Celebrating as a family didn't feel right after Roland died. So we decided not to. Instead, we drive to Juarez; to a children's home on the west side, built on a old dump, barbed wire surrounding it.
Jose had lost his market place in a fire a few months ago, and their family and the children's mission were having a very tight time because of it. I gave him the Bibles, computers, and monetary donation we had brought with, and told him we'd also be buying Christmas food. But as we visited our friends, we saw their needs were greater than we had expected.
We walked into Ines' home on Dec. 23 and saw that there was absolutely nothing in her small, cinderblock home for Christmas for her five children. We also learned that another woman, Sylvia, had only had a Christmas present once before in her life. This month, her husband was laid off of his job, and she was unable to work more than two days a week as a maid. (she used to work everyday for Jose's family, until the market burned and they couldn't afford to pay her every day).
Sylvia, with an 18 month old toddler, also had nothing for Christmas. And then, of course, there was Juventud, the children's home we were visiting. Many of the children teenagers did have relatives to visit for Christmas. But there were four still at the home, and they also had no gifts. Chuy's mother had died a few years ago and he had never known his father. Scott, (11 yrs old) had a father, but he was afraid to be with him because of drunkenness and beatings. He asked Jose if he could please stay at the home. (His dad did try to come and get him while we were there, and Scott was crying and begging to stay at Juventud. His dad finally left angrily.)
Jose also asked us if we would make it our mission (mine and my teenagers) during our stay to talk to Chuy, who is almost 18, and tell him the importance of living for Christ, because Chuy hadn't been walking with Jesus. He'd been somewhat disobedient lately, and Jose was worried that once Chuy turned 18, he'd leave and get into trouble. I was fine with what ever Jose asked us to do. I would serve any of his needs.
But then he asked for something unusual. He wanted our children to spend time with his own children just having fun. They asked our kids to stay up late one night just to play worship music together. I wasn't sure at first, thinking that this didn't sound like "mission work." Then I realized that it was. It was ministery to the mission director and his family. I had asked God to just show us what was needed and help us to fill the gaps. This is what Jose was saying was needed.
Anyway, our family enjoyed everything we had the opportunity to do while we were there.
Everyone came together at Jose's house for Christmas Eve. We had a wonderful time. My son did a "Little Drummer Boy" thing for them, and we sang Christmas carols, had tamales for dinner, and handed out the gifts we had brought them. Nothing huge, just small, nice things.
It was so wonderful. All my children were laughing - just enjoying watching the others open their gifts. None of them looked for anything for themselves under the tree. They understood. It was awesome to see them this way - happy with just being there to help.
Ines then invited the whole group for dinner at her house for Christmas the next day. She made a traditional soup and we bought a piñata and stuffed it with candy.
The final evening we were there, on the 26th, everyone met at Juventud con Vision for a chicken barbecue. Now Jose asked me to say something. Jose gathered everyone together before dinner and I read parts of Proverbs 4 to the youth. Then I told them Roland's story. I know it's not normal to tell someone else's story. But I wanted the children to know of God's presence on Roland's last day. I now had their full attention, and I reminded them that we are all going to die. I wanted them to know that we are all just sojourner's in this land, and the real life, the life that really matters, is with God's coming kingdom; the next life. It doesn't matter if we are rich or poor. All that matters is if we are serving Jesus. My son began crying quietly. When I was finished, you could feel God's presence. Jose then told me that he felt he should "do a calling", and he asked the youth how many wanted to recommit their lives to Christ. Hands shot up, including Chuy's.
It was a wonderful three days. Jose asked when we would be coming back, as did several others. I don't know! We do intend to go back, but I hadn't begun to think about when.
Once we were on the road home though, my daughter and I began talking. We had been surprised by the number of cars that needed relatively minor work to put them back on the road. No one in Jose's group does any kind of car mechanics. Jose didn't even know how to change the bulb in his tail light. She had gone to the store to help him buy the bulb to put in. We wished there had been more time so we could have changed a timing belt on an old van.
Next time, we'll go prepared to work on cars.