Remembering Gretchen Zachary: Madame Zach


My mom left us to go be with Jesus 10 years ago today.

My mom on my wedding day.

My mom on my wedding day


For those of you who first connected with Real Hope for Haiti in the last several years, I am very sorry you were not able to know my mother. Pick any superlative you’d like and put it in front of wife, mother, sister, friend, mentor, missionary, or nurse. She was so many things to so many people. I marvel that even now, 10 years after her physical death, we still have people in the United States (and in Haiti) talk to us about her impact on their life. And it isn’t an “I understand your pain and am sorry for your loss” sort of politeness. It is more of a “I feel our pain and am sorry for our loss” because Gretchen/ Madame Zach meant so very much to them as well. Mom impacted those she met on the deepest levels and in the most meaningful ways.




Sharing a precious moment with a grateful patient.

Sharing a precious moment with a patient.





In Matthew 25 it says, at the time of judgement, the King will say to the righteous, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” After the King says this, they righteous reply as though they are shocked, asking when they did this. I’d like to think that this wouldn’t surprise my mom. She’s be like, “Yeah, I thought that was you! I was looking for you.” 


mom and dad's first trip to Haiti c

Mom and Dad praying for the sick



See, the thing about my mom is that she was utterly convinced every person bore the image of God, and as such, each individual deserved respect, dignity, mercy, and love. The empathy she possessed allowed her to be laser-focused in identifying those hurting and delivering timely compassion through Gospel-saturated words and acts of service. My mom had a knack of being present at the lowest point/ toughest time in other people’s lives. It was providential, either God crossing her path with theirs or simply God hardwiring my mom in such a way that she recognized when people were in a battle. And when she saw a person struggling she would never roll her eyes and walk away, but rather, she would roll up her sleeves and mix it up in the nitty-gritty. Patient as she worked, humming songs to the Lord, she did all she did with joy, as unto the Lord.





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Loving the children of Haiti

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” If you were ever a patient at the clinic, if you were ever a supporter who received a thank you note, if you were ever befriended by her, you don’t need for me to explain how this verse connects with my mom. By the grace of God she was able to heal many sick bodies with her skills as a nurse. Also, by the grace of God, she was able to be used of God to help heal many broken hearts.

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The power team of Licia and mom.

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Best two RN’s Cazale every saw.





















Certainly, I want to acknowledge that what fueled my mom was a passion for Jesus Christ and a relentless desire to share the love of God that had been shed abroad in her own heart. She would credit her own mother and father for who she became as an adult. She would express gratefulness for her two sisters and brother, hear aunts and uncles for loving her as they did. She would thank many people like Opal Cook, Helen Hawkins, and Debbie Martin who helped her along early in her faith journey. She would express her thankfulness for Pastor Brad Brizendine teaching her the Word of God and the power of the Spirit and allowing her the opportunity to serve the church and develop her gifts. She would would give a big ole’ “Hallelujah!” to my dad for fanning the flame of God in her heart, encouraging her to pursue God with all she had and being willing to literally sell everything they owned and dedicate their lives to serving the poor. She would say how thrilled she was that her two daughters chose to obey God as He led them to serve the underserved in Haiti alongside her each day. She would say how much delight and satisfaction it gave her to share life with her grandsons. She would make sure you knew how very much the people of Haiti had taught her. She would point to God above and acknowledge that each of these wonderful gifts came from the Father above and she treasured them all.


last chruch service before they left in Jan 1994 c

Being commissioned by Pastor Brad Brizendine to go forth to Haiti and proclaim the Gospel of Christ.


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With her beloved grandson Carmelo











She rests now in the presence of the Father above, for which I am grateful. Real Hope for Haiti’s purpose is “to share hope for this life and the life to come.” We are a distinctly Christian organization who believe in the hope that extends beyond this life. Often as a young person, I considered the power of the blood of Christ and His work on the Cross. I knew the Resurrection indicated that Christ had defeated death, but in my youth, being forgiven for my sins was kind of the whole deal. Death had not come near my door before my mom died. When she died I was saddened. Sadness gave birth to despair. I remember sitting on a bus stop bench in New Orleans about a month after my mom had died and pulling out my Bible and reading 1 Corinthians 15. This chapter discusses the Resurrection of Christ and its implications for believers. God not only forgives our past but provides hope for our future. My hopeless turned back to hope on the bench that day. Thanks be to God forever. God doesn’t just deliver us from a past but her prepares for us a future.

Since then, whenever I miss my mom too much for words, I find myself back in 1 Corinthians 15 and peace comes like a river. Kind of cool that the chapter ends with a verse that describes my mom in a nutshell, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

working before the sun is up c

My challenge to you on this day is to take 1 minute out of your day to think about someone who had helped you achieve your dream, helped to make you who you are, and after thinking about them for 1 minute, take time to call them and let them know how very much they mean to you. And if they are no longer with us, then take a minute to pray and thank God for that person and how He used them powerfully in your life.

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Feel gratefulness in your gut today, because for it to be more than a fleeting or passing gratefulness, it has to be deep down inside you, giving you that good type of weightiness that grounds you. That is the type of gratefulness my mom had that energized her to work as diligently as she did. The type of gratefulness that lingers so long and hard that a feeling turns into an action. I am very proud my dad and my sisters have continued the clinic work that my mom started years ago, and I look forward to joining them soon. They have persevered over the years the same way my mom did: one foot in front of the other, day by day, eyes on the King.

***Thank you for taking the time to read this post about someone dear to our hearts. I am rewarding you with some pictures of my dad when he was younger and Lori and Licia when they were children. 

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moving to Haiti 1994 c

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One more story that always reminds me of mom occurred in Haiti back in 1999. We use a missionary flight service called Agape Flights. They have a central office located in Port-au-Prince that is opened 1 day per week. My mom loved to mail out letters and received letters. She was ill one day and I set out on public transportation to get the mail for her. I rode on a tap-tap to the office. Along with some letters that day were some small boxes, so I grabbed a mailbag and loaded it up. I hopped on the back of a small dump truck and rode it up to our house at the time. I was hot and dirty and as nasty as could be. I drug that bag of mail into my mom who was still sick in bed. As I talked with her, I wiped my sweat off with a dirty handkerchief  that I had been using that day. It was soaked with sweat and smeared with dust. She took it from me and put it in the drawer of her nightstand. Each time I would come into her room to talk with her for the next few years she would open the drawer so I could see the handkerchief and she would raise her eyebrows at me, kind of bobbing them up and down. Within this simple bobbing of the eyebrows she was able to communicate so, so much.

A mother’s love is a mother’s love. There isn’t anything else like it in this world.


  1. eric nelson says

    Praising God for all you do, for your live for Jesus passed down from your mother. I have been to Real Hope twice and have seen real love in action

  2. Sandy Kinnaman says

    Casey, such a precious tribute to your mom. She was not only a blessing to many but a blessed woman to have such wonderful children.
    I didn’t get to know your mom like I wanted to because I didn’t know her at all until 2002 or 2003 but she did have a profound effect on my life. She was able to go to a ladies get away with us once at GCC. First of all, Joan cautioned us about appropriate swimwear for the pool…your mom spoke up and said, ‘ you mean I can’t wear my little bikini/thong suit!’ She was so fun & down to earth! One morning over breakfast I got the chance to talk with just her. I told her how ‘impressed’ I was with her willingness to sacrifice and move to Haiti living as the Haitians. She told me to never think that what she did was any better than what I did. She was just doing what God called her to do and that we couldn’t all live in foreign countries. Without the prayers & financial support of those God had called to stay in the States, work & send funds to help, she and others wouldn’t be able to do the work God had called them to. Now I pray God continues to show me when & where to go and when & how much to send to help His work be accomplished on this earth.
    I know the memories are great & knowing she is with our Lord is wonderful, but the grief and sense of loss is always there too. My love & prayers to all of your family as you remember your mom, grandma, wife, best friend this day and in the days to come.

  3. Emily says


  4. Beth Mason Thornburg says

    It’s hard to believe your mom has been gone 10 years. Your parents are/were such amazing people. So wonderful the work you all have done to further the gospel in Haiti & minister to the needs of the Haitian people. Although I made trips to Haiti, mine were prior to the time you all were there. Praying for you all & the loss & grief you feel. May you all be abundantly blessed in the work you are doing for the kingdom of God!

  5. Bekki says

    I am sad that I never got to meet Madame Zach. I do know her a bit, because I see her spirit in Lori, Licia, and Casey. She is one of the first people I want to hug when I get to Heaven.

  6. John Carroll, MD says

    Great tribute to your mom.

  7. Brad Brizendine says

    Gretchen, and the whole Zachary family, tremendously impacted my life, and still does. It was an honor to witness the miraculous transformation of this Godly family, and watch as they “selflessly” gave up everything to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the nation of Haiti. I will forever be indebted to this wonderful lady, and her family, for living a life “sold-out” to Christian love. Their personal sacrifice to the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and their love for the Haitian people, has influenced my personal life and ministry. I will forever be grateful! Blessings –

  8. Michael Williams says

    Thank you Casey for sharing this amazing reflection! I am blessed to have know Gretchen when she and your dad would visit our congregation during some of their trips back to the states. Her committment to the mission work in Haiti was infectious and there was not mistaking how genuine it was. Not people have the opportunity to know someone who is as Pastor Brizendine described, “sold-out” to Christian to the extent that they selflessly give everything to serve the Lord Jesus in the nation of Haiti. I do regret that I waited until 4 years after Gretchen went home to the Lord to make my first visit to Cazale. I am humbled and blessed to be allowed to know your family personally. Thank you Jesus!

  9. Chris Sandefur says

    Thank you Casey for the 1 minute challenge of remembering. Gretchen gave me so much to help me achieve my dreams, the desire to help those in need and to lift up the downtrodden. I have never met anyone before or after Gretchen who exemplified and magnified the spirit of unconditional love as she did. I would never be able to repay even a fraction of all she did for me but I can try by living each day as she would by being kind, helpful and compassionate to all.

  10. Cheryl says

    Sounds like the passion for people and Christ like love your mom had was passed along to all her children. It’s what makes perfect strangers like me drawn to your ministry, heart broken before Jesus, supporting your work and desprately wanting to visit someday. What you all do- It’s all Jesus all the time and it shows.

  11. Jan Fox says

    Gretchen had the most calming, loving voice I have ever heard. She taught me so many things, growing veg., canning, being a wonderful neighbor. When they shared their plans to sell everything and move to Haiti I begged them not to go. I realize I was being selfish. We as a family have so many fond memories of times spent being neighbors. When I pass the Zachary home I can still see Gretchen in the garden with the chickens and dogs and cats running around, and of course children. She made such a difference just by being who she was. Love to all of you!!!!

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