Brunsch Bunch on Epic Journey in Haiti
A friend was assembling a team of volunteers to “go somewhere in Haiti to help” following the devastating earthquake that rocked the country in 2010? Would he join the team?
Brad Brunsch not only accepted that invitation, but went on nine more trips to Haiti over the next few years.
“There were about 13 of us on the team, Brad said. “We came to teach English and work on a kitchen project. We ended up coming to Lemuel. The neat thing was this area wasn’t even impacted by the earthquake, but it needed help.
“My heart was impacted in many ways on that first trip. I came home seeking what to do next. I felt a big pull to return to the same area to increase our impact.”
Brad was hooked. He fell in love with the culture and people. He especially loved the life-changing vision shared by Manis Dilus (Lemuel’s executive director) for the “Big Devil” plateau area that Brad visited. Most people saw only the plateau’s deforestation, poverty and daily struggles, but Manis believes the plateau will one day support a lush canopy, education, jobs and real hope for the future.
Brad began bringing some of his five children (Shayne, Brayden, Carsyn, Dayne and Ryen) on his trips. They, too, began to see Manis’ vision, but Brad’s wife Danyel had yet to visit. If Brad was to move his family of seven from Rhinelander, WI, to Haiti, the entire family would need to buy in.
“I was hoping Danyel would grab hold of Haiti just a little bit,” Brad said. “I’ll never forget that while we were in the basement going through some photos from my trips, I looked over and saw her crying on the couch. That was a direct answer. She felt something for a place she’d never been, but she was given a glimpse. That was enough for me.”
It took a year to raise support and two more to sell their home and possessions and do a family visit to Lemuel for six weeks. They moved to Haiti in January of 2017. Despite some initial sickness while adjusting to Haiti’s climate, they were able to navigate the transition and are serving in a variety of ways.
“Our goal is to serve the community with our resources. We have four (Haitian) ladies working who support visitors. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes and Danyel is there to see things through – she’s really part of our hospitality team. She’s a great cheerleader – always supportive and encouraging for all of us here.”
“In addition to homeschooling, running our store for visitors and keeping tabs on the kids, I’ve become somewhat of a nurse,” Danyel added. “People keep coming to me when they’re hurt, which is scary. My only medical background is caring for my kids.”
“What’s been really cool about our community here is that they didn’t just accept Danyel and I, they accepted all seven of us,” Brad said. “The kids are really engaging by helping give tours, interpreting, taking photos and helping run the water pumps.”
“There are many smaller plateaus within the big plateau here,” Danyel said. “Manis and Lemuel have developed a strong reputation here because the people see what he’s doing and it’s working. During community gatherings, people are now asking what’s best for the entire community, instead of fighting among themselves.”
“One example of impact is that the people are asking for help developing canals to bring water to their gardens,” Brad said. “At one meeting people were getting up one after another ranting and raving about fixing the canals because they bring life to their gardens. They did not want anyone to give them food. They want to produce their own food and provide for their families.”
“There are more signs of real impact here,” Brad said. “First is leadership development. Manis is picking out the next generation of leaders and mentoring and educating them. They are wonderful, strong Haitians who love their country, love this community and love to work hard.
“The second impact is family support. The opportunity for employment here is a huge change. Before, men were leaving their families to find work in the cities. They loved their families, but the geographical distance was splitting them up.
“A third impact is having a school here. We’re not giving ourselves a pat on the back for Lemuel’s K-7 school. Manis is saying, ‘no, we need K-12 so we stop sending these kids into cities by themselves to finish their schooling.’
“Most of these kids who leave for school have no adult supervision. The cities gobble these kids up and spit them out. We want to stop this crazy cycle and keep families together.
“We have about 75 kids enrolled in three kindergarten classes, Brad added. “As the next generation of trained leaders take over, they are going to carry forward with a generation of young kids who are educated and willing to work really hard.
“The trees are a perfect picture of Manis’ vision. These trees will not be mature in his lifetime, but eventually they will bear fruit. Those kindergarteners will see some massive trees on this plateau, and they will have a canopy here and underbrush and things growing underneath. While there is fruit today, the abundance will be seen by the next generation.”
Postscript: Overcoming Carsyn’s Eye Crisis
Late last year, Carsyn became sick and ended up with an eye condition – cellulitis. They drove through the night to Port au Prince, flew to Miami and got Carsyn to the hospital.
After many tests, pokes and a surgery, doctors discovered he had a sinus infection which caused the cellulitis and Potts Puffy tumor, which occurred because the infection had reached a bone in his forehead.
Following several procedures and rounds of medicine, Carysn was cleared from immediate danger. He has improved wonderfully. The family is back in Haiti with lots of allergy medicine, sinus sprays, oils and air purifiers…and ready to serve their Haitian community.
Learn more about ER partner Lemuel here. Contact Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support ER’s work in Haiti and around the world here. Scroll below to learn more about the awesome life impact taking place at Lemuel.
Samuel’s Trees Bring Hope to “Big Devil” Community in Haiti
By Krischelle Frost and Bonita Sparling, Lemuel Ministries (April 2, 2015)
True transformational change often happens like a tree grows…slowly, imperceptibly.
For more than 60 years, Mérilia Dumesle (Grann) has lived on the Plateau. She has seen the years of plenty turn to years of want. Grann remembers the Plateau when trees covered the mountains and the rains still fell— before it became a barren desert, a place forsaken.
For Grann, hope returned when her grandson, Manis Dilus came back to the Plateau. He established Lemuel, a community development organization with a message that the people in this tiny little spot in Haiti’s infamous Northwest were not forgotten. From that day, things began to change.
Samuel’s Trees: How it all began
Seven years later, Manis met Samuel Schӓfer, who was in Haiti to do civil servic
e work for the German government. Manis shared with Samuel his heart and vision for the community of Grand Diablo (Big Devil), the name of the plateau where Lemuel is located. Part of this was a desire to see a land that had been laid to waste by years of deforestation filled with life again. Manis helped Samuel to understand that in order to survive years of hardship, the people cut down the trees to make charcoal, in turn exacerbating drought and erosion.
Manis explained that a different way had to be taught by visible example: “You must show people how to bring life back to the land by doing it yourself in front of their eyes.”
After arriving on the Plateau, Manis had been laboring to this end, having started on the Lemuel campus. But he had a bigger dream: to buy the vast acres of wasteland surrounding the community—land that had once been gardens, but that now was abandoned to erosion and cacti—and to reforest it into a usable resource.
Inspired by Manis’ vision and example, Samuel determined to do something. He returned to Haiti, purchased five
acres of the wasteland, and hired three young men from the area to help him. It was a seemingly impossible task. The land was full of rocks, gullies, and nasty thorns, and it was open to
the destructive habits of roaming livestock. There was no water there. As a skeptical community looked on, Samuel’s team took up their pick-axes and shovels under the brutal Haitian sun
and completely transformed a place of nothingness into a
land full of hope and potential—in less than one year! Today, they have planted over 1,000 trees.
A place to return
Samuel was eager to show Grann what was happening on the land. Her health and legs are not what they used to be, but at Samuel’s invitation, she took up her walking stick and slowly made her way over the distance. As she entered the gate, a smile crossed her face. “Now,” she said to Samuel, “you will always have a place to return to.”
“A place to return to”…that is part of the vision for Lemuel. Lemuel exists to invest in the growth and development of people, so that they may escape the vicious cycle of poverty, and carry the pattern of reaching out to others through future generations. As we do this, it is our desire for the next generation to see that they have a place to return to—a place where life, hope, and purpose have reappeared – and to break the pattern of exodus from Haiti’s countryside.
Reforestation is only a part of this, but it serves as a powerful visual to a deeper reality. True transformational change often happens like a tree grows…slowly, imperceptibly. Planting the tree is only the beginning; the fruit will be seen by the children to come. Yet, if no one prepares the ground, plants the seed or tends to the sapling over the long years, there will be no tree at all.
Here on the Plateau, indifference and doubt in the community have begun to change into appreciation and inspiration. As the people learn to value what they are seeing, they will reproduce it in their own area of influence. Samuel’s Trees remind us there is hope for a better future for our
children, but it must start with us.
The work at Samuel’s Trees is far from finished. They have plans to buy more land and to build a tree nursery. In order to continue moving forward, we need people willing to invest in hope for the future.For more information about Samuel’s Trees, and to see how you can be involved, please visit www.samuelstrees.blogspot.com.
To learn more about Lemuel and the various ways it is investing in people, please visit the website at www.lemuelministries.org.