Haiti (MNN) – It’s July 15. Most people are thinking about summer vacation and MAYBE buying school supplies, but not very many are thinking about Christmas yet…
…unless you’re For Haiti With Love. Executive Director Eva DeHart says, “We’re talking Christmas because December comes really fast. Our Christmas focus is for the children in North Haiti. So we have the party, August 12, and then we package up everything and sea ship it to Haiti.”
The history behind the party
A little background: one of the ministry’s key events happens on December 25 in Haiti, so planning has to start now. The logistics involved in gathering toys and gifts for hundreds of Haitians, budgeting for food, and shipping everything to Haiti in time are mind-boggling.
DeHart says the idea of a special Christmas Party started in 1988 with her husband, Don DeHart, now gone to be with the Lord. Eva says that since the party was so successful, it soon became a tradition. The ministry now hosts an annual Christmas party for poverty-stricken children and their parents in Northern Haiti.
Why hold a Christmas Party in August in the U.S.? 31 years ago, the reasons were twofold: summers were slow and the ministry needed a boost in fundraising. In 1988, FHWL was planning their second Christmas Day party in Haiti and needed some funding for the food as well as gifts for that, too. The idea caught on and the rest, as they say, is history.
DeHart explains, “Americans are more in tune with the gift-giving, and the idea of being able to give children something that they want to enjoy, rather than something that they need, which is what most outreaches are about.”
Proving her right are the people who love the Christmas in August party. First, they get excited about giving toys to little kids. “The little girls like dolls with hair so that they can braid and fix the hair like they do with their peers. Little boys like the little trucks…just all kinds of little things that people think of that they particularly liked in their childhood that they want to share with another generation.”
But the thing that gets people jazzed? It’s coming alongside a ministry with a mission. “It gives you the opportunity to share the Gospel with a whole new group of kids to introduce to them the idea that God is about love.”
The tradition grows and changes
DeHart says they used to host the Christmas Day party at their ministry headquarters in Cap Haitien. However, she realized that to reach more people, they needed to take the party to the people. “The object is not to keep having the same kids year after year but to introduce Jesus and the ideas of giving and sharing to a new group of children each year. So last year, we started taking it back out to isolated villages.”
As you might imagine, the ‘to do’ list for both the Christmas in August and Christmas Day parties is a mile long. The needs? Aside from funding and gifts, they need champions, DeHart says. Women from a Messianic synagogue in Florida volunteer to bake the cookies for the party in Haiti. Families come alongside to volunteer their time to sort and package items or even lend a helping hand in Haiti.
All hands are welcome, but one of the biggest things is prayer. The Christmas Day party in Haiti is first, and foremost, an event that shares the hope of Christ. With Haiti’s recent history of unrest as well as being in an area known for hurricane activity, she invites you to join her in prayer. “I’m praying that the country is calm during the holidays. We’ve had several teams cancel lately because of the press on the unrest down there. The main thing is that we want the entire day to glorify God.”