Wednesday, October 21, 2015



I write this as I travel back from Haiti, sitting on an airplane in the comforts of air conditioning. Walking through clean terminals where garbage cans are plentiful and the floors are mopped. The furniture my fellow travelers rest upon is in good condition. Food choices seem limitless and water fountains are stationed every couple hundred feet. The people around me wear clothes that are clean. They reach into their carry-on bags and nonchalantly remove personal belongings to keep them entertained - magazines, books, iPads, cell phones, snacks.

This day of travel is proceeded by a week of intense heat and dust. A week of walking around bumpy, gravel streets lined with rubbish. Passing people in ragged, worn clothing and some with no clothing at all. Seeing children whose bellies protrude and whose hair has turned orange due to malnourishment. Peering into homes where furniture doesn't exist beyond the dirt floor that lies beneath the home's inhabitants.

I sit on this plane amongst the comfort and familiarity I have known and taken for granted my whole life and I want to cry. I want to cry because I don't want to forget...and I fear that I will. I don't want to allow myself to fall victim to "out of sight, out of mind”.  Because when we forget is when the compassion and helping stops.

So I turn to God and ask him to help me remember…

Help me to remember the little orphan girl trying to fix her broken shoe with playdough, because she doesn’t have a spare pair or a mother to buy her new shoes.

Help me remember the poverty stricken families fighting desperately over water in the slums.

Help me remember the disabled children and adults lying in cribs suffering from life threatening illnesses covered in flies and vomit.

Help me remember the man who suffers from leprosy and has nobody to care for him or ease his pain.

Help me to remember the frail, suffering neighbor who is stolen from, who is hungry, and who eats the food we bring as quickly as we hand it to him. He eats to live in the truest sense.

Help me remember the family living in a one room shack on the mountainside with next to nothing.

…Dear lord, help me to remember, because I don't want to forget. Help me remember and I promise to help them.

Emily Brau

Sunday, October 18, 2015


A very important component in a mission trip to Haiti is the people you travel there with—your team.   A solo trip to Haiti will allow you to see and experience the country only through your eyes.  A trip with a team will give you the opportunity to experience it through many sets of eyes.

One of my favorite parts of bringing teams to Haiti is observing THEM observe Haiti.    Some trip goers see the big picture of the country, while others are more keenly aware of tiny moments.   Some are not as shaken by what they witness, while others are torn apart by much of what they see.  The diversity of each team makes every trip new and exciting for me.   Trip goers are encouraged to to be actively involved mentally, physically and spiritually in all Reiser Relief’s ministries during each trip. Thanks to the many ministries we are involved in and our Lord’s intense presence in Haiti, this challenge is real!

Reiser Relief is always seeking new ways we can be God’s hands in serving the people of Haiti—thus continuing the challenge for trip goers.  I’m endlessly amazed and touched by the way each and every team accepts this challenge.  This week’s team was no exception.  Two days ago we visited a location that was home to nearly 100 severely physically and mentally disabled residents ranging in age from 5-35 who are lovingly cared for by an order of Catholic Brothers.  It was Reiser Relief’s first visit to the home, so our team had been told it would be a new experience for all of us.  Immediately upon arriving, it was apparent by what we witnessed that many or all of us would be pushed far outside our comfort zones.  As a trip leader, I was anxious about how the team would handle it.  I saw looks of fright, looks of perplexity, and I saw tears. 

But in short order, a rhythm had developed.  Some team members were giving wheelchair rides, some were singing to the residents, some were holding their hands and massaging their arms and legs, some were figuring out ways to make the residents smile and laugh, and some were overcome with tears.  What started out awkwardly ended in serving with compassion and love—and exploring what could be done to add continued comfort for the residents in the future.

Reflecting back on the experience at the end of the day, once again, I counted my blessings for having the opportunity witness the beauty of watching others opening their hearts to serving all those in Haiti who God continues to place lovingly in front of us.

God bless Haiti.

Ann Brau

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Serving and being served

Haiti Day 5 -- Village of Jesus

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. -- John 3:5

Today we visited the Sisters at the Village of Jesus, Home for Abandoned Women, in Leogane. The efforts of these women should not be under-appreciated. They run a school for preschool through 6th-grade aged kids, a self-sustaining 14-acre farm and a women's shelter for abandoned elderly women -- about 40 women. 

We came prepared to spend the day with the women, bringing a light lunch to share with them, nail polish, craft projects and music. We spent the morning visiting the school, and being sung to by each classroom; touring the farm and drinking straight out of coconuts the sisters had brought for us from one of their coconut trees; and when we got back to the shelter, the sisters had prepared an incredible Haitian lunch of chicken, goat, rice, beans, gravy, vegetables and candy. With cold soda, water and even Prestige, the Haitian beer. It was incredible. And we felt completely honored. We were there to serve and yet we were being served. 

When the ladies finished lunch, we joined them all in the courtyard to enjoy each other's company and participate in some of the activities we had brought. Personally, I'm a fan of painting my nails, and after hearing that the women really enjoy when we come and paint their nails, I was excited for this task in particular. Well, one thing I've learned while being on this trip, is that help is not always needed exactly where you want it to be needed and one important trait to have is flexibility. You need to be ready to jump in and help where it IS needed. Today, nails weren't needed. When the bucket we had brought along to wash the women's feet landed in my hands, I was apprehensive at first, but quickly turned the corner. I asked where we could fill it up, and brought the water bucket and a cloth to where the women were sitting. What I didn't expect was the calmness and simplicity that came with washing the feet of these women. 

When I was younger, I remember going to mass on Holy Thursday and seeing other people get their feet washed or washing other people's feet. It was not something I understood at the time. As I've gotten older, the story and reasons for why Jesus washed the feet of his disciples make sense, but I've never participated in the ceremonial tradition of the feet washing. In a time when feet seem to be an extremity that we would prefer others keep to themselves, and we get pedicures if we know our toes will be showing (I'm even guilty of preparing my feet BEFORE I go get the pedicure), washing a strangers feet does not seem appealing. And yet today, I didn't hesitate. 

The water temperature was perfect -- cool and refreshing, but not cold. The women's feet were so delicate -- even after a lifetime of walking barefoot over rocks, garbage and concrete.  The quickness at which they removed their shoes showed an eagerness for what they knew was to come, that only encouraged me more. After a morning of feeling more served by the Sisters, than serving them, washing these women's feet was humbling and needed. I've had an awkward feeling during my time in Haiti -- as if I was too privileged to be coming into the homes and spaces of some of these people -- do they even want me here? -- even if I was helping. But this experience made me feel like I was in the right place - really serving these women - and I'm fortunate to have been able to experience this. 

We ended our time with the women by singing and dancing some of our, and their, favorite songs. The women that could get up and danced utilized every moment of this time and danced their hearts out. As we left, we made sure to tell the Sisters that next time we came, please to not make a big fuss and a big lunch. But oh, we would be fine with the Prestige! ;)

Abbey Brau

Friday, October 16, 2015

Reiser Heights

Day 4 October 15th – Reiser Heights

Today began with a sense of familiarity. We were up and rolling out in the tap tap by nine, the traffic was intense, and the heat and humidity followed suit. However, rather than shipping out to assist water deliveries or garner new understanding for serving the Haitians, our sights were set on Reiser Heights.  Reiser Heights is a school that was established by the Reiser Relief organization in the more rural mountainside of Haiti. A number of students are currently enrolled in classes ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade. With the last visit from Reiser Relief more than three months prior, a trek up the mountainside was long overdue.

So up the mountainside we went, and aside from a quick break, we made good time as the roads had recently been paved a majority of the way to the top. We spent much of the drive untying cross necklaces to give each student and arrived ready for new experiences and emotions. We piled off the tap tap and unloaded the luggage we had packed full of donations bringing smiles to the staff that were there to greet us. After spending some time untangling the necklaces we had previously prepared – which would turn out to be a never ending challenge throughout the visit – we made our way up the steps to the first kindergarten room.

Many of the children in the first room had never seen anyone with light colored skin before and after a few seconds of shocked silence, their wailing echoed throughout the building. Team members set to work, quieting them with the candy we had brought and allaying their initial fears. The rest of the visit was a blur of gift giving, necklace untangling, photographs, and singing. We passed from room to room in age order giving unique gifts to each. Girls were given dresses and some younger children were given bubbles. Then we gave airplanes and noisemakers to the middle aged children. Finally we gave the older students each a pair of sunglasses. Our team distributed gifts diligently and we were reciprocated by some of the most grateful smiles we had ever experienced.

School adjourned shortly after the gift giving and students gathered outside to share songs, show off their new gifts, and pose for photos. Our team performed the few songs we had rehearsed and the students shared their follow-the leader-game, but after a while the activity died down as students trickled away in different directions. Once everyone left we hiked down the hill to visit a family that the organization had become familiar with over the years.

Here we got to really see the conditions many Haitians are forced to live in. The family had a shack built from rusty corrugated steel siding to sleep in and another lean-to that housed a small tripod for use with a cooking fire. Neither building had doors or flooring other than dirt. It was truly a shock to see a growing family living in such conditions. The sleeping quarters couldn’t have been more than six feet by eight, yet it housed a family of three children and two adults. Such appalling conditions really helped us appreciated how fortunate we all are for the comforts we are blessed with in our everyday lives. We gave them what little we could, dresses for the little girls, a necklace for the eldest daughter, and all that remained of our candy from the school. With heavy hearts and wishing we could give them more, we turned to head home.


Moments of Joy

Moments of JOY
October 14, 2015

Today was a day to open our hearts and hands to the helpless.  We started our day up before dawn and fed our souls with praise and worship, preparing ourselves for what the Lord had in store for another day in this beautiful country of Haiti.  Our first journey in the Tap, Tap, which is our main mode of transportation, brought us to a home for sick and dying babies.   Each morning, a line forms and is comprised of families waiting to get into the home and spend time with their children.  We could hear the young cries as we entered.  We waited to get directions on how to proceed.  There were so many babies, where do we begin? We held babies, fed babies, changed babies, played with babies along with many other tasks important to the upkeep of this amazing place.  It was always a joy to see each baby’s face light up upon seeing their mom enter the room for a visit.   The hardest part for all of us--our group, the babies, and their families, was when it was time for families to say good-bye for the day to their child.  I can’t even imagine what that it would be like to leave your sick child, not knowing what tomorrow may bring upon your next visit.

Back into the Tap, Tap we go.  After a long journey through the bumpy roads and intense traffic, we found ourselves dropping off new toys to a wonderful organization that will transport them 8 hours away to a newly formed school.   Imagine the delight on the children’s faces at Christmas having a brand new toy to bring them joy.   

Next we were going into new territory for Reiser Relief – a visit to the Missionaries of the Poor.  It was a journey down one of the dustiest roads yet, but as the gate opened and we pulled in, a young man motioned with his crooked arm where to go.  The excitement in his smile was unforgettable.  Nestled in one of the most beautiful areas we have seen yet, live some of the most disabled people you will ever meet.    There are about 90 residents, and only about 10 percent have family.  They were so happy to have visitors!  But each seemed to have a disability worse than the other.    How do we make a difference?  Then quick as a flash, our amazing Tap, Tap driver, Maxim, was crazily wheeling a young man in a wheelchair around the complex.  Just one look at his face and you could see the joy he felt in that moment.  Moments of joy continued to spread as we went on walks, played clapping games, and tried new hairstyles.   As our time came to a close, I kept asking myself is why?  Why do these people have to go through life like this?  But with clear conviction, one of the Brothers stated, “these people are like Christ and suffer as he did on the cross, as we are to be like the risen Christ on earth, and care for them as best we can. “

It was another amazing day in Haiti, with everyone we met taking a special place in our hearts!  Tomorrow off to Reiser Heights…

Kris Noel