Haiti (MNN) — Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $854 for gifts this holiday season, totaling just under $5 billion in the United States alone, according to the National Retail Federation estimates.
$854 is a conservative estimate for some, and the question is: does it buy lasting change?
Baptist Haiti Mission can answer that question. Spokesman Ron Sparks says, "Just basic food, healthcare, and education itself is needed and is very difficult to come by when the average incomes for families there in Haiti may be only a few hundred dollars a year." $854 is nearly a year's income in Haiti. The difference between "holiday cheer" and "survival" is stark. With the fusion of our global, multicultural communities, the plight of Haiti isn't so far off.
Rather than put a guilt trip on the commercialism that comes with Christmas, Baptist Haiti Mission–like many other Christian development groups–would rather present opportunities to refocus on "others" as part of the holiday traditions.
Since Christmas marks the birth of Christ and what His coming meant for humanity in the grand scheme of the Gospel, what better way to celebrate it than to share His story?
Sparks says this is where their Child Sponsorship Program comes in. For $25 a month, "When the kids are able to be in school, they're getting teaching from the Bible and learning the Gospel firsthand. Then, they can take it back home and share it with their parents. So there's really a multiplying effect that results in more people hearing the Gospel even through one child being sponsored."
Sponsorship is really about building a relationship with the child you might come alongside. While sponsors provide basics, they also watch a life story unfold with the transformation of Christ. "They follow that child through [his or her] whole school career, from the time they start in the lower grades until they graduate from grammar school–and in some cases, even go on to the upper grades."
Another benefit of building a relationship with a sponsored child allows them to see your consistency as an example to follow, notes Sparks. He goes on to say they're bringing up the need now because "people who have been sponsoring children over the years obviously have gotten older, and so many of them have passed on or are no longer able to sponsor a child. So the attrition rate, or the turnover of sponsors, has been significant."
Sparks adds, "The population of Haiti is growing dramatically. I remember hearing several years ago that the population of Haiti consisted of over 50% being under the age of 15." With the birth rates accelerating in Haiti and fewer sponsors, the situation for the children goes back to grim. Without an education, there is little hope for the future. There are very few opportunities for mountain families to afford to send their children to school.
Education is a great tipping point of any community or country. Through one-on-one sponsorship, the country will progress little by little. "The children who are sponsored are able to have the tuition that they need to go to school, a uniform, books, some basic healthcare, and at least one warm meal a day,"
Gospel ministry is what sets BHM apart. Education and relationship are nothing if the good news of Jesus Christ does not penetrate throughout each aspect.
So, back to the earlier question: does $854–the average amount an American family spends on Christmas–buy lasting change? No, but it opens the door in a child's heart that dares to hope. So…would you consider starting a new tradition today?
Part 2 of "Celebrating a Non-Traditional Christmas" comes tomorrow.