26 December 2009

¡NOCHE BUENA! (Christmas Eve)

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:
CAM International
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.

24 December 2009

Christmas Cookies and NOCHE BUENA


Today is the big day! All the work we have done the last couple of months will come to fruition today! We are very excited and ask for your prayers today for a day that will glorify our Lord and help to make Him known among the nations! We will pick up our youth in a couple hours and head for Casita Benjamín where we are expecting perhaps over 200 people for dinner and a show! We have received an estimate of 158 children, not including adults and teen-agers!

Singing at Kairos House

On Dec. 16, we took our youth to Kairos House to sing Christmas Carols for the people there. It was just about the fullest we have seen Kairos. The people came out to join us right away, and it was very well enjoyed by all!

In addition to the singing, we have been practicing a play 3 days each week that the youth will perform twice today! Once at Casita Benjamín for the kids, then later tonight at our church Pueblo de Dios.
First batch of cookies

Yesterday, we had the youth at our house all day baking cookies and making decorations! We made almost 700 cookies for today's dessert! The kids worked so hard and we had a LOT of fun too!

Why is everyone white?

And of course, just like last year, there seemed to be flour from one end of the house to the other.
I have NO idea how that may have happened, or who would have started it.

Frosting some of the almost 700 cookies

The kids also made LOTS and LOTS of decorations for the Casita and if you could see them all you would be impressed. They were very creative and did a great job at everything yesterday.

Making decorations

I can't tell you how proud I am of all these youth, and I look forward to sharing with you soon how well they do today!

Even James helped with decorations!

The youth are looking forward to today, they will decorate, sing for the people, serve the traditional Tamale dinner, lead a program for the kids including performing a play, while the adults hear an evangelistic message and then clean up after it's all done. Then...we will go by rented bus to our church where the youth will sing and perform the play again. We get started just after noon and will probably finish around 9 - 9:30 PM!


13 December 2009

Getting ready for Christmas!

Christmas Eve will be here before we know it, so we have been busy!
We have been working for weeks on preparations for our big Christmas Eve outreach event.
What it is, is...a dinner and Christmas message more or less. We will provide a traditional Guatemalan Christmas Eve dinner of tamales, Pan, Ponche and dessert.

Wrapping Christmas Presents!

The families that have been invited all live in the neighborhood in Zona 3 right alongside the largest landfill dump in Central America. This is, or is one of, the poorest, most dangerous neighborhoods in Guatemala City. The people here have very little hope, and Christmas tends to be a very depressing time for them. The majority of them cannot afford to have a traditional dinner, and most cannot even have one present for their children.
So, we are going to try to offer them some love and hope on Christmas Eve. We will have the dinner, Christmas carols, a program for the children while the parents hear a message of hope and salvation, and at the end....everyone that attends, child or adult, will receive a Christmas gift! We went shopping last week and bought over 150 presents. We already had almost 100.
We are expecting this year anywhere between 150 and 225 people!

Carmen & Sonia wrapping gifts

We have been involving some of our youth in all of this. Some of them will not be here for Christmas, but we have about 12 that are committed to doing everything with us. For weeks we have been practicing Christmas Carols. We have written our own version of the Christmas story and the jóvenes are all taking part in performing it as a play for the children! I have made arrangements for costumes for all and am excited about seeing them perform. We have less than two weeks to go, and need LOTS, and LOTS of practice! But....I have great confidence in my youth and they will do fine. The youth will also serve the dinner and pass out presents.

Maria, Priscila, Sharol & Hugo

After our program which will be held again this year at Casita Benjamin, we have been tentatively invited to visit a church in Zona 11 to sing and possibly perform our play. We'll see what happens.
We've solicited lots of help and it has been wonderful how people have responded. I have rented a bus for the day to get everyone there and back. We have good friends that will come to help and bring a band for music and Benjamin will give the message for the adults.
I have invited the pastor of a church called Antorches Incendidas, which is close by this neighborhood, to come and meet the folks and invite them to his church. He is planning to come with a few youth and elders from their church to get to know the people!

Jackelin, Magalí & Irma

Please be praying for this event, that many of these folks that don't have much hope in this world would learn about the true hope that is only found in our Lord and Savior.
We still have lots of work and activities to do over the next 12 days. This coming Wednesday evening, we will take our youth to Casa Kairos to sing Christmas Carols for the people there. Casa Kairos is a home for children with cancer and their families.
We also have people arriving during these days. We had an intern, Megan Goodwin, arrive the 10th who will be helping until she leaves on Christmas morning. James Wirrell arrives for a couple weeks the 16th, and out daughter Felicita will arrive on the 18th!
Busy, but very, very fulfilling!