Friday, May 17, 2019


Reiser Relief lost one of our longtime friends in Haiti, Sandra Koch, to breast cancer in March 2019. We had the opportunity a few days ago to meet with Pastor Jean, Sandra’s ministry partner, while here in Haiti. Sandra and Pastor Jean were the people who introduced us to Sister Evelyne and her work in Marfranc. Sandra was a feisty Jersey girl with an unmatched drive to make her dreams a reality. She also had unending energy and enthusiasm, an incredibly strong faith, and a deep passion for the poor and underprivileged. Pastor told us that her last words as she was dying were, “I didn’t think this would be so fast…”

These words struck me. For a woman so centered on prayer and so trusting of God’s plan, how could she have not seen death coming? Especially in her final weeks and months? How did she not remind herself it would be in God’s time, not hers? Why didn’t she come to embrace death after all her pain and suffering?

These thoughts led me to reflect on the suffering of the Haitian people as we trudged through Cite Soleil, the poorest slum in Port au Prince, later in the day. I wondered about the half-million people living in these dirty shacks with no running water, no bathroom facilities, minimal food, and little hope for themselves and their children’s futures. When they finally near death after their cruel and seemingly hopeless existence here on Earth, do they also lament that their lives ended too quickly? Or do they hope for eternity when they have reached the end of their difficult and challenging mortal lives?

Sandra probably always assumed she would be ready for death when her day finally arrived. The people of Cite Soleil may likely believe the same thing. This awareness can serve as a daily reminder for all of us to be prepared mentally, emotionally, and spirituality because we never know the day or hour in which we will be called from this life.

Godspeed to Sandra…
God bless the people of Haiti…

Ann Brau
Reiser Relief

Friday, February 1, 2019

Haiti truly touches your heart

Now that we are back home, I have begun to process our time spent in Haiti last week.  Serving in Haiti with Reiser Relief was a truly amazing experience.  Our leaders had been to Haiti many times but the rest of us were first timers, not exactly sure what to expect.  We were in it together and ready to help out in whatever way we could!  As we left the airport we realized (as was said in previous blogs) “This #%*@$ Just Got Real.” 
Haiti touches all of your senses. 
Sight:  There is still clear evidence of the devastating earthquake in 2010 yet there has also been much rebuilding that has occurred.  There are many areas where garbage has gathered uncollected for long periods of time, rivers and ditches filled with waste, goats, pigs and chickens wandering the streets. This stands in contrast with the beauty found in the countryside and mountains. 
Sound:  The noisiness that comes with a large city.  Honking horns is a common way of communicating to other drivers! Music from the clubs in the evening, dogs barking and the sounds of everyday life.  The sound of the wind as it blew through the tree branches in the mountains.
Smell:  A busy city complete with the smell of diesel exhaust and rotting refuse.  The fresh air found in the mountain allowing one to smell the mint and herbs growing around us.
Sensation:  The sun shining down heating us all up, using our hands to provide healing touch, holding babies to provide comfort.
Taste:  Eating Haitian style food prepared by the staff at the guesthouse, fresh fruit, spicy peanut butter, hot sauce.
Haiti also touches your heart.
Throughout our week in Haiti we served at facilities run by missionaries from foreign countries to provide care for “the least of these my brothers”, providing humble service to the poor and neglected.  They were truly examples of love in action- selfless people making a difference to those that have literally been discarded. We also served in facilities run by Haitian nuns working to provide care for the elderly who had no resources to sustain themselves and no one else to care for them. We met Haitian educators that run schools and community centers in the most impoverished neighborhoods to help provide better opportunities for the younger generations by providing education and safe places for children to be in the midst of a danger zone.   We experienced how the ill are cared for in a hospital.  We were also traveled outside of Port Au Prince to an ecological preserve in the mountains.  Here they are working on ways to build structures using recycled materials such as Styrofoam food pods transformed into building blocks and insulation.  They are also providing education to the younger generation in order to show them that there are other ways to do things.
Our team was a diverse group of people brought together in the spirit of volunteerism.  Each of us had our own fears and hopes for our time in Haiti.  However, all of us were focused on helping out in whatever way we are able.  We learned at Kkottongnae that serving in this way takes courage.  Whether or not is was courage, blind enthusiasm, God working in us or a little bit of all 3, our team jumped in without hesitation to feed a child, wash feet, provide massage and range of motion, hold and comfort crying babies and young children, provide “spa” treatments, dance with the ladies, play with the children or prepare and serve a meal.   No task was too small. It was an amazing experience to be with this group as each of us stepped outside of our comfort zones for the purpose of serving others.
It seems that the things we were able to offer were small, yet, being present with each person we touched provided a positive moment in the space we shared with them.  The team felt these moments as we were rewarded with smiles, laughs, giggles, hugs, dancing and so forth.  Being present in the moment was important and impactful.  Through these experiences we were able to see the nature of the Haitian people.  Friendliness and curiosity abounded.  Happiness and joy were ever present.  Hope shined through those even in the most extreme situations.  The human spirit is remarkable.  Gods grace was present with us. It was an honor to be with these people and provide what we could.
We had special moments within our team as well. We celebrated Ellen’s birthday.  We also celebrated Gail’s baptism.  It was a moving experience to be with our Haitian hosts and our Reiser Relief team sharing a moment of rebirth in Christ in such a peaceful place.
Throughout this trip, I needed to be intentional in setting aside my US lenses and to have an open heart to be able to see Haiti without judgment, as it is, impoverished but rich with people proud of their history, devastated by natural disasters countered with the spirit for persevering and rebuilding, lacking in resources but abundant with people working creatively with what is available, a place where many are cast aside yet filled with people working to provide education to the younger generations to be different than the past, people experiencing true suffering touched by the selflessness of those working to alleviate the suffering.  I learned about the strength of faith and small deeds and how those can lift the human spirit.  Haiti has taught me that being present with someone in humble actions can be impactful.  I learned that there is happiness despite struggle and above all, there is hope even in the most desperate of circumstances.    
Yes, Haiti truly touches your heart.
Rachel Dvorak

Monday, January 28, 2019


It was 2am and the churches’ PA next door to our rooming house was cranking out max decibels. A few minutes of music, followed by the impassioned pleas of an evangelist, then more music.  Not even the rooster’s crowing at first light seemed to dull their enthusiasm.  Lack of sleep aside, my biggest question wasn’t when they were going to call it quits.  Quite the opposite.  After this 8-hour worship marathon, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Of those who began this journey, how many congregants were left standing when the pastor said his final, ‘Amen’?”

With a Carnival Parade scheduled to start mid-afternoon, our in-country hosts made it clear:  if we wanted to avoid getting cut off from our guest house, we needed to on the road to the Wynne Ecological Preserve early. 

Six days of navigating Port-Au-Prince garbage piles, outdoor sewage, and wandering farm animals vendors couldn’t have provided a starker contrast to the lush, green scene awaiting us at 6,000 feet.  Started some 60 years ago by a civil engineer with a passion for preserving the natural habitat of the island, its 70 acres are now an inspiration for the thousands of young Haitian students who make the windy, curvy pilgrimage to this mountaintop perch.

Descending the trails, we passed by gardens planted with all variety of flora and fauna.  Blooming flowers being trimmed for sale in nearby markets, lettuces, fruits…interspersed with a small selection of farm animals.  Standing on the bluff with a view of the city below, was to stand between two worlds; one bent on dismantling the other. 

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the city worship that had kept me up all night.  For the past few days I’d been in conversation with one of our team who’d made the decision to follow Jesus.  She wanted to be baptized and somewhere, someplace on this walk it would happen.  I’d been mulling it over for days, and the questions only continued to pile up.  How much time would we have for this worship service?  Without song sheets and a common music vocabulary, what would we sing?  How would I know the ‘right’ place when we came to it?  How do we incorporate the guests and others who may wander into our worship?  What if our hosts at the preserve weren’t Christian?

Standing on the yoga platform, cool breeze blowing through the trees, our collective prayers were answered as the team, leaders, hosts, guests…all of us gathered around and witnessed the birth of a new sister in Christ; as the family of God grew by one.

At the close of our final team meeting tonight, we were all ready to go home.  But not before giving this new sibling her baptismal gift.  Earlier this week we’d picked off the ground a small medallion, the same one hanging from the necks of each cribbed orphan we’d spend the morning feeding and loving.  As the gift was presented, these words were spoken:  ‘May you always live & rest peacefully in the assurance of this promise made to you by our Heavenly Father today at your baptism:  in his love, you are always…always   I’m thinking we’ll all sleep well tonight. Home.'

Pastor Ned Lenhart