Kathleen Menke, CPA, Treasurer
Kathleen has been a member of our board since 2015. It was truly God's hand in how she became a part of the organization. She has loved every minute of it - from helping to start and grow the organization to her first trip to Haiti in December 2017 to even filing our tax returns. She attended the University of St. Thomas, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Accounting. She works at Ernst & Young LLP in Minneapolis as a senior manager in the Assurance practice. She is a licensed CPA in the state of Minnesota and a member of the AICPA and the MN Society of CPAs. In her free time, she likes to garden and run and is currently training for the Twin Cities marathon in October.
Pamela Folkens, Volunteer
Pam is married to Darryl, Secretary to Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti, and they have 2 adult children and 5 grandchildren. She worked at the University of Minnesota for almost 30 years and is currently retired. She enjoys spending time at the lake, sewing and crafts of many types.
Pam has been involved in several organizations at church including altar guild, Sunday school teacher, Lutheran Girl Pioneer leader, and has assisted with many fundraising events for church and BLSH. She also volunteers at Christian Life Ministries New Day Thrift Store. She has had the blessed opportunity to travel to Haiti 5 times aiding in the delivery of school supplies, clothing, and Christmas gifts to the students, staff and directors. Pam and Darryl have also had the privilege to travel to Peru, Dominican Republic, Mexico-Costa Maya Mission, Greece and Turks & Caicos.
Lee Petersen, Chairman of the Branch Schools Board of Directors.
Lee is a member of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Saint Paul, MN, where he recently finished a five-year term as congregational president. He is married to Linda (Special Projects Coordinator for Branch Schools), has two grown children and two grandchildren. Professionally, Lee is a Principal Engineer at Itasca Consulting, has a Ph.D. in geoengineering, is a registered professional engineer in five states, and has 40-years experience in the design and construction of civil and mining projects.
Lee Petersen, June 2019
The end of the spring term for Branch Schools is in mid-June. What tremendous blessings God has showered on Branch Schools this school year! Enrollment at the three schools was 654 children - about 100 orphans and more than 500 children from the surrounding neighborhoods. Despite an October earthquake and ongoing unrest that caused the schools to close on occasion and drove up food and fuel costs, the schools flourished. God willing, the 2019-2020 school year will be even more successful.
The directors and teachers celebrated the end of the term with a closing worship service led by Pastor Rona. He traveled from his home near Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti to near Port-au-Prince, to the orphanage and school run by Yvette. In the first photo, Pastor Rona is leading the service. The second photograph shows the teachers after the service.
Thank you, friends, for your faithful love, concern, and support for these children. Please join us to pray:
Dear Heavenly Father,
We thank you for your blessings on Branch Schools for the 2018-2019 school year in which Pastor Rona, the superintendent, directors and teachers shared the Gospel message of salvation earned by your son Jesus. We humbly ask for your continued blessing on the schools. Keep all safe over the summer and bring them once again to the schools for the fall term.
In Jesus precious name we pray,
For several months, we’ve been forced to cancel plans to visit our friends in Haiti due to a Level 4 Travel Advisory issued by the U.S. Department of State. This is painful. We have gifts for the children and our medical team worries about the disruption of regular visits. But we also have reason to be deeply grateful - vital systems are in place to continue the flow of love and support to Haiti. As we wait, here are five things friends of Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti can do when travel to Haiti isn’t possible.
1. Remember the school children, staff, and Pastor Rona in our daily prayers. When a crisis, whether political unrest or natural disaster, temporarily closes the door for travel to Haiti, we know the people of Haiti are suffering pain and massive disruption in their daily lives. Pray that God eases their burdens and comforts them.
2. Thank God for the systems in place in Haiti. When we can’t physically travel to Haiti, we know trusted people are in place and working hard for the physical and spiritual benefit of the children – a national pastor, confirmed orphanage directors, and a school superintendent. This allows us to continue operation of the schools during tough times as much as possible.
3. Check in online. We’re blessed to be able to communicate online so we can keep posted on the current events, learn of emerging needs, and provide encouragement.
4. Send financial support. We have secure and reliable systems in place to send our regular financial support and additional aid as needed. This aid becomes even more essential during a crisis when prices escalate and supplies run low. In the current crisis, the prices of food, charcoal for cooking, and other essentials have doubled. God led many friends to help and we’ve increased our support and, despite the political unrest, successfully transferred the necessary funds.
5. Wait patiently in the Lord. Haiti is a challenging place to live and work, but God has not forgotten his children there and we won’t either. We remain patient, persistent, and hopeful. The schools are equipping more than 650 children with gospel and education that will sustain them their entire lives and help them make a positive impact on their community in the future.
We’re monitoring the situation closely and we’re confident the travel ban will pass. For now, we trust God, we’re grateful to have systems in place in Haiti, and we look forward to seeing the children and our friends face-to-face as soon as possible.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. We’re so grateful for friends like you who are holding the children close in prayer during this time of hardship. The outpouring of concern during this crisis is truly humbling. We’re receiving messages of encouragement from across the country. More than $8,000 has been donated for food needs in Haiti so far.
Last week, we immediately sent money through secure means to the Branch Schools directors and we confirmed with them that the money was received and used to purchase food and cooking supplies. We are thankful for safe and modern means of transferring money across the world. We will continue to send your generous contributions to Haiti throughout the coming weeks and months as we do not foresee a decrease in food prices in the near term. Many news outlets are reporting Haiti is close to a humanitarian crisis.
Two of the schools opened today after being closed for over a week. One of the school directors reported : "Two of our schools operate timidly. The school of Carrefour does not work the tensions are high in its localities. Hello and good day."
However, the situation remains perilous. The government opposition has established a 72-hour deadline for the government to resign or riots, unrest, and violence will resume.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9
We thank God for all of you. Keep the people of Haiti in your prayers and we will continue to provide updates in the coming weeks.
Lee Petersen, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Dear Friends of Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti,
The political unrest in Haiti, which has been ongoing for months, has intensified in recent days. The unrest is driven by "a worsening economic crisis that has led to a drop in living standards, inflation at around 15 per cent, a growing national deficit, and allegations of corruption leveled at President Jovenel Moise, before he took office." according to the UN News. (https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/02/1032441).
The US State Department has issued a security alert as well: "The security situation remains very unstable with demonstrations very likely. The potential for violent pop-up demonstrations is high and they are proving to be sporadic and unpredictable. Public transportation is shut down again today. Many roads have debris, so caution is needed to prevent damage your vehicles. Rock throwing from small groups is likely in numerous areas."
Branch Schools is not immune during these challenging times. Pastor Terry Schultz, WELS missionary to Haiti, summarizes reports from the school directors: "The continued turmoil in Haiti has led to many businesses and markets closing for days on end. Our schools may be closed for the entire week. Meanwhile, prices on basic food supplies have skyrocketed between 30% to 100%. Huge increases are also reported in drinking water, charcoal, and cooking oil. At least one of the 3 orphanages (Boursiquot’s) is down to one meal and one snack per day."
The orphanage directors report: "We rise under a black sky, without hope in a completely blocked country. On the 7th day of the political problems, the hunger only gnaws at our children, the prices of the basic products multiply by 2, sometimes to the highest bidder, the water of drinks increases to approximately 30 to 40%, the vehicles cannot transport anything..."
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
We humbly request your prayers for the violence to end, the economic crisis to lessen, and protection for the children, teachers, school directors.
Branch Schools is using the remainder of our funds donated and designated for emergencies ($400) to supplement our monthly food assistance. However, more funds are needed to offset the increases in food cost. If you wish to donate, please follow this link to our donation page on our website and if you choose to donate by using either WePay or PayPal, please designate your donation to our food fund. Any check donations can be sent to Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti, c/o Kathleen Menke, 1627 Dunlap St. N, St. Paul, MN 55108. Please write food donation or your check. All amounts donated to our food fund will be used for food, fuel, and water. Thank you in advance for your prayers and donations.
Lee Petersen, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Update from Lee Petersen
A few weeks ago, I reported that new classrooms were under construction at the orphanage and Branch Lutheran School location under the leadership of Luxon Boursiquot. The facility is located in Carrefour, Haiti, about 6 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. Boursiquot’s enrollment increased from 96 last school year to 130 this school year.
One of Boursiquot’s existing classrooms was without windows, without electric lights and natural light was limited to a few inches over the top of a wall. This classroom had no air flow and was not conducive to learning. Boursiquot’s new classroom is being built along the side of the existing building.
Above, at left is the new classroom in use. The construction was finished in time for the spring term. In comparison to the old classroom, the new classroom is open, airy, and well lighted. In the background, younger students are having a lesson.
We thank God for the growth of this ministry, and for the faithful donors who support the directors, superintendent, and teachers and provide water, food, and materials for this new construction.
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Classroom Construction at Boursiquot's School in Carrefour
The 2nd annual craft-bake sale for Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti was held on the 3rd of November. We would like to thank the many very talented people that donated their crafts for the sale and It is great to report the sale was a huge success. Thank you to so many people that helped advertise, set up the sale, baked items for the sale, serve breakfast coffee and lunch, decorate pies, donate items, and helped clean up after the sale. Please mark your calendar for next year’s craft-bake sale, November 2nd. Thank you and God’s Blessings To You All!!