WHAT A WEEK!
Christmas always makes me a bit sappy. When I hear the traditional versions of carols by Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby, I can’t help but smile. When I came across the original “Rudolph” while flipping channels, I just had to watch it through to the end; and I still laughed at the lame jokes and cheered when Cornelius made his way back to Santa’s.
When I heard Run DMC ‘s “Christmas in Hollis” playing on a radio, it brought a nostalgic tear and a lump in my throat along with the memories of rapping (poorly) and dancing (also poorly) with my little girls so many times.
There is no Thanksgiving Day in Guatemala, so we had our tree up shortly after Halloween. The
outside lights followed soon after. Despite the lack of cold and snow, I want it to feel like Christmas for as long as possible! I set the I-tunes playlist to repeat the 100 or so Christmas songs I’ve accumulated over the years. When I found a TV channel devoted to Christmas shows for the entire Advent season, it didn’t matter that they were in Spanish; I added that station to the favorites list toot-sweet!
But no matter what I did to make it feel like Christmas around here, there was one thing missing. The true Christmas Spirit isn’t generated through faded cartoon specials or classic tunes or even memories of years gone by. It’s generated by knowing what the holiday truly symbolizes: God becoming man and entering the world to save us. It’s the joy of salvation to come. It is the Good News…. And that Good news is meant to be spread.
That is why even with all the effort Yesenia and I put into making it look and feel festive around here, the times we felt most joyful was when people were here to share in it. Christmas is about sharing joy and good will and hope and love. And that is why this week was, and always is, the most wonderful time of the year for both of us.
This was the week our Christmas Project allowed us to bring presents and blessings and the Good Word to hundreds and hundreds of people. We visited the mostly indigenous village of Pamamus, the town of Comalapa with it artists and writers, an upstart feeding program in the city of Villa Nueva and the gritty neighborhoods of La Isla and La Cuchilla in the capital city.
Hundreds of children received new toys. Dozens of needy families received loaded food baskets. Some young mothers received special gifts. Almost a thousand meals or snacks were shared. We were also invited to assist other groups with their own events where hundreds more snacks, gifts and blessings were shared.
And just like always, the more we gave away, the more we received.
It’s hard to say what the best part of this week was for us. Simple toys brought such joy to so many. In Pamamus, brothers waited for their siblings so that they could open their presents together. A Little girl suspiciously eyed me from the safety of her mother’s arms as I winked at her and said something in broken Spanish she didn’t understand.
Minutes later, her mother showed her what was inside the little package she received and those suspicious eyes danced with glee. A squeal sparked alarm until I realized it was someone’s realization that TWO dolls were in the same box “just for her”.
In Comalapa, we met with families of special needs children who were struggling to make ends meet. The children were happy with their toys. The parents were brought to tears at the sight of over-stuffed food baskets that would help make their Christmas more tolerable.
Yesenia led us in a passionate prayer for the children and their families, the workers and other caregivers. When we were done, we tried to say good-bye; but the families weren’t done with us yet. At that moment, these people who looked to have next-to-nothing; who pushed makeshift wheelchairs or carried their children to share this moment; people who were brought to tears at the sight of a basket of food; they took the time to give us the most precious gift they could afford: They prayed over us.
In Pamamus, we were greeted with a gift of fresh granadillas, picked from the local trees. It was something that technically cost nothing, but came from their table or could have been sold at the market. It meant so much to them to be able to reciprocate the blessings they received somehow.
In La Cuchilla and La Isla, the children are used to seeing us with treats and gifts. Yet there were more than a few children and parents who took a second to share a hug and say “thank you” or “God bless you.” It was more than enough to make us smile and feel grateful for the opportunity to bring a little joy to those neighborhoods.
In Villa Nueva, the pastors of a young church with a newer feeding program listened intently as we spoke of potential events or assistance in the year to come. Their eyes could not conceal the joy and excitement of “just maybe” being able to do more for their impoverished neighborhood. It was a fun conversation. I think I feel even more joyful than they do!
And now it’s over. Yesenia and I have packed away all the leftover ribbons and bows and swept the floor of all the cuttings. The couch is moved back to its normal location and the dining room table is ready to be sat around again. Tomorrow night is “Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve). We have invited Yesenia’s family to share tamales and ponche with us. At midnight, we will all climb the hill behind our home to watch the city literally explode in an array of fireworks and music celebrating Christ’s coming.
Christmas Day, we will spend quietly recovering and reminiscing the year gone by… in between Skype calls to my family back in the USA. Eventually, we’ll take the lights and the tree down. Or maybe we won’t.
At this point, Yesenia and I would like to express our appreciation to all our family, friends, and others who have helped us to realize our dream of starting A Couple of Christians Foundation. We learned a lot during our first two projects this year that will help us to do much, much more in the year ahead. Please continue to follow our blog, check in on our website and our Facebook page to see what we are up to. Thank you in advance for your continued support and ….
MERRY CHRISTMAS! MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL EVERY DAY OF EVERY SEASON OF YOUR LIVES!