Sahr family goes on mission trip to Haiti
Brandon and Jasmin Sahr, along with their three children and a group of other volunteers, recently returned from a mission trip to Haiti.
It was just over a year ago the Register wrote about the efforts of the Sahr children who wanted to go with their parents on the trip.
Ariel, Sawyer and Lucy made and sold soap to make their wish come true.
“The kids sold 940 bars of soap,” Brandon says. “Between the soap sales and donations, they raised $5,720.”
But in spite of their successful fundraising, the adventure almost did not get off the ground.
“Delta cancelled all flights to Haiti,” Brandon comments. “We thought we had something arranged with American Airlines but that did not work out.”
Finally, the airline that worked out was Spirit Airlines, which may have been fitting considering it was a mission trip.
“We flew to Fort Lauderdale and then continued on to Haiti,” Brandon remarks.
Of course, trying to get away in February in Minnesota can offer other challenges.
“School was actually called off early because of bad weather on the day we left,” Jasmin explains. “Then the parking garage, where we were supposed to have a reservation, was full. So we had to find somewhere else to park.”
Thankfully, the rest of the trip went better.
“Once we left Minnesota the problems disappeared,” Jasmin laughs.
Brandon and Jasmin had both been to Haiti before and said the island is still recovering from an earthquake in 2010 and a hurricane in 2016.
“There is a local feeling the world has forgotten about them,” Jasmin says referring to the Haitian people.
Brandon adds unemployment is greater than 50 percent.
“The need is still there,” he says. “The political climate is more tense but there is more security.”
One of their connections to the island nation is Pastor Marcel whom they have known a long time.
“Wherever there is a need, Pastor Marcel is there to help,” Brandon shares. “Whether it is people in the mountains who have no drinking water or other issues, he will do what he can to aid the situation.”
One of the things the family did while in Haiti was assist with the construction of a church. It will be the 22nd church on the island.
“It is the poorest of the poor who built the church,” Brandon comments. “And these people, who have so little, will be the first ones to donate what they do have to others in need.”
And the people do it all on their own.
“There is no government aid, no welfare,” Jasmin explains. “Orphans are truly orphans.”
But the people do look out for each other.
“People will open their patios so widows and orphans have a place to sleep,” Brandon says.
And while the government may not provide any help, they do not interfere in what the church is doing.
“I feel the government is leaving the church alone,” Jasmin comments. “There seems to be a level of respect for what the church is doing to help the people.”
But bribes are still a part of the way things are done.
“I had to pay $200 to get my luggage through,” Brandon says. “But on my previous trip it cost me $400.”
Brandon says Pastor Mercel has his own security people to help keep watch over others.
“He has seven daughters so he has had good practice protecting people he cares about,” Sahr says with a smile. “The important thing is not to create a situation which is bad.”
With the International Red Cross reporting 70 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 per day, it would be easy to think the country is full of despair, but Jasmin points out it is not necessarily the case.
“People in the church have a lot of faith and therefore they have hope,” Jasmin explains. “But yes, many in the general public are without hope. The radio ministry is stronger than before and is reaching more people.”
And while the couple also note the infrastructure has improved, many of the same problems that have plagued the island for years still exist.
“Poverty, joblessness, lack of education, medical supplies and personnel are significant hindrances the people face,” Jasmin comments. “Many people have vision problems because of the sun so even simple gifts like sunglasses are greatly appreciated.”
And the Sahr children, what did they think of the experience?
“The girls liked to play with my hair,” nine-year old Sawyer says.
But he also told how he learned you do not need fancy toys to have fun.
“We took water bottles and filled them with rocks and then used them to play soccer,” he explains.
Ariel, who is 11, also enjoyed her time with the Haitian children as well as the adults.
“I had fun playing with the kids at school,” she remarks. “But I also learned to play a game with rocks from an older lady. She taught me the game even though I could not understand her.”
Lucy, the youngest of the Sahr children at age seven had her fond memories also.
“I got to see a goat eating treats,” Lucy says.
During the trip home the Sahrs had a lot less luggage to worry about. While they leave supplies they brought to the island with the Haitian people, they also literally give the Haitians the shirts off their back.
“We leave the clothes and shoes we wore during the trip with the people in Haiti and just take back what we are wearing,” Jasmin explains. “I learned how to wash the clothes the ‘correct’ way from the women, so we left them with clean clothes.”
So the Sahr children fulfilled their desire to go on the mission trip with their parents and learned some life lessons on the way.
“The people of Haiti are very expressive, whether they are crying or joyful. And they love to hug, and are so thankful for what they have,” Brandon comments. “You get so much more out of a trip like this than you give.”