Linda Petersen represented Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti at the 2018 LWMS convention. Here's her update:
On June 19, Pam Folkens and I packed up and headed from Roseville, MN to Green Bay, WI for the 55th Annual Convention of the Lutheran Women's Missionary Society. The opening service was held Thursday evening, with this year's theme being Speak, Oh Lord.
As members of Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti, Inc. we were in charge of setting up a display table which helped to inform attendees of the mission of Branch. I also set up a Wisconsin Lutheran Synod Missionary table for Missionary Terry Schultz, who is the missionary to Haiti.
Mary and Terry Schultz were unable to attend the convention as planned due to his father's passing on Monday night. They were sadly missed by convention goers, as well as Branch board members and friends. We were pleased to fill in for them as much as possible. Mary was also supposed to carry in the Haiti flag for the opening service and carry it out at the closing service. It was my privilege and honor to do so.
There were approximately 1,440 registered attendees at this convention. I believe that Pam and I, along with Branch treasurer Kathleen Menke met and spoke with most of them over the 3 days the display room was open. Our husbands, Darryl Folkens, Branch secretary and Lee Petersen, Branch chairman filled in on Saturday as needed.
We were able to identify at least 25 groups/individuals who are anxious to sew pencil cases for our expected 500+ students' Christmas gifts which Branch members will hand deliver in December.
We also met missionaries and their wives from many countries and heard their inspiring stories of God's great blessings they have experienced on their mission fields. Apache missions is celebrating their 125th Anniversary this year, and many Apache women attended and sang at this year's convention. Two Apache pastors were featured speakers at one session and gave a history of the mission, as well as sharing some humor with us.
On Sunday, June 24, we attended the closing service and the official end of the 55th convention. Fittingly, the flags were carried out to the hymn Lift High the Cross.
We are already planning for next year's convention in Des Moines. Hope to see you there.
On June 21st through the 24th, Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti had a great opportunity to tell many Lutheran Women’s Mission Society attendees about our non-profit which supports and funds three Lutheran elementary schools in Haiti. Praise God for the individuals and groups that have volunteered to help with the projects and continue to spread the word regarding Branch.
Update by Branch Lutheran School of Haiti volunteer, Pam Folkens
Did you know volunteers, medical teams, and board members of Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti regularly visit the schools? Pam Folkens was part of a team that visited in December.
Linda, Kathleen and I were honored to travel to Haiti the first week of December 2017 to distribute Christmas gifts to Haitian Pastor Rona, our driver Edner, the three directors, teachers from the three schools, cooks and approximately 370 students. Our first day we traveled to Yvette’s school to attend church conducted by Pastors Rona and Terry. We met two orphan boys, one a high school student, Snyder, hoping to become a trained called worker and another younger orphan student, David, who is currently teaching Sunday school.
Yvette, the director of the Lutheran School of Smyrne, was pleased to show us the three new classrooms for the 2017-2018 school year and the space she has identified for an addition three new classrooms for next school year. One of the new classrooms will be utilized for the vocational sewing center which will hold classes on the weekends.
We spent two days distributing Christmas gifts along with bananas and crackers purchased in Haiti to the students and school staff. I will always remember the squeals of delight and the smiling faces as the students received their gifts.
Message from Linda Petersen, Special Projects Coordinator
As the Special Project Coordinator for Haiti, you may think that I coordinate sewing projects, school supplies collections, and toys and games for the children in our Haiti schools. Up until a year-and-a-half ago, you would have been correct.
Starting in the summer of 2015, BLSH, Inc. was organized to meet the monetary needs for our three WELS schools in Haiti, started by Pastor Terri Schultz, Missionary to Hispaniola (thus Haiti).
Once Pastor and Mary Schultz took up residence in Chicago rather than the Dominican Republic, we lost our pipeline to get supplies from the U.S. to Haiti. Previously, I could send items to the D.R. and Mary, Tish, and Pastor Rona would take them by bus to Haiti. Now we have to rely on whatever extra suitcases people can take to Haiti. There is no sure fire way to ship directly to Haiti and know the items will get into the right hands.
My dear friend, Pam Folkens, and I started annual trips to Haiti in September 2014. We returned there in November 2015 and again in January 2016. Our next trip is planned for October or November 2017. On our trips, we each take two checked bags full of items for Haiti and one roller bag carry-on with our personal goods. We pay for these trips, airfare, hotel, food, extra baggage, etc. We do not take any money away from the schools.
I have a huge stockpile of handmade and donated items for the children that I received prior to Pastor Terry's return to the U.S. as his base. It has been slow-going to get these items to Haiti. That is the main reason why sewing and collecting items is no longer viable. We have put those things on the back burner until we can get more of the stockpiled goods to the children.
My main function, along with my cohort Pam, is to set up fundraisers and help other individuals, groups, and congregations do the same. We have held a spaghetti supper/silent auction, two garage sales, an Easter breakfast 2016, a kraut-n-rib supper, a turkey dinner, and hosted another Easter breakfast on April 16, 2017. We have raised somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 at each function.
We owe a great deal of thanks to Thrivent Financial for their Thrivent Action Team program. We have applied five times for the $250 start-up money, and we have received it every time. We don't have to take any of our monetary donations to purchase food, etc., as the Thrivent funds have covered our expenses each time. Any Thrivent member can apply and receive money two times in a calendar year. The online application is very simple, and they also send banners, t-shirts, invitations, thank you cards, and pretty much everything needed to get your fundraiser going.
If you are interested in setting up a fundraiser for Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti, Inc., please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to help in any way I can. I can also supply pictures from our trips, a small PowerPoint, and some video of the children upon request.
Our schools are growing at an unbelievable rate, and our monthly budget keeps increasing. The BLSH Board of Directors has recently expanded funding to include nutrition assistance for each of the three orphanages. All proceeds we have received go directly to the schools, except for the very small amount for bank fees.
I feel extremely blessed to be a part of this very unique and necessary mission work in Haiti. The three schools now each has a congregation of directors, teachers, students, and neighbors, and they hold church services every Sunday. The three directors are all Lutheran. We can't let these children, their teachers, and their neighbors down. We need these schools to continue.
May God bless you, the children, the teachers, the BLSH board, and all who work to keep these schools operating.
Special Projects Coordinator,
Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti, Inc.
On October 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall on southwest Haiti as a Category 4 storm - the strongest storm to hit the Caribbean nation in more than 50 years. Massive waves, torrential rain and devastating winds hit the southwestern portion of impoverished Haiti. Some residents in shanty towns had been evacuated to shelters but many refused fearing their already limited possessions may be stolen. The peninsula region of the island was cut off from the rest of the country after the La Dique Bridge collapsed - the bridge links the capital Port-au- Prince to the region. Many streets were flooded or blocked with fallen trees.
This devastating storm came six years after a catastrophic earthquake of a magnitude 7.0 occurred on January 12, 2010.The epicenter was near the town of Leogane (the site of two Branch Lutheran Schools) approximately 15 miles west of Port-au-Prince. The earthquake caused major damage and loss of life in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, and other settlements in the region.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, now faces the largest humanitarian event since the earthquake six years ago. Following a hurricane, life for the affected can be chaotic. Most people must deal with the loss of home, loss of electricity and severe flooding. However, many people may overlook the possibility of infectious diseases and other health issues.
• Wounds may occur due to flying debris, shattered glass, etc. Infections may occur if harmful bacteria enter a break in the skin. A lot of trees are down and people could get injured with scrapes and cuts.
• The respiratory system may be affected because high winds bring up mold and other contaminants that would normally be on the ground.
• The gastrointestinal system may be affected because personal hygiene may be compromised. Viral infections can easily be spread among people that are in large groups.
• Cholera is an infection of the small intestine caused by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae. The classic symptom is watery diarrhea that lasts a few days. Vomiting and muscle cramps may also occur. Diarrhea can be so severe that it leads within hours to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Symptoms start two hours to five days after exposure. The common cause is unsafe water and unsafe food that has been contaminated with human feces containing the bacteria.
• Risk factors:
o Poor sanitation
o Not enough clean drinking water
o Oral rehydration therapy- preferably something sweet or salty
o Antibiotics may be an option.
Because of the devastation caused by the hurricane, the health and welfare of the orphanage children is paramount. The children have all three of the main risk factors for cholera. We must all do our best to provide adequate clean drinking water, and clean and nutritious food.
I look forward to seeing these dear children in January and hope that they will be doing well.
Patricia Meek, a Registered Nurse and Chair of the BLSH Medical Committee, has served the
medical needs of the Haiti orphanages since 2012. She has more than 20 years varied nursing experience including more than 15 years working in pediatric wards. She and her husband Jim lived in South and Central America for many years, and have been active in many volunteer roles, often involving at-risk and abused children. Patricia, and Pastor Terry Schultz’s wife, Mary, visit the Haiti orphanages twice per year, and provide medical check- ups and health education to more than 200 children.
I just received the following update from Pastor Rona regarding damage in Haiti caused by Hurricane Matthew.
1. In Lepal, four families lost their homes and one family lost a wall to their home. Rona has been unable to speak directly with the members. He suspects they are unable to charge their phones.
2. No damage among the brothers and sisters in Cape Haitian.
3. There was damage to the front metal gate to Jeanot's orphanage and school.
4. Yvette and Boursiquot report no damage to their orphanages / schools up to now.
5. We have not heard of any damage among the brothers and sisters of Petit Goave.
I will keep you posted as information comes in from Rona.
Please keep the brothers and sisters of Lepal in your prayers, especially those who lost homes, Pastor Marc, Sister Vierge, Brother Pierre Louis Nazaire, the father of Pastor Granzier Daniel, and also Brother Beneche Eloi who lost the wall to his home.
Update from Terry Schultz on 10/04/16
Just a quick update on Haiti.
I spoke with Pastor Rona about an hour ago. He reported that everyone appears to be fine at our Cape Haitian congregation and the three Leogane area congregations with the Lutheran orphanage schools. Rona had not heard yet from our groups in Lepal and Petit Goave.
The greatest concern now is mud slides and flooding. There is wide-spread flooding in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Haitian doctors are gearing up for a surge in health problems, particularly respiratory, diarrhea, and cholera.
John Kramer and I actually made quite a few contacts in the Bahamas during our two flights between Florida and Haiti earlier this month. We pray that our friends in Stella Maris, Inagua, and Matthew Town are safe.
I will let you know if there is any further information about our Haitian brothers and sisters and our new friends from the Bahamas and pass it on.
Thank you for keeping the people of Haiti in your prayers!
Praise be to our Lord for his love, mercy, and protection!