Would the children receive their Christmas Joy Box this year? The odds were SO stacked against a carefully planned outcome, that it could be deemed a “Christmas Miracle” if it happened. I must admit, I had all but surrendered in defeat.
For 14 years, Hope for Haiti’s Children has been sending Christmas gifts to children who will likely receive no gifts at all. This project starts in July because there are MANY hurdles to jump. This year, there were MOUNTAINS to CLIMB. We knew that the children remained hopeful, but their hope was surely dim. A Haitian proverb states ““Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.” It translates as “Beyond every mountain, there’s another mountain.” Yes, once they make it through one difficulty, there is another.
- Mountain #1: POST-COVID year…would there be enough presents? In the past, thousands answered the call to pack a small shoebox with purposeful gifts for a child in Haiti. We have over 3,000 children in our schools…would there be enough people in our post-COVID world to pack a “Christmas Joy Box”? The goal seemed daunting as groups struggled to reunite.
But then… over 38 churches/organizations packed 3,452 boxes! A record-breaking year!
- Mountain #2: Fuel Crisis in Haiti… As gangs continued to grow in number and power, they seized control of the port where gas was being imported into Haiti. Gas stations shut down. Streets were empty. This meant that our staff would not be able to travel to pick up the Christmas Joy Boxes when they arrived from the states. When would this crisis end? When would the gangs release the gas? Would it happen in time for Christmas?
But then… In November, gangs released access to the fuel reserves and gas was delivered to gas stations (although at $30+ per gallon); our staff would be able to pick up the boxes…but then, another mountain.
- Mountain #3: Shipping from the U.S. to Haiti… All of our Christmas Joy Boxes are first shipped to Ft. Pierce, FL and flown in by our partner, Missionary Flights International (MFI). Unfortunately, due to the fuel crisis, we told them the bad news.” Even if you do fly them in, we can’t pick them up right now because our vehicles have no gas.” So, they held them all in Ft. Pierce until we gave them the green light. At this point, I felt like the light was a dark shade of orange…perhaps permanently red. To make matters worse, MFI was inundated with cargo and this put our shipment FAR BACK in the queue to ship to Haiti. It might even be February before they would be able to send them!
But then… The fuel crisis ended, and we contacted MFI. Within a week, we received a phone call to say “If you can be ‘at the ready,’ we will fly in a plane just for Hope for Haiti’s Children with all of the Christmas Joy Boxes aboard.” I replied: “YES, we will be AT THE READY!”
- Mountain #4: Customs…. In the past, the process of routing any shipment through customs is completely unpredictable and, at times, costly. This is the main reason we start announcing this project in July because we can’t predict how long the customs inspection will take.
But then… The Joy Boxes arrived on Thursday, December 1st and on December 6th, they had cleared customs! Miraculous. I was speechless.
- Mountain #5: Delivery into the hands of the children… Currently in Haiti, gangs control the main roads leading to the key cities. They block roads with large rocks, dig deep trenches so that cars cannot pass, burn tires blocking the path, and armed gunmen may demand large fees to “use” the road. The police try to protect citizens, but they are often outnumbered. When we got word the week of Christmas that our staff would “try” to deliver the boxes, we fell silent and sat in awe of their courage knowing that they would do that at great risk.
But then… On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Joy Boxes were delivered to children all across Haiti! Somehow, gangs allowed our trucks which were packed full of gifts to travel restricted roads. I choose to believe that good resides in the hearts of all. I choose to believe that gang members remember what it was like when they were children hoping for a Christmas gift. I choose to believe that they still have compassion for children who live each day in dire need of HOPE.
And then… A Christmas Joy Box is placed in the hands of a child. At this moment in time, there are no more mountains to climb. There is Joy. Peace. Gratitude. There is the knowledge that someone cares and remembers them at Christmas.
While I reflect on this impossible journey of a small Christmas Joy Box, I am filled with gratitude for:
- Each person who packed a box for a child
- MFI who went the extra mile to fly our Joy Boxes to Haiti so that the children would have a Christmas gift
- Our courageous Haitian staff who risked much to drive trucks to schools to deliver gifts to the children
- Gang members who turned an invisible eye as our trucks passed
And most importantly, to a God who moved mountains to show His love to those who live in dark places. This is not a story of luck. It is a story of God’s love working through people who carry the Light of the World to the weary, the poor, and those who are in need of Hope. This is a journey of how God still moves mountains.
Written by: Tonya Hunt, Vice President, Hope for Haiti Children