Saturday, October 19, 2013


As we wind down our time  in Haiti, I am delighted to watch our team bond together in support and love.  This afternoon we picked up boys from our neighborhood in the tap tap and took them to a nearby field to play soccer.  There were 40 sweaty bodies jammed together in an exceedingly hot space, and the team took it as an opportunity to experience what daily transportation is like for many Haitians and were grateful for the chance of solidarity.  As the whole bunch of us sang worship songs together and praised God in that small space in that moment in time, it was truly a beautiful thing.

At night we spend time together as a group processing and re-living our day.  One team member commented tonight that our experience this week is unique, God managed, and will never be exactly the same for anyone else who comes to Haiti.  I can't wait to see how they will continue to grow and serve now that Haiti has so deeply touched their hearts and settled deep into their minds. 

Our team loves to sing and we've perfected quite a few songs over the week; some with lyrics bent to fit our experiences in Haiti.  We start each morning enthusiastically practicing our repertoire in the tap tap.  Today when we visited an orphanage the children performed welcoming songs for us.  What a fantastic turn of events when we told the children that we had also prepared songs for them.  The smiles on their faces were priceless.

We also visited a mass grave site today where tens of thousands of Haitians were buried en masse after the devastating 2010 earthquake.   It was a time to reflect on the horrific loss of life that day, but also to marvel at how far Haiti has come since that tragic day.

Nearly two years ago I delivered a eulogy at Fr. Reiser's funeral.  Tonight I shared that eulogy with this team.  They are helping all of us carry on his legacy of servitude, kindness, keeping a positive attitude, and loving our Lord.  I am deeply touched by their willingness to keep this excellent legacy alive.


Day with Elderly

A day filled with touching moments.  We headed north to Titanyen to purchase food for some elderly people who have no one to take care of them.  The average life expectancy in Haiti is just 52, and these men and women have outlived their own children.  They may have a grandchild or two to help out, but they are pretty much on their own.  We sang with and prayed for these elders and checked up on their general well-being.  We rubbed lotion into arms and legs that had seen many years of hard and strenuout work.  Most of these precious men and women ae living in little more than shacks which were hastily contructed after the 2010 earthquake.  Their wants are so basic: a solid floor, roof leaks repaired, a bed.  And yet their joy seems to know no bounds.

Truly beautiful souls.

Patty Munson

Amazing, beautiful and exhausting day "doing nothing."  I felt uncomfortable coming to spend a week in Haiti without a project or activity.  It was hard to imagine what purpose we would serve.  Seeing the joy and laughter of the children we played with at Grace Village, and witnessing the soft spoken prayer and singing from the elderly we delivered food to directly from the street market was truly amazing and blessed me beyond belief.

Watching my son, Nick, and experiencing this through him has been so awesome.  He is truly in his element and jumps right in to hold, or play with kids and paint fingernails of the elderly ladies we visit.  Can't wait to see where this experience leads him in the future.

Sandy Zarembinski

Just when I think that my blessings are more than enough, God's love splashes even more into my overfilled cup.  Today we made a brief stop to drop off supplies, and once again were surrounded by school age children....from there we entered the market, not alone, to purchase food and drink for the elderly.

The rest of the day I was able to yet again be filled with life, from the 1 month old baby I held, cradled and soothed, to the prayers and blessings of a 104 year old woman named Marie!  No one can deny the love and strength that is among those in this country...despite the poverty, and conditions...I can't even describe what I have seen...God is alive and here with his can I deny His presence when I know a Haitian woman, whom I have met just once praying for me...and the rest of our amazing team...God is so good, He's so Good!  Thank you for the love and support that you are all sending us!

Christine Davis

Friday, October 18, 2013


I believe that we all have a God-given instinct for empathy. Having empathy allows us to feel what others feel. Having empathy allows us to care for others as if we were caring for ourselves. Being in Haiti has awakened empathy I didn't even know I had.  I know that when I get back to the States, I will be a more empathetic person because of Haiti. Haiti has changed me - it has transformed me into a better person. That is the blessing of Haiti. As we serve the lost and forgotten people of Haiti, we are also giving ourselves a great gift - the opportunity to become better Christians and better people. Back home, there are people in our midst who are suffering and need our help. By seeing what we've seen in Haiti, I believe that we will be more willing to help those who need it. I am so glad I went on this mission trip!! I would encourage anyone to come down here for a week and see what God has in store for you. 
My word of the day: Empathy.

Sometimes it seems as if the Light of God shines through the people of Haiti. In that sense, they are the sun and we are the moon, reflecting their light off of us onto the world. I hope and pray that we continue to reflect their light well after we get back home. I know everyone in our team has  been permanently transformed into more empathetic people. I believe that the mission of Reiser Relief is much broader than Haiti - through its transformed volunteers, the world will be a better place. I am so impressed by the absolute quality of this organization!! I am confident that Father Reiser would look down on us and be very happy indeed. For he can see the Light of the Haitians reflecting off of us and that is a very good thing!!

-Bill Munson

I'm not afraid

God touches us at unexpected moments in Haiti.  Yesterday we visited the Village of Jesus.  This was Fr. Reiser's first project in Haiti.  It is managed by the Sisters who beautifully care for 40 abandoned elderly women.

One of our team members is a breast cancer survivor, and lost her mother to breast cancer.  Ann was moved to change her shirt yesterday morning and wear pink, the color in the United States that symbolizes the fight against breast cancer.

When we entered The Village of Jesus Ann was drawn to a resident there, Marisol, who is suffering from breast cancer.  Marisol lifted her shirt and revealed the large tumor in her breast to Ann.  Her tumor is on the same side as Ann's tumor was.   Cancer treatment is not an option for Marisol, but she is lovingly cared for by the Sisters and spending her days in a peaceful, clean and God filled environment.

God worked a reverse mission on Ann yesterday.  Ann is still grieving the loss of her mother and recovering from the trauma of being a survivor.  God poured his healing rain on Ann yesterday and she tenderly prayed and spent time with Marisol.  It was a time that allowed her to grieve the effects of breast cancer in her life.

Marisol and Ann

We come to Haiti afraid of many things.  We're afraid of contracting malaria, of getting a sunburn, of getting an upset stomach, of the violence and gangs in Haiti that we hear about in the media.   We may be afraid our efforts are not of value, that through helping we are hurting, that we are taking away from those who need us at home, that our efforts are but a drop in the bucket and do not matter.

This morning we attended worship where we sang "Healing Rain" and repeated the refrain over and over:   "I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid"

Haiti ministers to us.  Haiti heals us.  God is present in a mighty way in Haiti ministering and healing.

I'm not afraid.


Thursday, October 17, 2013


Today we made the journey to the Village of Jesus.  Father Reiser helped construct this home for up to 50 elderly women in need and a handful of Sisters many years ago.  There are still reminders of him throughout: a laminated poster on the wall with pictures of the original construction along with Father Reiser; a plaque with his face etched into stone; and a Sister who remembers him and examined Joyce for facial similarities.  It's a humbling feeling knowing that someone who shares the same blood as me helped start something so great.

The women are clean, well fed, comfortable, and have a bed to call their own.  In recent days of this trip, we encountered many people who did not have those luxuries.  Children walking the streets in Cite Soleil completely naked, covered in dirt, bloated bellies from starvation and malnutrition.  Men and women so thin that they look like a skeleton with skin draped over it.  We helped many small children carry buckets that weighed more than they did into their homes.  Inside the homes were a few personal belongings and a mattress on the dirt ground if they were lucky.  The streets were overflowing with garbage and raw sewage.  When I think about what I saw today, and what I saw on the previous days...I really struggle with what I want to pour my effort into.  What am I most passionate about?

Where would these elderly women be if the Village of Jesus didn't exist?  hat can we do to help the people in the slums of Cite Soleil?   

Everyone I meet in Haiti touches my heart, but how can I help them all?  How can I be as great as Father Reiser?  I struggle with this thought. 

On our way to the Village of Jesus there was a man standing in the road near a speed bump.  He was on crutches and had one leg.  He was asking for help from every car that passed.  On our way there, we zoomed right by him.  As we were leaving for the day, one of our Haitian drivers/interpreters grabbed a coca cola.  When we reached that same speed bump 6 hours later on our way home, the one legged man was still there.  The driver grabbed the coke and handed it to him.  He surely helped that man, at least for today.

I guess I have to think of things on small scale, and remember to grab that coca cola for the one Haitian who needs a little hope today.

Kim Maciej

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


We started our day at morning Mass with the Sisters in a humble chapel rich in piety and devotion.  The message was about leading by action rather than by words, and having faith that our actions, to the best of our ability, are enough.


Haiti is a country to enormous need.  What can I do that is enough? 

Today I got to witness first hand the results of my efforts.  Last spring I helped fundraise for a new roof at Reiser Heights primary school that would allow children who were receiving education in a dark, run down outbuilding to move into the main building of Reiser Heights.  The community room at Reiser Heights was not being used due to a leaky roof.  We fund raised and put a new roof on the community room.  We put partitions in that community room to house the children.  Today the children were IN this bright and cheerful space receiving an education.  Glory be to God!

We distributed shoes, backpacks and Creole children's Bibles generously donated by friends and supporters of our cause.  Children were delighted!

We delivered 35 boxes of Feed My Starving Children Food that will nourish these children.  We gave them candy.  We brought a keyboard, and under the leadership of one of our ever energetic and talented team members, we had a concert outside of the school building that started with a Michael Jackson medley, proceeded to Children's worship songs clumsily sang by our team in Creole, a bit of Haitian Hip Hop and ended up with kids surrounding the keyboard and having a blast making their own music.  

Is it enough?  God's plans are perfect.  I only need to listen and obey.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I am feeling incredibly blessed tonight but also troubled by how much we have in the U.S. and how little we appreciate it.  Bill and I saw and experienced so much today with our Reiser Relief team in Haiti.

We started the day touring a school and distributing backpacks to the students.  Crowded and noisy conditions, but much learning going on.  These were the lucky kids.  We went on to distribute water around Cite Soleil and were absolutely bombarded with children looking for attention and love.  These kids were not able to attend school, and many were wearing no clothes or just a pair of underwear OR a shirt or dress.  So happy though.

We walked out to see the ocean at one point and we weren't on solid ground, but rather a compacted pile of garbage six or more feet deep.  This area was also being used as a community toilet and was surrounded by thousands of shacks constructed of rusty tin, random pieces of wood and whatever else could be found.  But the children sang a wonderful song for us right in the middle of this:  God is so Good!  The words were a mix of English and Haitian Creole, and it is STUCK in my heard!!

My arms are really tired tonight.  I don't know if it's from helping to carry water buckets or from holding little ones all day.  Tomorrow we head up into the mountains to visit a Baptist mission and Reiser Heights, another school sponsored  Reiser Relief.  Dramamine will be helpful, from what I've been told.  Count your blessings.

Patty Munson

How can you say no?

To be in Haiti on a mission trip is to be in touch with one's rawest emotions.  You rub shoulders with some of the very best of humanity amidst challeging settings.  The truth is there are so many needs here that it is very easy to serve.  The problem is that we need to make sure the Haitians themselves are part of the solution.  In the schools you see pride and a genuine desire to learn.  The uniforms are neat and clean.  It makes you aware that you are from a land of opportunities some of which you have squnadered carelessly.

Hugs are freely exchanged between students and our mission team.  The distribution of backpacks nearly casues joyous pandemonium.  We meet yound adults awaiting scholarships.  Each face is a study in hope and fear and he or she makes his / her plea. How do you say no?

It is a guarantee that Cite Soleil will change your perspective.  You serve in ways that you never have before.  Smiles abound on the faces of yound and old alike.  Many children are naked or attired in clothing too large for their petite, undernourished selves.  You have never hugged so many children in your life.  Past and future disappear.  There is only this time and this place.  This child clinging to your hand.  We sing:

God is so good
is so good
is so good
God is so good
is so good

Haitians and team alike, we are on fire, filled with the Spirit.  We rise above the conditions.

How can you say no?

Ann Sargeant

I See You

We started our day at Terre Promise school where we toured the school, distributed backpacks generously donated by many at Faith Lutheran Church and beyond, and met with six kids who are hoping to go to university on Reiser Relief scholarships.  The students shared their hopes and dreams about why they want to go to acquire nursing degrees to serve the poor in their community, to acquire a civil engineering degree to help build a better Haiti, to acquire a tourism degree to promote all that is beautiful in Haiti.  These were 6 of thousands of bright Haitian students who graduate high school with no chance of attending university without a sponsor.  It was a gift to spend time visiting with them and getting to know them.  An education can change not only their lives, but the lives of their entire family and future generations.  It is overwhelming to consider the enormity of need, so we focus on the 1, 2 or 10 kids who we can help to achieve their dreams.

We spent the balance of our day in Cite Soleil distributing water to those with no access to free clean water, loving on kids who desperately need affection, and opening our eyes to what breaks God's heart.  One of our team members was holding a tiny girl who said in English "I see you."  That phrase struck a dagger in my heart.  I spent the rest of the day repeating it to every person I locked eyes with.   I see you not going to school.  I see you dragging a bucket of water that weighs more than you do.   I see you with your hard bloated tummy.  I see you wearing your hot dirty sweatshirt...the only piece of clothing you own.  I see you walking barefoot over sewage.   I see you calling a shack with a dirt floor and zero human comforts home.  I see you living next to pigs and feces and garbage six feet deep.  I see you and your stunted arms, skinny legs and arms.  

There was another tiny girl who jumped in my arms wearing a filthy polyester cheerleader outfit.  I held this girl 12 months ago and she was wearing the same dress.  Does she have no other clothes?  It looked like she had been wearing the dress for 12 months, day and night.  She had no shoes.  She had no underwear.  She was light as a feather and she clung to my neck.  Her hair was red instead of black: a sign of malnutrition.  And she had tears rolling down her cheeks.  We walked out by the ocean with our team and stood on top of a pile of garbage that also serves as a graveyard and open air outhouse.  Our interpreters lead the kids in song.  "God is so Good, He's so Good, He's so Good!"  My little cheerleader stopped crying and started singing softly in my ear.  The Holy Spirit surrounded us, our team, and the moment in a powerful, indescribable way.

God is so Good, He's so Good, He's so Good

God, I'm crying with you.  Use us to bring Your glory to Cite Soleil.


Today we went to the largest tent city slum in Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil.  We witnessed the worst living conditions in the entire Western Hemisphere.  Home to many in Cite Soleil is four pieces of salvaged metal with a tarp on top.  We assisted with the distribution of fresh water from the Reiser Relief / Healing Haiti water truck.  For many there, this was the only water they would get for the day.  

It was very hard to see people living in these horrible conditions.  It was harder yet to see and smell the raw sewage and trash everywhere.  In Cite Soleil, the "beach" is where 6 feet of compacted trash meets the ocean.  To our western eyes, there doesn't seem to be anything good about Cite Soleil.  That is, until you spend some quality time with the children and adult residents.  Once you do that, you see the love, you see the joy - and you learn that the people of Cite Soleil thrive in spite of the utter poverty around them.  

The people of Cite Soleil are thriving.  How do they thrive?  By the grace of God.  The children were so happy to see us - and they couldn't wait for us to hold them and love on them.  They are Children of the Light - and they witness God's love to us just as we serve them.  We learn from them - how thriving is not about being rich, it's not about living conditions, it's not even about safety or security.  Thriving is all about knowing that God loves you and that you are created by God for a purpose.  That is how the people of Cite Soleil thrive.  And even though we will continue to help them with their basic needs in this life, they have already made themselves rich in faith and in love.  

I met a 10 year old named Molice who was the embodiment of this love and this joy.  I sincerely hope to see her again on a future trip.  I LOVE the people of Cite Soleil and I LOVE the people of Haiti!!!!

Bill Munson

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day One - Airport Friendships

My 16 year old son Nick and I arrived by ourselves in Haiti as we were on a different flight from the rest of the group.  The plan was to have someone pick us up and bring us to the guest house to wait for the other 10 to arrive at 4:00. We wound our way through to immigration, down to baggage claim and outside expecting to see the logo'd shirts of our drivers. Imagine looking out into a sea of people who are trying to get your attention, vying for your "business" all the while schlepping four huge suitcases and backpacks.  Unfortunately, our drivers, due to a scheduling mixup, were a no show. During the next four hours,  Nick and I were blessed to meet the most amazing men that took us under their wings, tried their best to help us out and watched over us to ensure we were safe and sound while we waited for either our ride to show up or the rest of our group to arrive on the later flight. I had a fair amount of anxiety but as the afternoon went on, we had made some pretty awesome connections with the Haitian airport workers.

With a sense of relief we were thrilled to have the rest of our group land in Haiti, and we joined them for the trek out to the Tap Tap (open air bus) for our ride to our new home away from  home, Healing Haiti's Guest House #2. The ride to the house was filled with overstimulation of every sense. Blaring horns of rush hour traffic. Vans, trucks, motorbikes all trying to fight their way to somewhere and no traffic lights wreaks havoc on traffic management. The roads littered with potholes, garbage, chickens and lined with people. Smells of fresh rain, food cooking, and the faint smell of flowers and sewage. Bright faced children running after us, waving and yelling "Alo!" Sensory overload times 10. 

After arriving at the Guest House and with our bellies full of a fantastic meal prepared for us, we met on the rooftop patio for a team meeting to discuss the plans for the day tomorrow. We will be working the water truck, delivering fresh water to Cite Soleil. With the fresh rain today, business may be less than usual for fresh water but there is no doubt we will have lines to serve.  

We will be providing basic medical care to those that need it, playing with children, helping carrying water buckets, and deliverying the backpacks we collected to Terra Promise, the school in Cite Soleil.  Our leaders warned us that we may get easily overwhelmed and encouraged us to step back when needed, but to know that the anticipated range of emotions we will experience is normal. I don't know what normal is here in Haiti. We are assured to find out tomorrow.

Sandy Zarembinski

Friday, October 11, 2013

Preparing for our trip!

We all met in Forest Lake last night to pack up all of our donations. We have 12 bags packed to the brim with almost 50 lbs of donations in each bag! Shoes, school supplies, clothes, medical name it, we've got it! I'm excited to get back to Haiti and experience everything again. It's been almost a year since I was there for the first time, even though it feels like yesterday. Maybe because Haiti is on my mind and in my heart every single day! I remember sitting at Father Reiser's funeral and being so moved by the thousands of people there to celebrate his life. At that moment I knew I wanted to get involved and help continue the work that he poured his heart and soul into. Never did I imagine I would also become so passionate about it! My all-time favorite quote of his is "You can't walk away from misery and do nothing". Until I stepped foot in the country of Haiti, I never truly understood what he meant. I'm so excited to be sharing this experience with Joyce and Mike again, and 9 other new friends! 3 days until our journey of transformation begins...can't wait to see what God has in store for us this week.

Kim Maciej

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Haiti is beautiful in so many ways.  Today, the group and I tried something different by going to a beach.  The beach was absolutely stunning, having some of the clearest ocean water I have ever seen, music, excellent food, and a gorgeous view of the mountains and ocean.  I also had the opportunity to snorkel!  Seeing this gave me hope for Haiti, as it would be nice if some day every part of Haiti could look this beautiful along with its wonderful people.

Being as this is my final full day in Haiti, I'd like to share some of what I have learned throughout this trip.  I came on this trip knowing that the country was poor from hearing stories from my various family members (many of which were influenced by my absolutely incredible great uncle, Father Reiser) and seeing many pictures and blogs.  Because of these things, I thought I had some idea of what to expect, but once I arrived here my mind was blown.  If you ever have the chance, please come down to Haiti.  Experiencing Haiti in person did so much more than any picture or blog was ever be able to do and has change my outlook on life.  The amount of happiness and friendliness everybody has, despite living conditions, is unbelievable.  Everybody is always willing to greet one another and share their own personal stories.  The amount of love I received from every child, man, and woman moved me so much.  Everybody made me feel like we were all part of one big family, a feeling which I will definitely miss in the U.S.  The Haitians truly understand the power of love, which allows them to value the important things in life.  Nothing in my life has every moved me so in such a short period of time.  Last week, I never thought I would want to spend more than a few days in a place with beat up roads, tin shacks, and so much poverty, but now, it brings tears to my eyes knowing that I leave tomorrow.  I know my life must continue back in the states and there is much I can do to help at home as well.  I will miss the Haitian people and hopefully be able to visit this country again one day, a country that feels like a new home.

Haiti, you may only be a small dot on the map, but you have earned the biggest place in my heart.

Writing with love to every Haitian and those back at home,

Alex Kopen

Thanks to my wonderful Aunt Susie for helping me immensely with all of my blogs!

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Today, in one of the hottest days I have been here, I visited two typical orphanages in Haiti.  We played with the children, which involved basketball, Legos, decorating cookies and slippers, and jumping rope.  We were awarded with many smiles, songs, and hugs.  Throughout the trip, I have noticed Haitian children are very loving and grateful for the smallest things, which can be seeing with children from orphanages or even children on the side of road.  They seem to have a better understanding of the value of the small things in life compared to many people in the states.  We brought a bag of Legos that a team member no longer uses and the children were definitely appreciative of every last block.

When I first arrived in Haiti, everything was so new to me.  Seeing tin shacks, goats, open air markets, and unattended children on the side of the severely beat down roads was an incredible sight and almost hard to believe.  As I was riding through the country side today, I came into the realization that witnessing this way of life now seems ordinary to me.  I am no longer surprised at seeing any of these sights. When I first arrived, I could not understand how somebody could possibly be happy in such conditions.  How do the children, men, and women have smiles on their faces as they're sitting in a tin shack with no food and a bucket of water to last the whole week?  How can people, especially the people with no homes and the elderly, be so friendly and outgoing when life is literally a struggle to even survive every day?  How can they thank God for the little they have?  I think in the daily struggle to survive, it's easy to be thankful for the blessings one receives.  The Haitians value the things in life that really matter.

Next time you're taking a hot shower, eating a warm meal, sitting in an air conditioned room, watching T.V., enjoying a comfortable bed, or driving your car to work, realize what a blessings these things really are and what an excellent life you lead.

Alex Kopen