Branch Schools is beginning a new blog series this spring to take a closer look at some of the Bible verses used in past newsletters, posts on Facebook, and more. Read on to learn more about these verses, why they were chosen, and what they mean to Branch Schools!
Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
This verse was shared on Facebook for New Year's Day, as well as included in the January newsletter. At the beginning of the new year, this verse is a wonderful reminder that no matter what lies ahead, God has a plan. For Branch Schools, this is especially comforting in the midst of the many challenges in Haiti.
2021 was a very difficult year in Haiti. The presidential election in February created poltical divisions, escalating in the summer when the president was assassinated. An earthquake in August forced thousands of people out of their homes, and gang activity grew more bold, especially around Port-au-Prince--now nearly impossible to enter due to the gangs controlling all of the major roads. Throughout all of this, food prices have risen extensively.
It can easily feel hopeless when seeing these horrible conditions. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere; a situation which began many years ago when Haiti fought for its independence from France in 1804. The payment that France demanded resulted in Haiti's deep debt and struggle to grow and prosper. In the 218 years since then, many people have prayed for safety and security in Haiti, but it seems that nothing will ever change. In this struggle, it can be hard to continue believing that God has a plan for Haiti.
The exiled Israelites, living under Babylon's dominon, probably had a hard time believing that God had a plan for them. In Jeremiah 28, a false prophet named Hananiah was telling people that God would free Israel from Babylon within two years, which would have been welcome news to the Israelites. But the Lord told Jeremiah that Hananiah was lying--instead, Jeremiah was to tell the people to "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters..." (Jeremiah 29:5-6). In other words--get comfortable. The Israelites were going to be under Babylon's rule for much longer than two years. In fact, the Lord spoke through Jeremiah that it would be seventy years. Immediately after this is verse 11: "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Although the Israelites didn't want to hear that they would remain in Babylon for seventy years, the Lord promised that He had a plan for them.
God's plan wasn't only to bring the Israelites back from captivity in Babylon. He also had a plan to free them from the captivity of their sins. This was the greatest hope that the Israelites had, and this plan wasn't just for them, but for the whole world. This hope found its fulfillment in Jesus. His life and death freed us all from captivity to sin. Because He has done such great things for us--freeing us and giving us the hope and the future of heaven--we can trust that God has a plan for Haiti, too. With your help and support, Branch Schools will continue to provide funding for the five schools that serve over a thousand students for a long time, as well as continue to ask for your prayers that God's will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
On Monday, September 27, the school doors opened once again, welcoming hundreds of students into classrooms for another year of lessons. The familiar sight of the bustling campuses brings incredible joy, but this school year did have a difficult start.
The opening of the semester had to be delayed due to the earthquake in August. The Port-au-Prince directors shared this news with Branch Schools at the beginning of September, saying that "the Haitian State decided to postpone the reopening of classes" due to the government's "inability to come to the aid of each student during this critical period." While Haiti is still recovering from the earthquake today, we are grateful that schools are now able to open.
This year, enrollment has risen from the 2020-2021 school year at all three Port-au-Prince elementary schools, totaling over 1,100 students! Branch Schools could not support the amazing work being done at these schools without your help--thank you!
To God be the glory!
In the final part of this series, we will look at the fourth goal of Branch Schools, which focuses on the blessing of a family of believers at the schools in Haiti.
Goal #4: Grow Lutheran mission congregations at the schools that can expand into the neighborhoods.
The chart below outlines the path that Branch Schools followed as the three Port-au-Prince orphanages and schools were established. The humanitarian needs arose in 2010 with the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake. This crisis created many physical needs for the orphans now at the Branch Schools orphanages, including shelter, food, water, and clothing. As these needs were addressed through the establishment of the orphanages, the next goal became education. Creating schools at the three orphanages to provide secular education helped prepare these orphans for their futures.
At the core of Branch Schools, however, is the spiritual education. The children learn Bible verses and the Catechism, and just this last June, 6 students publicly confessed their faith through confirmation! Growing naturally from this spiritual education is a nucleus of believers, found at all three Port-au-Prince orphanages and schools, the Pilate middle school, and now the Les Palmes pre-k/k school. The students from the neighboring areas bring home their workbooks, including their Catechism copies, and practice their memorized Bible verses with their parents, bringing God's Word into homes in the communities around the schools.
Along with the humanitarian needs being met at the orphanages and the spiritual and secular education provided at the five schools, Branch Schools is blessed to have church services every week to minister to this nucleus of believers. By the end of 2020, over 400 people attended these worship services, and we pray that this number will only rise!
As the nucleus of believers expands, we recall Jesus' words in the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:18-20). Thanks be to God for this amazing ministry at Branch Schools.
Branch Schools is overjoyed to have these congregations at the schools that we hope to continue growing into the neighborhoods and beyond. Thank you for your support to help us get there!
On August 14th, 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. Below is a series of real-time updates posted by Branch Schools in the aftermath.
News Update: August 14, 2021 Earthquake
Early Saturday morning, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti, surpassing the level of the 2010 earthquake at a 7.0 magnitude.
The epicenter was in Petit Trou de Nippes, about 80 miles west of Port-au-Prince, with the nearby cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie experiencing some of the heaviest damage. As of 5:00 PM on Saturday, casualties reached over 225. Many injuries caused the small rural hospitals nearby to overflow. Rescue efforts are ongoing, with expectations of further damage as more information becomes available.
Following the earthquake, several aftershocks rippled through the area, with one reaching a magnitude of 5.1. More aftershocks are possible at this time, and a tsunami warning was issued briefly this morning as a precaution, but has since been lifted. Complicating rescue efforts is the approach of Tropical Storm Grace, which was expected to cross Haiti Saturday afternoon, but is now predicted closer to Monday. A concern for many in Haiti is that the rain from Tropical Storm Grace may cause mudslides in the rubble of the earthquake.
Branch Schools was in contact with the directors of the orphanages in Port-au-Prince shortly after the earthquake. Director Boursiquot reported that "I spoke with Yvette and Jeanot, everyone is okay" but that the "children are scared."
We are continuing to communicate with the directors, and await information from Pastor Rona about Pilate and Les Palmes. The Les Palmes school is closest to the epicenter; about 50 miles away.
We praise and thank God for keeping the Branch Schools family safe in this crisis. Please continue to pray for the children to be comforted, the rescue efforts to be safe and successful, and that all in Haiti may find their refuge and strength in God's loving hands.
Branch Schools will continue to update on the situation as we receive news from Pastor Rona or other developments.
Source: The New York Times: www.nytimes.com/live/2021/08/14/world/haiti-earthquake
Earthquake Update: August 16th, 2021
Pastor Terry Schultz received a message from Director Boursiquot in Haiti, sharing the good news that Pastor Rona, his family, and the Pilate and Les Palmes schools are all safe. Praise the Lord!
Officials in Haiti now report that over 1,200 people have died and 5,700 people are injured. 26,000 homes are either damaged or completely destroyed.
Please continue to keep Haiti in your prayers as Tropical Storm Grace approaches today, with the possibility of worsening damage and complicating rescue efforts.
"In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Earthquake Relief Update: August 17th, 2021
Branch Schools has continued to stay in contact with the directors in Haiti, and we are so thankful that the entire Branch Schools family has remained safe. Director Boursiquot has reported a few cracks in the walls at his orphanage, but the damage is not significant. God is so good!
We are also incredibly grateful for the support of many donors who have reached out with concern for those in Haiti and prayers for their safety and recovery. Your encouragement is deeply appreciated!
There are still many uncertainties in the days ahead for Haiti. One of the primary concerns for Branch Schools is that the already-high price of food will rise further. With violent gangs and mudslides making travel difficult or impossible, food is likely to become harder to access.
Branch Schools is committed to providing food for the orphans at the Port-au-Prince schools, even as prices rise. Your aid can provide much-needed relief in the aftermath of the earthquake, bringing assurance to the directors and children in Haiti in the face of extreme uncertainty. If you would like to help ensure that food remains available at Branch Schools, you can donate to our Earthquake Relief fund on our Donate page. Click "Give Today!" to donate via your bank account or credit card and select "Earthquake Relief" under the Purposes tab.
It is still too early to know what the schools may need to recover. As more questions are answered, Branch Schools may need to provide funding for building repairs or other expenses following the damage of these natural disasters--both the earthquake on August 14th and Tropical Storm Grace that crossed over Haiti on August 16th, continuing into today. The Earthquake Relief fund will be used to ensure that these costs do not interfere with the usual operations of the schools.
Thank you for your prayers, your support, and your aid for Haiti!
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
Earthquake Update - Rebuilding: August 20th, 2021
In the aftermath of the earthquake, Branch Schools received news that 25 houses belonging to the families of children who attend Branch Schools were destroyed. This picture shows some of the damage, which left 25 families very near and dear to Branch Schools without shelter. To help with the large cost of much-needed, urgent construction to rebuild houses for these families, Branch Schools applied for relief funds from WELS Christian Aid & Relief (CAR).
We are so thankful to share that CAR has generously and FULLY funded this request in the amount of $60,000! Praise the Lord for His immense blessings.
CAR shared this announcement: "As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). This afternoon WELS Christian Aid and Relief approved a grant of $60,000 for Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti. At least 25 families who have children in the schools lost their homes and personal belongings in the recent earthquake. The grant will enable those families to rebuild and recover. We consider it a great privilege to help those who are hurting as the result of a disaster."
Branch Schools is preparing to transfer the funds and begin these building projects as quickly as possible. Your prayers for speedy and safe construction are greatly appreciated.
Thank you WELS Christian Aid and Relief!
"Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15
In Part 3 of this series, we will look at the third goal of Branch Schools, which focuses on the future of the students and orphanages at Branch Schools.
Goal #3: Provide vocational training to prepare and protect children who must leave the orphanage at age 18.
In May 2020, 23 treadle sewing machines made their way to Branch Schools after a lengthy shipping process. These sewing machines were donated by families across America, with an exciting purpose awaiting them in Haiti: they would be used to train the children at the orphanages in sewing and tailoring. Now, after school and on the weekend, the children push aside classroom tables and benches to make room for the sewing machines and learn their craft.
Spiritual Advisor to Branch Schools, Pastor Terry Schultz, shared his hope for the sewing institute when they arrived in Haiti:
"The idea behind our institutes is to use them as gospel outreach tools. Youths from the orphanages and from lower economic neighborhood families will be invited to study with us. The institutes will share Jesus while sharing an education that may provide youths with a way to generate some income. (In Haiti, over half the adult population lives on less than $2.41 a day.) The institute will be open for students to book time on the machines to complete sewing projects. (For example, every Haitian child attending school needs homemade school uniforms!) God willing, the sewing education will provide stimulus for the youths, discipline and focus, as well as that certain dignity that comes from studying hard and completing a job. Without this opportunity, almost none of the orphans and impoverished children at Branch Schools would have the resources to attend a learning institute."
In the last year, these sewing institutes have been a great blessing to Branch Schools. We are so thankful for the families who donated their treadle machines--a treasured possession in Haiti, due to these machines not needing electricity to operate.
May God bless these children at the sewing institutes, that they may study their craft diligently and continue to learn of Jesus' love and salvation as they work!
On July 12th, Branch Schools announced the launch of a new monthly giving program: the Branch Roots Society. By donating $15 or more each month, members can become Growers to help support and sustain the mission of Branch Schools. Three suggested giving levels--Seed, Blossom, and Fruit--describe the impact that donating $15, $40, or $100 each month can make.
Regular, reliable donations are crucial to Branch Schools' operations for two reasons. First, knowing what to expect each month helps Branch Schools prepare for special projects, make financial decisions, and communicate with the directors in Haiti. Second, recurring donations create a wonderful connection between Branch Schools and our supporters for many years. Our current monthly donors have been a huge part of growing Branch Schools into what it is today, and we have been so grateful to know them!
When you become a Grower, you can help Branch Schools prepare for the future and build a lasting relationship that changes lives in Haiti. We are excited to get to know you--and welcome to the Branch Roots Society!
In Part 2 of this series, we will look at the second goal of Branch Schools, which focuses on the future of the Church in Haiti.
Goal #2: Identify children with potential to serve in ministry to be trained in the future by Pastor Rona Abraham.
Pastor Rona Abraham is the only WELS-trained pastor currently serving in Haiti. He leads several congregations across Haiti, including one in the village of Les Palmes, where the upcoming opening of the pre-k/k school will take place. Branch Schools communicates frequently with Pastor Rona as he visits the schools and provides valuable insight and updates on conditions in Haiti. We are so blessed to have his wonderful friendship!
In order for the Haitian National Lutheran Church to continue expanding in Haiti, more pastors are needed. Two young men, Schneider and Nozier, are currently learning from Pastor Rona, and Branch Schools has the pleasure of knowing both.
Schneider grew up at Yvette's orphanage, and recently conducted a confirmation service for 6 children also from Yvette's facility. He is now 20 years old and has completed his high school education, and is known for his infectious smile and enthusiasm for God's Word.
Nozier will be the head teacher at the Les Palmes pre-k/k school this fall, serving both the young children there and the village congregation. Both he and Schneider are learning as much as possible from Pastor Rona even as travel is difficult, utilizing video conferencing to continue studying while the violence and unrest rise.
Branch Schools looks forward eagerly to these two young men's future, and we thank and praise God for their hard work! Please keep Schneider and Nozier in your prayers as they prepare to share God's precious Word with many people in Haiti.
Pictured below: Schneider leading the confirmation service on June 6th, 2021.
Branch Schools is excited to launch a new monthly giving program: The Branch Roots Society!
Ongoing support is critical to the sustainability of Branch Schools' mission in Haiti. As a Grower in the Branch Roots Society, you can help ensure that no child ever has to be turned away from Branch Schools and God's Word continues to be spread across Haiti. You can sign up by going to branchlutheranschoolshaiti.org/branch-roots-society. Monthly donations of $15 or more are eligible to join the Branch Roots Society, with our recommended levels below:
Seed - $15/month = the full cost of attendance for 1 student.
Blossom - $40/month = the full cost of operations in Haiti for 1 day of your choice each year.
Fruit - $100/month = the full cost of food for 150 meals, or a meal every day for 5 orphans.
All Growers receive an exclusive bi-annual update on the schools and orphanages. New Branch Roots members who join in the month of July will be entered into a drawing for a Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti mug!
You can find all the details online, and don't hesitate to contact Branch Schools with any questions!
"I love my school...In the future, I would like to become a professional in accounting. Thank God for this school." This 8th-grader at Jeanot's school is looking forward to his future as an accountant, and Branch Schools is committed to funding the schools and helping him get there.
Will you join us?
Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti's mission includes 4 goals that emphasize a Christ-centered, holistic approach to serving the children in Haiti. In this series, we'll look at how each goal can be seen in the past year at Branch Schools.
Goal #1: Provide Lutheran education and nutrition for orphans and other under-served children in Haiti.
Since Branch Schools' beginning in 2015, providing an education built on God's Word and support for health and wellbeing have been at the forefront of the schools in Haiti. To find more details on how Branch Schools is combatting these spiritual and physical challenges, see the comparison below.
In the 2020-21 school year, many physical blessings came to Branch Schools. Yvette's orphanage and school continued to grow in enrollment, creating a need for an expanded water cistern in the fall. New solar panels were installed in the spring at Yvette's facility to bring reliable light and power. Branch Schools was granted WELS Affiliate status in October 2020, and had incredible donor support throughout a challenging year of social unrest in Haiti and COVID-19. Along with many other joys in this past year, we praise and thank God for these blessings on the work being done in Haiti!
Branch Schools has been busy over the last few months!
In March, we were blessed with the immense outpouring of support for Yvette's much-needed solar panels. In April, we had a wonderful opportunity to speak at an in-person rally for the first time since 2019. In May, we announced the upcoming opening of our fifth school in Les Palmes for preschool and kindergarten education.
What could June bring?
Here's a hint: we've been working on a letter coming to your mailbox soon, new names and designs (see below!), and even a new page for the Branch Schools website. We can't share any more information yet, but we are excited to give you all the details soon.
Follow Branch Schools on Facebook to catch another preview, and watch your inbox for the official unveiling later in June.
What are your guesses for the upcoming news? Let us know via the website or send us a message on Facebook!
Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti, Inc.