This is not an option for Antonia… After guerilla healthcare I set off on a 4- wheeler with our Haitian guide and translator Andrenoi. At age 29, Andrenoi is compassionate beyond his years and ministers to the elderly. Six days each week Andrenoi delivers hot meals in Tupperware containers to 10 suffering elderly in Titanyen. He will soon expand his ministry to 20 elderly. Andrenoi 15
  15. 15. Andrenoi supports his parents, brothers and sisters on his salary from Healing Haiti, andfeels so blessed to have the opportunity to do what he does. Half way through ourmeals on wheels deliveriesAndrenoi asked me, “What isyour ministry?” I have neverbeen asked that questionbefore and wasn’t sure how toanswer. I told him aboutReiser Relief and Fr. Reiser andthe ministries we support.But, after all that I have seenthis week, I can honestly saythat the ministry closest to my Nov 9th 2012 - It is with a heavy heart that we tellheart is the elderly. you our dear friend Antonia has been calledPeople like Antonia are beloved Home. Please pray for Antonia, her family andchildren of God, and as such friends, and those from Reiser Relief and Healingdeserve to live their final days Haiti that loved and cared for her. We rejoice thatin dignity and love. God has accepted her with open arms, and that she is finally free from suffering! Amen.Thank you, Andreoi, forrevealing my ministry to me. Thank you, Haiti, for opening my eyes and heart to God’swill. Peace, Joyce ~ AnnToday was our day of endings. First of all, it was our last full day in Haiti—our last dayto take in a few more pieces of this beautiful, complicated country. We started with a 6 a.m. tent service that was anything but an ending. It was an inspiring start to our day inside a huge white tent filled with people of all ages singing and praising the Lord. Haitian people are filled with the love of God, and watching them praise His name is a joyful thing to behold. 16
  16. 16. Thankfully, the tent service gave us the strength to witness some of the things we experienced the rest of the day. Our first stop was at Redemptor School, another very poor Haitian school with so many needs but yet, like the other schools we have seen, it’s filled with the smiling faces of Haitianchildren who seem to find the beauty in everyday despite a poverty-filled existence. We thenvisited the mass graves in Haiti made after the2010 earthquake.It was painful to look out at the crosses andmemorials scattered over the mass grave and think of the horrific way these thousands of peoples lives had ended in the earthquake and even more painful as we listened to the stories of some of the Haitian men with us who shared their stories about loved ones lost in the earthquake.From there, we went to . It wassuch a contrast in comparison to what we’dseen so much of what we’d seen during the week—a beautiful complex of brightlycolored buildings and so much more building still taking place.Besides the 43 smiling orphans we met who were so lucky to have been placed in sucha love-filled environment, there is a feeding center and plans for elder care, a church,medical clinic and much more. Good things ARE happening in Haiti. 17
  17. 17. Ann and Joyce with ElderMoreland, principal at TerrePromise School women & children carry everything on their heads from water to eggs 18
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  20. 20. Reiser Relief Inc has assisted in funding for the purchase of 16 lacers of land and fundsfor a feeding a center and currently working on funding for a future eldercare facility.Grace Village is owned and operated by Healing Haiti. - Forty of the orphans Healing Haiticares for moved into Grace Village just before Christmas 2011! The children werethrilled to settle into their beautiful and comfortable new home. The children were sograteful for the support of so many and the goodness of God that have made GraceVillage a reality. Many of these children have lost their families to extreme poverty,hurricanes, cholera or AIDS. Through HealingHaiti and its donors, God provides for needs Feeding Centerof the 56 children now living at Grace Villageby furnishing clean water, food, school andmedical care. We are so honored to be able tobe the hands and feet of Christ to thesechildren and they are such a joy to usMost of these orphan children will never beadopted and so we have committed to equipping them to live a God centered life... onewith significance. By caring for their spiritual needs, their personal needs, educatingthem and eventually teaching them a skill or trade, they will be able to be self sufficientand provide for not only themselves but their future family. Our goal is to raise up the next generation of Haitians leaders that will help build a better future for all. Feeding Center Construction of Phase I of Grace Village in Titanyen, Haiti is complete! The two dormitories, cisterns and Feeding Center now are home to 58 children with the ability to feed an additional 75-125 street children each day. We have finished some aspects of Phase II as well. The Host Missionary Home is complete and the Medical/Dental Clinic is scheduled tobe finished at the beginning of 2013. The Integrated Aquaponic Tiiapia Farm incomplete and operating. It provides a constant source of protein and fresh vegetablesfor the children to eat. The temporary buildings for Grace Academy are complete andschool started on October 1st for 305 children!Phase II will also include additional housing for children and orphaned elderly. 21
  21. 21. But, sadly, the next part ofour day was back to allabout endings. We madevisits to sick, elderly peopleliving in one-room hutswho were sleeping onfilthy, flea-infestedmattresses on the dirtfloors (if they were luckyenough to have a mattressat all), with soiled clothes,painful bedsores, little orno food and water, andlittle or no loving care.What we were able to doto help these elderlypeople in their final stagesof life were so small, yetthey were better than thealternative of nothing atall. In the United States,we rightfully put so muchemphasis on dying withdignity, and to many poorelderly people in Haiti,there is no dignity at all in dying--only loneliness, hunger, thirst, filth, and pain. It wassuch a tragic thing to view on our last day in Haiti. Yet, maybe God had that in his plan for us, because now, besides leaving Haiti with a passion to help the children of Haiti, we are leaving with a passion to help the elderly. I have truly been blessed to have the opportunity to see, hear, and touch Haiti, and I am filled with a sense of urgency to come back here. There is so much left to do, and so many hands are needed to complete God’s work. I thank 22
  22. 22. Father Reiser for “giving me the nudge” to go to Haiti, and I thank the people of Haitifor being so willing to share a piece of each of their liveswith me.My deepest gratitude and love to every person I have met onthis trip, and my sincere thanks to those who have supportedour mission and continue to do so.I will end my Haiti blog with a quote from Mother Teresa:“Ifwe want the poor to see Christ in us, we must first see Christin the poor.”Blessings, Ann-To provide relief, hope and dignity to the poor, elderly and homeless people of Haiti.-To provide relief from malnutrition and water born illness by providing food and cleanwater to women, children and elderly living in slums and impoverished situations.-To provide hope for the poorest children and orphans by funding education andhousing.-To strive, by the Grace and Greatness of God, to be the hands and feet of Christ inserving the most vulnerable Haitians.Reiser Relief Inc. PO Box 48096 Coon Rapids, MN 55448 (763)280-3433 23