Haiti (MNN) — Nearly 700 children in Haiti went to their very first Christmas party last month.
"These were all kids who had never had this kind of a party before," says For Haiti With Love founder, Eva DeHart. "They were pretty awed. It was really a wonderful experience for everybody."
For Haiti staff kicked off the party by giving each child a coloring book containing the story of Jesus and Christmas hymns printed on the back. This was followed by a hot meal–rare in the western hemisphere's poorest nation–and then toys.
"It's a very personal thing based on their own circumstances, but everybody really appreciates it, and it's a really, really good way to enforce the Gospel and [convey] what Christmas is all about," DeHart says.
"You're introducing the Gospel to some of them. For others, you're reinforcing it. And then others: kids will be kids! It means a really, really good meal," she continues. "And some will be more interested in the toys than in anything else, because they don't have any at home."
Pray that the seeds of the Gospel will take root and grow in the hearts of the kids who heard the Gospel for the first time.
Since 1988, For Haiti has hosted a Christmas party every year for poverty-stricken children in northern Haiti. While the ministry's Cap Haitian headquarters served as the party site for the past few years, DeHart says they had to relocate in 2012.
"We were starting to get some of the same people, and that wasn't the object of the party when we started it [in 1988]," she explains.
"It was to give a new experience, to share the Gospel in a new way, to a new group of people, so that you're spreading the Word and getting the meaning of Christmas out into the minds of the children."
With Christmas over, DeHart says For Haiti with Love will now focus on its food program. Last year, they were able to garner enough support to send four 40×40 foot containers of food to Haiti.
They're hoping for more of the same in 2013.
"You don't hear the teacher over a growling belly; you've got to feed the children's tummies in order to feed their minds," says DeHart. "The food program is really important for the children, for the elderly, for the disabled — those are the people that we focus on."
Can you help send food to Haiti? Click here.
"Since so much of Haiti's help comes from individuals in America, we need to pray for America's stability, and their ability…to share with third-world countries," says DeHart.
Ask the Lord to move on the hearts of generous donors. Pray that Haiti will be a gracious recipient of food aid for its people.
DeHart continues, "We do our best not to be a welfare state, but to put people in a position where they can provide for themselves. It's not working with the same people all the time, and it's not creating dependence.
"It's striving for independence, but that does require American resources."
While the poverty-stricken nation continues its struggle with food security, recent statistics show Haiti is one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean, North America, and South America.
"The kidnapping and murder of U.S. citizens is extremely rare in our country," says Haiti's Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe. "We work diligently and closely with the United States, Canada, and the international community to fight the proliferation of criminal activities."
According to UNODC, Haiti's violent death rate of 6.9 out of every 100,000 Haitians is among the lowest rates in the Americas. This is mainly due to Haiti's strong focus on the strengthening and modernization of its security forces.