Thursday, January 20, 2011

God Shows up at Christmas at AFE

Christmas is always a special time in Honduras and especially at AFE. Like many of you, I have helped to raise support for these activities and seen pictures of the events, but never experienced a garbage-dump Christmas first hand. Now that I have, I am so full of gratitude for everyone who helps to support this event!

A week before Christmas, over 700 garbage workers and family members descended the hill from the trash dump to celebrate Christmas with us. Just watching them come, covered head to toe in soot and ash, and arriving in waves like the sea, was an indescribable experience. Jesus died for each and every one of these forgotten-ones. And He was about to share His story and His plan with them through a party!

Several organizations came together in the name of Jesus Christ to make this happen. AFE hosted the event and was support by “Casa de Esperanza” and “Mi Esperanza” among others. Every person who came feasted on a traditional Christmas meal in Honduras and had the opportunity to “shop” for clothes, shoes, and toys in our market. To “purchase” the clothes in our market, each garbage worker received a voucher worth 200L (about $10), which is equivalent to two weeks’ wages for them. I saw moms and dads shopping for their children, and children shop for their parents.

As garbage workers delighted in the opportunity to pick out new clothes, AFE’s children and young adults served them, remembering when they had done the same. They passed out food, helped to pick out shoes, and even prayed for some of the families. It is amazing to see the difference in AFE’s students, who have become servant-leaders in their society, and the people still stuck in the garbage dump.

A week later, we gave AFE’s students the chance to relax and celebrate their own Christmas. The children came dressed in their best attire and eagerly awaiting their chance to come up and receive their present as everyone cheered. Once they heard their names, AFE’s children walked (ran would be more accurate) to the front to receive a hug and kiss from their beloved principal (Jesy Ordonez) and their present, chosen especially for them.

In Honduras, the tradition during Christmas time is for children to receive “extrenos” (new outfits) for the coming school year. This might be the only time they receive new clothes that year and Hondurans, as a culture, take much pride in their appearance. Each child received a new set of clothing including a shirt, pants, and shoes (special thanks to Worthington Christian School, Trash Mountain, and Washington Cathedral for fundraising for these items). Thanks also, to the private school in Tegucigalpa, Los Pinares, each child received a shoe box full of surprises ranging from candy to toys and everything in between.

To top off a Christmas of amazing blessings, the Tegucigalpa Mayor’s wife threw another Christmas party for the children of AFE and the surrounding neighborhood. Around 300 children arrived to participate in games, giggle at clowns, and of course, receive a special toy. The Mayor’s wife, Lucrecia, also brought along a couple of famous TV personalities, who were a big hit. However, the best news we received this season came when the Mayor’s wife passionately shared her desire to stop children from working in the garbage dump! This is something we have been praying about for years! Because every time we rescue a child from the garbage dump, a new one enters. Something must be done to prohibit children from working in the garbage dump, and the Mayor’s Office is the one to do it.

When we heard the mayor’s wife express this vision, we were so excited to tell her that this is something we have been praying about and working toward for years! Plans are in the works to solidify this partnership and make child labor a thing of the past. Please continue to pray about this with us.

All in all, it was a Christmas in which we had nothing more to say than: “Emmanuel,” God is with us. If you add up the people served at all parties, over a 1000 individuals struggling in extreme poverty, received food and gifts in the name of Jesus Christ. And to think you are a part of God’s master plan to save and redeem the Tegucigalpa Garbage slum!

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