Over the past month or so we have been busy putting together little gift bags for kids to handout at Christmas. Some of the items in the bags included: little stuffed animals, play-dough, bracelets, candy, mini pinball games, and little activity books that tell the story of Jesus’ birth.
We made up 150 bags all together. Putting the bags together was a big job because this was the first large project we have done without having a group here to help us.
In addition to the children’s gift bags, we also prepared food to handout to the families in each of the areas where we work. We had some bags of beans and rice left from our last handout, which was great because it was enough to help all the families in two of the three areas. For the other area where we work, we decided to make up some bags with a mix of different things, including some snacks that most of these families consider a treat. These bags included: rice, soups, cookies, and chips. All together we had enough food for over 100 families.
Last week, we had the opportunity to bring the food and gift bags to three areas where we work. As I said, this was our first major project we have done without help from people from the U.S. so we were praying that it would all work out with the few people we had. We knew we could count on our volunteers, Angel and Esther to help us, and we were excited when Esther asked if should could bring her two young aunts to help. Her 10 and 12-year-old aunts were a very helpful, and the six of us worked well together.
The first area we went to was the river. It is the smallest of the three areas, and the people there always looking out for each other. The adults were so thankful for the beans and rice, and all of the kids would light up as we handed them their presents. On sunday, one of the families from this area was in our church, and the mom spotted us right away. After church was over, she ran up to Adan and I, and thanked us again for the food, and for making this Christmas a special one for her kids. It was really touching to see how happy she was, and how eager she was to thank us.
As soon as we were done at the river, we headed to the second location. Word spread quickly that we were there, and before we knew it, the street was filled with kids asking for presents. It didn’t take long before the line of kids was out-numbering our bags, and we ran out. We were three bags short, and it broke my heart to see three little girls walk away with only food for their family and no presents. We had about 15 extra bags with us, but kids had come from surrounding areas without us knowing, and got bags when they shouldn’t have. I’m sure that those girls enjoyed the food we gave them, and next time we will be sure to bring even more extras!
The last area we went to was a little different. We didn’t go door to door, because we have land in the neighborhood, where we have done projects in the past. We just drove around and invited the people to come to our land. Since we have worked in this area more than the others, we have a greater connection with these kids and families. They were so excited to see us return, and it really struck me how much things have changed in this area over the past 5 months. During our first handout there, people would leave the lines, there was pushing, and the people didn’t trust that if they stayed in line that we would have enough for them. This time it was very different. We told the kids to line up, and they did. We told them to wait in line and they did. They don’t feel like they have to push their way to the front anymore, because they know we are going to have enough for everyone. They trust us! We have even noticed that the amount of people trying to get “doubles” on handouts has gone way down. This time there was only one person who pretended they didn’t get their food yet, and this is a HUGE deal. These people are learning that they don’t need to sneak around, or grab all they can, because they know we will be back. I can’t even explain how smooth this handout went, and how great it is to see these changes. This community is coming together more than ever, and it is exciting that we have played a part in that.
We are so thankful that God has provided the finances, and the helpers that made this Navidad handout possible. Watching the faces of these kids and parents light up as we gave them these simple gifts and food has truly been priceless. For many of these kids, this small bag of stuff will be the only present they will get this year, and for some, this is no doubt, the first Christmas present they have ever been given. These may have just been a few small things, but we hope that years from now, these kids will remember the verses and story in those little books, about the baby born in Bethlehem, who came to save them from their sins!