Bigger, Better, FANTASTIC!
That describes Noche Buena 2009 at Casita Benjamín.
First a HUGE thank you to the MANY who have been praying for this event, and to those that have given to help make this possible. We truly feel God was honored and known through this activity.
I am sure this will end up being a long post, to tell you about our day, but...it will be mostly pictures so I hope you make it through it all!
After taking a lot of our supplies to the Casita the day before, we still had a pretty good load to get into the bus we rented. We got on the bus about 1 PM and went to pick up all of our youth. We arrived at the Casita just about 2 PM.
Before we get started on the pictures I want to tell you just how PROUD I AM OF OUR YOUTH! I cannot say in enough words how great these kids are! They are the hardest working, helpful, polite, respectful, loving kids. For example, when we arrived all I said was "Okay, first thing, we need to decorate". I didn't say any more. I didn't say how, where, with what, this here, that there, or anything. Just, "we need to decorate." 40 minutes later the place looked INCREDIBLE! I am trying to practice some advice I read once and it works 'resist telling people how something should be done. Instead, tell them WHAT needs to be done. They will often surprise you with creative solutions.' It even works with kids.
Planning session & some of the kid's seating outside
Here is what our youth did: Hauled all of the supplies, helped set up tables and chairs, decorated the Casita, entertained the kids, sang Christmas carols for everyone, performed a drama of the birth of Christ, served the dinner, cleared all of the tables after dinner, passed out presents to everyone there, cleaned up the entire Casita after the people left....then.....went to our church and.....led singing of Christmas carols for the church and performed the drama again! And they smiled through it all! They had a blast. God has truly blessed me with the best kids ever!
Felícita, Lucy & Marcos greeting everyone as they arrive and give name tags
This year we also had a band and sound equipment! Big improvement. The band played while people were arriving and also during the dinner.
Band playing carols as people arrive
This year, to maximize space, we separated the adults and children. Adults inside and children outside. That gave the kids room to play before it all started!
Playing before things got started
After the place was pretty full we began with a welcome, a reading from the Bible, then our youth led singing of Christmas carols. We did bring most of the kids inside (wouldn't quite all fit) while our youth were singing the carols.
Youth singing to a full house!
After the Christmas carol singing, we took all of the kids back outside. During this time, the parents received a message on the significance of Christmas, while outside our youth performed a drama for the kids about the birth of Christ! Many of them, as well as others, never believed they would be able to do it....but I did! I knew they could, and they did! They did a GREAT job!
The angel Gabriel talking with Mary
Las pastorcitas (shepherds) arrive
Singing "Away in a Manger" to finish the play
After the drama was over, it was time to eat! The youth headed for the kitchen where there were already people preparing plates to take out. We served a traditional Guatemalan Christmas Eve dinner of: Tamales, pan (bread) and Ponche (a hot fruit drink). The youth served everyone and then went around collecting the trash after. Then they served everyone Sandi's amazing Christmas cookies that the youth had made 700 of the day before!
About half of the kids getting their Tamale dinner!
Scene on one side of the kitchen
Some of the adults getting their Tamales
After the dinner and dessert we had a despedida (goodbye) and as people were lining up to leave we passed out gifts to everyone, kids and adults!
Then, it was time for the youth (and us) to eat our dinner. But...I tried to round up the youth to eat and they were all busy cleaning up the entire Casita! So...we waited and ate after they finished cleaning!
Then we loaded all of our stuff back on the bus and headed to a Christmas Eve service at our church "Iglesia Pueblo de Dios". Just like last year, the bus ride back was so much fun. The kids were PUMPED from the entire day and we let them go wild! We also passed out diplomas to commemorate their service, and gave them each a gift. It was a very special time.
Receiving diplomas and gifts on the bus
A very happy group on the bus!
We arrived at the church about 7:20 PM for a 7 PM service, which meant we were only about 10 minutes early. They were planning on our group singing, but I asked what the program was and how much time we would have. I was told there really wasn't a program, how much time would I like? So...we had the youth sing most all of our Christmas Carols (we had a lot) and then, we performed the drama again at the church! And again, they did a GREAT job!
Leading singing at the church
It was fun for them to perform at the church because several of our youths houses were there to watch!
Performing the play again at the church
So, all said and done, it was a wonderful, long day! Most accurate estimate is just about 200 people at the Casita! Plus or minus maybe 15.
And now, a few days of just rest.
Thank you all for your support of this, it was a blessed time for many, many people who otherwise would have had nothing. Literally, many would have had nothing. No traditional dinner. No presents. No recognition of what Christmas really is. BUT..................
Thanks to you for your prayers and support, everyone received a Tamale dinner, a gift, learned what Christmas is about, and most of all, for a few hours, were loved and treated as the special people each one of them is.
If you feel led to help with some of the remaining costs for this, gifts can be sent to:
8625 La Prada Dr.
Dallas, TX 75228
Please mark them clearly for: Casita Outreach Events and include the account # 062877
All gifts will receive a tax deductible receipt and will only be used for the Casita events.
May God bless each of you now and in the new year to come.