An expensive plane ticket, more than 4,000 miles, several countries and the Atlantic Ocean. Those were among the obstacles threatening to separate the Hunt family at Christmas for the first time in more than 20 years.
Jeff and Joyce Hunt, of Wabash, and their children Josh and Jessi have always celebrated the holidays together.
Like many other families, theyd sit around the Christmas tree sharing stories, drinking hot cocoa and enjoying one anothers company. For their family, it isnt about the gifts or the parties, its about being with loved ones, they agreed.
But this year was shaping up to be different.
A few months ago, Josh, 20, left for Amsterdam to study ministry through an organization called Masters Commission Amsterdam-North. While there, hes studying topics like theology and church history, while also working in a church.
When I left for Amsterdam, I planned on not coming home for Christmas and I was OK with that, Josh said in an email. But as it got closer and closer, the more I realized how much it really meant to me.
When Josh left, his family was torn – they wished him well on his adventure, but knew it might mean months without much more than a Skype video chat.
Family is so important to all of us, said Jessi Hott, his 22-year-old sister.
Jessi, who recently married Shawn Hott, said she and Josh have been best of friends since the time they were young.
We were close as children and then were home-schooled together, she said. You dont go through home school without becoming close.
Finding a way
When it came time for the holidays, Josh began searching online for a ticket that would bring him home for Christmas, but it wasnt long before he realized the more-than-$1,000 ride wasnt in his budget.
All the money I have raised is going to pay for tuition, so there was never much hope to be able to buy the ticket home, he said.
But Jessi had a different idea.
She began sharing her story with her friends at Huntington University, where she studies ministry worship, and she started an online campaign in October through You Caring (www.youcaring.com) titled Get my brother home for Christmas!
As donations began to trickle in, Jessi and her family continued to pray that God would find a way to bring her brother home. After a week or two, shed raised about $50 – not nearly enough to bring Josh home.
It wouldnt be Christmas without him. I dont think I could do it and try to keep our parents cheered up, she said.
Meanwhile, Josh continued to scour the Internet in search of a flight cheap enough to bring him home.
In early December, after weeks of searching, he found one.
I was still looking at ticket prices for a flight home when I happened to find one that was actually affordable. I was just joking when I texted Jessi about it, but a few days later I got the news that Ill be home for Christmas, Josh said.
The ticket was a little more than $700, a price Joshs family decided they could split to get him home. Josh will arrive in Fort Wayne Christmas night, just in time for Christmas with his family.
Theyll spend three weeks together before he returns to his adventure in Amsterdam.
Josh said he plans to spend the holidays enjoying the company of loved ones and thanking God for the chance to be with them.
For my family, this season isnt about the gifts and the parties, or the image of Christmas. Its always been about being with each other, he said. Nothing spectacular, just getting to watch those stupid Christmas movies that everyone has seen one too many times, knowing that youre surrounded by people who love you for the true you.