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Update as published in the September 2020 Sentinel Newsletter

As reported in the August Sentinel by Todd Erlandson, Haiti Team Leader, a large food shipment to the Haitian town of Sobier was made possible from the funds raised by Pennies for Haiti. Since his last update, an additional $3k was raised by the congregation, making possible the next month’s food drop, with an additional three more months planned ahead. Flour and sugar have been added to the food package, along with oil, canned salmon, spaghetti and rice. Thank you to all who donated towards the Haiti relief effort!

Update as published in the August 2020 Sentinel Newsletter

Haiti Mission Update
by Todd Erlandson, Haiti Team Leader

As many of you remember, back in February we launched our annual “Pennies for Haiti” fundraiser intending to purchase fifteen goats for the community of Sobier, in lieu of our annual Haiti work team, which was cancelled due to social unrest.

What we did not know, as we prepared to wire funds in March, was that Haiti was suffering as we were from the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic.  Mandatory “shelter in place” rules from the government directed people to retreat to their homes.  As people rushed to the market, stocking up on supplies for their families, prices skyrocketed and reserves dried up, leaving many locked in their houses with nothing to eat, creating great need.

Through direction from our Haitian support team, we were able to pivot from the purchase of goats to the more immediate need of getting food relief to the people of Sobier.  With the available funds we were able to provide 35 families with food packages to support them for the short term.

This past month former mission volunteers in our congregation, with support of church leadership and the Mission Council, have identified reserves earmarked for Haiti relief, and have committed a portion of these funds for continued food drops.  Last week our in-country team delivered more food to supply 50 families with staples such as rice, oil and canned food, enough to last them up to three weeks.  [See photos below shared by Caz Cardiny.] These 50 families surround the center of the community of Sobier, a location and population that so many of us are familiar with.  We intend to continue this food aid support monthly with the available funds, and we welcome additional donations if you are so moved.
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We are so grateful to all of you who have donated to Haiti relief through First UMC in the past.  Your generosity has built these available funds.  I would also like to offer great thanks to our in-country team: Caz Cardiny, our interpreter, Jacob Jean Claude, our generous host in Sobier, and Osnel Louis, the local church lay leader. They are tireless in their care for the community – collecting funds, renting vehicles, purchasing and delivering food and calmly and safely distributing to those most in need.  We could not do it without them. Please think of them as they risk health and safety, and keep them in your prayers.

Posted July 16, 2020 via Instagram & Facebook

This week’s #ThankfulThursday reaches all the way to the tiny rural village of Sobier (pronounced soh-bee-aye), Haiti. 🏝️
Several days ago our contact and guide, Caz, along with his team, distributed food kits to 50 local families. These food kits were made possible by your continued support, prayers and gifts. 🙏
This Sunday, we welcome Todd Erlandson, Haiti Service Team co-leader, as he shares updates on our Haitian brothers and sisters during worship service. Tune in at 10 a.m. on Facebook live or our YouTube channel.

Update March 2020
by Nathan Oney, Pastoral Associate

Goat grazing on a hillside in Sobier 2017

Goats are the G.O.A.T.!

Goats! Many in the LA area may know them as adorable little parkour artists, yoga assistants, or Taylor Swift impersonators, but did you know that goats are actually great farm animals? Each of the last several years, our church, with the help of friends and family, has collected spare change and other donations in a program we call Pennies for Haiti. The funds that we raise are used to purchase baby goats (also called ‘kids’) for our Hatian siblings who live in the remote village of Sobier. These goats serve as an investment in the families and economy of the region, and are a great tool for helping families escape systemic generational poverty. But what is it about these square-pupiled, bearded beasts that makes them such great gifts?

  1. Goats can produce up to four gallons of milk per day! This can also be used to produce cheese, butter, and soap. They provide nourishment, and the excess can be sold for income!
  2. Goats are excellent agricultural experts! They help crops to grow by clearing land, eating weeds, and providing fertilizer (you know what this means…).
  3. Goats are very sanitary. They eat almost anything, so they can help with the cleaning! Do your kids do that? Do they?
  4. Goats can carry loads, and even pull small plows!
  5. Goat hair can be used to create clothing and other fabrics.
  6. And they are great for children! Are you reading, kids? They are playful and make great pets!
  7. Okay, stop reading, children. Goats can also be used for their nutritious meat and in the production of leather. Every stage of the life cycle is filled with benefits. Goats really are the G.O.A.T.!

This year, since we are unable to send a team to Haiti, we have set ourselves a lofty goal of raising funds to supply a boat-load of goats, literally. (They are transported to Sobier by water, and the boat can hold 20 goats). Our fundraising will begin Sunday, March 8 and will continue through March 22, so bring your change and look for the orange “pennies for Haiti” buckets in the Narthex and Simkins Hall. Feel free to drop a check in the bucket as well or give online. Thank you for your gifts!


Update November 2019
by Nathan Oney, Pastoral Associate

Love for Haiti

As the Christmas season comes upon us and we begin to fix in our minds those who are in need of hope, we encourage you to be in prayer for the people of Haiti. Due to an ongoing political crisis, the country faces severe food and medicine shortages, the Guest House has ceased operations, and UMVIM is no longer supporting Haiti as a mission destination due to the risk of violence. For these reasons, we will be unable to return to our Haitian siblings in the near future. We do not know when the situation will change, and it is difficult to receive accurate, up-to-date information. Because of this congregation’s heart for Haiti, we are currently seeking ways to support the people in this hour of dire need, including partnering with other Methodist churches in creating a temporary relief fund with support and oversight of organizations on the ground. Our prayer is that the leaders of the country bring a swift end to the crisis for the sake of the people.

Update July 2019

Construction Continues in Haiti!

Thank you to everyone for your continued interest in and support of our mission to our siblings in Haiti. As you probably know, we suspended our trip to Haiti earlier this year on account of civil unrest do to protests against government corruption. Instead, we made a contribution to our continuing support of the community of Sobier by the purchase of goats for economic development and toward additional construction needed for their medical clinic. The funds reached the community (hope you saw the pictures of the goats!), and they have begun construction on the medical supply storage depot. This construction is facing challenges as the transportation infrastructure is still stressed by the continuing protests and some violent clashes in the Haitian capital. The village of Sobier sends its thanks. Please continue to be in prayer for Haiti.

Update: June 2019

Pennies for Haiti Update: Thank You!

In Early May, our guide “Caz” Cardiny purchased 15 goats at the local goat market in Haiti using the funds raised during our Pennies for Haiti fundraiser. The goats were transported by motorcycle, boat, and by foot to the village of Sobier and were distributed to the most needy families in the community, as determined jointly by our team host Jakob, Caz and the lay pastor of the local church, Osnel. By the pictures sent by Caz, it appears the goats are happy, healthy and secure with their new owners. Blessings and thanks to all who contributed to their purchase.

Update: November 2019
by Nathan Oney, Pastoral Associate

Dear Friends and Valued Donors,

Thank you so much for your support of Haiti through your donation to First United Methodist Church Santa Monica missions. Your giving has made a material difference in the lives of the Haitian people at a time of deep need. As you may know, we postponed our trip this year due to civil unrest and protests against the government, which paralyzed travel and the movement of critical goods and supplies in the country, inhibited our ability to do our work in the remote village of Sobier, and would have exposed us to an undue amount of risk.

The civil unrest–a response by the people to governmental corruption in Haiti–has once again created a situation of great need across the country, just as earthquakes and hurricanes have done in the past. With prayerful consideration, we have determined to use funds you donated this year to support organizations in Haiti that help bring relief to the people, and which foster ongoing relationships

between our church and the people of Haiti in our absence: the Methodist Guest House, which is instrumental in coordinating missions teams across the country; and construction and supplies for the Sobier Medical Clinic, which will now begin operating. Additional donations through our Pennies for Haiti campaign have also made it possible for us to purchase a number of goats for the people of Sobier, which will serve as a much-needed investment in the future of the Haitian people.

The Sobier Clinic has finished construction on the main building, but we are now beginning work on a secure storage facility for the highly valuable medicines, supplies and generators that the clinic uses for its operations. With these donations, you have helped some of the most important missional organizations maintain their operations of serving the people of Haiti through what would otherwise be a devastating disruption. Going forward, our teams and others will be able to help the Haitian people turn this clinic into a beacon of hope for the surrounding communities.

We pray that the government of Haiti keeps its word on the reforms that it has promised its people, for the sake of their prosperity, and so that we might go to them again in the future. Our commitment to the people of Haiti continues, and we thank you so much for your support on their behalf this year.

Update: February 2019

Haiti Service Trip Postponed – Donations Still Needed

Sunday, February 17, 2019

It is with great disappointment that we will be indefinitely postponing the Haiti service trip. Based on advisories from the US State Dept., news reports, and conversations with people on the ground in Haiti, we have concluded that travel would be unsafe at this time. Additionally, our ability to complete our mission of serving the village of Sobier would be greatly diminished by current events; in fact, our presence might even be more harmful than helpful. We are committed to exploring other options as we continue to find ways to support our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

At this time, we’d like everyone to continue to pray for the country and people of Haiti, along with the missionaries who are there now as they return to the States.

In the meantime, we will continue to raise money for Pennies for Haiti. The Haitian people need our help now more than ever, and we want them to know that we have not abandoned them, but are continuing our commitment to help them, even as the mode of that help changes.

Mission is not merely something we do; it is also who we are as a Christian people. It is an attitude that we bring to the world as an outpouring of the grace of God within us as the Body of Christ. We pray that we all carry this stirring of the spirit into our daily lives, our workplaces, our relationships.

For questions please contact Nathan Oney n.oney@santamonicaumc.org.

haiti prayer 2019

patricia - moose lodge

Rev. Patricia Farris helped collect Pennies for Haiti at the Haiti Fundraiser Dinner Party on Saturday, January 26th. Enough money was raised to purchase 13 goats that will be given to the neediest families during the upcoming service trip. Livestock are an essential source of income and insurance for the families that are fortunate enough to own them.


In 2010, a devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake crippled the impoverished country of Haiti. As we witnessed the devastation of the earthquake, our congregation heard a call to be in an ongoing mission partnership with the Haitian people. Since then we have sent a team annually from our church to be in service to a Haitian community. In the fall of 2016 the country was devastated by Hurricane Matthew. Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Many live without clean water or adequate sanitation. They still need our help.

In collaboration with Haitian Methodist partners, our efforts thus far have made tangible progress in rebuilding churches, clinics, schools and homes. We believe that our biggest impact in the rebuilding effort in Haiti, however, is in giving hope and building relationships with our fellow Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ.  Some team members go for the first time and others have returned for their third or fourth mission to continue their own spiritual growth and to be of service.

haiti stories of grace header

2018 Haiti Mission Team Report Back

The 2018 team consisted of: Grace Cho, Charity Goldberg, Katie Goldstein, Mahetzi Hernandez, Glenda Martinez, Michael Olsson, John Pfister, and leaders Todd & Sherry Erlandson. At the Report Back luncheon, each spoke of their own personal impressions on the trip, while also describing the continued improvements made in their work team efforts. Working together with Église Methodiste d’Haiti (United Methodist Church of Haiti), and Michael Kelly at Hollywood UMC, the building of the medical clinic in Sobiér that has been in progress for the last three trips is close to completion. For the first time this year, the local men who have been training on the building sites are now leading the projects, rather than working under outside hired crews. The team delivered suitcases full of school supplies for the children (75% of Haitian children go to school), and 600 toothbrushes were distributed to local women for their families. Following last year’s effort to purchase goats for the neediest families of the village, this year 10 more goats were purchased with the money raised from the Pennies for Haiti fundraiser, and given to 10 more families. Last year’s goats are thriving and multiplying. This is one of the most tangible ways to bring income and relief and to the families there.

Aside from the hard work being done, each team member was clearly touched by the spirit and people of Haiti. Every day after work, Sherry Erlandson would gather the team to talk about their impressions of their day, and in prayer and reflection, the First UMC Lenten Devotional was read out loud and discussed. Each team member relayed that in spite of the hardship and need in Haiti, the presence of God was clearly evident in the beauty and nature of the environment, and the spirit and grace found in the many moments experienced during the trip.

View select photos from the 2018 team.

Download the Haiti Prayer Card.

A Look Back: 2017 Haiti Mission Trip 

Every Penny Counts!

During the trip at the Sunday Worship Service, the Haiti Work Team learned that Hurricane Matthew claimed some of the goats in the village of Sobier. Livestock are an essential source of income and insurance for the families that are fortunate enough to own them. With Pastor Robert’s guidance, the team unanimously voted to use the donations raised ($400) from Pennies for Haiti to purchase female goats. With the help of a few church and community leaders, a goat was given to eleven of the neediest families of Sobier. The team witnessed firsthand how every penny really does make a difference. Thank you for your donations!

Authenticity/Courage/Compassion: Shared Need

The team met a British doctor at the Methodist Guest House who has served in Haiti for many, many years. He showed them an inexpensive and very doable way to purify water for drinking. It’s so simple, yet so effective. You put your water in a clear, non-colored plastic water bottle, seal it tight, leave it under the morning sun for some time. The sunlight itself purifies the water, making it safe to drink.
The women of our team wanted to share this life-giving approach with the women of Sobier. With the help of the lay leader and translator, they gathered at the Catholic church and our women developed a rapport with them, gained their trust, demonstrated this process, leaving behind an incredible gift—water they can use for cooking and drinking. No cost. No fancy equipment. Potable water.
But that’s not the whole story, as I heard it told. It wasn’t just about “us” doing something for “them.” It’s a story about breaking down the language and cultural and racial barriers that might have separated them. It’s a story about new relationships of love and trust beginning to form. It’s a story about life-giving water welling up in the hearts and souls of our team members who discovered within themselves new sources of strength and faith and hope that they had not thought possible.”

-Rev. Patricia Farris, 3/19/17 Sermon

To say that the 2017 Haiti Mission Trip was an incredible experience is an understatement. The Work Team witnessed firsthand how far your financial support went in the rural village of Sobier, which is located approximately 3 hours south of Port-au-Prince.  We personally handed out the healthy snacks, clothes, school supplies, and toothbrushes and paste you generously donated.  We helped continue building the much needed medical clinic but, more importantly, we built relationships with the wonderful people and many children of Sobier.  We are grateful to you, church and community, for coming together to help make a difference in not only their lives but also in ours.

-The 2017 Haiti Work Team: Jason Beckerman, Bonnie Bennetts, Shalimar Carducci, Jan Hanley, Jim Kirtley, Dan Nessel, Greg Moul, John Pfister, Leaders: Todd & Sherry Erlandson. 

2017 Team Reflections

My hands and heart were opened wider each day by the love and trust the people of Haiti and Sobier showed us.  -Bonnie Bennetts To read more click here.

Haiti welcomed us, but Sobier truly embraced us. The simple life of the small village brought me back to my childhood in the Philippines, reminding me of what matters most in my life and that is love and God’s blessings. I now have a new found love in each of my team members and heightened respect for construction laborers and building with minimal tools! A piece of me will always be a part of Sobier and I hope to return there again, perhaps even with my daughter when she’s older.  -Shalimar Carducci

In addition to getting to know 9 great people better, eating wonderful Haitian food, experiencing very sweet Sobians, taking bucket showers and waking to roosters. The following is the last verse from the song I wrote…
‘As Haiti welcomed us with open arms we shared our gratitude.
Working together making bucket lines, dug holes and stained our shoes
As we listened to each other, we found God in everyone.
Made time to dance with our brother and watch the children run
Sobier it’s the way to find the Joy in you.’
It was such a great experience!!!  -Dan Nessel

Being part of First UMC Santa Monica’s Haiti Service team was like being on a retreat (convention) on STEROIDS!  -Greg Moul

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve on First UMC’s Haiti Mission Trip. I want to thank Robert and Patricia for inviting me to be a part of the team, Todd and Sherry for their amazing leadership throughout the trip, and the entire team for their grace and commitment to serving the people of Sobier. It was a life-changing experience, and I hope to have the chance to return to Sobier in the future!  -John Pfister

I am grateful for the way that the presence of this building in the village of Sobier has changed things in so many ways. I love how the young people have gained real construction skills, so that now they can lead our team in the work effort. The building will also mean so much to their futures, to the health and welfare of their aging parents and young children. They have built this building with our support, and it will continue to make a difference far into their futures.  -Todd Erlandson

I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to be part of this mission team with a great group of people. It was an incredible experience both humbling and rewarding.. The people of Sobier have opened their hearts to us and allowed us to be part of their lives. You don’t need to know a lot of Creole to relate to the people of Sobier, only the universal languages of “friendship,” “ faith,” “hope” and “joy.”  Haiti will always be in my heart.  -Jan Hanley

2017 Haiti Mission Trip – Sobier, Haiti by Greg Moul

FUMC 2016 work trip Sobier, Haiti from Michael Kelley on Vimeo.