Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reflections of a Returning Missionary

I thought I would share my thoughts since our return. I had the opportunity to travel with my three oldest daughters and granddaughter which was the highlight of my trip to Haiti. What a gift!   I love them all so much!!!!   

Some of my thoughts as I am remembering and reflecting this week are: 

Life changing experiences!  
Senses Heightened. 
What is important!  
More aware of God's Amazing Blessings! 
My purpose in Life!  
Missing all the warmth and love our Haitian friends showed us while visiting their wonderful country. 
Richness is not always green.  

My dear husband printed a copy of a photo my daughter Jennifer had taken in the gift shop next to where we were staying.

Thank You


For Blessing Me

Than I Deserve!

Kathy Vanderpoel

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Holy Spirit

"For wherever two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.” Matthew 18:20

I felt the Holy Spirit around us and in us and moving through us today in Titanyen. The morning brought us to the mass graveside of an unnamed and unnumbered multitude of buried dead who were victims of the earthquake which occurred almost exactly 5 years ago. There is a monument being erected on top of a tangled, unseen mass of buried bodies numbering in the tens of thousands. We hiked past the bustling graveyard to the top of a distant hill marked by a number of simple wooden crosses. We were quickly joined by several local neighborhood kids who were curious, friendly, and polite in their attempts at forming brief friendships while coyly asking for a bite to eat. Each day we fall in love with a dozen doe-eyed, smiling little Haitian children. It brings about a sweet and sour emotion to hold a gentle soul as they gaze into your eyes with a pleading heart that is thankful just to be held. Our guide recounted his remarkably sad story about the day the earthquake hit. We all wiped away a few tears and quietly slid down the rocky hillside trail back to our ride.

As we traversed yet another stretch of bumpy Haitian roads delivering meals to the needful elderly, it amazed me yet again at the Spirit that is present in this place. Spirit in this team, Spirit in the singing, Spirit in this ministry, and Spirit in the people of this beautiful battered country. We met a handful of sweet elderly Haitians living alone in shacks eagerly awaiting any human contact. We sang songs, delivered a hot meal with a cold drink, and held hands as we prayed over each individual soul. As we gathered around one of the women and held hands to pray I felt an overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit sweeping through us in a powerful wave. We ministered to these charming people of Haiti today, young and old, but we were all touched by the presence of God a in meaningful way.

Greg Getchell


Every day we are supposed to think of a word of the day, so yesterday as we went about our day I thought about my word. Some of the group went to church early that morning and I happened to tag along. As we sat down I looked around at how lively the people were, and as I continued to look around my eye caught the sight of the view outside. The sun was just starting to come up as it outlined the mountains. I looked away for a bit and when I looked back the sun was so bright that I could no longer see the mountain, and thats when my word of the day came to light. 

My word was simple. The simple act of a sun rise and how it brings so much, it brings light, life, and so much more. As the day went on my word stuck with me. It was one our drivers, Maxim's, birthday and that night we went out to dinner. We surprised him with a cake sang happy birthday.  It was a wonderful way to end the night. 

What made it a perfect way to end the night is that on the way home, Maxim was driving and I was up front with him, and the whole way home he was laughing and had a huge smile on his face, and he kept repeating how much God has blessed him, what a wonderful team we had, how happy he was, and how he would remember that day for the rest of his life. He was so grateful for how we invited him to dinner and surprised him with a cake and just being there with him on his special day. Something as small and simple as celebrating a birthday with us meant the world to him. 

Ashlyn Ekholm, Age 17

Friday, January 9, 2015


Moments; we anticipate, we plan, we fret, we plan some more, and then we remember to simply pray…and when it comes right down to it, the moments were already planned for us. In my mind, I had planned them as well getting ready for this trip to Haiti; the heat, the smells, the kids, and the people, but when it comes down to it, my moments have now become memories, in a blink of an eye. 

On Tuesday we were headed into Cite Soleil and I was praying for my moment…and when I believed it wouldn’t happen, my heart sank. On each of my past two trips to Haiti, I was blessed to find a special little girl, whom I referred to as Diva. I knew her water stop, 26, and prayed we would find her. By God’s Grace, I spotted her before we were even off the tap tap, and I then I had my moment…she yelled Hey You, and I yelled back…and then she was in my arms! It was my moment…but certainly not the last! 

From there, the moments continued…sick and dying babies,  so frail, I was afraid I would hurt them…but I knew I was being the hands of Jesus, and He was guiding his touch and healing onto them. At the wound clinic, it was fear of the moment…could I help, would I know what to do…and again, the moment was full of peace as we carefully helped.  I felt filled with God Grace, and how could I need anymore?  

Then just when I thought I was filled, God continued his blessings. Thursday was the beauty of Haiti, as we traveled up into the mountains to Reiser Heights, and again I hoped for a moment to give out books to each child, but because this is Haiti, kids weren’t there, only a handful was…and again, God had the moment planned. A young 10 year old boy, with special needs, latched quickly to many of us…running was difficult, yet he did, and laughed along with the others. Soon, he found a friend in me, and together we had moments. He was non verbal, but his beautiful spirit shone through his eyes. I sang, I prayed, I counted, and I did the ABC’s, we rocked, and we were close…and this time, my moment lasted longer then I could have ever imagined. It was nearing time to leave, and I hope he felt happy as we watched the others fly through the air in the arms of others.He would not go to anyone else nor did he want to be spun or tossed, but then, the tickle spot was found, and a moment of pure joy and laughter for us both! How amazing is our God? 

Finally, today, our 4th day of service, as we are all feeling a bit tired, and worn, as we traveled again to be with sick and dying adults.  These moments were brief, with a hand or foot massage for many, and a prayer for healing, as our time was short, but for all of us, it was moments of quiet and touch. Too soon again we went into the taptap for yet more team moments of bonding and singing, and driving. Our final stop was to be with elderly ladies at the Village of Jesus, with no families to care for them. These were moments of singing, dancing, serving pb&j and juice to them, and then time for hand and foot massages, and new nail colors. These are women who don’t get as many visitors, and savor every possible moment we have together..and then I wondered, who will savor them longer, them or me? 

The moments here in Haiti, are too great to count, and too great to remember each one, but they are moments God has planned for each of us as we continue this journey. In Haiti, it is easy to stop and remember the moments, and to reflect back. It is the “real world” where moments rarely have a chance to be a memory…how blessed I am to be here, in this moment!

Christine Davis


For those who might be reading this from the frozen tundra of the midwest USA, rest assured that we don't spend all day in the 90 degree sun. Today we made a visit to Reiser Heights school, which is in the mountains. So, we enjoyed fresh breezes and temps around 70 degrees. When we reached the school (a two-hour drive from Port-au-Prince), we initially were disappointed to learn the students were still on Christmas break. However, this provided us with the opportunity to get an in-depth tour from the school's staff and meet many of the children who live close to the school building and happened to be hanging around.

The day that originally was to be filled with visiting classrooms and distributing books turned into a festival of fun. We played games with the kids (duck-duck-grey duck was a huge hit), performed magic tricks, sat patiently while 3 girls "styled" the hair of some of our team members, and danced, flipped, and spun the kids around until they were dizzy. (Well, until WE were dizzy!)

A great highlight of the day was knowing almost our entire team has a personal connection to Fr. Reiser. Those of us who attended Epiphany school during our youth had the chance to sit in the classrooms of Reiser Heights. It is amazing to think that a man who founded a school in little 'ol Coon Rapids has former students who remained friends (or become friends as adults) who ended up going to Haiti together and visiting a school named after him!

We were still able to deliver all the supplies (including FILLING the medical cabinets at the clinic).
The books we brought will be handed out when the kids are back in class, and the staff promised to take photos of that event. Truly excellent.

Eileen Bock

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Fr. Reiser

Our itinerary yesterday was varied: morning Mass, caring for sick and dying babies, playing with orphans, cleaning a room at an orphanage, dressing wounds at a wound clinic.  And woven in and out of moments as volunteers serving in Christ's name are moments of connecting with Haitians and each other and building relationships.

A team member yesterday told me a touching story of how Fr. Reiser ministered to her in the last few years of his life.  He did all he could, and when that didn't satisfy the need, he gave her a blessing that allowed her to carry on.

Stories like this flood my soul with gratitude and set my path straight.  Watching the Catholic sisters here and other missionaries who dedicate their lives to service set my path straight.  Watching my team members transform and struggle with how to respond to the needs in Haiti and at home set my path straight.

Tonight for our devotion time I read an entry from "Reiser's Ramblings" to our team.  This is a book published by Fr. Reiser and Reiser Relief that is a collection of columns Fr. Reiser wrote over his years in the priesthood.  All profits from the sale of the book go to Haitian relief efforts.  A team member asked me to publish this particular 'rambling' on the blog:

"Jesus is the model for all volunteers.

Who was the greatest volunteer who ever walked this great earth?  None other than Jesus Christ, the great Galilean.  He gave His all for the good of each and every one of us.  From one end of Palestine to the other, He walked with the twelve apostles and everywhere He went, He gave of Himself for the needs of others.  The driving force within was an uncompromising love.

Jesus is the model for all volunteers, the spirit of doing for others, not because one has to, but because one wants to, reaching out to the needs of others, to make this a better world.  Serving others because the rewards are not necessarily found here on earth but in the great Kingdom beyond the stars where a hundredfold is measured out in reward.

Churches and many institutions could not carry out many of the ministries or missions if it were not for their volunteers.  Here at Epiphany, volunteers have made Epiphany what it is: a thriving, healthy, vibrant Christian community.

Over these past twenty-four years, tens of thousands of dedicated parishioners have made Christ a living reality in our community.  Their names are beyond numbering, but the Lord knows who they are.

The great Galilean walks in your shoes as you use your time and talents to extend His Kingdom."


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sixteen Words

In the heart of Haiti. A team of sixteen. Traveling together. Eight days. Many missions. Orphanages. Schools. Water truck stops. Hospital for sick and dying babies. Three translators. Return volunteers. Newbies. Field snacks. Tap Tap truck. Hand-washed laundry. Long time friendships. First time friendships. Families. One word.

Each night we gather after a full day of service and a family-style meal to share a word that describes our day. One word. In a day that holds thousands of messages, hundreds of exchanges, several glances and many hugs--how do we choose just one? How do we sum up a day so different than our time back home? How does one word suffice? How can one word explain what we see and hear and feel?


Then somehow it happens. One word changes the room. Sixteen people sharing sixteen stories wrapped into a single word and the room becomes home. A safe and sound place like meeting up with an old friend, one you haven't seen for awhile yet pick up right where you left off.

Somehow one word works. One word not only summarizes, but fills in all of the details. One word holds all the emotion, all the visuals, all the hurts and hopes we have for this new home we have found in Haiti.

Jennifer Silvera Lindemer

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Notes from Jamie and Joe...Water and Smiles

It is funny as Americans that we are focused on giving our children more than what we had when we were kids.  Xbox's, designer clothes and the newest cell phones are just a few of the things that our kids may have received this past Christmas.  We as an American society are so consumed with material items.  The kids in Cite Soleil have none of these items.  They are lucky to have clothes on their back and water.  That being said, the smiles we received today were brighter and larger than anything I have ever from my kids at Christmas or any other time.  The kids here have nothing, but yet they have everything.  Half naked walking on glass and jagged sea shells - they smile and hold your hand like you are the only person they want to see.  They have never met me, yet they act like I am a long lost uncle. (By Jamie Lanigan)

This is my first mission trip.  It is also my first time to Haiti.  Today we delivered water, via water truck, to Cite Soleil.  The kids in this area were so happy to see us.  As a matter of fact, I can't remember anyone in my life happier to see me than these kids.  Each place we would go, three total, the kids would come running after the truck until it came to a stop.  Some of the kids didn't always wait until the truck came to a stop, jumping onto the back of the truck as we drove down the road. Upon exiting the back of the truck the kids would literally jump into your arms before your feet would even hit the ground.  Typically, at each of the three stops, one child would immediately create a bond with me and we would hang out the entire water stop (about 1 hour).  It was amazing to me that such a bond could be created in such a short amount of time.  Such a bond that if I were to return months from now we pick up right where we left off, like no time had passed at all.  I find it very difficult to explain in words my experience today. It is one of love, compassion, education, and surprise. (By Joe Jelinek)

Monday, January 5, 2015


I met up with my dear friend last night in preparation for a very early departure for my first mission trip.  As we enjoyed our final dinner meal of tasty sushi, I was experiencing some anxiety of what was ahead of us all for the upcoming week.  Our stomachs full, I had almost a sense of guilt as I thought about how the Haitian people we would be soon be seeing certainly wouldn’t be enjoying the same amazing cuisine or even a feeling of a full stomach.  

After a long day of travel and experiencing what felt like aggressive baggage handlers and a lot of waiting, we made it safely in the crowded tap tap to a clean and comfortable guest house where the Team shared a warm and delicious meal.  I kept thinking about those aggressive guys and reflected on the fact that the entire world really rely’s on tips; regardless the venue.  These folks are quite possibly just more needy than others we’re accustomed to, so who’s to blame them.  

I look forward to a restful sleep and the experience to deliver water to those terribly in need tomorrow. 

Chris Thompson

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tomorrow our team of 16 departs for one week in Haiti.  Our mission: to honor God in all we do. Our goal: to connect, learn, transform and respond to the needs God puts in front of us.

I am so honored to co-lead this team with Michael Stoebner.  Almost all of the team members knew Fr. Reiser personally and were impacted by him in many ways.  It will be a joy to hear their stories and to build relationships.

Thank you for keeping us all in your prayers.


I think God rewards us for our sacrifice of going on a mission by letting us enjoy 90 degree temps in Haiti while it's -10 back home.

Eileen Bock