27 December 2011

The BIG day! NOCHEBUENA 2011

Well, this year Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) fell on December 24th again....hmmmm...imagine that! And, as every year it began early for us. Started arranging all the many things to load and take with us to Casita Benjamín. Then, down to the panaderia to pick up 350 Pirujos (a type of bread). Then, at noon, the bus arrived at our house and we loaded Canastas de Víveres (baskets of provisions) decorations, props, cookies, disposable plates etc. etc. etc.
Then we left to pick up our servant team of youth, and headed to Zona 3 and Casita Benjamin, arriving about 1:30 PM.

2011 Servant team and helpers
When we arrived we unloaded the bus, then the team began decorating the Casita. One of our older youth, Erika, was in charge of decorating! She planned, directed the making of, and installing all the decorations! And the place looked the best ever!

Decorating the Casita
 This year there was even more decorating to do because we added a new wrinkle...some of our program would be held outside in the street! So, we needed some decorations outside, as well as inside.

Greeting outside for the neighbors!
 After the decorating, we had time for one last rehearsal of the drama, then people began to arrive! And then more, and more!
We began with our youth leading singing of Christmas carols outside in the street! We had quite a few neighbors come join us that would not normally have been a part if we just had the program inside!

Some of the people in the street singing carols
 The youth did a great job of singing strongly and there were lots of smiles all around!
The music was directed by Oscar Ávila, and as every year, he did a wonderful job!

Our youth team leading singing in the street!
 After the time of singing was finished, we had all of the children enter the Casita, and had all of the adults remain outside in the street. 
Our good friend Benjamin Melendez then gave a fantastic Gospel message out in the street for the parents of the kids and all of the neighbors!

Christmas Carols outside Casita Benjamín
 While Benjamin was preaching out in the street, our youth were performing a drama of the Christmas story for all of the kids inside. Another of our older girls, Diana, was in charge of directing the drama. It was EXCELENTE!

Our youth team performing the Christmas story!
 We had more people than ever before this year, and more kids than ever too! They LOVED the drama, were quiet and captivated by it!
After the drama, Diana gave a lesson to clearly explain what they had just seen, then led them all in prayer before we served the tamale dinner!

Some of the kids watching the drama!
 While this is all going on, the message finished outside and we had all of the adults enter for the dinner.
Best guesstimate is about 250 people!

Receiving their tamales, ponche and pan
 After our youth team served everyone, then served dessert of Sandi's Christmas cookies, and then collected all of the trash....it was time to present each family with a canasta de viveres, and each child with a gift!

Some of the adults inside Casita Benjamín
 We had exactly enough canastas so each family received one...we gave out 58 canastas at the Casita!
And we had just enough gifts for all of the children, with only a couple left over! We cut it close this year, having a bigger crowd than we had dreamed of! God is good and does answer our prayers!

Happy family leaving with their canasta and gifts!
Lots of happy faces as people were leaving with their gifts! 
Then we cleaned up the Casita, loaded up the bus and returned to Las Aldeas, where our youth live, and had another tamale dinner there! We had made a total of 70 canastas, planning to give canastas to each house there, and also the workers, but after the size of the crowd at Casita Benjamin, we were 12 baskets short for Las Aldeas. 
They will receive their canastas, just a few days late! We will be making more baskets over the next day or two!
It's a good problem to have!
I cannot say how proud I am of all of our youth, They did an incredible job of not just singing, performing and serving, but they loved those precious people and served with hearts overflowing...touching many, and letting people see Christ through them.

All in all, PRAISE the Lord!!! 
People were loved, heard a clear Gospel message, and saw it lived out in our servants.

Thank you one and all for your prayers and support of this impacting outreach!
May God bless you!


Each year on December 23rd we have an all day activity for our servant team.
It is to make Christmas cookies for the dessert on the 24th, and also to make lots of decorations for Casita Benjamin. 
This is also a day our team looks forward to after working hard for a month, this is a day they get to have some fun (while doing lots of work!)

Enjoying their work!
 We are giving them more and more responsibility, as many of our youth have been helping with Nochebuena for several years, and are older now. We placed one girl, Diana, in charge of the drama the kids will perform on the 24th. That took a lot of work from me! And she is doing great! Others are stepping up and helping each other do the many things needed to prepare. So this day, we let them go at it with minor supervision from me! Sandi made sure the cookie making process went smooth, and other than that, I let the kids do their thing with little interference....well, maybe I got in the way some, and started a flour fight...but really, they did most of the work!
All told we made well over 750 cookies, not counting the approximately 50 cookies Rafael "X-Box" ate by himself! 

At the same time the cookies are going on, half the team was working on making decorations.
Again I had delegated the responsibility of decorations to one of our older girls, Erika. She planned the decorations, made a list of materials, went with us to buy the materials, made some of the more time intensive decorations at home, and guided the process at our house this day. She did a great job, we're very proud of her! She will also be in charge of doing the decorating at the Casita on the 24th. 

Erika guided the team making LOTS of decorations!
 It was a fun day, for the youth to let loose and have some fun while serving. Learning that work can be fun too! This was their time, leading and helping each other. I am sooooo proud of all of them, they really have become a TEAM!

Carols at Kairos

As part of our Nochebuena preparations and activities, we always visit Casa Kairos one evening to sing Christmas Carols and visit with the kids and their families.
If you don't know of Casa Kairos, it is a home for kids with cancer, and their families, that are undergoing treatment at the public hospital nearby.
It was a full house Dec. 20 when we visited.

Some of the people at Kairos
 We took our servant team of youth that we work with, that have been helping us with preparing for Nochebuena. They will be doing the singing, performing and serving at the Nochebuena celebration at Casita Benjamin on Dec. 24.

Hanging out after singing!
After spending close to an hour singing with all the folks there, we served a snack of Sandi's famous Christmas cookies! Then we spent some time just hanging out with the kids there.
Our youth did a great job. We are really trying to just guide them, letting them do the serving and most of the directing, while we stay more in the background. And they are stepping up!

18 December 2011

Getting Ready!

Things are coming together rapidly for Nochebuena...like each year, it is a mad dash for a month and a half, but it always seems to work out great!
We have been busy, busy, busy the past weeks, buying supplies, buying gifts, practicing with the youth for singing, a drama to perform etc.
We took a few of our helpers with us to CEGMA, which is like a distribution center for goods where we can buy things in bulk.
We bought all the provisions for the Canastas de Víveres (baskets of provisions) there.
Another day we went to the mercado in Zona 3 to buy all the disposable supplies, plates, cups, etc. We also bought childrens gifts, wrapping paper etc.

Some of the provisions for the canastas
 This year one thing that has helped some is that we are giving more responsibility to some of our older youth that have been helping for several years.One is in charge of the drama, another in charge of decorations etc.
It helps me out a lot, and gives them a lot more sense of really contributing something.
And they are doing great! We've had them helping in some way many days each week!

Wrapping gifts for kids
 Yesterday we had an all day activity at our house to wrap gifts and to make the canastas.
We were planning to make 70 canastas and they take a lot of work each to put together. There are 12 items in each basket, and several of them, i.e. frijoles, oatmeal, rice, pasta, were purchased in bulk, and first had to be packaged into 1 lb. bags.

Making 1 lb bags of frijoles
Then we set up an assembly line snaking through most of the house! A few people would carry baskets by stations where another person would add items to the basket!
It is lots of fun, and lots of work for 70 baskets!
After 70 baskets were assembled, and scattered all over the house, we had a pizza lunch break and watched a movie!
Then it was time to wrap 70 canastas!

Making each canasta special and unique
We had sheets of celophane and lots of ribbon, and let the kids use their own style!
We literally had baskets and people scattered over most of the house, using any available space!
Using the hallways

Using the kitchen

Using the dining room

Using the living room
 We finished in the afternoon, and then spent time practicing Christmas carols to sing at Kairos House this week.

2011 Nochebuena servant team
(missing several members in this foto)
So we now have Canastas stacked up pretty much filling our dining room, but only for another week!
Please keep praying for God's blessing on this project, we are expecting around 300 people total between Casita Benjamin and Las Aldeas for Nochebuena.
This coming week, our daughter Felicita arrives, with a girlfriend from college, and her boyfriend James will arrive also! We will also take our group to Kairos to sing for the people, have another all day activity to make decorations and cookies. 
Then the big event!