Haiti (MNN) — According to data from the World Bank and 24/7 Wall St., Haiti is the poorest country in the world.
Five years ago, more than half of Haiti’s population lives on less than $1 a day, while about 80 percent of the country lives on less than $2 a day. Today, despite substantial rebuilding assistance and aid after the 2010 earthquake, the change has been infinitesimal.
When the choice to stay alive is between food and…food, toys don’t figure into the equation much at all. However, children need toys to play with, to express themselves, and to love. Visitors note how content the children are to play with stick dolls and balls of scrap paper and tape…providing a new doll or a new ball isn’t a gesture meant to take that creativity away or interfere with the contentedness of the families; rather, it’s an expression of care.
Combine that with a unique celebration of Christmas, and the opportunities for God to move explode exponentially. Christmas in Haiti is a big deal. It’s celebrated, and decorations are everywhere. Houses get repainted…people get dressed up. It’s as big a cultural deal as it is a reminder of the birth of Christ.
For the poor, it may be an entirely different story. Not being able to join the community celebration isolates people and reinforces their difficult lives. For Haiti With Love’s Eva DeHart says that’s why they host a special Christmas party — and only invite the poor.
“The goal is to really make Jesus alive for them, that He is a part of their daily lives; that He is someone they can call on in times of need, that they thank Him for the blessings they do have.”
One of the features of the party is The JESUS Film in Haitian Creole for children. In December, DeHart shared this memory about showing the JESUS Film at the Christmas party: “I can remember the first time years ago when Don took the adult version to Haiti and had the staff watch it — even though most of them knew the story, they cried through His suffering and the film truly touched them.”
Party goers also get a hot meal, a rarity for some, and a special sweet treat. Yes, it builds into a Christmas memory, but it’s much more than that. ”They start the day with the full message of the Gospel. The rest of it is God’s people sharing God’s food, and God’s love with them so they have a very special day to celebrate Him.”
A day in the life of one of the poorest of the poor is all about necessity. Extras aren’t in their lexicon. When For Haiti With Love throws this party, the extras are included: toys, jewelry, card games, books.
This year, with the shipping deadline running down to the wire, DeHart says there was a curveball. “We lost a dear friend of many years who had a ministry. For the last couple of years, he has donated three full pallets of gifts and clothing for the kids in Haiti. That’s a pretty major gap to have to fill.”
The ministry is scrambling to collect what’s needed. Think of it in terms of a toy drive a few months early. “We need for people to think in terms of small toys, dolls. Kids like trucks….”
Funds sent for this purpose will also allow the ministry team to purchase what’s needed in Florida and pack up on the shipping container…which brings us to the money needed to send it. It costs thousands of dollars to send the shipping container, which takes six weeks to arrive in the docks in Haiti, and is followed by levies for the contents of the container. Any help, says DeHart, is appreciated.
One last thought. For Haiti With Love’s team is boots-on-the-ground in Cap Haitien. They’re running the burn clinic, the food program, and the building program. They work with the Church to meet the ongoing needs, with Matthew 25:35-40 in mind.
“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, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
This is about connecting the churches of the First World and Third World that helps the materially and spiritually poor.
DeHart adds: “Because of this experience, and because of seeing the film, we (by introducing the hope of Christ) can make a difference in their lives. If we make a difference in their lives, we’re going to make a difference in their family and in their mom and dad.”
Pray that the story of Jesus will touch the next generation in Haiti.