Monday, April 3, 2017

Lessons from Children

Have you ever noticed that when children are given a lemon, they almost invariably make lemonade?  It’s true!  Just watch the kid who gets a toy he doesn’t want but makes something even better out of the box.  The children of Haiti are no different than children anywhere else in the world when it comes to just this.

Today our team was reminded of how beautiful spending time with children can be.  We started our day touring a church referred to Jeremie locals as The Sanctuary.  This church has been under construction for 27 years and is still, for the most part, a mere shell of a structure.  We walked around examining the architecture and enjoying the view completely unaware that while doing so there was a choir practicing in a distant, unseen corner.  Just about the time we were thinking “Let’s get out of this relentless heat”, a young man shared with us that the choir wanted us to come in so they could sing for us.  He escorted us to their practice space and before we knew it, there we were standing in front of about 40 kids, beautifully dressed, faces beaming, all eager to share their love of music with complete strangers.  This group of kids, without any instruments or even a proper practice space, sang a rendition of “How Great Thou Art” that practically brought us to our knees.  Their voices and their heartfelt spirit, not an organ or guitar or special acoustical this and that, was all that was needed to create such beauty we nearly wept.

Later in the day we moved on to the Sick and Dying Babies Clinic to hold and play with the babies and toddlers receiving care.  This is where a team mate came upon a little boy who was very restless and agitated.  He seemed to want to be held but when she held him he seemed to want to get down.  And, of course, when she put him down he started to cry.  What did this kid want?  Luckily, she persevered and eventually found the key to the puzzle.  It was the tickle machine!  This wriggling, unhappy child giggled and laughed with such straight from the belly gusto that his joy spread to our entire team making us all laugh along with him. All it took was two fingers and a tickle-tickle.
As wonderful as these two examples are, I saved the best for last.  Our tour guide took us to an area once known for its immense beauty but now features struggles and despair.  But is there more?  A group of children approached me, one little girl with a lollipop in her mouth.  She asked me to pick her up and right after I did so, she bit the lollipop and promptly shared all the pieces with her friends.  They were delighted!  And I was delighted to see a child sharing what little she had, without reservation, with those who had less.

It was a good day.

Beth Simms

Friday, March 31, 2017


“Let the Children come to me”

At daily Mass in Jeremie yesterday morning, our priest referenced Jesus’ words from the Bible, Matthew 19:14, “Let the Children come to me.”  Later in the day, one of our team members commented that was her favorite bible verse.

I reflected back over our day in connection with that verse—

Throughout our morning service yesterday, we listened to the sounds of crying babies in the nearby orphanage.

We waved to many beautiful children along the roads and in their tiny homes built into the mountainside staring wide-eyed at our vehicle as we made our made our way to visit St. Anne’s Church in Basse Voldrogue.

When we arrived at St Anne’s we were greeted by dozens of smiling and laughing young preschool children in their matching uniforms—eager to sing for us, learn our names, and play with us.  And as the day progressed, we went from classroom to classroom meeting the older and far more subdued students who were studying hard in their small unlit classrooms.  Some had walked many miles to school, even crossing a river to get there.  Some children were standing outside the school witnessing the action but unable to participate as their parents couldn’t afford to send them to school.
And we met the amazing young priest, a child himself, recently ordained and given the responsibility of running this large parish and school, and more recently since the hurricane, also inherited the responsibility of rebuilding the church and rectory which were destroyed during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
Our day ended with an evening visit to a hospital in Jeremie where we met three incredibly young doctors not looking older than children themselves, that were working selflessly around the clock in conditions most American doctors could not even imagine.  Solar suitcases had just been installed in many areas of the hospital, so the doctors were thrilled to have light during the night to do surgery and tend to their patients.   And the children they were attending to….from tiny babies to tiny children…each with a story of their own that they were unable to share with us…

I climbed into bed with images of these “children” of all ages—the young ones filled with innocent dreams and hope that their country will serve them well and the older ones working to be sure those dreams come true.  With that, I was able to sleep.

“Let the Children Come to Me.”

Ann Brau

Thursday, March 30, 2017


What a difference 5 hours on a plane can make.  On Monday I woke up in my king-sized bed, got up and took a hot shower, pulled my clothes from my walk-in closet, and then headed to my fully stocked refrigerator for breakfast.  It was about 35 degrees and a gentle rain was falling and it was so peaceful.  A handful of hours later, and where do I find myself?  Port au Prince, Haiti.  A place where one may not have a home, much less a bed, hot water is scarce, and an empty stomach can be more frequent than a full refrigerator.  35 degrees became 90 degrees, rain turned to sunny skies, and peacefulness was replaced with a wealth of horn honking, dog barking and rooster crowing.  Our team of 7 loves it all!

When I returned to White Bear Lake, MN from my last trip to Haiti a year ago, I shared with people what I saw and what we did and invariably people responded with, “We are so blessed”.  And, of course, there’s some truth to that.  People from the U.S. are blessed in many ways.  And yet, so often it seems that we in the U.S. equate “blessings” with how big our house is, whether we have the newest and best technology, and, you know – the material things we showcase to prove we’re successful.  So, my question is, are we as blessed as we think we are?  The Haitians have a lesson to teach all of us who equate blessings with “things”.  For, instead of spending time on amassing material goods, they focus on relationships, their faith, and maintaining a “get back on your feet” mentality.

Today we took a 7-hour bus ride to Jeremie, Haiti – a region hard hit by Hurricane Matthew in October.  145 hour per mile winds blew down trees and homes, and relentless rain washed away roads, farms, and belongings.  But these Haitians are a resilient people.  There was a definite hustle and bustle – new and shining rooftops reflect the sun, farms show signs of life, and markets are open for business.  Yet, there’s plenty of work to be done.  Food is scarce and people are hungry so we’re preparing food packets, distributing vegetable seeds, and purchasing livestock.  We hope it helps.

Which brings me back to the topic of blessings.  I think the Haitian people have helped me more than I could ever help them by teaching me what the true meaning of being blessed is.  They have shown me that God’s blessings are all around us.  Blessings are not what make us content but are rather those things that help us to connect to Him.

Beth Simms