Christmas in Haiti

All around the world, Christmas is celebrated through the lenses of various cultural traditions and perspectives, all pointing back to the hope that we find in Jesus Christ! And while culture and tradition may vastly change what Christmas looks from one part of the world to another, the holiday can also be changed through lens of personal perspective and experience.

 

 

COUNTING BLESSINGS: LET’S KEEP A THANKFUL, HEALTHY OUTLOOK

Here at LSM, our mission is to help and empower the world’s most vulnerable children, those who have suffered as a result of human trafficking, starvation, and extreme poverty. Even here in the United States, suffering has increased this year due to a global pandemic and a subsequent nationwide economic downturn affecting local businesses and jobs. Pains like these are even more deeply felt in developing countries that don’t have safety nets and economic surpluses to fall back on.

As we enter this Christmas holiday, let’s not let the disappointments of this year cause us to forget that there are still many in this world who are worse off. Let’s remember to count our blessings and to remember that our “rock bottom” would be considered a “mountaintop” for many in this world!

Let’s look to Scripture, our guide to understanding the mind and heart of Christ: the meaning of the Christmas season. Here we find plentiful reminders that his heart is with the last, least, lost and lonely at all times – but even more at this time of year. As we gather with family – or perhaps schedule video calls instead – let’s reflect on these passages below, and remember to say a prayer for those who have no family that loves them. How can these individuals ever hope to experience the love of God, if not for the Hands and Feet of Jesus?

 

 

IN THE SEASON OF FAMILY, GOD’S HEART IS WITH THOSE WITHOUT

James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Matthew 5:3-4 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Psalm 146:9 “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”

Psalm 82:3 “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 68:5 “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

Psalm 68:6 “God sets the lonely in families.”

 

 

INVISIBLE SCARS OF TRAUMA IN HAITI AND THE LONG ROAD BACK

One of the darkest realities in Haiti is the restavek system, which is a system of child slavery that results in all imaginable forms of abuse and deprivation. The children LSM helps are either former restaveks or are in a situation of desperate poverty that puts them in danger of being trafficked. The kinds of hardship our children have experienced results in psychological trauma, meaning our kids come to us mentally and spiritually broken. We can’t simply put them in school and hope for them to succeed. Our recognition of the deep soul surgery that our children need to heal and thrive is what led us to establish our Trauma Recovery program, which provides our children with the spiritual tools they need – not only to lead healthy, well-rounded lives, but to become leaders and help others in their communities.

 

 

A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS GREETING FROM OUR CHILDREN IN HAITI

In 2020, our children took a moment to say “thank you” to our donors here in the United States. Without your generous gifts, it wouldn’t be possible for LSM to help bring about God’s redemptive work in the lives of children. One of the most powerful lessons we teach our kids is through the LSM Gospel Project, in which our children go out into their communities with humanitarian supplies and evangelistic materials. The takeaway that we teach our kids is that when we’ve been blessed, God wants us to bless others in return. As you and your family count your blessings this holiday season, please take a moment to consider how God is calling you to partner with us to bless LSM’s children in Jesus’s name, empowering them to become leaders and pay your gift forward!

 

 

 

HOW DO HAITIANS CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?

 

Haitian families celebrate the birth of Jesus by decorating their homes with candle-lit paper lanterns called “fanals” and candles called “petas.” On Christmas Eve, Haitians traditionally attend church and sing songs like “Minuit Chretien,” their version of “O Holy Night.” After church, families return home to celebrate Christmas together. Children enjoy playing “wosle,” a game similar to jacks. Popular food items at these gatherings include pumpkin soup and “kremas” or eggnog. Haitians rarely exchange gifts for Christmas. As we thank God for our family this Christmas holiday, don’t forget to thank God for the broader family of God – and the incredible opportunity we have to serve one another!

 


 

>WHAT CAN I DO?

  1. You can learn more facts and statistics about how Christmas is celebrated around the world at WhyChristmas.com. And while learning about the countries and peoples of the world, perhaps use the site as an opportunity to pray for them. Ask God to move in their lives.
  2. You can follow all of our other Christmas coverage on Facebook and Instagram, including our Year-End 2020 video and more!
  3. Finally, open your Bible to Luke 2 for a great reminder of what the season is truly all about. How does God sending his precious son to earth inspire and compel us to live differently? Perhaps in 2020, you have a new idea for how you would like to partner with LSM as we spread the hope of Christmas to all by serving the world’s most vulnerable. Tell us your idea, and let’s work together to shine the light of Christmas around the world in 2020, starting in the darkest places!

 


 

CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD

All around the world Christmas is one of the most important and highly anticipated holidays of the year. But the way Christmas is celebrated often varies from country to country. Here are some holiday traditions from Haiti and Ethiopia, where LSM operates.

 

WORSHIP AND FAMILY TOGETHERNESS IN HAITI

 

Haitian families celebrate the birth of Jesus by decorating their homes with candle-lit paper lanterns called “fanals” and candles called “petas.” On Christmas Eve, Haitians traditionally attend church and sing songs like “Minuit Chretien,” their version of “O Holy Night.” After church, families return home to celebrate Christmas together. Children enjoy playing “wosle,” a game similar to jacks. Popular food items at these gatherings include pumpkin soup and “kremas” or eggnog. Haitians rarely exchange gifts for Christmas. Time spent with family and worshipping God are activities Haitians tend to value most.

 

 

Last year, the staff at our grocery store in Les Cayes played an important part in the seasonal landscape. More than a place to find fresh produce, vegetables, and dry goods, our store serves as a source of hope and community for locals. To further this mission and shine a light on the reason for the season, our staff got in the holiday spirit by holding a raffle and decorating the store, inside and out. Check out this video of their work. Didn’t they do a fantastic job?

 

 

GAMES AND FAMILY FESTIVITIES IN ETHIOPIA

 

Ethiopians follow the Julian calendar, which means they celebrate Christmas a bit later than we do. On January 7, they observe their version of Christmas called, “Gena,” meaning “the birthday of Jesus.” They attend church services on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and then return home. Children often play games like “Ye-Gena Chewata” which is a combination of hockey and soccer. Families also gather to enjoy their favorite Ethiopian dishes, such as “wot,” a spicy Ethiopian Christmas stew. Like Haitians, Ethiopian families do not usually exchange gifts. Instead, they dedicate their time to family togetherness and thanking God for sending his Son to earth!

 

 

In years past, our Ethiopian staff has marked the Christmas holiday with parties for the children, including crafts, lessons, food, singing, and giveaways of clothes and school supplies. One year, we celebrated by sharing the Gospel with locals and by handing out food and aid.

 

 

REMEMBERING THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

 

It’s fun to learn how Christmas is celebrated around the world, as well as the different traditions and values that are emphasized by various cultures. But no matter how we celebrate the season outwardly, what’s more important – and universal – is the celebration that takes place in our hearts. Merry Christmas from our LSM families around the world. As we celebrate, let’s keep Jesus first!

 


 

WHAT CAN I DO?

 

  1. You can learn more facts and statistics about how Christmas is celebrated around the world at WhyChristmas.com. And while learning about the countries and peoples of the world, perhaps use the site as an opportunity to pray for them. Ask God to move in their lives.
  2. You can follow all of our other Christmas coverage on Facebook and Instagram, including the story of a young lady here in the United States who took action to raise money and help vulnerable children and orphans through our family assistance program in Ethiopia.
  3. Finally, open your Bible to Luke 2 for a great reminder of what the season is truly all about. How does God sending his precious son to earth inspire and compel us to live differently? Perhaps in 2020, you have a new idea for how you would like to partner with LSM as we spread the hope of Christmas to all by serving the world’s most vulnerable. Tell us your idea, and let’s work together to shine the light of Christmas around the world in 2020, starting in the darkest places!

 


 

RUNNING ON EMPTY: HAITI’S FUEL CRISIS

There is a severe fuel shortage in Haiti. For years, Venezuela has provided Haitians with subsidized gasoline and diesel. However in recent months, Venezuela has become less accommodating due to the rise of a humanitarian crisis in their own country. Haiti’s President, Jovenel Moise, and his government owe Venezuela $100 million, which they are unable to repay. The situation has created an extreme fuel shortage, further stoking political dissent and protests. Those most affected in times of crisis tend to be Haiti’s youngest and most vulnerable.

 

 

Rationing gas at the pump means Haitians are often prevented from filling their tanks. As a result of this shortfall, the Haitian black market has moved in quickly to run up prices and score a profit. Scarcity of fuel is preventing children from attending school, and transportation of people and commercial goods in Haiti is rapidly grinding to a halt, causing stores and businesses to shut down.

 

 

 

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT LSM?

 

Abdias Victor travels to our Homes of Hope to take pictures and assist with Child Development. He reports that Haiti’s fuel crisis and the resulting riots have affected our ability to reach the children with supplies and training, as well as the general safety of the neighborhoods where our families reside. Many of our kids are missing school due to the riots. On a recent trip to one of LSM’s Homes, Abdias even spotted a violent riot, including burning tires which can produce toxic fumes. Our staff reports that the difficulty of transporting workers and supplies has slowed construction at LSM Tech and also contributed to a shortage of sand at our Industrial Site. We pray that God will protect our staff and our Home of Hope families during these uncertain times!

 

 

 

WHAT IS LSM’S RESPONSE? 

 

Moments like these provide a necessary reminder about the vulnerability of Haiti and the importance of LSM’s work to bring holistic transformation by investing in children and in business ventures that move the country forward! While gas stations lock their doors and protesters fill the streets, our children continue to study hard as best they can and grow in their daily walk with Jesus. They are building the foundation for a future in Haiti that looks very different from what we see today.  

 

 

Staff are also taking proactive measures. “Roof installation has stalled at LSM Tech because of store closures,” says Jose, one of our Project Supervisors. “But I’m proud of our workers, who have come up with creative ways to busy themselves, shift to other projects, and keep the site on schedule.” LSM continues to pursue exciting efforts in solar energy and other alternatives that reduce Haiti’s dependence on fossil fuels, foreign assistance, and even the stability of its own government. In the future, a fuel shortage in Haiti may have far less of an impact. 

 


WHAT CAN I DO? 

 

  1. Sign up for our email list and our our bi-monthly prayer emails to receive regular updates on this and other important issues affecting communities LSM serves around the world. 
  2. Pray for the safety of our Home of Hope families and staff. Pray also for those who are suffering and for Haiti’s leaders, that they would seek wise solutions to end this crisis.  
  3. Ask God to embolden believers in Haiti who are reaching out to their neighbors with the love and mercy of Jesus!