The St. Joe's Adult Mission Team will be making its fourth trip to Haiti the week of July 1-8, 2017.
We are very excited and blessed to again work with the incredible people of Haiti and the staff and other volunteers at Mission of Hope.
A HUGE thank you for the financial blessings provided by the parishioners of St. Joe's through the Christmas Bake sale, the Summit Singers concert/KC pork shop feed and other donations.
This year we raised a total of $7,575!!
Those donations will be utilized to build a house, give a pair of goats to 6 families and water filters to another 3 families. This is the second year we will be able to fund a new home for a Haitian family. The house means a family will be able to move out of a blue tarp tent home into a concrete block home. This is an incredible blessing to be able to provide a family. Pairs of goats provide sustainable resources of milk and baby goats to a family and water filters provide life-saving clean drinking water.
The team is proud to represent the generous St. Joe's parishioners during our week in Haiti. Updates on our work in Haiti will be posted to the church web site during our time there.
2016 Adult Mission Trip to Haiti JourNAL:
Wednesday, July 6
Hello from Haiti!
Last year I wrote about adoption and how well your amazing church had
embraced me with open arms into their mission group. This year, I want to thank
the gang from St. Joe’s. This group is
filled with wonderful people with kind and generous loving hearts.
On Saturday when I awaited their arrival in Miami, I was
filled with such anticipation to reunite with the group from last year. I was filled with pure joy to see my dear
friends who I had shared special moments with in Haiti last July.
Today, our day began with coffee and the rosary by the
ocean. As Dave started the rosary and
stated the intention of being for the Haitians, my eyes were drawn over his
shoulder to the 5 Haitian men fishing in a little boat. It made me think how being in Haiti is like
fishing. We put out the nets to meet the Haitians and offer to pull them in as
we offer them the opportunity to deepen their relationship with God. God is so
evident in Haiti. I wonder why I can’t see God so obviously back home. Take away electricity, technology and all the
extras we have in life and we are enabled to see the beauty in every face. We
are called by God to see this in every person in the world. I just seem to find
it easily here in Haiti. As a child runs
to you with open arms, jumps on your back or puts their little arms around your
neck, you instantly feel God’s love for another human being.
Having blonde hair, the children find my hair an
amusement. They play with it and stroke
it. Today I ended up with 5 braids at the front of my head. Please put your
appearance aside if you are planning to come to Haiti next summer.
For our morning, we assisted at VBS. Children arrive in their Sunday best. We listened to a gospel message and the
children were reminded how much God loves them. We skipped and played soccer in
athletics. In Health children were given
a tooth brush and toothpaste. It was
interesting listening a little girl say she did not have a toothbrush and
obviously not brushing her teeth on a daily basis. We served food to the
children in the food hall. This has been a spiritually deep experience for me
while in Haiti as food is essential and I take it for granted,
Our afternoon was a first day project of building a house
sponsored by your church.
Congratulations on raising the money for the house, the 17 pairs of
goats and 6 water filters. You are making a big difference in this world. I can
be your witness to God’s love and that your money is going to a good
place. When we first arrived in Leveque,
we prayed for the people of the village and the family who would get the
home. The Village Champion spoke to us
but 2 things really spoke to my heart.
If you were here you would have heard him say, “If we have God- we have
everything!” I found this so true but
often forgotten as we forget to give our troubles to the Lord. He has a plan for all of us. The second profound thing he said was, “God
likes that you are here and you are all working together. God wants to see all His people working
together.” I do believe God has a plan
for all of us and we are not here in Haiti by accident. The people we meet are people who He has
chosen to come into your lives. It is
not just the children and Haitians I was meant to meet but also the loving
Mission Team from St. Joe’s Church.
This trip is always a reminder that I am truly blessed and I
have so much to be grateful for. Humor
and flexibility are the key to a happy experience in Haiti. Love and joy are what you will receive in
return. If God calls you here, then come!
I look forward to meeting you next year.
Dianne Vivian (St. Mary’s, Ontario)
Just in case, Dave allows me to put this in, we really do
have many moments of laughter! We play
tricks on each other and can all laugh with Dave’s contagious laugh. He has been a true leader and if you come
next year, you will see what I mean. As
I am writing this message, the group is laughing because Judy just said, “It was
so hot working on the house today that it melted the nail polish in my socks.
Yes it did.”
Therese and some little friends landscaping around a mango
tree in front of the house location.
Kelli digging out the foundation of the house.
A sweaty happy team.
Day four is in the books, and what a day it was! As we
worship, play and serve the Haitian people, we are continually blessed to see
God’s mighty hands, Jesus’ great love and the enveloping power of the Holy
Spirit do great and mighty things.
Once again we started our morning with the Rosary of our
Blessed Mother. Just as cup of coffee gives a jolt to a fuzzy brain, the
morning Rosary gives a jolt to a soul thirsting for the meaning in a life in
I found the second day of VBS to be exciting and fun. While
greeting the children this morning, I was anxious to see some familiar faces
from the day before. It’s amazing how these kiddos connect with us – one soul
to another! I especially like seeing their various personalities. Some kids are
tricksters – taking hats off our heads, tapping us on the shoulder then acting
as though they didn’t. Others are shy – not wanting to come too close, but
curious enough to stay in the same general vicinity. Most of these Haitian
children enjoy a smile and a wave from us, an ice breaker of sorts.
After lunch we went back to Leveque. We split up into two
teams: one to deliver seven more pairs of goats, the other to distribute water
filters. I had the opportunity to hand
out water filters. We congregated at the home of a village man named John. The
village champions had the other recipients meet us there as well. Tom did a
wonderful job of demonstrating how to hook up the water filters onto the water
buckets. Not sure why each recipient didn’t set up their own system, but a few
of us had the opportunity to do so on their behalf. Afterwards it was mentioned
to them that just as the filter purifies the water, Jesus purifies the soul.
Ann, Judy and I had fun with the kids as the adults talked.
Hanging with them was truly a treat. Before we left we asked the recipients if
they attended church. A woman named Princess mentioned that she did not because
she lacked the proper attire for church. After some additional questioning it
was discovered that she did own a bible, and did indeed have a personal
relationship with Jesus. Ann mentioned that she felt like it was a success, and
that it was one of the most satisfying things so far. I thanked the homeowner
John for his hospitality, and told him that he had wonderful children. He gave
a great big smile, and an even bigger hug. He said it would be nice to see me
The team that delivered the goats today had much success
too. Dianne had taken a French bible to give away, and the recipient ended up
being a man who did not have a personal relationship with God.
One last thing – with all of these experiences I truly felt
the Holy Spirit working in us and thru us. In church tonight I was struck with
the fact that WE ARE ALL ONE BODY! I’m starting to feel a tremendous connection
to Haiti, and to the beautiful Haitian people.
INDEPENDENCE DAY –July 4
Today began at 5AM with a refreshing shower followed by the praying of the Rosary in the newly completed pastoral training center located within 100 feet of the ocean. The pastoral training center, only a foundation last year, is an open air facility used by MOH to train pastors to help bring the gospel to every man, woman and child in Haiti.
VBS followed at the main MOH campus in Titanyen, about a 20-minute bus ride from Bercy. Interacting with all of the smiling and excited children coming from nearby villages is always one of the highlights of the mission trip. There is great satisfaction in being chosen by one of the children to accompany them throughout the 4-hour session.
The afternoon was supposed to include strategic village time in Leveque located between the two campuses. SVT consists of visiting some of the families to determine their needs and share the gospel message. Leveque is a recent success story in that their goal of completing 500 block homes for those families still living in the temporary blue tarp tent homes was achieved (actually 615 homes were built).
However, plans changed as we arrived in Leveque. Our village champion informed us that we would be presenting 10 of the 17 pairs of goats instead of doing SVT. As our MOH intern, Maddie, warned us when we arrived on Saturday, flexibility is a must. After all it is God’s will, not ours, that needs to be done.
She also provided us with an appropriate description of what it means to be truly independent, in that it can only be realized if we become totally dependent on God by putting all of our faith and trust in Him. As it is written in Phillipians 4:13, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
We have found a bible verse as a driving theme for the week:
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does.
During our church service this morning, the Haitian pastor said ‘we are not called to quit, we are called to change.
We are called to change Haiti.’
Wow, what a day! Awake at 3 am to be at the airport by 4 am. Our flight to Miami was great! Five of us got bumped to first class and we really enjoyed the fruit and quiche for breakfast! I guess there’s not a lot of business travelers making the Saturday 5:30 am flight from Minneapolis to Miami. Our flight to Haiti was not as smooth. We were all boarded ready to go when we were told there was a maintenance issue so we had to get off the plane and wait for a new one. Two and a half hours later we finally departed and made it to Haiti safely. After a harrowing bus ride we arrived at Mission of Hope, our home for the week. During dinner there was a huge rainstorm. We could see the clouds rolling in and knew it was coming, but wow it was crazy… and it just kept coming and coming for thirty minutes or so. Of course we left the windows wide open in our bunk house but fortunately Tom was nice enough to go back and close them.
On a personal note, I am a pretty organized person that likes a routine, so the thought of this new experience was making me a bit apprehensive. I have been praying that the Lord provide me with patience, understanding and openness this week to do His work. We will be working with the local children in the morning at Vacation Bible School. Those that have attended this trip previously have indicted this is some of the most rewarding time we will have. Some very special relationships have been formed with these kids in past years. In the afternoons we will be working to build a house, training families on how to use water filters we brought and also delivering 17 pairs of goats to chosen families. It will be an exciting time for us all!
Thank you to all St Joe’s parishioners for all your prayers and well wishes. John Kessler
Greetings from Haiti. Today we tackled every ones favorite job, we assisted in building a latrine for a group of Haitian families. The hole was already dug prior to our arrival yesterday, and we were under the direction of our resident stone masonry expert, Dave Berg. I am told that he personally oversaw the excavation process. Everyone pitched in to haul sand and cement, mixing the cement under the watchful eyes of the families and neighbors. We had more than enough little helpers throughout the day. Offering their assistance were the young people of the village, 6,7 and 8 year olds were sifting sand and gathering larger rocks to build a very special walkway to the new facilities. Dave was on hand to make sure every block was placed in the perfect geometrical position. Strangely enough it turned out quite nice anyway. They didn’t have the heart to tell him they weren’t listening to him.
We made a full day of it, stopping just long enough to return to our campus for lunch, and a quick water bottle refill, and back to the job sight.
I was struck by the smiles on the little ones faces as they interacted with each other and everyone involved in the project.
I made a new friend today. A little guy maybe 5 years old. He came up to me, took my hand, and before I knew it he was in my arms and I found out he left home this morning without his pants. No matter, we had a great time together, trying to communicate and share some special time. After a time, he fell asleep in my arms and I found myself dozing as well.
Before we left, I was given the honor of a lifetime; my name will forever be enshrined on the new place of rest. Deacon Dave’s Cave is open for business. Take that Fr Paul Hall.
God Bless, home tomorrow with stories, tons of photos and a lifetime of memories.
Kelli mixing mortar on the ground
Matt watching cement dry
Therese and her little helpers landscaping the path to the latrine
Deacon Dave Cave
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That overused intro from A Tale of Two Cities is an apt description of my day. Our day had two distinct pieces, as do most of our days, we did VBS this morning and this afternoon we were part of a larger team reroofing a home and building a latrine. Both those projects were paid for by funds from generous St. Joes donations. I’ll start with the afternoon.
Work projects are the part of mission work that we all think of when talking about these adventures. Our focus today was the latrine. The Haitians had already dug the hole when we arrived. This latrine construction was a little different style than last years. (BTW, we secured a picture of last year’s latrine – Father Paul (Jarvis) Hall is open for business). Last year the hole was dug and we helped pour the concrete slab over the hole. This year, the soil where the latrine is located is less stable, so we needed to build concrete block walls inside the hole. I had the distinctly unique opportunity to work with the Haitian mason in the bottom of the hole. Many comments were made regarding my presence at the bottom of a latrine. I’ll leave it at that. The mason I was assigned to of course spoke no English. During our work he was trying to teach me both brick laying and Creole. I don’t know which one frustrated him more. He doesn’t realize how bad he wishes Andy Cook was here. Andy – you could have gone to town down there. I now have an appreciation of the prison punishment of putting someone ‘in the hole.’ The lack of breeze, the tight quarters and the moisture of the earth make for a sweaty work space. There were few volunteers to sit with me on the bus ride home afterward. We also helped mix mortar, carried block and mortar to the latrine site and lowered supplies down to the work. Dirty, sweaty, exhausted, stiff and sore, this afternoon was most assuredly the best of times.
Matthew 19:14 – Jesus said, ‘let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ That verse may be the best description I have of VBS in Haiti. We see so much of the Lord’s love in these children. Last year, I was blessed to have a small pack of rambunctious boys lay claim to me. It was fun and rewarding. This year God had something entirely different planned for me. On the first day, a 9 year old boy named Joerob claimed me as his ‘blah.’ He would not let anyone else spend much time with me. He was small for his age and a bit timid, but he showed me nothing but love and acceptance from the first minute. He spent the week mostly riding on my shoulders and taking a couple hundred pictures a day with my camera. During the craft session today we made bracelets, he got an award for being the first one done (he might have had some help). He always wanted to hold my hand and never wanted me to stray too far. On Wed in crafts, he made us matching red crosses for us to wear. I know from experience that kids like this are usually lacking something in their lives. I was blessed to fill a need for him this week, but I knew it would be a difficult good-bye. All morning I was dreading the end of VBS and the inevitable au revoir. When the time came, I asked a translator to tell Joerob that I loved him, I would always keep him in my heart and I would pray for him. The translator asked him if he wanted to say anything to me, and with tears welling up in his eyes he simply shook his head no. The part of my heart that he had come to occupy was officially broken. Many times on past mission trips I have witnessed others experiencing the exact same thing. I have always counseled them that mission work is like a chain and all we can do is be a strong link during our week. A new strong link will come next week to take our place. My own advice is ringing hollow in my heart. The worst of times. Luke 18:17 ‘Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it’
Presenting Mary & Jesus Icon to Haitian church
Hi. My name is Dianne and I am the adopted Canadian member of St.Joe’s Catholic Mission Trip. I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing in prayer, communion and moments of pure joy with the ten amazing people of service from your church. I have enjoyed praying the rosary with the group as the sun comes up over the hills. I jump for my camera to take a picture as I witness someone from the group “loving on the Haitians” and as the members are seeing the face of God in every stranger they encounter. I see that they are seeing each individual as God sees them and acting as God’s hands and feet this week.
This morning we were of service at Vacation Bible School here on the Bercy Mission of Hope site for the third time. Connections have been made with many innocent Haitian hearts and I do not look forward to saying goodbye to them tomorrow. At VBS, we fed them a hot meal, let them listen to the gospel message, ran around and did physical activity with them in great heat, helped them make a cross necklace in crafts and assisted as they learned how to brush their teeth properly in a health/hygiene session. It made me feel very special to see the items I had brought from Canada given out as prizes and used in health. Today each child brought home a new toothbrush and toothpaste. The items we take for granted are such a big deal to those in Haiti. This reminds me to count my blessing many times a day for all that God has given me in life.
This afternoon, we were called to serve in Bercy again but this time was to distribute purchased water filtration systems and goats. I heard that St.Joseph’s Church supported both of these life giving gifts. I was touched to witness the icon of Mary and Jesus which St.Joe’s church gave to the church in Bercy. It was a beautiful piece of art and I was honored to be present as the church accepted the gift saying, “Thank you. We accept your gift.” Part of giving the water filtration systems was teaching them how to use it and clean it. I was baffled to hear that a $75.00 filtration system can provide clean purified water to a family for ten years. Ester was one of the recipients of a system. She was very sweet elderly woman and through the translator said, “I have been praying to Jesus for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” A water filtration system can change her life. With tears in my eyes, she hugged me so tightly. I told her that I would never forget her and that I will pray for her.
St.Joe’s Mission of Hope Group 2015 has made me feel very welcomed into their group. They have made me analyze the term adoption. They have welcomed me in with open arms, a female team member fan, and a real team shirt which I will cherish in years to come. God watches out for all of us and He had a plan when he placed this Catholic Elementary principal with this awesome group. It was God’s plan.
This opportunity to be the hands and feet of God in Haiti is an unforgettable experience and I wish this peace and joy to all of you in your life journey. We come to serve strangers. It makes we wonder how will I welcome the stranger differently when I get back home now that I have had this life changing experience?
Hoping to meet you in Haiti or at St.Joe’s when I visit,
Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church
St.Mary’s, Ontario Canada
Deacon Dave helping to drill a hole in the water filter bucket for the new owner
Matt handing off a pair of goats to their new owner
These past few days have been exhausting and exhilarating. We have been lucky enough to spend each morning with the Haitian children during VBS. As the children arrive, many energetic team members greet them with smiles, cheers and dancing. If we are fortunate, one of these beautiful children will claim us as their “blah”. I was blessed to have received such an honor. As she lifted her arms, I picked her up and lost my heart. I carried this little one throughout the morning since she would not let me put her down. At one point, she noticed I was sweating in the oppressive heat. She lifted the skirt of her dress and ever so gently wiped my neck and face with it. As she did this, she spoke softly in Creole. I didn’t know what she was saying, but my heart swelled at her kind gesture. Today, another little girl (that I also carried) realized that I was very hot, so she took her small water pouch and placed it on the back of my neck to cool me as we walked. Our afternoons are spent doing work projects. So far we have planted trees, given out water purification systems, presented pairs of goats to families, and built relationships in the village while spreading the love of Jesus Christ. The heat and humidity is extremely draining on our bodies and our day ends in total exhaustion. But I don’t believe that any one of us regret being here.
We are called to serve one another. To be the hands, feet, eyes and heart of Jesus. Loving on His Haitian children gives me great joy, for they are my own brothers and sisters in Christ. They have given back to me so much in their touch, their smiles, and their gratitude. To them I say “Mesi”!
In His loving care,
VBS Lunch - For many kids their only meal of the day
Praying for a newly planted tree
Before this trip began, due in large part to the amazing generosity of many donors, St. Joe’s was able to take a portion of the funds raised to purchase about three dozen trees. Today we were privileged to be a part of starting a new legacy for most of these young trees. The trees included mango, coconut, orange and lemon varieties. Trees are planted in villages right within Haitian homesteads through the guidance of the village champions.
It didn’t take me long to realize how much we take for granted the many gifts given to us by trees – shade, fruit to eat or sell, air, for kids something to climb – just to name a few. And the neatest part of it all is that it really felt like we were leaving a legacy. These gifts were not a one time hand out. These trees, God willing, will continually provide for these people for many years to come. Mission of Hope seeks life transformation and these trees fulfill that vision well. I think we all want to see enduring impact through what we are doing here and I felt convinced in my soul we accomplished that today.
There were many memories from today, but I wanted to share one story that I will always remember. Our team approached a homestead and like the others, we waited for some instruction from the village champion and proceeded to pick axe and shovel the chosen spot for this tree. Now this land is not what we are used to back home. In many cases the “dirt” had the look of sand and it was not uncommon to uncover and sift through rogue trash as we prepared to plant the trees. However, this Haitian gentleman was prepared. Once the hole was dug, a fresh bag of soil was at the ready and he poured half of it in the base of the hole. After placing the tree in its place the rest of the fresh soil was placed on top. “Wow that is neat,” I thought, as did our whole team. As impressed as we were though, this man was not finished.
Our team proceeded to walk to the next homestead and plant another tree. When we passed back by this man’s tree only fifteen minutes after it was planted we found that he already had two small tires stacked over the tree providing protection near the base. This again drew our attention to the care being provided to this new tree. After planting one more tree we crossed paths one more time to find that now the young boy was putting up additional supports to hold the tree up and provide additional protection. Our team was blown away by the pride and gratitude. This family truly understood how valuable and precious this new tree was.
When was the last time I reacted to a gift that way? How about you?
We've run into some old friends
It doesn't rain in Haiti, it pours
July 5 & 6
MOH vision statement: As an organization following Jesus Christ, Mission of Hope exists to bring life transformation to every man, woman, and child in Haiti.
We arrived safely into Haiti and were reminded during orientation that since we are now in Haiti we are included among those whom Mission of Hope hopes to include in that life transformation. After only two days here, it's easy to see that they will easily achieve that goal for all of us here from the St. Joe's Adult Mission team.
Sunday found us attending church in the morning at MOH with Haitian people from the community and, wow, do those folks know how to praise God. Worship lasted two hours and they certainly raised the rafters with their singing. We filled out the remainder of our day with tours of MOH and their north campus, Bercy (where we are staying), a Word and Communion liturgy, a wonderful meal cooked by local girls along with orientation and one last visit to church in the evening. We close each night by gathering as a St. Joe's group and reflecting on our day.
Monday the real work began and our hearts grew a little bit bigger as our transformation continued. We began the day at the north campus with 4 bus loads of children coming in for VBS. Word is that by Wednesday we could have up to 500 kids here!! The kids are so full of joy and attach themselves to your hands and your heart immediately from the moment they step off the bus. VBS is very similar to our VBS at home except instead of a snack the children are served a meal of rice and beans...quite possibly their only meal of the day.
Our afternoon was spent in the village of Bercy as we had Strategic Village Time where we went from home to home (and I use that term very sadly because most of the homes in the village are in such poor condition) and we collected data for MOH so they know how to best help. We were gladly welcomed into these homes and they loved to share their stories with us. We went in small groups of about 7 people plus a Village Champion and an interpreter. As we have time (and a better Internet connection), we will share details of these visits as they simply tore at our hearts.
Our day ended with a monsoon type downpour right at suppertime back at the campus. As wet as we all got, our hearts went out to those families that we visited that we knew were exposed to these types of downpours and the other Haitian elements all the time in their little shacks. It's almost unbelievable to think they can remain so full of joy in spite of all their hardships. Jesus is a huge part of their lives (at least those we visited) and many expressed that He IS their joy. Their faith, inspite of their hardships, is incredible and certainly makes those of us reflect on our own that have so much more.
It has been extremely hot here and even our local interpreter stated that it has been extra hot the last few days. Again it reminds us how blessed we are as we witness our brothers and sisters living here with no running water in their homes and the water they seek out for thirst can often times be untreated
We are looking forward to the transformation to continue as the week progresses. We can only pray that we are able to touch the lives of the Haitian people just a fraction of how they are touching ours.
Blessings from Haiti,
Lori and Therese with our new adopted team member Dianne, from London Ontario.
Savannah found a friend at church
July 4 – Return to Haiti
Independence Day and we’re heading back to Haiti. Family picnics, fireworks and parades enjoyed by many in the US will not be experienced in Haiti. Rather we will be doing our small part to spread the good news of the Gospel by participating with VBS, building relationships with the Haitians during “village time”, planting trees, painting houses and digging a latrine.
We look forward to seeing the faces of the children at VBS as we step off of the bus. With many mouths to feed and hands to hold, we will be thinking of all the blessings we have back home. We are so very thankful for this opportunity to once again serve His children in Haiti as they continue to recover from recent disasters. As the week begins we will be reminded of Jesus’ message in the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
We are currently sitting in the air-conditioned comfort at the Miami airport waiting for the connecting flight to Port au Prince where the forecast calls for mid to upper 90s for the entire week. Oddly, however, we are excited to experience the heat, dust and sweat while doing God’s work during the coming week before returning to our air-conditioned home. How profound.
In our Father’s love,
Tom and Judy Schramer