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Gift of giving carries on beyond Christmas

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By CHAPLAIN (COL.) DAVID VANDERJAGT

The season of Christmas passes so quickly.

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The tree that was so green, so majestic, and so beautiful starts to drop its needles and is soon placed on the roadside for pick up. The wrapping paper that made all the presents seem like precious packages of delight is torn, crumpled, and placed in empty boxes to be thrown away.

The smell of Christmas cookies has faded, the colorful twinkling lights that shone so brightly are gone, the glittering ornaments are carefully boxed and placed aside, and the sounds of sleigh bells grow silent. The gifts are opened and put away, and the Christmas memory starts to fade.

Yet, the gift of love that was given during this most wonderful time of the year does carry on.

For 14 adults from Fort Knox chapel congregations, a mission trip to Haiti Dec. 1-10, 2017, became a time to share an early Christmas with 28 children from the The Ti Palmiste Community Children’s Home on the island of LaGonave. The team ventured there under the umbrella of Vision International Missions.

This was a first-ever mission trip outside of the United States for many. They gave up some of the normal conveniences many Americans enjoy and experienced crowded sleeping quarters, no running water, no flushing toilets, bucket baths, unfamiliar food, and long busy days. But they went there in search of opportunities to give the gift of love to the children.

Once there, the team split up.

Upon hearing of a plan to start a goat farm in support of the children’s home, some of the team traveled up a mountain to cover about eight acres of land with electric fencing. A well, financed by another organization, was already being dug by hand on the same land. By the end of our missionary trip, the workers digging the well had reached 100 feet with no water in sight.

The other members of our team took part in the Jesse Tree Project. As part of the project, participants made 25 Christmas ornaments by hand, each ornament representing a Bible story. The children and the mission team agreed they had a wonderful time sharing the stories, singing songs and making the decorations.

On the last full day there, the ornaments were hung on trees in a big celebration. Mission team members had delivered many presents donated by the chapel congregations and placed them under the tree. Each child received different musically instruments, and soon the sounds of joy and laughter were accompanied with tweets, hums and beating of drums; truly a wonderful early Christmas was brought, shared and enjoyed by all.

The final order of business was for the team to prepare to return to their own families, friends and neighborhoods.

We all gathered together the last night and watched a movie on a large outdoor screen. The generator used to power the event could be heard, but it was drowned out by all the shared fun and joy of the event.

Two pickup trucks were loaded the next morning, with luggage in the middle, and the mission trip participants sitting on the edges and back of the trucks with feet dangling over. We stopped at the children’s home for one last final goodbye. Some of the ladies who had said their goodbyes the night before stayed on the trucks outside the complex, stating they were not sure they could do it again. However, one young lady snuck out the doors and stood by the trucks with tears in her eyes. I gently picked her up and placed her in the lap of the lady whose leg she was holding unto. Soon, both were weeping, and the hugs were some of the sweetest and gentlest of the whole trip.

After a few minutes, I gently picked up the young lady and carried her back inside the children’s home. A gift had been given – the gift of love that touched the hearts of all the children and all those on the mission team; the gift of love that continues on in our memories, in our hearts, and in our very souls.

As parts of our Christmas and New Year holidays fade, the most real and important parts carry on. Love changes us. Christmas is a reminder “that God so love the World, He gave us a Savior.” God’s gift of love, our gifts of love, and the gifts of love from others, do not stop at Christmas.

Love is the gift that carries on. n