We spent our first Christmas in Haiti this year and it was a lot of fun. It was a lot different than what we are used to, but it was a lot of fun. It was also the first Christmas that Jess was away from her family and it will be my first birthday (Dec. 27) away from mine and that makes things a little more difficult. Before I get into describing how the day went, let me first say thank you to everyone who is reading this. The truth is none of these things would be possible without your contribution to All Things New. Your prayers, your financial gifts, your encouragement, and even your trips down to Haiti have allowed this ministry to evolve and grow into what it is today and there are 28 kids and 31 employees whose lives are different because of you. As we celebrated together on Christmas Day, that fact did not escape my thoughts and we are so appreciative of all that you do for our kids and for this ministry.
With Christmas being on a Sunday this year, we knew that the first part of our day would be spent at church, so we told the kids to be ready by 7:50 (church starts at 8) and we would go together. Sophie, however, while she is in Haiti, has a very early wakeup time. This particular morning she decided to wake up at about 5:10, so that is when our family Christmas started. We gave Sophie her stocking and then her gifts (a Little People Farm and a baby with a cart to push around) and she loved them. One of her favorite things to do is hug stuffed animals and baby dolls, so she spent the first 5-10 minutes hugging her new toys. Jess and I exchanged stockings and gifts (luckily my stocking was filled with candy and food which is a pretty big blessing here) and I have been eating Peppermint Nougats ever since. Basically we just spent the morning together as a family and then got ready to pick up the kids. That is when the day got really busy. Before I move on, and I do not think we have pictures of this, it is important that you know each of our older boys wore bow ties to church. I have no idea where they got them or how they learned to tie them, but they were all wearing dress shirts and bow ties, it was really funny.
When church was over, the kids came up to receive their stockings. We are giving them their sponsor gifts at our Christmas party on January 7 (we were blessed to have a team from Westside Baptist Church in Jacksonville come down and bring all of the gifts with them this year!) but the stockings they got were awesome. A wonderful preschool in Jacksonville (Deermeadows Baptist Preschool) took collections and put together some incredible gifts for our kids. They were so excited and loved everything they got. While the kids were going through the stockings, Jess was baking 56 cinnamon rolls (the kids and every employee each got a couple) and the kids moved on from the candy that was in their stockings to the much more healthy breakfast of iced cinnamon rolls. While this was happening, a feast was being prepared for us down at the kids’ house, and at 2:30 everything was ready. We had Haitian fried chicken, a special type of rice and beans, pickliz, fried plantains, Coke, and 7up and by the time we were finished with the meal we were all stuffed. We had planned and prepared a Birthday Party for Jesus, but we were all too full and tired and agreed to do that party the next day…Which we have done!
One of the reasons we decided to do Jesus’ birthday party together the next day is because the church we attend was having a big Christmas party that night and the kids had to get ready for it. When I say “get ready” for the party, it is pretty intense. The boys each got haircuts at their friend’s house, the girls spent a lot of time braiding and getting their hair ready, and they each had to look perfect for the party. My problem was that the party started at 8 and was supposed to end at 2:00am. I told them I would drop them off at 8 but I would be back by 9:30 to pick them up (I had to start low). They begged for midnight and I gave them 10:30, which I thought was a pretty good compromise. So we had our nightly worship service all together at about 7:30 after Sophie was asleep and then I took all of our older kids to the party. While I was doing that, the little ones and our house moms stayed at our house to watch one more Christmas movie together. The funny thing about the way the way the night ended is that on the way to the Christmas party, the boys and me had to all get out of our truck and help a friend of ours get their van out of a hole it was stuck in. You just never know what is going to happen.
The truth is that it was a wonderful Christmas. Jess and I, at the end of the day, were talking about what happened and it was just a lot of fun. It is a little more stressful than you might think. There is this balance you have to strike here, and especially now with Sophie and soon with new baby. We have to make sure we have some time just between ourselves but we also have to make sure our kids are having a good time and never forget how much we love them. Somehow, on our first try, it seemed like we struck a really good balance. We had a blast together (Jess, Sophie, and I), the kids were just beaming the whole day (even the older ones), and in the end everyone was happy. I hope each of you had as great of a Christmas as we did here in Haiti!